Grandma’s Marathon

Finisher's Medal

I did it! Wow. I’m still kinda in awe about the whole thing. It already seems like a century ago. But I guess yesterday was a pretty long day!

The Day Before
When my husband and I left our home town, it was sunny, warm and humid. Close to 80° in fact. But by the time we arrived in Duluth some 3 hours later, it was cold as all get out. The temperature was hovering around 55° and it was foggy. Egads! Even my husband was cold. And this man is rarely cold. We managed to park right next to the convention center just as they closed the lot, and made it inside to pick up my packet. They did a great job because there were no lines…just pick it up and go! So we walked around a little, but I could see the stress level rising in my husband’s face, so I just bought a tee-shirt, looked for some sneakers, got my free gift at the Women Rock booth, and we got out of there. We walked around Duluth a little bit, seeking out some hot coffee, and checked out a few places, including Grandma’s Bar and restaurant.

Downtown Duluth

Downtown Duluth

We also checked out the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, which was very cool!

Lift Bridge Duluth

Lift Bridge Duluth


Then, we kind of decided to get out of there and head up to our hotel another 60 miles up the road.

The fog followed us the entire way and it never warmed up. Clearly, this was agitating me because now I started to panic that I didn’t bring a warmer outfit. And we just left town where I had the opportunity to buy something warmer. But I kept thinking ‘dress like it is 20° warmer than it will be’ and what I brought would cover that. It also made me grateful I picked up that $4.00 clearance sweatjacket at Menards…for now it sits on Scenic Highway 61, somewhere along the shores of Lake Superior!

The Night Before
We checked in, and I unpacked a few things and tried to figure out how my husband was going to get back to Duluth after he dropped me at a drop off point in Two Harbors. We got some advice about dinner, and backtracked to the next town to the south.

Thank goodness we picked a great place to eat! My husband was acting a little bizzare all day and this seemed to settle him out a little. Of course, I was a wreck, although I’m not sure why. I think I just wanted to get it over with already. And I was stressing about whether I’d sleep or not. I had done a great job of getting up earlier and earlier each day this week and getting to bed by 9pm. Then, as we discussed it a little, Steve said “I don’t know why you are so worried. There are no expectations, no obligations, no accountability. You have nothing to compare yourself to since it is your first. Just enjoy it.” And I immediately calmed down. He was right. I had come this far. I just had to get up and run.

The weather was looking worse and worse, and now the fear of not just cold weather loomed, but rain as well. But, I slept well, and when the alarm went off at 4:45am, I was ready to get ready.

The Morning Of
I dressed as planned but brought along my cheap $4 sweat jacket, and a few plastic bags, a throw away poncho, a banana, a few protein bars for me and some Facebook pals I had hoped to run into. Plus, my shot of beet juice, a few bottles of water and other odds and ends, most of which got left at the start line. A quick look at the radar Saturday morning told me that the rain would hold off at least for the start of the run! Great news! And it didn’t seem nearly as chilly as the day before.

I ate my banana at the hotel, took my vitamins, and off we went.

Steve got me to the bus by 6:15am and he headed south. I got on and chatted with a sweet girl who was there to run with her dad. He looked to be in his 70s. God bless them! Everyone was very friendly. Photos were being taken, and then I realized I had no one to take photos of me. As we got off the bus, photographers were already lined up so I asked for one or two to take my picture pre-run. I figured I’d end up buying some anyway since it is my first marathon and all.

Headed to the start

Headed to the start

It was more brisk here than 30 miles further north where we stayed, so I was grateful for the sweatshirt.

Starting Gate

Starting Gate

I ate my protein bar and my shot of beet juice, and looked for my friends. In the meanwhile, I was amused by the amount of porta-potties lined up at the start line!

Porta-Potties

Porta-Potties

And the lines to get in were just as long. I didn’t need to use one, though, thank goodness. That would have stressed me out even more. I did find this cute young blond girl who was dressed in neon, as well, and asked to get a photo with her! At least I got something on my phone before the run!

Sisters in Neon

Sisters in Neon

They were prompt and the race began right on time. I managed to find one friend and get a protein bar to him, but couldn’t find the other, so I stuffed it in my flip belt in case I came upon him during the run. I ended up starting with the 3:35:00 pacer. That wasn’t my plan, but the crowd began to get real thick and I didn’t want to venture further back. So there I stayed. I started my Runmeter and my podcast just in time for the gun.

