Now that I'm nearing--gulp--a decade into my running career, I've learned a few things. One of the most important things I've learned is that I have zero desire to train for a marathon. None whatsoever. It's not that I don't think I could run a marathon. I could figure it out if I wanted it badly enough. I just don't want it...at all.
See, training for a half marathon has proven tough on my body. I love the process and how I feel when a run goes right, but overall, though the months of preparing, I deal with near-constant sciatic nerve irritation and soreness that all the stretching and foam rolling in the world doesn't really do much for. I walk around my classroom with one hand on my back, groaning softly and scaring the children (or at least making them think I'm even weirder than they already suspected).
Now that I've gone through that process (three times, thankyouverymuch), I feel like I can back off the ole Guts and Glory routine and just run for my general well-being.
When the opportunity to be part of a relay team for the annual California International Marathon came up, I figured, "Hell, why not?" My school is part of a program through a couple of local shopping areas where we can earn points through making purchases...but also through various endeavors like having students carol at said shopping centers (guess which school music teacher is doing that later this week?) and putting together a four-person relay team for the marathon.
Four intrepid women--Angela (Spanish), Chrystal (English Language Arts), April (3rd grade) and Yours Truly (Music) signed up and got training. None of us is going to medal in running at the Olympics, but we all enjoy it well enough and were willing to put ourselves out there on the road for our school. Besides, now we can say "I ran in the California International Marathon" and no one can call us a lying liar even though none of us ran the whole thing.
Once our team was set up, it was time to divvy up the different legs. Two legs were a little bit over seven miles, one was 6.2, and the last leg was 5.7. It was decided that Angela would take the first leg (7.3 or something like that), starting in Folsom. I would take the second leg (6.2). Chrystal took the third leg (about 7 miles even, I think), and April the finishing leg. We would cover 26.2 miles, from my hometown of Folsom to the Capitol building in downtown Sacramento. Easy-peasy!
Hold up, there.
See, there's an elevation change of about 300 feet between Folsom and Sacramento, so we figured it would be mostly downhill. And it was...for everyone but me. Turns out my leg is one of the shorter ones because it has more hills. I'm not complaining, but my calves were.
Anyway, how to run a marathon...relay.
The official starting time for the race was 7:00 in the chilly morning. Because the course is a point-to-point course, and not a loop, runners were taken to the starting point, or to their relay exchange point, in school buses on loan from various local school districts. The buses for the second leg relay runners would depart at 6:30 in the morning. It was still dark out.
The bus was nice and warm, and we had the option of staying on it when we reached the relay point, but I didn't wait long. Though it was cold out, I wanted to see the first competitors come through.
The marathoners using hand bikes and such were the first to start the race, so the first person through was on a hand bike. We cheered like mad for him.
I took my requisite pre-race selfie.
Finally, the first runner came through. He was super-fast and way ahead of everyone else. This was only mile seven-point-something, so I wonder if he burned out later.
Behind him a little ways was a group, and they were fast, but quite obviously pacing themselves.
I almost missed Angela, and she almost missed me. But fortunately I saw her and yelled her name. We exchanged the ankle timer and I was off running.
It was not an easy run for me today. I'm just not in the form I was in a couple years ago, which is frustrating. It didn't help that a good chunk of my run was uphill. My calves were screaming.
Whining aside, the course itself was very high-energy. People lined almost every stretch of it, yelling, cheering, ringing cowbells, holding signs. Dogs in funny Christmas sweaters watched us pass. Aside from the official aid stations with water and energy gels, there were random neighborhoods were several people would be passing out orange slices and banana halves (always wearing gloves). Some people had boxes of tissues for those of us whose noses run as much as our legs do (I had a bandana for such needs). There were even people who had bought water to give out between aid stations. The amount of support and energy given by people whose weekend has been totally disrupted by this event was lovely, and reminded me why I love the greater Sacramento community.
When I reached mile 12, I had a little over a mile to go. I texted Chrystal a picture while jogging, and a little while later, I told her, "Be ready."
I shuffled in to find her waving and cheering me on. I yelled, "Oh my God I did it. Thank God I'm done!!" as she strapped the anklet on. I patted her on the back and said, "Have a great run!" Then she was off, and I was left thinking, "Okay, now what?"
The "now what" was easy--there were signs directing me to the bus to get back downtown.
But first, a selfie:
My bus, I was delighted to see, was Folsom Cordova...my school district for the whole of my public schooling, and later, my student teaching. I chatted with the driver, who has actually driven band trips for my former band teacher.
Traffic on the freeway was a nightmare, but we finally reached downtown, and were let off right by the capitol, where the finish line was. It was a hot mess of people, and I'm not a huge fan of crowds on a good day. When I've just slogged through 6.2 miles of hilly terrain on two spoonfuls of peanut butter (breakfast) and a few packets of Gu, crowds are downright terrifying.
So I grabbed some pretty pictures of the Capitol and the fall colors, then I spent a few minutes cheering runners on as they approached the Mile 26 sign. But my stomach wouldn't wait and my calves were gently weeping, so I crossed the street to my car and got on my way.
Team GIS did a great job today, finishing in 5:15 and earning points and pride for our school. I couldn't have picked a better team of people, and hope that if we do this next year, we have two relay teams, so people have running partners.
That's my marathon story. It was exciting to be part of such a huge event, but I'm glad I didn't have to do twenty more miles than I did.