Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Kansas City Marathon

Wow, what a day it was. Yesterday went by very quickly, even though parts seemed excruciatingly slow. This may be the longest post ever, so get ready!

The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. I hit snooze twice, then tumbled out of bed around 4:45. When I took the dog out, the first thing I noticed was the temperature. It was cold, in the low 40s. I saw what looked like snow covering the pavement and driveway. Then I realized it was just the moonlight bathing everything in its gentle glow. I took a moment and looked at the stars, which I rarely am able to see here in the city. Beautiful.

After some Eggo blueberry waffles and a big glass of water, I broke out the Bodyglide and went I was careful to get all the spots I'd missed on previous long runs. I got dressed and affixed my timing chip to my left shoe. By 6, Angie and I were out the door and on our way to the starting area, which was at a place called Crown Center. We found a parking spot a couple blocks away. I noticed a few runners doing short jogs in a effort to stay warm and loose. I opted to save my warm-up for the first couple miles of the race. We met Topher inside Crown Center. Topher and I had been emailing about starting the race together, and I'm glad it happened that way.

I then noticed a huge cowboy hat bobbing through the crowd. My dad wore the hat so I'd notice him, and it sure worked. It was good to have him there to give me hug before the start, and I appreciated him coming. At about 6:50, we went outside so we could get our spot in the pack. We located the pacer we wanted to follow. Topher and I were both hoping to keep up with the 4:50 pace group, meaning we would hopefully finish the race in 4 hours and 50 minutes. We found the pace leader and kept her in our sight. I hugged Angie and Dad, and waved to them as they made their way to the sidewalk to see us off.

Before we knew it, the gun went off, then we just stood there. We shuffled forward a bit, then just stood there some more. With an estimated 8000 runners participating, it took roughly 3 minutes to reach the starting line. Finally, my shoes passed over the mat of the starting line, and we were off.

The strategy of our pace leader was to warm up at a conservative pace for the first couple of miles, then settle into a more consistent pace for the remainder of the race. Topher and I chatted as we ran. He's a funny guy, and he helped me keep a light, upbeat attitude. Thanks, Topher!

The first few miles took place in downtown Kansas City. We ran through the revitalized Power and Light District, then headed by Union Station, then up the huge hill behind Liberty Memorial, where Barack Obama would be holding a rally that very night. By mile 4 I was already winded, but I smiled for a photo when I saw my dad and uncle at an aid station.

We continued through midtown, then through the Westport area. At that time, Topher needed to make a pit stop in Quicktrip. He said he'd catch up to me in a bit. I was still keeping up with the pacer, but I was starting to get lonely without someone familiar by my side. When the course split, and the marathoners split from the half-marathoners, I really felt alone. After going through the aid station at mile 8, I heard my name being called from behind me. I looked back and there was Topher. I said something like "Boy, am I glad to see you," and we kept going. Now we were heading through the area known as The Plaza. It was strange and awesome to be running right down the middle of Ward Parkway Blvd., a normally busy road that's lined with huge houses and gorgeous trees.

Around mile 12, we encountered the dreaded Sunset Hill. I ran this thing in training, and let me tell you, it's a bee-otch. It goes up, then plateaus, then goes up some more. Every time you think you're done, you're wrong. I was huffing and puffing, as were many of the people around me. It felt pretty awful to be so winded even before the halfway point.

Then, I saw the familiar cowboy hat in the distance. I approached my dad and he started running with me. "Hey Dad" was all I could muster. He told me my mother was up ahead with the camera. Once again, I put on a smile. Here's a blurry photo I love:

We got to the halfway point, and my time was 2:26, almost 10 minutes more than my half-marathon time in Omaha a few weeks ago. I tried not to be discouraged by that fact.

That's the last time I remember seeing Topher. I was kind of out of it, and all I could think of was that I'd be seeing some friends and family at mile 16. The pacer was still in front of me, but with every mile that went by, I wondered whether I'd be able to keep up with her.

I was overjoyed to see familiar faces when I reached the southernmost point of the race. Here's a picture of my mom, Uncle Burr, Aunt Lucy, and Uncle Pat holding up a big sign for me:

Then, I saw a dude taking pictures of me. I didn't see his face because he was behind a huge camera. When he put the camera down, I realized it was a coworker friend of mine, Michael. He ran with me for a block or two and asked me how I was doing. I honestly can't remember what I told him, but I probably sugar-coated things so I wouldn't look too wimpy. Then, another coworker friend, Eric, rode in on his bike and said hi. I felt so lucky to have such a big support system out there.

