Running the Des Moines Marathon

Some people think I’m crazy for wanting to run marathons.

Well, there were roughly 8000 crazies lingering around the starting line at the IMT Des Moines Marathon this past Sunday, waiting to cross over and begin their own personal trek.

I made my way to the flag marked “10:00”. I had a goal in mind for this race. Last year, when I ran the Omaha marathon, I went too fast the first half, and died out the rest of it. I had to stop a lot, and walk a lot, and I didn’t want to repeat that for Des Moines. I wanted to maintain a nice, consistent pace, stop at every water station to replenish, and keep on going. I had no clue if this would work or not, if I’d be able to hit my goal time of 4:30, but I was going to give it all I got, and then some.

There are always tiny butterflies in my stomach when the announcer counts down to the starting gun, and this morning was no exception. I was entirely alone. I had no one to run with, yet I did not feel alone. How could you with so many others surrounding you with the same goals, the same dreams? I turned on my Garmin, and re-set it. Garmin turned out to be a lifesaver at this race, keeping me steady. I turned on my MP3 player, slipping the headphones on over my ears, and waited. The gun shot rang, and everyone whooped and hollered.

THE RACE HAD BEGUN!

It took a few minutes for me to see the starting line, and once I crossed it, I was off!

But not at a super fast pace. I was taking this easy, and ambled along with other runners through downtown Des Moines. It was cold, and crisp. I knew it wouldn’t last long, and already runners had begun the ritual of throwing misc. items from their bodies onto the sides of streets, like hats, gloves. I even saw a few jackets. I assumed it was the elite runners who had been at the front of the pack, taking off like bullets once they were given the green light.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder, and found a nice lady running on the left side of me. “So, this is your second marathon?”

My aqua shirt always garners a lot of attention. On the front, I have “26.2”, and on the back, a map of the United States. So far, Nebraska has been crossed off.

I told her it was, and she told me this was her very first marathon. I always love to hear the excitement in someone’s voice when they mention that to me. She and I both talked about our strategies, and it sounded as though she also was going to try and just take it easy and stretch out those miles in a consistent fashion. As we said our goodbye’s,  I called out, “Good luck!” and she looked back and gave me a smile. I saw her a few times later on during the race, smiling, with a look of determination on her face.

About a few miles in, the halfers were split off from the fulls. Half marathon went to the left, marathon to the right. It was amazing how small our group had become. About 7 miles in, a remarkable woman approached me. She had long salt and peppered hair tied back into two pig tails, shorts and knee stockings. You could tell she was a free spirit. She had run 39 marathons, finishing San Francisco last weekend. With her was a young lady she was mentoring. Des Moines has a program where you can volunteer your time with high school students and train them for races, and they were doing this race together. It was nice talking with her, and I saw the two of them a lot the entire race. At one point, I had stopped at a water station, walking for about 15 seconds, drinking in water. I decided to take that time to continue walking but stretching out my legs and knees while doing so, taking large lunging steps and kicking my legs back behind my body. Then I hear:

“PICK IT UP NEBRASKA!”

And it was the two of them, running past me. They really helped to keep me going, and we seemed to run at similar paces, 10:00-10:30 minute miles.

There is a lot of time for reflection and thought while you run. Even though the music was blaring in my ears, my mind was often elsewhere, or taking in the scenery. Most of the race was done in a park, and it was quiet and peaceful. At one point, a leaf had fallen from one of the many trees lining the park, and fell right into my hands. I carried that leaf with me for roughly 10 miles.

My body was sore. You can’t imagine running that far without hurting. I have heard people talk about “pushing past the pain”, but it goes beyond that even. You have to mute out the pain. You have to know it’s there, and feel it’s existence, yet let it be and just accept it. My left hip, which had been so good to me these last few weeks had started to act up, and I could feel the pain lacing down to my left knee. IT band, for sure. The backs of my knees were sore. I could feel a blister forming on my right foot. Then, I felt insane wetness. And, now this:

Don’t mind my nasty feet
A much needed pedi after this heals

a bizarre blister which had formed on the side of my foot, and between my toes!

Through those things, I had decided to pick it up at mile 20. Once I hit mile 20, I’d go a little faster, just a little. And then at mile 23, I would give it all I had. I smiled a lot during this race. A lady who was helping out at the race had slowed down on her bike and asked me how I was doing. She said, “You are smiling, that’s a really good sign.”

It was. I was looking at my Garmin and saw the progress I was making. I was going to reach my goal time. I knew I would go over by a little bit, but I’d still shave nearly an hour from last year’s time, and that’s what I had wanted to accomplish.

Three miles out, I picked up the pace as much as I could. At this point, my body was grossly fatigued, and I could only muster up a little under 10 minute miles, but I gave it all I got. As the miles ticked down, I started to get excited. I was so close now! I’d be done!

The finish line loomed ahead of me, and I went as fast as I could, starting to feel a bit nauseated. I think the prospect of finishing was starting to become overwhelming. My feet slid over the line. Someone placed a medal over my neck, and I could rest easy now. This was it. I WAS DONE! People were swirling everywhere around me, some hobbling, others sitting down and stretching. I headed to the food tables and grabbed a water, a sandwich, yogurt and apple slices, and found a place to rest my body and eat, while stretching out my legs. Lactic acid was setting in fast, my body feeling creaky and worn.

I came in at 4:37, just 7 minutes over my intended time, yet almost a whole hour off from last year’s. I am not at all complaining about those 7 minutes. I worked my ass off, and I did it! It was an amazing feeling.

Yes, I would say I’m crazy.

Certifiable.

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