When we last left off I was just about to enter Iroquois Park just shy of Mile 12. I was feeling good about my race and ready to conquer the upcoming hills! Now on to part two of story… 26.2 – The Final Countdown!
Section 3: Iroquois Park (Miles 11.75 – 15) – Three miles of hills…
Iroquois Park is one of the shining gems of our fair city – designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1888 (the same guy who designed another famous park you might know in New York City – Central Park.) And it has no shortage of hills.
I have always had a love/hate relationship with running in this park. No matter how many races I do there or which direction I run that loop, it NEVER gets any easier. Saturday was a little different though. As I said, I was still feeling pretty great and as I approached and conquered the first couple of hills in the park my body reminded me that I was not, in-
fact, the master of Iroquois, which is what I was thinking as I crested the first, and largest hill in the park.
It seems that my gusto/bravado that let me give a little extra effort was also my Achilles Heel – I ended up straining my Extensor Hallucis Longus (EHL) Tendon and it let me know it for the rest of my race. It didn’t start to really bother me until one of the last hills in Iroquois right before Mile 14. The pain wasn’t enough to make me want to quit the race but it was definitely enough to gradually slow me down.
Section 4: Mile 15 to 20.5 – the marathon heads back north along Southern Pkwy following the route we’d already run. This also rejoins the miniMarathon course at their Mile 9.5, our Mile 17.5.
This was the toughest part of my race mentally. Funny enough though it was also the part of my race when I someone “joined me” or I saw someone I knew for encouragement at just about each mile. I’m not convinced that there wasn’t some divine work at hand during this 5 mile stretch…
As expected, when you’re a slower than average marathoner the pack continues to thin the longer you’re out on the course. I trained and ran intervals for this race and actually ended up picking up another runner who wanted to take a little “break” and do intervals with me for a couple of miles. While I was happy to let her join me I know I was in a bad way because I normally don’t mind when people chat with me when I’m running and this woman was particularly chatty. Really, really chatty, and all I wanted her to do was stop talking. Totally not my normal M.O. I was polite the entire time she ran with me but I’ve never been so glad when someone left me behind. This was somewhere around Mile 18.
Just around Mile 18.5 I ran into Crystal, my physical therapist from when Gil and I were hit by a car in 2012. Crystal Raymond was my PTA for almost 3 months during my recovery and a BIG part of why I was able to return to running. She wasn’t running in the race because she is closing in on her third trimester of her pregnancy but her husband’s company was working support for one of the Marathon Relay stops so she was out there in the rain with the rest of us. When she saw me she yelled “Lorri!!” ran out on the course, gave me a hug, and even ran about a quarter of a mile with me bless her! She got me out of my own head long enough to improve my mood for a bit and give me a morale boost for the next little bit.
At Mile 19 the aforementioned deluge started and it really got me down. I tried to be thankful for the ability to be out there running in the rain by choice. I tried to use a mantra, I tried singing… I failed miserably at feeling better about the rain. And then I heard a voice in a bull horn say “Who do we have coming here?” and I looked up and there was Ray Bronger standing in the rain with a bull horn encouraging the marathoners still out running. Again I heard, “Lorri! We’ve been standing out here in the rain waiting for you!” and he gave me a hug and asked me how I was doing. This time I replied “If I don’t keep moving I’m going to start crying…” which was totally true. So he let me go with a good luck and another morale boost.
I kept telling myself that I only had two more pieces of this damn race to do and then I would be done. But my ankle was getting increasingly more insistent that I slow my pace and the rain was coming down harder it seemed with each moment. I cried. Not that you could tell with all the rain but those tears were as real as the wall I hit in that moment. And just in time to catch a picture of my wall was Paola Tessarolo, who finished her own miniMarathon, changed clothes, and came back to run the rest of my race with me. I knew she would be there, she told me she would, but I’ve never been so happy to see one of my running-family members in my entire life as I was in that moment.
Section 5: Mile 20.5 to 25 – The marathon separates from the mini again in this section. It’s again mostly flat but there is one last little hill to conquer right before Mile 22. At the conclusion of this section you are a mere two turns away from your finish line.
Paola brought me an assortment of snacks, cola, and even an umbrella which she held over me on our walk breaks. But more importantly she provided me with a much needed distraction. She talked to me without expecting me to respond. She knew what to say to make me smile and laugh. And more than anything she kept me moving forward.
Each mile marker sign was a beacon of shiny hope that the race was one mile less to go. We stopped at each water stop, took a few extra walk breaks and there were still more friends along the route out there encouraging us on. All the while Paola was with me telling me that I could do this; that I would do this.
At mile 23.5 I drank the best 4 oz. of Michelob Ultra beer that I’ve ever tasted. I’m not usually a fan of beer during races but at that point, with less than a 5k left to run, I wanted beer! So I gladly took what my fellow KDF Race Ambassador friend Stephanie Fish was giving! Another hug, a chug, and I was back on my way to finishing section 5 of my race.
Section 6: The Last 1.2 miles…
As I turned the corner and passed Mile 25 I got a text message from my mom. She had been working at another Derby Festival event and wasn’t supposed to be able to see me at the finish. I knew that but she had apparently gotten done early and had made it within a mile of the finish line when she came to a barricade she wasn’t able to get through. So she texted me. I was already in a fragile mental place and that made me shed a few more tears.
As we came to the first of the last two turns to the finish line Paola lovingly told me to cry it out there so I would be happy for my pictures. And she shared with me that she always dedicates her marathons to someone and asked me who I would dedicate mine to. I automatically said my daddy. He suffered a stroke while volunteering for this race three years ago and I think of him every time I run it.
I turned the corner and we took a couple of extra walk breaks as we entered the final shoot. There were only a handful of other runners nearby at this point. But I wanted to be able to finish strong. Paola told me she was going to drop back once we made the last turn so I could have my moment. And I thanked her again for getting me to that point. Just as I was about to turn the last turn I heard my name one last time. It was my dear friend, Julie Gliessner, jumping and waving like a mad woman. That was all I needed to dig deep and run strong into that finish line. And I did, trying not to cry the whole way, almost succeeding.
I crossed the finish line, hugged Paola, and then got my medal. I was overwhelmed by what I had just done, and received one more hug from my friend Dodie, who is one of the extraordinary staff members of the festival. Then I heard the voices I had been listening for – Gil and Jessica were waiting just on the other side of the fence line. I was so happy to see them I started jogging again, to which Jess told me to stop running, that the race was over. I didn’t care though; I kissed Gil through the fence and squeezed my best friend’s hand. My race was officially over. I could stop running.
Once I made it through the official photos and all of that stuff Jess gave me by post-race goodie bag she had made me, complete with my very own 26.2 tiara.
I made it through with only minor chafing and no blisters which is definitely an accomplishment in itself given the weather. You better believe I rang the PR gong! As my first marathon it’s an automatic PR right??
There were lots of laughs and lots of tears and as we (I) shuffled back to the car the fullness of my experience hit me. I ran a marathon. I am strong and I am a BADASS! Like many things we do in Kentucky, we like to celebrate our big accomplishments proper – with Bourbon. This was definitely an epic life event and certainly one I won’t forget. As I said at the open, I’m not sure when or if I’ll run another marathon. I’m OK with that because I will still be out there doing races and working to get faster on my half marathon times. It’s been a few days since the race and I’m walking and feeling pretty well back to normal – except now I’m a part of the Marathoners’ Club. That’s something I will always be proud of.