Speaking of support systems, it was right then that I saw Mandy on the curb, ready to run the next 8 miles with me. I was so elated to see her that I gave her a one-armed hug as we ran.

We got to the next corner and saw Angie, my friend Noelle, and running buddies Pritha and Ellen, all cheering me on. Mandy asked me how I was doing, and I didn't feel the need to sugar-coat things for her. "Could be better," I said. She spent the next few miles talking to me without expecting me to talk back, which was very sweet. At that point, every word spoken was an effort, and I still had 10 miles to go.

A couple miles later, I saw my friends Mary and Bing holding up a big sign for me. The pace group leader (who I was still miraculously keeping up with) told me I had the best support on the course, and I believed her.

Running, running, and more running. At mile 19, I was in bad shape. I realized there was no way I'd be able to keep up with the 4:50 pacer and survive to tell the tale, so I bade her a silent goodbye and slowed down to a glorified trot. Better yet... a shuffle. The Wall had found me. I told Mandy I needed to walk for a minute, so we slowed down even more. She offered me the bottle of Gatorade she'd brought along. I wanted Gatorade, but didn't want it. I was hungry, but the idea of food sickened me. My brain was a mushy, pureed haze. This feeling would continue for the next 5 miles.

When mile 20 arrived, so did Pritha and Ellen. They were there to run me to the finish line. I wanted to hug them, but I could barely even talk, let alone lift my arms. They kept telling me how strong I was, and how well I was doing. They were trying to pick me up, out of my funk. It was a sweet and valiant effort, but I was still feeling awful. I could feel blisters forming on my feet, my hips were grinding, and my legs seemed to be made of lead. I was also having a hard time forming coherent sentences. It was as if I was drunk, and not in the "I'm slightly buzzed and having a great time" way. It was more like the "everything is spinning and I'm gonna hurl" way. By now, I'd pretty much kissed a sub-5 hour marathon goodbye. I was at peace with that fact. I knew I'd finish, and that was my primary goal.

Mile 22. Another big hill that never seemed to end. Slowing to a walk yet again, I saw my folks up ahead. "There are my parents. I'm gonna lose it, you guys," I told my friends. My dad walked down to my side and I started crying.

My mom wanted a picture of me with my "Running Girls," but she was having a hard time getting a shot while we were still moving. Finally, I just said "screw it, let's stop for a picture." This was the only time I stopped moving during those 26.2 miles. Here we have Mandy, me, Pritha, and Ellen:

More running, more running. I'd run for 5 or 10 minutes, then need to walk again. It seemed to go on like this forever. At some point, I glanced back and noticed there was still a pace group leader behind us. In a foggy stupor, I asked the girls if they knew what pace group that was. Pritha ran back to check, then came back and said it was the 5 hour group. Hearing her say that was the medicine that brought me back to life.

Although I still had to walk every now and then, I picked up the pace as much as I possibly could. I kept looking back to see how close behind me they were. "They're still behind you," the girls kept reassuring me. "You're going to make it."

Miles 24 and 25 clicked by relatively quickly, when compared to the previous 5. I distinctly remember Ellen saying "You're going to remember this for the rest of your life." They were going to drop out and let me run the last mile by myself, but I asked them to stay with me, because I still needed them. I asked that they remain with me until just before the finish line.

Mile 26. Only 0.2 miles to go, and for the first time that day, the words "I'm almost there" were true. I heard the echo of the finish line commentator's microphone. After rounding a corner, I saw the finish. I thanked my friends as they dropped behind me and onto the sideline area. Then the tears started flowing. I'm crying now, just writing about it. I saw the clock. 4:59:50. I took every little bit of strength I had left and kicked up my heels. As I crossed the mat at 4:59:58, I threw my hands up in happiness. I would later learn that my official chip-time was 4:56:50, because it took those 3 or so minutes to get to the starting line after the gun went off.

Through all my training , I'd looked forward to the moment of crossing that finish line and having a medal placed around my neck. When the moment occurred, however, I completely forgot about the medal. All I cared about was finding my family and friends. It's a blur, really, and I can't remember the order in which I located everyone. I found my friend Patty and her daughter, Sophia. Patty was in tears, which made me cry even more. I saw my parents and and hugged my dad. I was bawling at this point, and he was crying too. He kept saying "You did it!" over and over. My mom hugged me and said she was proud of me.

