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Memories of my first

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:15pm
First marathon, that is (get your mind out of the gutter). After season one of TnT and my very first marathon, the Suzuki San Diego Rock 'n' Roll in June 2001, I wrote a long review of race weekend and race day. I wanted to remember every little thing, every nuance, every feeling. As you'll see from the length I included all of that. This may get boring, but hang in there! On June 3, 2007 I'll run my 26th full marathon, my 5th RnR-SD. The routes may change but the feelings are still the same.

I now present "Memories of Amy's First!"

I DID IT! On June 3, 2001, I crossed the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. Four months of intensive training, over 300 miles run, all came down to the final 26.2 miles on a beautiful Sunday.

Saturday morning I arose very early to make certain my trip to San Diego would go well. There was no traffic and parking at the airport was a breeze. I walked to the gate and waited for my team members to arrive. I started worrying when it was boarding time and my running partner Ellen hadn’t arrived, but she showed up in time. A very uneventful flight, met at the airport by my mom. I exchanged cell phone numbers with my friends so we could meet up later (what did we ever do without them?) and left with mom.

We went to the expo at the convention center to pick up the race packet and tee shirt (and try to spend some money!). Parking was impossible and the expo was very crowded. I got my number, my tee shirt and goodie bag. I bought a souvenir timing chip to tie on my shoe and a tyvek marathon jacket with pictures of previous years’ marathons. I also preordered a video of the race and finish line photos. We tried all the different gels, bars and drinks, getting samples of some of them for the race.

My pre-long-run training meal had always been sushi and I didn’t want to change that so we stopped at Benihana’s for a quick lunch. We sat at the sushi bar and had a wonderful snack, then went to check in at my hotel (Red Lion Hanalei). That went smoothly, my room “down the hall, out the door, down the steps, around the pool, through the door, up the elevator and down the hall to the left”. Unfortunately my non-smoking room wasn’t; despite an open porch door there was a heavy lingering smell of smoke. Yuck. Mom said goodbye and I unpacked my racing stuff and set it up for the morning.

I met up with Ellen, Mike, Julie, Denise and Brian and we took the bus back to the convention center for the pasta party (Denise had a walking cast on her stress fracture and was attending for support – ours and hers!). This was held in an enormous room, with the tables coded for the different teams. We finally found a table with enough empty room and sat to eat our pasta. In the center of each table was a large bowl of fruit (apples, oranges and bananas) and small bags of pretzels. Then the presentation began. There were large video screens hung around the room, which was a good thing since I couldn’t see the stage (too far away!). There were awards given to the largest fundraisers (including a Suzuki motorcycle!) and talks by different people. John “the Penguin” Bingham gave a talk but I don’t remember much of what he said, only that he was very funny. The closing speaker was a woman whose young daughter was diagnosed with leukemia a couple of years ago, and after lots of treatment is doing ok. The woman was a TnT runner, doing her first marathon. Her talk was very moving and most of the audience (including me) could be heard sniffling.

The line for the bus back to the hotel was endless. I sat next to woman who was the mentor for a walking team from some southern state. She had run 2 marathons, her first one with TnT. She told me how wonderful and close her group was. We had a great chat.

We finally got back to the hotel and went to our rooms. I double checked all my stuff for the morning, called the desk for a wake-up call, read for a while, watched a bit of tv, read for a while, then put out the light. Then I actually fell asleep!

Sunday morning June 3 rd started for me with a 3am (this is not a typo) wake-up call. First I couldn’t find the phone. Then I realized that the phone next to the bed wasn’t working. The bedside light didn’t work either. By the time I stumbled out of bed to the other phone it had stopped ringing. Two minutes later it rang again and I received my computerized wake-up message. The day begins!

