It’s amazing to think that a whole year of planning and training has culminated into the efforts of one day. Not even one day. Only a few hours. I’m reminded of all of the sacrifices, pain, joy, sorrow, and elation that has gone into the marathon training. The entire experience has been overwhelming and amazing all at the same time.
To say that I was nervous in the days leading up to the marathon is an understatement. At times, I couldn’t even talk. I had worse case scenarios looping through my head like a bad movie. I was scared that the zipper on my sports bra was going to break and I would have to run with my hands clasped to my chest for the entire 26.2 miles. I fretted over chafe issues and monster blister scenarios. What if I threw up? Or tripped and twisted my ankle? What if a drunk driver veered off of the road and nailed me at mile 2? Or what if I overslept and didn’t start on time?
My mother came into town for the event. And my brother and sister sent the most gorgeous bouquets I’ve ever received. They sent me text messages that were inspirational and congratulatory before I ran one step. I didn’t want to let anyone (including myself) down.
A year ago, I had a goal to run the marathon in four hours. As my training progressed I realized I was quite a bit slower than I ever thought. As the months moved on I settled on a five hour goal. Andy questioned the wisdom of setting a time goal for my first marathon but the competitor in me couldn’t let go of the idea. I read countless articles that reported that slower runners had fewer injuries and this comforted me. I wanted to finish the marathon strong but didn’t want my ride from the marathon to be an ambulance.
Saturday night, I was antsy and tired. Thankfully my body knew it had a long journey ahead of it and welcomed sleep. I laid out all my clothes and gear the night before.
Originally I set my alarm for 4am, then 4:15am, and finally 4:30am. But I shouldn’t have bothered as I woke up at 3:45am. I tried to rest as much as I could but I was way to restless. I got up and literally choked down a banana. Andy left me alone in the kitchen thankfully because the peanut butter toast kept threatening to come back up. I drank a few glasses of water and one cup of coffee. My stomach felt horrible. I was pretty confident I was going to throw up.
The weather wasn’t much better. It was raining somewhere between steady rain and downpour at 4:30am. Andy pulled out a disposable plastic pancho for me to wear. The crazy thing is that it wasn’t cold just rainy so I decided to wear short sleeves and running shorts. I knew the weather would be clearing up later on.
I met my friend Deb (aka @dorthybitestoto) and Jordan (aka @runwithheart) as we were going to run together. I had never met Jordan but she was very friendly and had a sassy attitude so I knew I was in good company. We decided early on to have a good race and have fun even if that meant going slow. We were in the 5 hour pace group so we were the last to start.
It was dark and rainy when we began running. Even though I’ve spent countless hours in downtown Portland, this was a unique experience running in the dark in Old Town. The initial miles went by really fast. I barely remember the first 6 miles as we were all chatting and observing other runners. There were so many spectators out holding signs and providing high fives! I couldn’t believe how many people would get up so early on a weekend to stand out in the cold and rain to cheer someone on. I saw people in casts, babies, and blurry eyed spouses that were so encouraging! People were holding signs like “Run Like You Stole Something” and “Your Feet Hurt From So Much Ass Kicking”. Cheerleaders from local schools cheered us on as we continued to run in the rain. And rain it did.
Around mile 12 I started getting cold. From mile 12 to mile 16, I wasn’t having a good time. I began to daydream about piping hot vanilla lattes and soft warm pajamas. It was at this point that my legs started to feel sore. And I wondered why the hell I got up so early to do this. But I continued to run. And run. And run. And run.
Eventually we made it to the St. Johns Bridge. Poor Jordan was starting to have a rough time. She felt gassed and offered to let us go. I insisted that we slow down for a bit and discuss how she was feeling. Deb encouraged her to keep going to at least mile 18 (1st mile marker past the St. Johns Bridge). Jordan ate a gel and some pretzels and started feeling better. Because of Jordan’s height and extraordinary long legs, she was able to walk fast enough to keep up with me and Deb’s run pace.
I was somewhat excited about running up the St. Johns Bridge as I had trained on the hill leading up to the bridge. From my training, I knew if I took it slow but steady I could make it up. So I just put my head down and ran up easily passing the walkers. The run over the bridge didn’t scare me like it had in previous runs. After the bridge, there were numerous families waiting to see their runners. I saw lots of toddlers and small children yelling “Mommy!”. That is one of the cool things about the Portland Marathon, there are more women than men. The guys I did run around were pretty funny and supportive.
Many supporters read the runners name off of their bib and shouted encouragement. Jordan received hundreds of shout outs “Way to Go Jordan!”. I got “Good going!” My bib was attached to my belt and the name Aleta is somewhat challenging to people. So when I heard “Go Aleta!” I thought I was hearing something incorrectly. But no! It was Amy, Stacey, and Leah cheering me on. I turned around and ran over to them for big hugs and then went about my way.
There were so many aid stations that spectators set up. My favorite (and Jordan’s) was the one that had baked goods, grapes, and cheese. At mile 20, a musician had the 20 Mile song. I cannot remember the exact lyrics but it was a good song about mile 20. The miles seemed to slow down a bit here. I think because I had to go to the bathroom. All that water I drank!
At mile 23, there was beer! Tiny little little cups of Rainer beer. I had to stop for a taste.
It was at mile 23 that I decided I wanted to do another marathon. I was having a such a great time. We picked up @runnerteri at mile 24. She and Deb were going to run 36 miles total to celebrate Deb’s 36th birthday. At this point, I REALLY had to go to the bathroom. My bladder wasn’t going to last much longer. So I tried desperately to pick up my pace. According to Portland Marathon statistics, I passed something like 150 people in the last 6.2 miles and my pace actually went up! I REALLY had to go to the bathroom.
The mile 25 marker was one of the sweetest things I had ever seen only to be outdone by mile 26 marker!! We rounded the corner and I tried to put the hammer down.
I finished the marathon in 5:45. Not bad for a first marathon. Not bad for someone who decided to become athlete a year ago. Now what will my next race be.
A big thank you to Andy. He has been so patient and supportive over the last year. Thanks for my Mom who flew out for the marathon and to Amy, Leah, and Stacey. Thank you to Deb and Jordan for the support. I loved running with you guys. The Portland Marathon rocks! (sorry this post is so long but its a year in the making). It’s amazing what you can do when you really try.