I went to the other side of the finish area and hugged Angie and Noelle.

Somewhere in there, a volunteer knelt down to cut the chip off my shoelaces. "You can lean on me, if you need to," he said. And I did. Another volunteer gave me water, and another gave me one of those space-age mylar blankets. Then, a nice woman hung the medal around my neck.

I found my running girls and hugged them all. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for what they did for me that day. Every step I took during miles 19-24 is dedicated to them.

I was ready to head home. We walked a couple of blocks to the car and I finally was able to sit down. On our way home, we stopped by my grandmother's nursing home so I could tell her I was okay and show her my medal. It wasn't one of her good days, but I could still tell she was excited and happy for me.

Then home, then a shower. I was having some stiffness and soreness, but nothing too bad. I went into our dining room and saw that Angie had put a giant "Congratulations" banner on the wall, and she bought me a beautiful "26.2" silver necklace. Isn't she sweet? She has been so patient and supportive during all of this. I'm extremely lucky to have such an amazing partner.

That evening, we threw a casual pizza party with 30 of my closest friends and family to celebrate. Everyone seemed amazed at how well I was getting around. I was pretty amazed, myself. Granted, I had a few beers, but I was limber and loose. I probably could have gone for a run if I'd wanted to. I didn't want to, though.

It was a perfect day. Everything happened just as I wanted it to, and nothing went wrong. Even my "bad miles" were part of the package. I expected to have a low point, so that doesn't count as a negative point for the day. After the festivities were over and we went to bed, I just stared at the ceiling and thought over the day. What an amazing experience.

When I woke up early this morning and tried to move my legs, there was much protest from my body. My entire lower half is its own entity, and it doesn't want to do much of anything. Getting into and out of chairs is a major event which requires much planning and strategy. When leaving a room, I make sure to think if there's anything else I need to grab, because who knows when I'll be able to walk in there again? The zombie walk that plagued me after my longer training runs is back with a vengeance. For fear of scaring small children, I haven't ventured out of the house much today.

Still, I'm on cloud nine. I did it. I ran a marathon. I never thought I'd say those words, but here I am saying them.

The End


Topher said...

Great, great race report!!!! Thanks again for letting me tag along. I just wish I'd kicked it up and caught up again, but you still beat me by nearly 20 minutes. Chairs are the enemy today for real.

Have a great week; I fully expect you to wear your medal to work tomorrow and post a picture of it next to the ranch fountain.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I enjoyed reading your report and wanted you to know that you are an inspiration to us who have also lost weight and are running around the 3 -4 max. Could I do what you did?? I say probably not, but I bet you said that a year or two ago. ;)


Liz said...

Congrats! I am reading this with tears streaming down my cheeks, although I don't know you, I feel like I do! Your blog is so great and is an amazing inspiration for so many for so many different reasons. THANK YOU.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog by mistake tonight but was it a mistake? I walked the half yesterday and ever since I finished have been thinking what is next? I loved reading your blog and wish that I had the support network that you have to run with me and cheer me on. That is just amazing. Congrats and keep it up. -Laura

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Congratulations.

spunkysuzi said...

I am so proud of you!! I can't believe what strength you found to finish that race :) You have done something i could never think of even starting!!

Mom Taxi Julie said...

WTG!! That is awesome that you had so much support!

SuperDave said...

Morgan, You are an incredible girl!
You had my "man-ly" eyes welling-up while reading your report. You are very blessed to have such a great support system.
Fantastic job and you broke 5hrs.
Bravo! *I bow to you*

Elizabeth P. said...

You are AWESOME!!! I cried reading your summary -- and I cry only at heroic moments in life and film (for example, when the parent Dalmatians save the puppies in 101 Dalmatians gets me every time ; ). You're the dictionary definition of an inspiration.

SeaShore said...

Congratulations! Your write up had me rivited.

That picture of you and your dad running together brought a tear to my eye. You are blessed with a fabulous support system. That speaks volumes about you, that so many people came out to cheer you on.

And then you made it in under 5 hours!! Woohoo!

melancholic smirk said...

You are such an inspiration. I love your story--it is so real, and you have such a wonderful support system. You really are a lucky girl.

desertrunnergirl said...

