Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Akron Marathon!!!

Race Day!! 

The shuttle was leaving from our hotel at 5am. So we got to bed as early as possible which was around 11pm for me. We got on the shuttle with four other marathon runners and headed to one more hotel to pick up another group. The bus dropped us off just a few blocks from the start line, which was nice...but we didn’t know where the start line was. We made an educated guess and started walking. We did have two hours before the race started, so we eventually would find it... right? 

We realized all the other runners were following us. Nobody else knew which way the start line was either. Ha! We found a volunteer who told us to turn around and walk four blocks down and take a left and we would see the start. We had a good time laughing at ourselves since we all assumed someone else would know where to go! 


As we walked up to the start, there were lights in the sky, music playing, and lots of excitement in the air! It felt like a giant party outside at 5:30am! There were three starting points for the runners, Group A, B & C. 
Group A was for runners running with a 8:58 pace and faster.
Group B was 9:30 and faster.
Group C was 13:44 and faster. 
I was in Group B and Hannah in Group C. I was happy to let all the faster runners start ahead of me! 

I found my pace group (4 hours with a 9:15 pace). The pace group leader was Amy, she had run 83 marathons in 6 different countries! The pace group was great because I didn't have to worry about my pace and keep looking at my watch or listen to my phone for my time. I just had to trust Amy would get us there on time! All I had to do was run and watch for her little bobbing blonde hair. Amy did most of the talking and told jokes to keep us entertained. She knew the course well and could tell us what to expect. Her plan was to be two minutes ahead of schedule so when we got up to the big hills we could take it a little slower and still keep our time. Her goal was to cross the finish line in 3:59:30. 

Everyone was starting at the same time, all relay runners (1300 teams), half marathoners (4500 runners) and full marathoners (2000 runners). A total of almost 13,000 runners! Needless to say it got a little crowded at times. 

Before I knew it, the race had begun! We jogged until we got to the start mat and then we were off! A sea of bright colors bobbing up and down was all I could see! Thousands of runners all going the same direction. It was exciting! 

The excitement, the adrenaline, the rush! 

I was feeling pretty good except I started to get very warm. I had gloves on that I threw off to the side at mile 5. The weather was started in the low 50’s quickly warmed up into the late 60's. That may sound nice and cool but it got pretty warm. I ate half a bagel around mile 3 and ate a cream pie at mile 6. Our pace was under 9 minutes and I was feeling really strong. The whole course was up and down but it didn’t seem to bother me or my stomach! :)  

The city of Akron was alive at 7am! Everyone was cheering, holding signs, ringing cow bells, and making all sorts of noise! High schools had their bands and choirs out performing. A lot of the volunteers were dressed up in fun hats and outfits. And the whole course would be this way! 

One of the runners was an older man and he was carrying a full size (heavy!) American flag! He said he had run in 48 marathons in 48 states with this flag and had two more states to run with it in. What American pride! Our group thanked him for his dedication to proudly carry our flag. 

I had asked James to be around mile 13 and 21 since that would give me something to look forward to. I knew the beginning of my race wouldn’t be bad, and it would give me something to look forward to! 

Miles 1-11- Feeling great! We were keeping a pace of 8:48 and it felt good!

At mile 11, the half marathoners broke off to head back to the finish line. Soon I would get to see my guys!! I was so excited when I saw him! And I was still feeling strong! I ran by too quickly to see Jacob :( but he was there! I couldn’t wait to see them again! In the mean time, I pretended everyone else holding signs was cheering for me. :)

I was good to refuel and hydrate myself along the way. Something I had thought would be difficult running a faster pace but it wasn't! 

Mile 16 was the dreaded half mile long hill. We ran through a trail which was nicely shaded and felt really good! At the end of the trail there it was the hill! I was ready for it! I had run it once before and knew what to expect. I took it nice and easy. I walked for about 15 seconds since I was ahead of my pace group and picked up when they reached me. Phew got through that!

Mile 18, I began to feel pretty tired. My headband kept falling off my head and I was going to take it off and put it in my pocket, but it felt secure to have it on my head (which sounds weird but it was like a security blanket- it just felt nice) so I kept putting it back on. There was another hill on mile 18 and I didn’t know how much longer I could keep my pace. I wanted to be careful and conserve my energy for the end of the race but my energy was fleeting fast. 

My phone started to ring and I answered it. I smiled as my little nephews and nieces were cheering me on! They were saying “Run Aunt Amber!!” It helped me over that hill and kept my little legs going! My niece, Gracie loves running with me when we visit. She would always say “My body is saying No, but I’m saying Go!!” I kept thinking of that cute phrase! 

