I didn't sign up for the Vermont City Marathon until April. I was very hesitant because I was signed up for Boston and then I got injured. I love running Vermont but I wasn't sure if my body would love running two marathons within 6 weeks. I finally committed to signing up for the race, but it wasn't without reservations.
Last week I posted my goals for the race, and I was pretty confident going into the race that I could meet one of them. In the back of my mind, I was also OK with just running part of the race as a training run. I knew I wanted to run that day, but I wasn't sure what the weather would bring, so I convinced myself a DNF would be OK. (Note: Normally I don't look at races with a back out option, but I was really concerned about how my body would handle racing two marathons in such a short time after an injury.)
The morning of the race was BEAUTIFUL! We stayed at the campground just over a mile from the finish line so Eric and I walked to the start line. It was a very peaceful walk and we enjoyed the calm before the storm. Vermont City Marathon puts on a pretty organized event and I have to say this year was much better than years past. There were porta potties everywhere, and I only had to wait in line for about a minute and then we headed to the start line with 30 minutes to spare. We hung out in a gas station parking lot and just people watched.
At the start, I lined up in between the 3:30 and 3:45 pace groups, there wasn't an in between. Instead of focusing on a time goal, I planned paces that I wanted to shoot for. I wanted to start out for 3 miles at 8:20 and then slowly drop it down 5 seconds per mile with each mile. I had no idea what time that would get me, but I didn't care. I wanted a fun run today and time was not my focus, for once! :)
Miles 1 through 3, were easy and right on pace. I was going just below an 8:20 pace and things felt easy. It was sunny out but not too hot. The crowds were amazing as always, but I chose to listen to my music in order to try and zone out. After mile 3, you head out of town to an out-and-back on a highway. The out is downhill and the back is uphill. I knew I would pick up the pace on the down and slow on the up, so I just let my body do what it needed to do. I am the opposite of most people in that I LOVE out-and-backs during races. I love seeing the lead runners and then seeing my friends. I saw Colleen hauling butt coming back towards me and saw I was probably only a few minutes behind her. I decided to focus on my race and not let this make me pick up pace.
My splits were clocking between 8:00-8:15 at this point. I still felt good and fresh so I was hopeful that my legs would surprise me. The one mile uphill at mile 8 was a bit of a pain, but my pace didn't drop below 8:15 so I was feeling great. At mile 9, you head back into Burlington for more crowds and excitement. This is normally where my legs start feeling tired at Vermont, but I was still feeling good. I stopped at a water stop on the way out of town to fill up my water bottles and caught back up to the people I was running with.
Just before the half point, I saw Emily from Sweat Once a Day. Emily is such an inspiration to me and I love reading her blog, so I had to say hi. :) This gave me even more of a boost and I cruised through the halfway point in 1:48, an 8:11 average pace. Ahhh, if I could run an even pace, I would run a 3:36. Ha! I still felt fine at the halfway point, but honestly, I didn't see myself running a 3:36 that day.
Miles 13-15 at Vermont, are usually where my wheels fall off. On Sunday, I still felt fine. I was continuing to hit my 8:10 pace (I never got down to 8:00's consistently, so I knew my body wasn't totally happy with running) and was preparing myself for Battery Hill. Battery Hill.....I recommend to everyone that they have to run Vermont City Marathon and one of the reasons is Battery Hill. Battery Hill is a beast. It is about a quarter mile steep hill. It hurts. It slows you down. But it is awesome. The hill is lined with spectators and there are drums going to match your running. My goal this year was to not walk up that hill. The past two years, I had to walk up part of the hill and that is when my race usually ended. I ran up Battery Hill on Sunday and I loved it. My pace slowed to 8:30, but 8:30 on that hill, I was so happy with that. When I crested the hill, I almost raised my hands in the air as if I was crossing a finish line, I was so happy.
And just like that, my fresh legs were gone. I headed out of Battery Park back on pace and my legs were HEAVY. I was so frustrated but not surprised at all. The next mile was still an 8:15 pace but I knew my race was over. I was over 16.5 miles into the race and was approaching my campground. I knew I had to make a decision. In the back of my mind, I was looking at my campground as my cop out. I knew I had a 17 mile run in me, so I always figured I could stop at that point if I needed to. Did I actually think I would stop? No, not at all. I never thought I would quit a race for any reason other than illness or injury.