It still took a minute or two to run over the start line.

Race Time
I was immediatly amazed at how many men racers were already pulling over to pee. What the hell? Is it because they can? It was kind of amusing and annoying at the same time. I just didn’t appreciate it. I mean really. What the hell? And it got me to thinking about whether I had to pee. Now I wished I had before the race. But I tried not to let it mess with me and just kept moving forward.

At about mile 3, I stripped my sweat jacket and decided to tie it around my waist for a while. I decided I’d rather have it on hand just in case. I could always ditch it later.

Something odd happened at mile 5. My left ankle was acting weird. It was completely new and completely random. And I started to worry a bit. Every few steps, it felt like that leg was going out from under me and I had to control the feeling with my speed. If I slowed down, it didn’t bother me as much. This first part of the run was all down hill, so I though that might have something to do with the odd feeling. But it had me panicked for quite a few miles. I also realized I was starting faster than I wanted to. So I consciously had to slow down quite a few times in the first 6 miles. This part of the run was going very fast. It seemed like I was at the 10k line way quicker than I imagined, and Runmeter said I hit it at about 49 minutes. That was pretty much where I wanted to be. I had my first energy gel, and a few sips of Cytomax. I nursed that gel for about 1.5 miles, too. I didn’t want to risk a belly ache by snarfing the entire thing down.

Along the route, the fans were great! I mean, really great! And there was water everywhere. And at every water stop, there was a couple of porta potties, but already, they had lines of two or three people behind them. So, I just kept on going.

I realized too, at this point, that Runmeter wasn’t reading any messages to me, so I figured there must have been a technological snafu. But c’est la vie. It would have to stay that way. I didn’t want to mess up what I had going here. I just kept moving. And the weather held. But it was foggy. And unfortunately, we couldn’t see any of the great scenery.

Mile 10 came and went, and I was feeling way too good. I was kind of shocked at how many runners were huffing and puffing. It made me realize that I wasn’t doing that at all. In fact, it seemed like I was barely breathing. My ankle finally stopped having that weird feeling, and I settled into the 8:15 or so pace that I had at that time.

We approached the halfway point. And I realized that this is where the half-marathoners started about an hour earlier. The crowd here was thick, and there was an ambulance already headed in the opposite direction on the race course. I had wondered what had happened…all these thoughts of runners already having issues just half way though. Again, the mind games…when suddenly, to the left I saw the motherlode! A line of porta-potties, and NO LINES. I thought to myself, it is now or never! And I ran through them, chosing one near the middle. Ah! Open and empty!

By this time, I was either damp with sweat or damp from the fog and mist and it seemed like it took forever to get my shorts down. But I did, and I didn’t pee much. But it was enough to bring some peace of mind. Getting the damp shorts back up was a chore, and I got out of there…and into a new running crowd. I didn’t see the 3:35:00 pacer anymore, but I didn’t see the 3:45:00 pacer behind me so I knew I hadn’t lost much time. And it was energy gel time, too. I really didn’t think I needed it, but heeding all the advice that I had heard on recent podcasts, I figured I’d better get another in me at this time. And again, I nursed it, for a good 2 miles. I passed the half marathon clock at 1:50:00. Still looking good!

Somewhere in here, my husband called me. God, that was great! It was great to hear his voice, and he had been tracking me closely. “You are doing really good, huh? I can see you. You are doing really good! Are you cold? Are you tired?” I told him I felt fine and that yes, I think I was doing quite well. Everything was still going as planned. And as I hung up with him, I realized I was 2+ hours in and was at mile 15. Wow! Had that gone fast, or what?

The route was changing now, and the fog cleared enough that I could see Lake Superior just a few feet to my left. The water was rough…and we were now headed back up hill. I felt it immediately in my calves. People were dropping back now, and I could see quite a few walking. Some were stretching off on the side of the road, too. It was at this point that I decided to ditch my sweat jacket. It kept getting in the way, and I decided that I always had that plastic poncho if I got cold. I had my arm warmers on and I was staying quite comfortable, so I ditched it to the left, with a few others I saw on the side of the road.

The crowds were really starting to thicken now, as Scenic Highway 61 merged into Highway 61. And the hills were getting steeper. I realized that this must be the “Big Hill” they talked about on this course. But it didn’t seem that bad. I felt, for the first time, that I had this licked!

