Every slight turn in a marathon gives you a chance to cut corners, so to speak. You can’t really make the race shorter than 26.2 miles because of the way the course is measured, but you can eliminate adding extra distance by cutting the tangents. If you have a mathematical brain like I do, cutting tangents occupies your brain with something positive instead of obsessing over mile splits.
Before we turned onto the boardwalk I had to make a decision. I was following two men with distinctly different body shapes. One of them was tall and broad, the other short and slender. I chose to go with the tall and broad guy because I figured he would better block the wind. Unfortunately he cut the turns wide and insisted on running in the middle of the road when he should have been trying to run the shortest distance. I made a hasty decision and switched to drafting off the smaller guy, but he wasn’t wide enough to stop the wind. At this point I had no choice because there was no one else around, so I stayed behind him, put my head down, and prayed for it to end.
I think the only break in my concentration came when I saw a sign that said, in big block lettering, “Don’t Sh!t Your Pants!” It’s funny now, but at the time I thought it was juvenile and slightly disturbing. I had a brief vision of how awful it would be if that actually happened to me. My family would never let me live that down.
When we finally made a left turn off the boardwalk, I was relieved. I think that relief caused me to let up my pace a little bit because I noticed the man I had been following was several feet ahead of me. Then I looked to my right and saw a woman who had just dropped out. I was in ninth place at the turnaround and had passed one woman a few miles back, so with this sudden turn of events I was sitting in seventh place. The top five women earned prize money, so I was encouraged for a brief moment. In my first marathon last October I went from 12th place to third place after the halfway point, so it was definitely possible.
About a minute after I saw the woman who had dropped out, I noticed that my legs were not functioning properly. They felt out of rhythm with the rest of my body. I looked up and saw my sister, my brother-in-law, and finally my husband who handed me two Hammer gels. He told me I was doing great, and that Steph and Brandon had run big PRs in the half marathon. I told him I wasn’t feeling good, but I would keep going.
I hit the 13 mile split and saw a 7:22 mile split, took some water, and then hit the halfway mark in 1:31 and a few seconds. I had my first thought of dropping out, but I kept going hoping this was just a bad section. The wind had somehow picked up even more, and my legs were not cooperating. People were passing me for the first time in the race, and when a woman passed me she said a few words of encouragement. Things were getting worse. I started to have more negative thoughts, but I tried to push them away. In my mind I was the tin man from Wizard of Oz and my joints needed oil. I felt uncoordinated, and I felt like everyone was staring at me and wondering what was wrong with me. Before I could hit the 14 mile split, I stopped.
I turned on my heel and started jogging in the opposite direction toward where I had last seen my family.
(to be continued…)