Both my marathon and trip to St. Louis went well overall. My parents arrived in town on Friday evening. We all headed to Cincinnati last Saturday, checked into the hotel, and then headed to the Expo. The Expo was very nice, though there were tons of people. There, I picked up my registration packet, chip time, and all the cool free goodies. I was surprised by the chip time, because it's so small. It goes on your shoelace and tracks your time during the event. The nice thing about it is that it doesn't officially start until you cross the start line. As a premium gift, all the registrants got a nice duffle bag. The only bad part about that is that the material is very "pet hair attractable." After purchasing some Pig memorabilia and running apparel, we took a drive around the majority of the course. It was nice to do, so I got a feel for the hills I'd be running which were not as steep as the ones I train on but longer. If you've never been to Cincinnati, there are some beautiful parts in the city.
We went to dinner a little later than I expected, not eating until around 9:45 PM or so. There were tons of restaurants t o choose from on the Riverfront, but all had long wait lines. We wound up choosing an Asian restaurant which was the closest to what I normally eat. By the time we got out, it was around 11 PM.
With a wake up time of 4:45 AM, this didn't provide for a lot of sleep, but I doubt anyone got much since the race time began at 6:30 AM. We all headed out about 5:15 AM to go to the start line. I saw several people from my hotel also leaving. Along the way, we saw a deer in the middle of downtown Cincinnati! That was quite surprising to say the least. Parking was a bit hectic, but we managed to get there around 6:10 AM or so. I have to admit, I was interested to see what people were wearing as these events do attract interesting garb. I saw a number of runners wear trash bags to keep warm. I couldn't see much from the whole crowds of people but did see some interesting attire on the run, including a lot of pink everywhere, some guy with butt cheeks attached to his rear (I think it was supposed to look like a pig's rear?), and pink ears and tutus.
I said goodbye to my parents and went to find the pace group I intended to run with and waited with them. I made some small talk with a few women while waiting. One thing is that there is such an energy, adrenaline rush at an event like this. Music was blaring through the speakers, everyone talking, stretching, etc. Then there is an announcement that the race is delayed by 15 minutes due to a fire. Officials had to reroute the course and were told that everyone running the marathon was running at least 26.2 miles but no one knew how much further until after the race when the course would be remeasured. (It wound up being an extra 0.2514 mile)
The gun went off at 6:45 AM, and the first corral group started to run. Slowly, the rest of the runners began as we all inched our way to the start line as "Eye of the Tiger" blared over the speakers. There was a huge rush of energy both from so much excitement, being a part of something this big, and knowing you were running for so long. The first mile or two, there was a lot of people running into everyone. I think I must have said "sorry" quite a few times. After that, it began to thin out and runners were finding their pace. I ran with two other women for the first 5 miles and chatted with them. It did make those 5 miles incredibly fast. Upon mile 6 was where the hills began which went for another 2.5 miles. This was the part of the race many were worried about, including me. Surprisingly, I picked up pace on these hills. They felt a lot easier than I expected. Before I knew it, the hill portion was done. I felt absolutely great and my pace was quite good for me.
At the halfway point of 13.1 miles, I was still feeling really good and had a personal record for me for that distance. I was super happy with this, although it did cross my mind that had I done the half marathon, I'd be done now. Still, I continued to run and ran fairly comfortably. I even caught up to one of the women I had chatted with at the start of the race. Everything was great and then I died at about mile 20. It was like everything was completely depleted from me. I had hit the "WALL," the worst fear of many runners. I found myself slowing down and beginning to walk through the fluid stations. Every mile felt incredibly LONG and I kept waiting to see the next mile marker which felt forever. I kept thinking that the mile marker must be close when it was still a ways off. I was seriously fatigued and felt like I was going to pass out. At this point, I did see runners take walk breaks, others stretching, etc. So everyone was feeling it towards the end.
I don't quite remember the last part well as I felt so out of it. I know that somewhere around mile 21, the pace group I started with and left behind had now caught up with me and passed me. It seemed everyone was passing me, but at this point, I just wanted to finish without passing out. Somewhere close to the end, one of the other women I talked to during the first 5 miles, caught up with me. Well, I admit, I had a little surge of competitive feeling and sprinted the last 0.25 mile towards the "swine finish" and edged her out. There was no doubt a feeling of relief of finishing but at the same time I had hoped I for some stellar feeling at the end. I had imagined the moment in "Rocky" when Adrian ran those steps in Philly. That was the feeling I wanted. Instead, I was a little out of it, not remembering it well. After that, there were all these refreshments for the runners, cool freebies, and medallions for all who completed the race. I was still out of it, moving from table to table chucking things into my bag. A volunteer asked if I was okay. I told her I was fine and then grabbed for a banana which did make me feel better.
Finding my parents through the crowd was difficult. I think it was probably at least 20 minutes before they found me. It was estimated over the weekend that there were over 120,000 just in spectators alone! After one of my family members found me, we had to find my dad without my mom freaking out. She tends to get like that. We eventually got everyone together, took some photos, and then headed to parking and the hotel.
We got everything ready and then began the trip to St. Louis. I was no doubt sore and was worried about being more stiff due to the car ride. I elevated my feet, did some reading in the car as well as snoozing too I think. We took a few rest stops as well, so that was helpful.
Overall, the marathon experience was great. The race was really well organized. All the volunteers were helpful and put in a lot of work. I thanked them whenever I got water or gatorade. The crowd, fan, and entertainment support was awesome. I can definitely tell now why this is a favorite marathon among many runners. Although it is listed as the 24th largest marathon, it doesn't feel as huge as it seems. My only regret was that I didn't meet more people.
I truly am glad with my time but just know that I can do better with more training. Knowing that I was on pace with an easy sub 4 hour marathon up until the end of the race, gives me a little more confidence. I think Boston is reachable! That's my new goal. :-)