Now, I think I was at mile 18. I think. Because at this point, things started to blur a bit. And time really began to slow down. I heard Runmeter give me updates, but it was like I wasn’t ingesting them. “What did she say? WHAT DID SHE SAY?” I had no idea. I kept waiting for the balloon tressels to tell me where I was on the course. I grabbed and nursed another gel. Then followed it up with a few sips of my Espresso Coconut drink.

It’s funny, but one of the guys I met up with before the run said “You know what they say, the marathon really starts at mile 20.” And how true that was. That line stuck in the back of my head, because it seemed like forever to hit mile 20. When I did, instant relief. And I had to tell my brain, “This is nothing! You can run a 10k. Just imagine like you are just leaving the house. This is to Dream Acres and back! Easy peasy! You do this every day!”

Easier said than done. Now the hills were coming on. They were short but steep, and every uphill was a challenge. Every downhill was redemption. And the crowds were thicker and more and more crazy, and louder than ever. I kept hearing “Go Neon Lady, GO!” And I knew they were talking to me. Or I heard “I love your SOCKS!!” It made me laugh, and it gave my strength. God, this was getting so incredibly fun and exciting. And I started pouring it on. I heard that I was doing a few 7:40 miles in there. I knew I still had it. But at every up hill, I’d slow down immensely and question myself again. Would I make it? This close…

I heard a loud voice behind me and realized it was the 3:45:00 pacer and his group coming up fast. I tried, but could not stay ahead of them. They passed me near mile 22 or 23. And I just had to let them go. I was a little let down because this was where I had hoped to finish. But when they passed, I said to myself, if I finish under 4:00:00, I’ll be happy…so just keep moving, Theresa! I tried to grab another energy gel but I couldn’t reach the pouch at my back. So I gave up. And just kept going.

Now, the race crowd was really thin. There were walkers, barfers, and runners being helped by their friends or trainers…and I kept passing them. I was really, really doing this.

The road changed to brick, the hills shorter and steeper still. The last steep hill brought us to the edge of the bridge, and it was a killer. I passed a few more who decided to walk up the hill, and in the distance, I spied my pacer again. Aha! A chance to catch up. I could see the downhill ahead at the peak of the bridge. And as I came down, picking up speed, I heard my husband call out to me! I turned, and there he was, taking video! Ahhhh! I waved, smiled and laughed. OMG, I was almost done.

Still, I had no idea how far I had left to go. A few seconds later, my phone died. I tried to turn it back on…nothing. So I tucked it inside and kept chugging. There were race photographers everywhere, so I waved and smiled…waved and smiled…waved and smiled. As we came down the stretch, I was waving my arm, trying to get the crowd to cheer…and they did…and it helped greatly. I was picking up speed. I knew I was about at 25.5 miles with just a little ways to go. Or at least so I thought. Who knew .75 miles would take soooooooooo long. There was a group handing out fresh fruit. I grabbed an orange wedge. It was like heaven. And it helped wake me up a bit! I sipped a little more Coconut Espresso, too.

At this point, if I walked I knew I’d still be good. My calves were screaming, my legs were like cement. But I was breathing like normal. I never ran out of breath. That in itself amazed me. Gosh, how far I had come!

Then finally, FINALLY, I saw the balloons ahead, and my pace group cross the finish, and names being called. And I hit the last timing mat…and I heard him say my name. And it was over.

If you look real close, you can see me all the way to the left…in the neon.

Post Race
I knew I was close to 3:45:00. And that made me happy. It was hard to stop running, but everyone ahead of me did…and they led us through a line to get our medal, then our shirts, and then water and food…and a kid handed me some carnations…and volunteers were asking me how I was feeling…and people were falling to the ground, and others looked dazed and confused, while others looked fresh as daisies. I wondered how I looked. And I wondered how I was going to find Steve since my phone was dead. But I remembered we had discussed the family meeting area before hand and that was my best shot at finding him.

Nothing looked appetizing, except the Pearson’s Nut Rolls, so I grabbed a handful of those, telling myself I deserved them. Plus, Steve had asked me to grab some for him at the end.

