I started training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in July, and although the heat took a toll on me and my pace slipped, my enthusiasm never flagged. This time around, I needed no extrinsic motivation to continue on. My longest training runs were some of the best of my life, and I suspected the marathon would be too. Looking at my training spreadsheet, it was clear I was slower leading up to this marathon than I was for Toronto. I wouldn't run a sub-4 hour race or even my fastest time, but I was okay with that - I managed my own expectations extremely well.
Because our flight to Indianapolis was in question, Shawn calmed my are-we-even-going-to-get-there anxieties by suggesting we rent a car and drive out. For twelve hours, he played chauffeur while I rested my legs in the back seat with Chloe. On our way, I had a bad headache (something I get once a month, like clockwork). A handful of memorable times in my life it has developed into a crippling, vomit-inducing migraine, and in the middle of the night that's exactly what happened. I counted my blessings that this occurred two nights before the race, and reminded myself that nothing during the marathon could possibly be as painful.
The marathon went by in a flash - I rarely looked at my watch; I didn't care terribly about my time (which ended up being 4:12). My goal for this race was to enjoy myself, feel strong even during those last few miles, and not collapse at the finish. Mission accomplished. Shawn admitted afterward that he was concerned my mellow attitude toward time leading up to Saturday was just an act, and that I was secretly gunning for a big PR. Nope! I held back during the first few miles, letting the crowded course keep me in check. ("I'll see y'all again in about 16 miles," I kept thinking to myself.)
After mile 7, I slipped into a really comfortable groove, with my pace hovering right around 9:30/mile. I barely realized the miles were ticking by; I was too occupied with my surroundings. The homes on Washington Boulevard were as stately as I remembered them. Our house right off of College, where we lived from 2002 to 2005, looked exactly the same. Spectators were sparse, but their signs were hilarious. Half marathoners who were supposed to diverge from us at mile 7 were backtracking from mile 9 (they must have missed the turn-off?). Shawn, my hero, was waiting at miles 11 and 16.
Around mile 19, on a desolate stretch of White River Parkway, I finally pressed play on my shuffle. It was then that the drizzle turned to sleet, which I didn't mind one bit. I'd take it any day over heat and humidity (in my singlet and shorts, I think I was one of the least-dressed runners out there). The sleet pelted me for about four miles before turning to freezing rain. Even though the slick roads kept me from my goal pace, I was still flying past other runners by this point. My strategy had paid off: I had a lot of gas in the tank. Looking at the finishers data, only four other runners passed me in the last 7.8 miles of the race. Many of the runners making their way down Meridian were doing the death march, and I really felt for them – I’ve been there myself. I don’t relish passing others, but I could tell that several of my fellow marathoners seemed envious when I kicked past them in the final miles.
My finish seemed less remarkable than the dedication that so many others put into this race. Policemen and women subjected themselves to the ire of very angry motorists to keep runners safe at intersections. I made sure to say “thank you officer” each time I passed one. I tried to acknowledge every spectator and volunteer standing out in the freezing rain. In particular, there was one very dedicated person in the crowd. He zoomed around town to make sure he saw me at multiple points on the course, and he was waiting for me at the finish with our dog (because the hotel refused us a late check-out). Not only did Shawn keep me hydrated in the week leading up to the race (“drink!” he’d implore), he handed off fresh water bottles to me at miles 11 and 16, meaning I never had to slow down at water stations thanks to having my own supply. His outstretched arm also held opened packs of GU Chomps, a gelatinous brick of stuck nuggets he coaxed apart for ease of eating on the run. These precious supplies supplemented all the fuel I had crammed into my waist pack and started eating methodically every three miles from 5 on. I'm certain they kept me from ever hitting a wall or turning woozy, making their unpalatability worth it. Incredibly, during the race, as Shawn (in his distinctive red pants) would come into focus in the distance, I could see him moving toward the curb. Even in a crowd of runners, he always spotted me. I’d give him a big smile, thank him, and tell him I felt great as I snatched my supplies.
In all things, including and especially running, Shawn supports me far beyond what any sane person would. I never take his support for granted; in fact, I constantly marvel at it. Shawn drove me to Indianapolis and back to stand around in the freezing rain on a Saturday morning so that I could run a marathon. "Wouldn't you rather sleep in than wait around at various spots on the course to watch me run by?" I asked at the Toronto marathon, and I asked again at this one. He wouldn't hear of such a thing.
The smile on my face wasn't just for the cameras. I spent much of the 26.2 miles (well, 26.45 miles - I clearly didn't run all of the tangents well) with a goofy grin on my face. There were several times my eyes watered with happy tears. To be able to run so far (especially only a couple of years out from a cracked pelvis) and have someone cheering me on while doing it (just a few years after what seemed like the certain demise of our relationship) made me so incredibly grateful.
Marathon 4 is in the books; marathon 5 is on the calendar. I can only hope my next one is as fun as this one was.
Pictures 1, 2, 4, and 5 by Shawn.