You can control a number of things going into a race: your training inputs, willingness to manage time and work hard, as well as your attitude. Out of your control? The weather. Now, I have experience running in less than ideal conditions: snow in Delaware, wind in Nevada and heat in Pennsylvania; however, in 30+ marathons and ultras, I've never encountered pouring rain on race day. There's a first time for everything...
Trey is on mid-tour leave and agreed to accompany me to earn my New Hampshire at the Hampton Rockfest Marathon. During the drive east, the rain was nonstop. Rose colored glasses gal at heart, I was convinced it would stop before 9 am and didn't really stress. This was, after all, a training run for JFK50; however, nobody in their right mind wants to run for a few hours in a downpour.
Prior to the race, I had asked the folks at Loco Racing if they could recognize Trey for his military service at some point during the starting festivities. They exceeded my expectations by insisting that he serve as the "Official Race Marshall", giving runners the cue to begin at the starting line. With experience in a number of ceremonies with the Air Force Honor Guard, including introducing the President, Trey brought his narrator voice A-game and gave us a deep, hearty "Runners on your mark, GO!" No "get set"- always keeping us on our toes, that's Trey.
The rain let up a little during the first couple of miles and turned into more of a mist, which felt nice. A Garmin error turned right just before mile 2 assisted in finding fellow Marathon Maniac Shannon, who has positioned herself to become the youngest female to finish all 50 states in sub 4 hours. Both of us uber chatty, we talked about the given- training, races, running goals, career, family, friends, and boys. We also dove into more serious topics, shared life's highs and lows, and discussed living in the moment since things can change so quickly. Alongside great conversation, we shared a steady 8:30/mile pace for the next 14 miles.
I have always enjoyed the camaraderie shared among other female runners in the marathon community, but something that struck me additionally about my new found running partner was her positivity. There we were in slippery conditions, miserable cold wind, and occasional bouts of heavy rain- Shannon was a ray of sunshine who had me smiling and laughing. Oprah Winfrey was right on when she said, "Surround yourself with only with people who are going to lift you higher"!
The thing about a marathon is, you'll always question your ability to finish at some point. It will never be smooth sailing. I guess that's what I enjoy about the distance- you can count on it for a challenge. Mile 18 was my gut check.
Shannon, who would finish a couple of minutes before me for her 15th sub 4 of the year, and I had separated after the only major hill of the race just before mile 17. "Hill" is giving it a lot of credit, too...more like "incline". This race was relatively flat, which you'd think would be fantastic; however, using the same muscles over and over again is much more painful in the late miles as compared to a course with more variety. My hips and lower back were throbbing. Adding insult to injury, it started pouring rain. The painful, b-word slap you in the face sort of rain. Shoes and socks were soaked and felt like they were 5 pounds each. No music because my Mp3 player had shorted out. I had to hold my arm over my eyes to block the wind and rain to see where I was going. This went on for about 6 miles so I mentally tapped sources of inspiration (looking at you, Erin) to continue.
Splish splashing into the final 2 miles, I was still maintaining an 8:30/mile pace and was comforted by the fact that I would achieve sub 4 hours for my 31st marathon state. Crossing the line in 3:41:47, I earned 9th out of 93 women in my age group, top 5% female, and top 10% overall finishers. Mentally, I have now been down the "it's raining during the race" road and will be more confident when (not if- I have a lot of marathons left to go!) this happens again. The best part? Trey was waiting for me at the finish line!