Now someone wrapped one of those reflective blankets around me. Egads! Was that the best thing ever! I was COLD…didn’t realize it until I got that wrap. It was getting colder…and I realized how wet I was. Oh, where was Steve?!? I hoped he brought my sweatshirt.

I started up a conversation with an older, super tall man who was waiting at the family area, too. He finished at 3:35:00 in this, his second marathon. We were both on such a marathon high, someone in passing would have thought we were on weed. “We qualified for Boston!”, he said. OMG, I qualified for Boston. I f’in qualified for Boston! It just sunk in at that time. 47 years old, and I qualified for Boston! Then came Steve! I was never so happy to see him. OMG, “I have to walk,” I told him. “Let’s keep going.” I said my goodbyes and we shuffled off.

Now, I had stood around just long enough to stiffen up. So I was hobbling a little. I couldn’t keep up with Steve. He kept asking me if I needed food, but I was kind of barfy. “No, let’s just keep moving.” was all I could muster.

It seemed like forever, but we made it into the convention center so Steve could use the restroom. I couldn’t pee. I didn’t want to pee. I was afraid to pull down my shorts because I didn’t think I’d get them back up. LOL!

We ventured back into the cold, and made our way to the car.

By now, I think we had walked at least 30 minutes if not longer. I just wanted to get into warm and dry clothes. And when I pulled them out of the car, I just started stripping. I didn’t care who saw me. Everything was soaked. “Ewwwww”, Steve said. He didn’t even care that I was changing outside the car door. I think he really felt for me.

As soon as I sat down he took my phone and started charging it. He was saying stuff to me, but I don’t remember any of it. He handed me some dried fruit and I graciously accepted. Then we got the hell out of there.

I felt like it took a while for my brain to start functioning. Then he mentioned lunch and I was instantly starving. But it took a while for us to get out of town and out of the fog. I haven’t been eating Subway lately because of the bread…but hello. At this point in time, I’d eat anything. And that sandwich was the best thing I’d eaten…ever…in my life.

A few leg cramps on the way home, but surely, I felt way better than I ever thought I would. It was over. And I had just run 26.2 miles.

Good gawd!!

The Day After
Well, today I feel amazingly OK. Stairs are tough, but OK if I take them slow. Seriously? Did I run a marathon yesterday?

Wow! Amazing!

Me and my medal!

Me and my medal!

And I took a picture of me today with my finisher’s medal. Of all of them, this one means the most!

33 Responses to Grandma’s Marathon

  1. Victoria says:

    Congratulations! I had such a big smile on my face reading this! You’re awesome!

  2. Tracey says:

    You rock!!! Well done!!! xo

  3. Patsy T. says:

    Like Victoria I had a big smile on my face the whole time I was reading this. Congratulations – an awesome achievement!

  4. ruby says:

    How amazing! Sounds like it was a great experience! I’m training for my first half this fall and this post was such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Amy Glass says:

    Congrats!!! It is truly an amazing experience!

  6. Celia Varga says:

    Congrats, sister! I am SO proud of you..under your goal, and happy and healthy!

  7. Congrats on your BQ!

  8. Karrie says:

    Go down the stairs backward. Seriously try it. It is WAY better.

  9. Bud Phillips says:

    Of all your future marathons, you will always remember this one! Congratulations!

  10. Great job loved reading your experience!

  11. This is such a great recap! Congratulations on an amazing job!

  12. What an awesome recap! I loved every second of it! Congratulations on qualifying for Boston!

  13. Tania Conwell says:

    Thanks for all of the details!
    Congrats on BQ!
    Tania Conwell

  14. dmenter says:

    I love reading marathon stories. I was there too, about half an hour behind you. It was a great race. Maybe I’ll see you there next year, but only if I get faster 🙂

  15. Congratulations! That’s really awesome!

  16. flowerjovia says:

    Wow, how awesome. Not only did you run your first marathon but you qualified for Boston! YOU ROCK! I hope you realize what an inspiration you are…

  17. Amanda says:

    Oh man. Fighting tears, what a great recap! Qualifying for Boston! How amazing. I ran Grandma’s on Saturday too, in 5:08, but I was hoping for at least 5:30 considering I did not make it past 14 miles in my training due to an ankle injury. I need to document my first marathon experience too, this is great!

    • Congratulations, Amanda! You did GREAT considering you didn’t do any super long runs. Way to go! I can’t wait to read about your experience. Please share it when you have it posted!

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