I had begun to pray for my family about mile 14 and would think of them with each mile. I would dedicate a mile to my brother and finish that mile for him, and then my sister and so on. Mile 19, I managed to turn on my music while I was still running and hoping that would distract my mind from the number of miles left.   

Mentally my goals were: After I got to mile 11, I wanted to get to mile 20. Then my next goal was 23 miles and then to finish strong! However...

Mile 21, came and went and I didn’t see James. I was really itching to see Jacob too, but I didn’t see them. They were there cheering me on and I missed them in the crowds. By this point my head was feeling super light headed and I felt almost faint. I had no energy to even put my hand to mouth to drink. I had taken a 30 second walk break at mile 20 and kept on pushing. Up until that point all my miles were under 9 minutes (Mile 20, was 9:40 and Mile 21, 9:02 Mile 22, 9:30).

Mile 21-22, I ran out of water and it was hot! I made myself eat my last oatmeal pie hoping for an energy boost. I had to drink from the fluid stations, which I didn’t want to do, but it was hot and I was thirsty. I grabbed for a Powerade and tried drinking it down while running and got most of it on my face. Ha!

And then at Mile 23, I started to walk for a couple of minutes. My pace group was now ahead of me and I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal. I thought I could walk and rest a minute and then be able to pick it back up and finish strong. I saw a couple others in my pace group that had also fell a little behind which made me feel better. I wasn't discouraged that I wasn't going to finish in under four hours like I had hoped but I was determined to still finish close to the four hour mark. Nothing was going to get my spirits down! 

I still felt really sick, head spinning and light headed but at least my stomach wasn’t upset! 

Walking felt so amazing! Haha I try hard to never walk in my long distance runs because it makes my body feel like I’m finished, so it doesn’t ever “help” me. But not today, it felt like manna from heaven. 

Then an angel was holding out a bottle of water in his yard for the runners, and I ran to grab it! I kinda ran over another runner (who was going the wrong way) to get it. I was so thankful! I hope I said thank you, but I can’t remember. I’m sure I muffled out a thanks and a head nod or something.  It’s much easier to drink from a bottle while running then from a little baby dixie cup splashing in your face. Thank you, Lord!

I drank a good amount of water down which gave me a burst of energy. I think I drank a little too much but I couldn’t help it, it was so delicious. 


Mile 24, I threw up a little- just Powerade and water. I just kept going. (Okay maybe I chugged the water too quickly.) I had the tired sick-look on my face and was just wanting to finish. I was feeling weak and a little delirious. I kept praying the Lord would give me strength to finish. I had run tired plenty of times, and even ran throwing up once, but I never felt light headed and faint before. I knew I could push through and rest after I crossed the finish. 

Then...

I heard someone say “Hey, Amber! You’re doing a great job!”

I thought it was another runner ( my name was written on a bib on my back) trying to cheer me on. Then I looked over, and saw my friend Peter! I can’t explain to you the excitement from seeing someone I knew and he was running beside me. He asked how I was doing, I told him tired and tried to put on a “pretty” face (not the nasty tired-sick face). He asked me if I had run the whole time like I wanted, I told him no. ( He ran the Cleveland Marathon in May and had qualified for Boston. He also walked a little which he didn’t want to do and knew I was trying to run the whole thing. He ran the Akron Half Marathon that morning and finished before 9am). He kept cheering me on and said I was doing great! He told me he had just run with someone else to the finish. And I asked if he was going to run with me to the finish. He said if I wanted him to he would. Yes!! I wanted!!  He asked if he could hold my bottle for me, so I gave it to him. We were approaching another fluid station and he grabbed me a Powerade. He reminded me it was okay to stop a second and drink it down, so I did, better to get it in my mouth than all over! 

Mile 25, came and my body was so tired. I stopped to walk for about 15 seconds and pressed on. 

Mile 26, there was another hill..kill me... I ran up it and walked for about 15 seconds to catch my breath. Peter was encouraging me the whole time. Then right as we approached the stadium, he bid me farewell, and I mustard up the rest of my strength and sprinted across that finish line! I threw up my tired arms and saw my family cheering me on! Time 4:04:23!!!! 



I was expecting to feel excitement, but all I felt was exhaustion and my head still spinning. My family was in the stadium and I was now in the “finishers circle” were there was food, first aid, and a band. Photographers were around taking pictures of everyone that wanted their picture taken with their medals. I could care less about everything going on (which isn’t like me at all!) I just wanted to sit and fall into James arms and hold my baby! 
I went in got my medal and finishers towel and headed for the food tent. I figured I would want to eat later. I felt nauseated and knew I had crackers in my bag that I had checked before the race. 

