After I finished my first half marathon I distinctly remember thinking, Who the hell would run another 13.1 miles? I told myself that I’d never do that. 13.1 was my limit. But time passed at suddenly 26.2 miles didn’t seem like such an awful thing to want to run. I looked at the Honolulu triathlon and when I signed up in June or July, the registration fee was only $50 for Hawaiian residents. It seemed silly to not sign up for a marathon at that price. So I did.
Days before the race I was still feeling good about it. I’d run another half marathon and competed in two triathlons of varying distances. But I’m not sure anything can prepare you for running a full 26.2 miles.
Mile 6, before I realized what a ridiculous idea this had been.
The night before the race I hauled myself up to bed at 8:30. I was determined to be asleep by 9 o’clock and be fully rested when my alarm went off at 2:30 am (you need to start races in Hawaii early to beat the heat). Unfortunately, our neighbors had other ideas. By the time Wes came up to bed at 9:30, I was far from sleep. But it wasn’t yet 10pm and I couldn’t fault our neighbors for wanting to have a good time – the world doesn’t stop just because I have to get up at 2:30am in order to run a marathon. By 10:30, though, my patience was wavering. Wes had gone to the guest bedroom in order to get some sleep, but I refused. Something about this being my bed and my house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let our redneck neighbors drive me out of either just because they want to get fucked up.
I tossed and turned. I counted bottles of beer on the wall in hopes that it would bore me into sleep. But every time I got close, something would set the neighbors off and I would be back at square one: fuming over the carelessness of our party-happy neighbors. Around 11:30, close to tears, I dragged myself to the guest bedroom, but Wes had already claimed his stake on the queen size bed and after sharing a king for the past 11 months, it was hard to find a space for me. Ten minutes back in my own bed, just after midnight, I decided to talk to them.
Now, mostly, I don’t enjoy confrontation. I’m scared of how the other party will react and I usually just let things go. But with less than 3 hours before I had to be awake, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, with my heart practically beating out of my chest, I walked downstairs. As soon as I turned on the porch light I heard the guests quiet down a bit. “I have to be awake in less two-and-a-half hours,” I managed to get out. “I have been trying to sleep since 8:30. Can you please take it inside or quiet down out here?” They said they would and I made my way back to bed where it took a full 3 minutes before my heart beat slowed down.
They did not quiet down.
I did manage to fall asleep and at 2:41, Wes woke me up. I had apparently turned my alarm off when it went of at 2:30 and I was glad that I’d asked Wes to set his. After getting dressed I let Tsunami outside to do her business. She ran straight for the fence, not surprising since our neighbors were still outside. When she didn’t step away from the fence, though, I walked over to see what she was so preoccupied with. There at the fence sat a half-empty bottle of Corona, and Tsunami was happily lapping up the beer. I picked up the bottle and threw it over the fence, “Come on you guys, keep your trash on your side of the fence.” The woman who lives there (I assume it was the woman who lives there) apologized, “Come on you guys, she has a race in the morning.” And that made me madder than anything that had happened during the night. “A race in the morning? If by morning you mean I need to leave in 30 minutes to run a marathon, then yes, I do have a race in the morning. And thanks to you I didn’t get any sleep last night!” She muttered a few apologies, and perhaps something about it never happening again, but I had already grabbed Tsunami and walked inside.
Not the best way to start a marathon. But in spite of all that I was still feeling upbeat. The start time was 5 am, and I was hoping to get some good mileage in before the sun came up. I’ve heard of seasoned runners (though not elite runners) having to drop out because it got too hot and the last thing I wanted was to have to drop out and sign up for it again next year just to cross something off a damn list.
The first 6 miles brought us through downtown and I was familiar enough with the route and it was cool enough that I was feeling good. I tried to keep my pace even and a bit slower than normal so that I didn’t run out of steam too early. By the time I reached mile 11 or so, though, I was hurting. Just before the half way mark I had to stop and stretch my legs. I had been drinking water at every station, which meant that I had to pee at just about every bathroom stop (which also meant that by the end, I’m sure I smelled like pee). After the half way mark I had to slow down. I would run for a mile or so and then walk for a bit. Then I would talk myself into running.
I kept looking around and what I noticed is that no one looked to be enjoying themselves. Every face I passed seemed to say, What the fuck was I thinking? Which is exactly how I felt. At mile 22 I saw people hitting mile 10 – walkers who had been walking for 4+ hours and still had 16 miles to go. I couldn’t imagine having that much more to go and I gained a whole new respect for people who walk a marathon.
At mile 23 I talked myself into believing that I was just out on a nice and easy 3 mile run. I kept telling myself that – What’s the big deal? It’s just a three-mile run. So I ran through the pain in my knees, ankles and feet and pushed up the hill. About half a mile from the finish line it started to sprinkle and, with the sun beating down on me, it felt refreshing.
At the finish line there were photographers shooting staged photos in front of a Honolulu Marathon backdrop. I had one taken but the picture is horrible – I’m bloated with all the water I’d been drinking and I can smell myself just from that picture. I hobbled my way to Wes. “If I ever think that’s a good idea again, please slap me,” I told him.
I finished in 5:44:27, which is about an hour over the time that I wanted. I’m not sure if getting a full night’s sleep would have helped to shave off an hour. I’m not sure if 4:30-5:00 was an even possible time for me. I’m glad that I finished it. Glad that I tried it.
The best part about the race was all the spectators. Restaurants in town had volunteers handing out water and bananas at 5:30 in the morning. All the volunteers were cheering us on. The Japanese groups had cheerleaders at what seemed like every mile and they were cheering everyone on. People had signs (“If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It”) and at nearly every point on the road there were people telling us how awesome we were. Kids in the neighborhoods had their hoses out and were spraying runners off as they passed. I got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from someone! And though it’s not enough to make me ever want to run that again, it did help me finish.
Today, four days later, I am finally not walking with a limp. Already the pain of the last 13.1 miles are fading away and I’m wondering if I will ever want to run another. But then a shot of pain will hit my foot and I think, Absolutely not.