I took a quick shower to wake up, and then methodically started to dress for the run while trying to eat my oatmeal (not terribly tempting at that time of morning) and drink water. Shorts, sports bra, racing singlet with my race number pinned to the front (17769), honoree bracelets (dad’s on my left wrist and the other on my right), bus bracelet, heart rate monitor and chest strap, sunscreen, body glide, socks, gloves, sweatshirt, wrist sweatband, shoes with racing chip on one foot and id tag on the other, hat, sunglasses (even though it won’t be light for hours yet). I double checked my water bottle belt to make sure it contained gel, lip protectant, ibuprophen, tums, kleenex, mixed ultima in the bottle, my room key. I opened and read the card from my dearest friend Ellen, wishing me luck in the hours ahead.

I made it downstairs to our 4am meeting (this is not a typo either) with a few minutes to spare. Most of my team, and the other teams staying at our hotel, were assembled in the courtyard by the pool. Coach Al gave us a few final words of wisdom and inspiration, we did a few cheers (and woke everybody else in the hotel, haha) and we got in line for the bus to the start area.

So there we were at the start area. Two hours before the start. It’s dark out. We stood around. We sat around. We felt nervous and giddy. We hydrated. We used the porta-potties (no lines yet!). We sat some more. It started getting light. More people arrived. We got a bit anxious. We used the porta-potties again (still no lines!). We sat some more. I noticed the indelible ink writing on my honoree bracelets was rubbing off (good thing I knew what was supposed to be written there). Finally at about 6:15 we walked over to our starting corral (we were starting waaaaay back at the 18 th corral, about 1000 people in each). Stood in line for the porta-potty. Said good-bye to our teammates who were in earlier corrals. Took some pictures. Got really excited. After what seemed like hours (oh wait, it really was hours) we heard a distant noise that must have been the start.

Seven minutes after the official start we crossed the start line and our race began. I was running with my teammate and training partner Ellen, and with our teammate Julie who had lost her training partner Denise to the stress fracture she got during our 16 mile training run. Our goal was to take it slow and steady and to concentrate on finishing in good health. As in our training we walked through water stops to make sure we hydrated frequently. We sucked down lots of gels. We listened to the bands along the route, slapped palms with the cheerleaders and marines, and talked with other runners and walkers.

We saw Julie’s family before mile 6 but didn’t really stop to see them. My good friend Tom, along with friends Gloria and Frank (all wearing tee shirts with “Amy’s TnT Crew” on the front and “You Go Girl!” on the back) and Ellen’s boyfriend Mike were supposed to meet us at mile 6 with fresh drinks, gels and whatever else we needed. We saw Mike, but where were the others? The black tee shirts with yellow lettering should have stood out in the crowd. Oh. There they are, goofing off with the cheerleaders! Not paying attention to whether we were passing or not. I wasn’t too thrilled and I unfortunately let Tom know that. Sorry Tom! But we got our goodies and ran on.

There’s so much about the run I don’t remember, and strange things that I do. After the first mile we saw a runner lying on the ground, never found out what was wrong with her. We ran around BalboaPark, we ran through the Gas Lamp District (not even noticing that the streets were lined with jacarandas in purple bloom), we ran on the freeway, we ran around MissionBay. The people at the frequent water stops were wonderful, the cheerleaders were great and the bands looked like they’d been up all night and this was the first time they’d seen daylight in ages. Some of the bands were really good and we ran in step with the music. We had our names on our singlets (mine on the front and back, Ellen’s on the front and Julie’s on the back) and people cheered us on by name. It was personal, they were all there just for us!

We kept running. We got tired, and kept running. Somewhere between miles 10 and 12 we kept running past “The Motivator”. This was a woman in jeans and dreadlocks who walked slowly along loudly shouting encouragement to everyone. We couldn’t figure out how she kept getting ahead of us (we finally saw her sprint past us one time when we had our heads turned).