Great report, Morgan...GREAT!! I can feel the emotion of the experience with you! Congratulations on your huge success.

desertrunnergirl said...

Forgot to add: can you post a close up pic of your medal? Thanks!

nicole said...

Wow, congragulations! I'm sitting here in my cube at work reading your post with tears in my eyes. You are such an inspiration! You did it! Now that you can do anything, what is your next step?

deanna said...

I am in tears reading this - as if I was there with you - amazing accomplishment, really super awesome!! Good for you!! You are such a inspiration - a wonderful person doing amazing things - thank you! and Congratulations!

Michael H said...

You did not sugar-coat things for me nor did you look wimpy. You said that you felt like puking, but I insisted you looked great. You were really skeptical. I hadn't had a chance to test my camera settings because you were running ahead of your optimistic schedule. I got this shot which proves you are awesome.

kate said...

Great story, great pictures. Way to go, girl!

Nicole said...

I'm a lurker and I haven't been lurking very long and don't really know too much about you but I even cried when I was reading your last post. Your story is the absolute most perfect definition of 'inspirational.'

MaryFran said...

Very touching story! You inspire me!

VerseFameBeauty said...

I teared up reading it, too! You're a huge inspiration that I could do something similar someday. Thanks for sharing and, of course, CONGRATULATIONS!

Deborah said...

Congratulations on the wonderful accomplishment. So glad you celebrated it that evening with family and friends. Rest up and feel better soon.

Queen Sarah said...

I've been following your blog, and knew you'd have an inspiring race report! I just finished my 25th marathon, in Chicago last week, and could relate to everything you said (They don't get easier, I'm afraid!) You are faster than I am ~I'm so impressed that your second half was as fast as your first! You are one strong woman!

I was running the 5K while you were running the marathon, and sent you some marathon-vibes! I'm so glad you had good weather.

John Kynaston said...

Thanks for writing up such a great report. One of the things I love about running is that everyone has their own story and no matter where you finish you are a winner. I love reading how things have gone and blogs are such a great place to read others stories.

I've never met you and since I live in Scotland never will but I have enjoyed following your progress and especially reading how the marathon went.

I hope you recover well and enjoy basking in the feeling of a goal well and truly accomplished.


Matt Keeling said...

WOW! I don't even know you and I am proud of you. I came across your blog through SuperDave. I am so impressed my your accomplishments. I feel lucky that I actually crossed the same start and finish line as you did, albeit I ran my first 5k. Congratulations on an fantastic race. I will have to catch up on your blog and I look forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

Well done you! Great report and a great race.


kilax said...

What an amazing, beautiful story! I teared up a bit at the end ;)

Thank you for being honest with us about the reality of running a marathon. It makes it seem more accessible to people like me. Maybe one day, I will be writing a similar post!

I’m so proud of you. Congratulations.

(Oh, and that 26.2 necklace sounds so cute! I would love to see it! Angie sure is awesome)

(Oh, and it was cool to read about running in KC. I am familiar with a lot of those areas. I think it would be so fun to run in the plaza and along the river there!)

Rachel said...

Great job! I ran the KC Marathon as well (one of Topher's blog readers). I finished just a few minutes before you...but I was completely out of it. Awesome job!!

excessive.exposures said...

Absolutely amazing - that is wonderful! You rocked it! I'm glad you snuck in there right under the 5 hour mark too! I've got a little less than 4 months remaining until my very first marathon...I hope to finish in about 5, too!!

Linden said...

You got to run with Topher! How fun! I just ran my first marathon a few weeks before you, and it is so good to hear that another first-timer had that hazy, run for a while, walk for a little, run some more time in the middle too. The spectators' support really makes a difference, doesn't it. :)

Thanks for the great race report!

Anonymous said...

How incredibly touching and inspirational. You've done an exemplary job of capturing the emotion that is inherent to achieving a seemingly insurmountable goal. Congratulations on a fantastic feat!

Ray Craighead said...

Congratulation! We have not crossed paths since your successful marathon so I was glad to overhear you dad telling about your blog and looked it up (I'm the guy in the funny biking clothes at OPNH) :)

An amazing accomplishment! Thank you for documenting it so well for all of us.

Robin said...

It is really easy to say that you can complete a marathon but it is very hard to do so and you should really be proud of yourself and it was a pleasure reading your blog