26.2 – The First 12 Miles

Earlier this week I shared my post race interview from the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon.  In the next couple of posts we will take a look at the mental, physical, and emotion adventure that I embarked upon. Due to the length of the post I’ve also split this in to two parts! I hope you enjoy and Happy Running!
*****

 I did it!  I’ve run a marathon.

It was an incredibly challenging journey that I embarked upon this past Saturday.  I’m glad I did it but I’m not sure when I might be ready to do it again, if ever.  It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my race – I definitely did – but I haven’t fallen in love with the marathon like I have with half marathons.  This post will be a long one.  It’s cathartic and therapeutic all in one.  But mostly, it’s real; this is what my brain and heart felt about my race. I hope you enjoy it.

Let me start by saying that the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon are incredible races.  I’ve run the mini 3 times and now the full as well.  I’ll do a full race review on the race next week but let me just say that the volunteers that come out for the aid stations and along the course are heaven-sent.  The course is always well manned but for the last couple of years it has been raining and gross but not once did I come to an unmanned aid station or water stop that I didn’t see a genuine smile and word of encouragement.

The conditions on Saturday were generally dismal but with IMG_7978average temps around 61°F to 65°F throughout my time on the course.  The real problem was rain.  It started to lightly rain between miles 4 and 5 of my race and I was actually OK with that.  It continued on like that for the majority of my race until I got to about Mile 19…  That was the moment when the heavens opened up a let forth all the liquids they had been holding back for the previous 4 hours. Let’s not forget that this was also just about the precise moment that I hit my own personal wall, but we will come back to that.  Let’s begin this story where all races do – at the starting line.IMG_7953

When I woke up on Saturday morning I was nervous, not a normal pre-race emotion for me, but this was my marathon day and not just another race morning.  I followed my normal routine leading up to the race, laying everything out the night before, checking the weather when I got up, and eating my normal pre-race breakfast.  I was nervous but ready to get going.  My hubby was running the mini and having him there was a balm to my nerves.  I’m lucky he’s so supportive of all of my crazy.

We headed out of our hotel and to the start line to meet up with my training group and also my best friend Jessica who traveled all the way from Indianapolis to see me run my first marathon.  Did I mention how lucky I am?  Between my husband and my best friend they had me feeling like a superhero before the race even started.  They hung out by the gear check while I went and jumped in my training group photo. IMG_7960 Then we said our “goodbyes, good lucks, and don’t dies!” And Gil and I headed in to our starting corral and to my training partner Jim.  Jim and I have been running together for the last three years and I guilted him into training and running this marathon with me this season.  (Don’t feel too bad for him – this was his 3rd marathon so he’s practically a pro.)

I had already broken down the race in to 6 sections to make it more mentally manageable and I’ll walk you through my race in each section.

Section 1: Start to Mile 9The first section of the race through Churchill Downs Race Track.  This is nearly all flat and after we come out of Churchill Downs the miniMarathon participants and the Marathon participants split from one another.  

This is arguably the easiest piece of the race.  You are with a huge crowd and can feed off of their excitement and adrenaline.  The course is flat and though it does have a few more turns than I really love, it’s wide enough to let the crowd thin out after the first couple of miles so you don’t feel crushed. 

I also got my first and second spectator boost in this part.  Our friend Christian was along Broadway with a poster with all the names of her friends who were doing the race.  I’m 99% certain that this is the first time that my name has been on a poster during a race. 

It was sooooo cool. Then as we turned the corner onto 3rd street I got a happy surprise! My bestie, Jess, had trekked up to cheer for me as we ran into Mile 5! I wasn’t expecting it at all and it was so awesome! Unfortunately I ended up leaving Jim somewhere around Mile 5 too – he was struggling with some back issues and we had already discussed what we should do if something like that were to happen.  So for the majority of the remainder of my race I was “by myself” as much as you can be in a race surrounded by other runners.

At the end of this piece you get to run through the infield of the historic Churchill Downs.  Often times there are thoroughbreds working out as you run past which makes it a truly iconic experience.  I should also note that my dear friend, and KDF master photographer, Marvin Young, is also posted in Churchill every year and he never fails to catch at least one amazing photo of me! You can tell I was still feeling great at Mile 8 – just check out that smile.13123114_10206710229382611_5284320794826260104_o

Section 2: Mile 9 to the entrance of Iroquois Park (Mile 11.75)this is the first stretch of the race where you are on your own as a Marathoner.  It’s a slow, very gradual, straight incline to the park.

When my friends and I talk about this point of the race we always mimic the course marshal that stands in the split until the last racers make their way out of Churchill.  That marshal has the important task of calling out to the approaching runners and walkers and informing them that “Half Marathon go left. Marathon go right.” There are also signs and a giant fence that let you know that this is the moment when you can choose to shorten your race or continue on for 17 more miles.  As you make your turn south on your way to Iroquois Park you are greeted with the first designated Marathon aid station complete with water, Powerade, and energy gels.

This was also the moment that the Marathon got really real for me because I went from running with hundreds of people around me to just a few dozen in my line of vision.  Though the male first place marathoner was already on his way back prior to my turn I did get to see the rest of the front runners and the first female as they headed back to the finish line – nearly 8 miles ahead of where I was in that moment. Such is the life of a slow runner. J  I was still feeling great as I headed into my next section just shy of Mile 12. Just under half way done!

To be continued…

Join me Monday as we dive into the back half of the Marathon.  The good, the bad, and the really, really rainy…

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One thought on “26.2 – The First 12 Miles

  1. Pingback: Race Review! Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon | Turtle Goes for a Run

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