Race day morning our alarm went off at 4am. I felt sick with nerves the minute I woke up. I looked out the window to confirm what I had been dreading all week long – pouring rain and storms. Casey made me my typical pre-race PB&J…
Which I ate in front of the computer obsessively checking radar maps and hour by hour weather reports.
The race was scheduled to start at 6:30am, and it was clear from the forecast that it would be raining the entire time.
Luckily I had known in advance that it would most likely rain, and tried to plan as best as I could for the situation. Just before the expo closed on Saturday, I ran back over and bought a dorky visor to wear, so that I wouldn’t have rain hitting me directly in the face. I also tried to plan for what would seem most comfortable when soaking wet (and not be see through!).
Since we were in our hotel downtown, we were only a few short blocks from the starting line. We could see on the news that runners were being held in school buses rather than waiting out in the rain, so we stayed in our nice and dry hotel room until almost 6am. The longer we waited, the more nervous I was getting.
I had also packed a gigantic garbage bag to wear to the starting line, to keep me dry and warm until we started running. I’ve done it before in cold weather and totally swear by it – dorky or not, it works! We said goodbye to Casey’s parents and reluctantly stepped out of the hotel into the downpour.
It was so hard to willingly walk out into that rain! We made our way over to the starting line, and I hung out with Casey in the 3-hour finishers group until just a few minutes before the starting gun went off. When it finally came time to leave, I kissed him goodbye with big tears in my eyes. I was already soaking wet, and getting more and more nervous by the minute. On top of that, I could already tell that my nerves had gotten to my stomach, and something wasn’t sitting well.
Just as they started the 1 minute countdown to the gun going off, the skies literally opened up into a downpour. It was kind of fun in a way, as we were all already soaking wet, and it added to the excitement and anticipation of what we were about to do. The gun went off and 22,000 runners started sloshing through the streets of Cincinnati.
Within just a few minutes of running, having taken off my trusty garbage bag, I was 100% soaked, including my shoes. I had told myself that running in the rain would be no big deal – I have done it plenty of times before, and sometimes it can even be fun, giving you something other than running to focus on. I was not, however, prepared for how running 26.2 miles in soaking wet shoes would feel. I imagine it is what soldiers feel like running in their military boots. Each foot felt like it weighed about 10 pounds. As hard as I pushed myself, with the weight and the crowd of runners all around me, I felt so sloooow. The first few miles went by pretty quickly, and I was averaging around 9 minute miles, which was my planned pace from the start.
Somewhere around mile 5 I felt my stomach lurch, and I knew that I was going to have to make a stop. I’ve had a lot of stomach problems in the past, but I’ve been lucky enough to never have it affect me on race day – I guess it was bound to catch up with me eventually. At the bottom of the gigantic Gilbert hill, I spotted a row of port-a-potty’s and had to stop. While I waited for one of them to free up, I stood there in the pouring rain watching my average pace crawl from 9:00 to 9:37 miles – painful. After what felt like eternity, I finally got my turn and then began the very long ascent up 3 miles of steep hills. Check out that elevation chart!
I alternated running and walking up the hill, knowing that trying to run the whole thing would burn out my quads. I was already starting to feel really tired from lugging my heavy shoes, and my stomach was still really questionable. I finally made it to the top of Gilbert and let out a huge sigh, knowing that my neighborhood and family were just a few miles ahead. Up ahead of me, Casey had already cruised through Hyde Park…
I kept on running, making my way to Hyde Park, unfortunately having to stop for bathroom break #2 on my way down Madison. While I continued to run as best I could, the combination of my shaky stomach and 20 pound shoes was really wearing on me. I kept thinking how miserable this was to be doing in the rain all alone. I tried to make little bargains with myself and take my mind off of the blisters forming in my shoes, and the chafing being caused by my shorts. I knew my family would be at the top of the Erie climb, and I pushed myself to get to them for a much needed pep talk. What I wasn’t expecting at all though, was what I saw when I finally got there – Casey and his bright green t-shirt, smiling and waving back at me. Check out the look of shock on my face!
At first I was scared something had gone wrong for him or that he was hurt, but he signaled to me that he was fine, and my face lit up…
As I got to the group he said, “I was having a bad race, and I knew you were most likely having a terrible time too. I thought it would be a lot more fun if we finished it together.” And I immediately starting hysterically sobbing. I still can’t believe that he quit his race and waited for me. Miles earlier I had thought to myself – what I would give to see Casey right now – but I never actually expected it to happen. I still can’t believe that he did that for me.
After some brief tears and hugs to my family, the two of us made our way up Paxton, ready to conquer the second half together.
