musings on running, life, and everything in between

Running a marathon that gets called before I finish was not on my bucket list


**I’ll do a full official race recap next post, but this post is me just working through what just happened**

So yesterday was the big day. The race I’d been working my butt off all winter and spring for. And it was a wash, pardon the pun. Jen and the other marathoners were freaking out all day Friday and obsessively checking the weather (I yelled at my roommate, Patty, when I saw the glow of her phone after the lights went out). We debated the various possibilities for weather and calling the race and when, and ranked them in order of bad to worse.  We made jokes about what we would do or not do. I harangued people about things they couldn’t control in an effort to not freak out myself. And, come race day? Worst case scenario happened. They called the race when i hit mile marker 24. Just so you have an idea of what the various possibilities we discussed were–and to give you a context for “worst case scenario,” here’s what we came up with:

  • The storm blows over before or holds off completely until the race is done (the obvious ideal)
  • Canceling the race before it ever started
  • Delaying the race for the bad weather to pass
  • Delaying the race and calling/canceling it at some point (in which case the following scenarios would also apply)
  • Calling off the race around or before the midpoint
  • Calling off the race before mile 20
  • Calling off the race after mile 20

Jen and I figured that even all the way up to mile 20, we could potentially salvage our legs and run another marathon in the next week or so. After that, though, it would probably be too much mileage at race pace to consider doing another one so close.

2015-04-25 20.58.50

The half and full marathon crew before the race: Stephanie, Nicole’s aunt, Nicole, me, Patty, Michelle, and Kelly (Jen was in the bathroom). Don’t we look so happy and hopeful?!

The morning of the race, we frantically checked the weather. It seemed like the storm was going to hold off until mid/late morning. We held our breaths, made last minute clothing changes, second-guessed ourselves, and headed out. It was sprinkling a tiny bit at the start, stopped, rained, stopped, and repeat for the duration of the course. There was also a crazy amount of wind. As I hit each mile marker, I began to think we were going to finish this all the way to the end. And when I hit mile 20, I thought, “There’s no way, now. It’s done.” But God is a joker, so right when I passed mile 24, a cop drove by in his car with the speakers blaring, telling us that the race was cancelled due to weather and to seek shelter. Before I crossed the finish line, this happened one more time, while Jen, who was somewhere ahead of me (we separated around mile 14, but I’ll give details on that next post), never knew the race was called until she finished.

When this happened, I stopped, which was a mistake. My Achilles/ankle, which had been a bit tight throughout the race, seized up, which would make it harder for me to run the remaining two miles. The fact they were calling the race so close to the end…and the fact that almost no one stopped running totally threw me. I thought it might be a horrible, horrible joke. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I stopped and walked in my bewilderment. I thought, “What’s the point now?” But then everyone kept running, and I figured it would be the fastest way to the end, so I decided to run/walk it in. I would have run it in (though not race-pace), but my ankle was stiffening up and cranky. And there was also a steady rain at that point. In my cold, rain-soaked, race-called delusion, I fantasized about getting hypothermia and just collapsing in the road so that someone would come take me away in blankets. Yup, sad sack I was.

The remaining two miles were totally surreal. It was confusing because almost no one stopped running. And the few that did, I think, were injured/struggling and would have been walking anyway. The volunteers and cops still kept cheering us and encouraging us to finish, and even the photographers were still taking pictures. I thought I had heard the second cop in the car say that they weren’t going to be holding intersections anymore, but they did when I ran through. Talking to my friends further back in the run, they were rolling out the closing slowly, but at the time, it felt like I wasn’t running a canceled race. I guess everyone else had the same thought I did–there’s 2 miles, just go ahead and finish it. It began to downpour as I made the last turn into Assembly Hall adding misery to the finish. There was even a photographer at the end, which I’m pretty sure I was scowling at and debated flicking off.

2015-04-25 11.43.48

A suitably dark and grim-looking picture: Kelly, Patty, Michelle, Jen, and me. You can see me grimacing instead of actually smiling.

