Well, I've now run a marathon without sufficient training. This is a new experience for me, and one I don't plan to repeat. But a useful experience, I suspect, especially as I continue to contemplate longer distances.
Here's the overview of the race. My memory does get hazy over the last ten miles. But I ran smoothly for 16 miles, and then started taking extra breaks in order to get more fuel in. Only I found it wasn't so easy to get started again... Still, I was able to keep moving well enough through mile 19, and 20, and 21, I think. I do remember thinking about halfway through mile 18 that, wow, I've just run farther than in any of my training runs, and I'm feeling pretty good.
(A side note: I didn't run with my Garmin and instead just checked my watch from time to time. At the halfway mark I was on course to not only break the 5:00 mark but to smash it.)
I don't know exactly when everything started to hurt and I could no longer run more than a few minutes at a time. As I kept going it became harder and harder and I hurt more and more. The pain wasn't localized, as in my last marathon. It was just everywhere. I wasn't tired, I had energy, it just hurt.
I was frustrated that I couldn't think my way into finding strength, as I know it's possible to do and as I have in the past. In hindsight I see that I hadn't planned for this kind of possibility and so hadn't prepared any strategies.
The last two miles came and I checked in with myself, can I push forward? At this point I still could have finished under 5 hours if I'd been able to run more or less consistently. I wanted to. I so wanted to.
But somewhere near the one mile mark I noticed my leg muscles were beginning to spasm. I decided then not to worry about running and just worry about crossing the finish line. I was walking strong when I was walking --- head up, arms moving --- but I know during that last mile I also started grimacing, it was taking so much from me.
At 800 meters to go I gave up on even trying to run --- I wanted to be able to for the last little stretch in and I needed to save my energy for that.
At 400 meters (when we turn and go up the rise) I looked at my watch and saw it read 5:00 on the nose. All along the course the phrase "run your own race" had been with me, courtesy of The Dude, and at that moment, that day, my race was not going to break five hours. So be it.
At 100 meters (when we make that last turn and the finish line is right ahead) I decided by God I was going to cross it running, and I did, but then stopped as soon as I crossed, my legs spasming, and a volunteer rushed over and put her arm around me and walked with me through the finish chute (I think it's about another quarter mile). She asked if this was my first marathon (no), if it was my first one in this heat (no), and then just walked with me while I got water and put an electrolyte tab in (she had to open the bottle for me), and then picked up the food bag and beer and got my medal and picked up a bag of ice (that was a nice touch, I hadn't seen that before). She asked if I wanted my photo taken - Hell no. By the end of finish chute I assured her I would be okay and she left.
I sat down on the side of the curb at that point (you can't stop while in the finish chute), and drank my beer and looked in my food bag to see if there was anything that looked helpful, and iced one area of my legs and then another until I started feeling a little better. Then I got up and walked, stiffly, slowly, to get my gear bag and then I left the park and started home, stopping by a mini-mart on the way to the train to get some snacks a little more palatable than the ones they were offering and some seltzer .
For all the frustrations I had going into this marathon --- with my training, the last days of taper, some of the details of the day, and definitely with my headspace the day before --- I somehow managed not to be too frustrated by the race itself, at least not in the moment. (Later, sure, but that's no surprise.) In fact, my overwhelming feeling was pride. Pride that I had done it. Pride that I hadn't let these frustrations take away my experience of it. Pride that I'd had a good fueling plan and stuck to it. I had the feeling that I owned this marathon in a way I hadn't my previous ones, that it was mine. I would say this is the first time that I really felt like a marathoner.
So I got my medal engraved and I've bought some commemorative swag. And I don't have anything to prove to myself this season still so I'm taking the time I need to properly recover. I have lots of thoughts and ideas about next year and the year after that but I'm not putting anything down on paper (or here) until I feel completely myself again.
But I am so doing this again.