Not even a mile later, I made bathroom stop #3, hoping that if I could just get my stomach in order I would be able to run more comfortably. As we entered Mariemont, I started to get really hungry – a weird feeling to have during a race. I think my stomach issues had essentially drained all of my energy, and despite being soaking wet, I felt really dehydrated.
Casey was a total champ, talking me through every mile. He was so encouraging, despite how horrible I felt and how depressed I was out how badly the race was turning out. He proposed that we break it into two races – our separate first halves, and a second half run together. I did my best to push through, but the weight of my shoes made me want to take frequent walking breaks. Casey decided we would plan to just focus on individual miles – walking 0.1 miles, and then running to the next mile marker.
Around mile 15, I did something kind of drastic. For some reason I was starving, and I passed a man who had a table in his front yard filled with granola bars and treats for runners. I decided things couldn’t get much worse, and maybe it would give me more energy – I ate a Nutrigrain bar. It was either going to be a big help, or a huge mistake, but either way I had to try something. We continued our run/walk through Mariemont, and then rain continued to come down.
Up ahead, our support crew was having a fun time of their own, waiting for us at the Frisch’s Mainliner restaurant. Hanging out with Boy Boy…
And trying to stay dry…
At mile 18 we cruised on past, smiling and waving to Lindsey, Sarah, and my mom – best crowd support ever! Even though the run itself was miserable, it was so much fun to have Casey at my side. I literally don’t know what I would have done without him.
The next 8 miles are kind of a blur, as they usually are in the end of marathons. Painfully slow and heavy running, mixed with a lot of walking, and quite a few tears. I got really down on myself, totally humiliated that my run was so bad, and furious that the weather was so miserable. The rain picked up and the wind came in and we started to get really cold. I did my best to run as much as I could, just to stay warm, but everything hurt so badly, and to some extent I think my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
Finally by the last few miserable miles, Casey and I found that despite the rain, cold, and excruciating soreness, we were actually starting to sort of have fun. We laughed at ourselves, talked about future plans, and enjoyed each others company during a rare race run together. We saw my dad cheering for us, which gave us another boost as we entered the homestretch.
Casey broke it down for me one more time – it’s just a 5k from here. Prior to that, I had totally resigned myself to the fact that I was going to run a 5-hour marathon. I was incredibly disappointed, but I didn’t see any other way around it – my body just wasn’t having it, and I couldn’t get my head together to push myself through it. I asked Casey at mile 23 what I would have to do to come in under 5 hours, and he said I needed to start running again. Slowly but surely, I ran short bursts of 9-mile miles, mixed in with short walking breaks.
The final mile felt impossible. Casey pushed and pushed me to keep running, even though all I wanted to do was walk. I slowly pounded along and we finally made our way around the corner where we could see the finish line…
As we headed towards the balloons, we saw my mom, Sarah, and Lindsey, as well as Casey’s parents Tina and Eddie! I felt so bad that they had all waited so long for us in such horrible weather. They are amazing!
It sounds like such a small victory, but after all of the disappointment and let down of this year’s run, my only hope was to finish in under 5 hours. (It’s amazing how quickly your standards adjust in the midst of a meltdown.) We ended up crossing the finish line in 4:51:03 – an accomplishment if you ask me, given the circumstances.
After we made our way out of the finisher’s area, we found our families who showered us in love and praise.
Can you tell we are 100% soaking wet? At this point we started to get really COLD!
I was still feeling really terrible, so we hung out in the reunion area for a bit while I tried to get myself together. I did some much needed puking, and then we made our way slowly back to the hotel to get out of the wet rain. It was so nice to finally have it over and be able to celebrate!
Our families came back to the hotel with us while we quickly showered, so that we could all go to a celebration lunch before we hit the road. Check out Lindsey’s awesome t-shirt! She unzipped her raincoat to reveal it when we saw her at mile 18 – totally unexpected and hilarious! :)
There are some things you only do once. Running a marathon in the rain is one of them (won’t be doing that again!). Hopefully getting sick, having to sit out training, and running a 4:51 is another one. Because Casey and I are both runners with individual goals and paces, it is unlikely that we will ever run a marathon together again. I have always said I wanted to do it just once, because I thought it would be fun. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to happen this Sunday, but I am sure glad it did!
Last year Casey and I ran this same marathon just six days before our wedding . We ran it separately and both achieved personal bests. It was such a proud feeling of accomplishment.
This year, when I was feeling like I was at my absolute lowest, so far from the days of setting records, my husband made the ultimate race sacrifice and showed up when I needed him most. It was like he could feel me wishing for him, even though he was miles ahead…
Fast races and personal bests feel amazing, but a lifetime of love feels even better.