Our friends met us at mile 13, just before the half marathon mark. About mile 16 I saw my mom’s car, then saw my mom sitting on the ground with a “Go Amy” sign. I yelled and waved to her, she got up and walked a bit with us, took a few pictures. We kept running. Our friends met us for the last time at mile 19. I wearily told Tom that he should run the rest of it instead of me (he ignored me). Somewhere during the 20 th mile another runner joined us. She and Julie pulled ahead and finally ran out of our sight. That was fine, Ellen and I were used to being among the slowest runners. We kept running.

At some point we stopped bopping to the bands, stopped slapping hands with the cheerleaders, stopped smiling. But we kept on running. We slowed down to drink, and sped up again after. We knew the finish line had to be close. More running. Even this far along the route and late in the day we see lots of Team in Training runners and walkers. The TnT supporters were along the road with bags of pretzels, crackers, jellybeans, lifesavers. It was too much work to chew so I passed, even though the food would have been good nutrition.

Somewhere around mile 23 we both started getting choked up and emotional. I told Ellen and myself that crying took too much energy and to save it for the finish. I kept singing stupid little positive jingles through my brain (“I feel good, I feel fine, we’re getting close to the finish line” “I feel great, I feel good, I’m getting close to the neighborhood”) to keep the pace and keep my spirits up. I thought a lot about my dad, what he had gone through, and how much I wished I could tell him about the race. I was cheered by thinking of how excited he was when I told him I was doing this and what it meant to him.

Still more running. We stopped responding to all the great people cheering us on; no extra energy to thank them or wave. We slowed to a walk to drink but walking hurt more than running so we’d quickly start running again. We ate sharkies and they seemed to give a bit of strength. It felt like we were going really fast (we actually were; our last two miles were among our fastest). Finally we made the last turn and saw that glorious finish ahead.

We crossed the finish line side-by-side at an official time of 6:17:07. We gave each other a hug and walked along the finish area. I was pretty choked up with emotion and exhaustion and couldn’t catch my breath. We were too tired to hold the water being passed out, and luckily the children handing out the medals put them directly around our necks. We were given mylar blankets but we were already overheated and just hung onto them as souvenirs. We waited while they cut the chip off Ellen’s shoe.

We found our friends and hugged and took pictures. We searched for the Team in Training tent to get our special “26.2” pins and sign out. We hung around the finish area for a while, but were too tired to see what was there, look at the displays, look at the booths. We had to stand in line for the bus back to the hotel, but at least they had water for us there. I sat next to a woman from the San Francisco team, also completing her first marathon. Everybody was kind of dazed. We got back to our hotel with just enough time to shower before the victory party.

Mike drove Ellen and me to the party; no waiting in line for a bus tonight. We went back to the convention center, under the flags. The party was huge! We ate, we drank, we danced and we took pictures. I didn’t understand why I was so hungry until I remembered this was my first meal of the day (other than oatmeal and gels). Either the food was excellent or I was starving. And although not recommended, I had three beers (hey, I was rehydrating). There were no speeches, just a party. And we deserved it!

The party was over early, about 8pm. I hugged and thanked my “Amy’s Crew” and my mom, and Mike drove us back to the hotel. We said goodnight, and I went to my room.

It was over. Four long months of training, six days each week. Focused and intent on a goal that was successfully completed. I’d made many new friends, seen lots of new places. It’s impossible to describe the feelings I had and have.

There were about 3700 purple-clad Team In Training runners and walkers participating in our marathon representing The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 320 from our San Francisco group. Together we raised an amazing $14 million toward a cure for leukemia and lymphoma, with $1,084,000 from our group. Our little East Bay Run group raised over $263,890 for this marathon alone!

2007 afternote:

When I finished that marathon I was sure it would be my one and only; I had no need to do it ever again. Within the week I had decided to mentor for the next season. I thought I'd run a second marathon just to make sure the first wasn't a fluke. I had no idea that marathon running would become my life, that I would travel throughout the country for races, that I'd have such marvelous friends who shared my obsession. Thank you TnT! Thousands of miles run (and thousands of dollars spent) later, this race remains special to me. I'm glad I took the time six years ago to write it all down.

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