But on that day, I felt different. In that last half mile, I thought about my summer ahead of me. I was so excited to begin triathlon training and knew that if I completed the marathon that day, that I would have to recover for at least a few weeks. I also thought about the pain my hips would experience if I ran 26 miles. I did not continue my PT exercises like I should have these past few months for my hips. My hips are weak and have been hurting lately. This is all my fault and I take responsibility for putting me at that disadvantage. But, I could be the smart person on that day and not finish. I could respect my body and not continue the race. My body has done so much in the past 5 years and I have not treated it as well as I should have. Running multiple marathons in a year is not easy on a body and I have not respected that. And just like that, just before mile 17, without a drop in my pace, I stopped running and sat down on the side of the road. My race was over.
I sat for at least 15 minutes watching all the runners run by. I eventually saw the 3:45 pace group run by and couldn't believe I had that much of a lead on them. For a moment, I considered hopping back in, but I knew that wasn't going to help me recover. My race was over and I accepted that. I don't know how long had past, but I finally decided to head back to the finish line instead of my campground. This involved walking back along the course and seeing all the runners that were behind me. I watched the 4:00 and 4:15 pace group run by and I just kept walking. I am sure everyone was wondering why a runner was walking backwards on the course, but I didn't care. I didn't cry, I was content with my decision. About a mile back was my turn to the finish line. I decided to sit on the curb and wait for Eric to run by so that I could tell him that I quit.
So I sat and waited for him. It was at this time that I told myself that I would ask him if he wanted me to run with him. I knew he was going to run a 5+ hour marathon, and figured if he needed the support I would be there for him. I knew his run/walk pace would not hurt my recovery, so I was OK with running with him if he needed me. Secretly, I was hoping he would say he didn't need me so that I could head to the finish line and sit and relax for a few hours. Not long after the 5:00 pace group ran by, there came my husband. I was so proud of him for making it that far and popped up and started waving to him. He didn't recognize me until I turned and started running with him and he was immediately surprised wondering what was going on. I explained to him my thoughts and asked if he wanted me to run with him and he said YES. Ahhhh!!! (Eric is a runner who likes to run alone so I was surprised he wanted me with him.)
So, I kept running and ran my 17th mile for the 2nd time that day. And the next 8 miles were awesome. They hurt like you wouldn't believe as my muscles were cooled down after resting for 40 or so minutes. But I had my husband by my side the whole time. I wanted this to be his race, so we ran when he wanted to and walked when he wanted to. I didn't want to slow his time down by asking him to walk for me, so I kept trucking along. I finally used the bathroom at mile 19, so I sprinted to the porta potty and then sprinted to find him after that. I was suddenly having more fun out there than I had at any race in a long time.
If you have never run a marathon with someone, I highly recommend it. I have done it once before and what I have learned is your pain doesn't matter. You are running the race for someone that you care about and they are all that matters in that moment. I spent those final miles encouraging Eric to keep running and that he would be fine. We shared memories of our first marathon together and he teared up when I told him that this was my favorite marathon because I got to run it with him. When I hit mile 24, I could tell I had been out there way too long. At that point, if you added my back tracking and my mile walk to the start, I was already over 27 miles for the day. I had hit my distance PR for the day and I still had 2 more miles to go. I ran those final two miles with a big smile on my face and talking to anyone who would listen to me. My hips and back were hurting but I was reminded on that bike path why I loved running. Running that day was not about PR's, clocks, and racing. It was about spending hours with the man I love doing my favorite activity.
We entered the final half mile and could see Lake Champlain on our right. I made Eric promise me that he wouldn't sprint at the end because my legs were stiff, but he went back on his promise and we went sub-8 for that final mile. We passed about 10 people at the end and approached the finish line. The announcers recognized that we must be married and made a big deal out of us crossing together. I crossed that finish line with the biggest smile and my husband right next to me. My 18th marathon was done and I had run it with my best friend.