It felt like an obstacle course trying to get out of the stadium! I found the exit and made my way to it. I now had to find the baggage check and pick up my bag. ( I had placed my coat and extra food in my bag for after the race.) I threw up a couple more times along the way and was able to find the bag check. I went to eat a cracker and couldn’t even swallow it, I felt so sick. James came to my rescue and found me just outside the stadium. I had no more energy to try and navigate where to go. He helped me along and got me a sprite. After finding our family, we finally sat down. I was so excited to see my boy and he was just as excited!! He squealed and reached his arms out for me and just snuggled on my shoulder. It was the greatest reward!! 


It took me about 40 minutes to get my bag and make it back in the stadium. Sitting was my magical cure. I felt so much better after about fifteen minutes of sitting down. My stomach had settled, my head stopped spinning.  ( I later realized it was my head band that was too tight on my head causing me to feel faint!! I couldn’t believe it! They say never do anything new on race day! And I did! )

We received a text alert to let us know how Hannah was doing. She had now fallen behind her pace group and wasn’t going to finish on time. The whole time I felt weak during my race, I kept praying for her too. I thought if I was feeling this bad she may be feeling sick too. 

I told James we needed to go see her. I knew I needed encouragement along the way and it would help her too! I could barely walk without waddling! Ha! But I knew we had to go cheer her on! James, Bobby (her hubby) and I got up to go meet her around mile 24. Our lovely family, Aunt Jackie, Aunt Jane, and Sharon watched the kids for us. 

We pulled in to where mile 24 was and we stood there waiting. I saw pacer Chase (the 6 hour pace group) run by with no one in his pace group. The police car and shuttle with other runners who couldn’t finish were just behind him and I still didn’t see Hannah. I was starting to worry. I decided I was going into the race to find her and run with her the rest of the way. 
Say Hi to Pacer Jim, everyone! This was Hannah's pace group leader and he  was now walking at mile 24 to the finish. The Pacers have a challenge with each other to see who can make it to the finish closest to their goal time. And apparently he had time to kill! Haha he was also all alone, no one was with him. Poor lonely Jim.

I finally saw her running along the sidewalk a few minutes later. She was feeling good but just getting tired and bored. We started to make little goals to get to, our first goal was to get in front of the police car and back in the race! We waved at her hubby and James at mile 24 and told them we would see them at the finish! I knew with the police car behind us we could still finish on time! There were about a dozen other runners spread out. There were still plenty of people outside cheering on the final runners. All the police were cheering too. It was exciting! I had my energy back and was cheering her on! During my last couple of miles, I just wanted to hold on to another runner for a little bit and let them help me, so I grabbed her hand and helped her up the final hill. 

She was looking good!! 

James called me just outside the stadium and said they were going to close the race in 4 minutes! We were totally going to make it!! Bobby was at Mile 26 cheering her on again! Hannah ran with all her strength into the stadium and crossed the finish line!!!! I wanted to cry and so did she! I was so proud of her!!! We picked up her medal and some food and went and found our families! 

It was such an exciting accomplishment for both of us! I was reminded of how important encouragement is both physically and spiritually. When Peter ran along side of me, he helped carry my load. He cheered me on and gave me the confidence to finish strong! 

During my training there were times I would have bad days, and James would encourage me to keep at it, to stay strong. After all he was the one who convinced me to sign up for the marathon. He believed I could tackle this challenge and do well. I never thought I would run a marathon, but my husband believed I could and he cheered me on every step of the way! 

And that’s just like life! You may think you can never run a marathon or get up that giant hill (trial or obstacle); but with God, anything is possible. 

Who can you encourage today to finish strong? To run along side of them and let them know you are praying for them. Let them know they are not alone and help them finish strong!  

Will I run another marathon? YES! It was so exciting to finish my first marathon and I can’t wait to train and run my next one! I want to do better next time! And they do have marathons in Russia, both in Moscow and in Siberia! The Lord truly is good! I couldn’t have finished the course if He didn’t give me the strength. I’m so thankful God has given me my husband who is my life time encourager cheering me on every step of the way! 

There were also be a guest post by my sister in law, Hannah, about her journey to the start and finish line of her first marathon! Coming Soon!! 

I love these verses! These verses my twin sister, Amanda, and I claimed as our own a long time ago. Very fitting! 

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

For more race photos check out the album on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151617841536836.1073741845.704116835&type=1&l=289f15a266