I’m not sure what to make of it all now that it’s been just over 24 hours. Because I had had to stop a couple times for the bathroom (more on that next post), I had lost precious minutes and was riding my time really close to the cutoff time. At this point, I was admitting to myself that I had no buffer and I would just have to satisfy myself with straight up qualifying for Boston but not getting in (for those of you not familiar with the Boston Marathon rules, it’s a rolling registration for several days. First day is open to those with a significant buffer on the cut off time, next day less, and so on until all spots are filled. Last year, anyone who didn’t have at least an extra 62 seconds faster than the cutoff times did not make it. So qualifying is one hurdle, registering is another).

In a small way, I found it almost a relief that I wouldn’t have to really punch it the last 2 miles to regain seconds when I felt like I had almost nothing. There’s talk that times submitted from a canceled race don’t count for a BQ and others think differently. Jen is going to email them to find out. She got in at 3:39, easily 6 minutes under her qualifying time. Rock star.

However, I’m also really sore because I pushed myself really hard for 24 miles. And that’s no small feat. I need to look at my splits, so I can further torture myself with wondering if I should have not stopped and walked or learned how to pee on myself (as suggested by Jenny much earlier in this training cycle) or not run this marathon but one today in Indiana–because it’s maddeningly gorgeous and sunny today. Having all the physical and emotional/mental discomfort makes me grumpy. One of the signs I saw during the race was, “Marathon today, Netflix marathon today.” In my singleton, childless days, that would have been perfect. But life continues whether you BQ at a marathon or not. I did get some sad sack, pity sleep-in this morning at least.

Two things stand out, though, from making this experience a ridiculously awful one. 1) All 5 of us that ran the marathon finished it. Even though we were cold and soggy, and the other 3 (Michelle, Patty–who already qualified at Chicago last year, and Kelly) were not shooting to qualify, we all crossed the finish line. Kelly, who was the last in our group to finish, said she saw people pull out their phones and call people to pick them up off the course. That would be demoralizing. But she finished–and not in a bad time! The strength of the women I know who run is amazing. Through children, jobs, and even thunderstorms, we persevere and push ourselves to the utmost limits. It’s humbling to be friends with them. And they are all so supportive!

Which brings me to 2) I seriously love my running community. I know I’ve said it before, but I’m serious. A few minutes after I crossed the finish line, I got texts from other runners congratulating me on finishing. I got messages on Facebook of support and encouragement and consolation. People I barely know, but who are in my running group, were tracking me and the others. They talked about being inspired by us. And although it hurt me to not finish in my best time and not BQ, and I even felt like I was letting some of these women down because they had been so supportive during my training, I was buoyed by their strength and enthusiasm.

I used to run by myself. And I got through 3 marathons mostly running that way. But the women of BFF bring you food, drop off race care packages, hold bone marrow drives in honor of family members, plant support signs on your lawn, and flood your Facebook with love and support. And I thought of them as I ran, for the women who wanted to be out there and couldn’t (like Julianne, Jenny, and Erin), the women going through other hardships more serious than BQ’ing at a race, and the women who never want to run a marathon but support those who do enthusiastically.

Today at service, there was a coming of age ceremony for the 8th-going-into-9th graders. And they were given 3 messages to carry with them: (1) You are enough. (2) You are not alone. (3) You are loved. Perfect timing in messaging. So I hope all of you take those 3 things away with you as well, and surround yourself with a community of folks–running or not–who will support you and love you.

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

4 thoughts on “Running a marathon that gets called before I finish was not on my bucket list

  1. Ah- Jung I always wet my pants when I race. My husband always makes fun of me. Anytime I race hard effort (racing or track work outs) – child birth ruined me. But super absorbent maxi pad kind of does the trick. Sorry about the worst ever marathon weather ever :/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so inspiring! Can’t wait to read race recap 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Illinois Marathon Race Recap and what I learned | RunNerdier

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