Mention the Cleveland Rite Aid marathon and images of sun mixed with rain, wind, shivering runners, trunks clad in trash bags to stave off the intermittent showers, and the nicest legs to be had in Northeastern Ohio come to mind. This year was no different. I woke up at the ungodly hour of 3:45, in part, to accommodate the obsessive early-nerdism of Bob, who was car-pooling up with Debi, Roger and I to the marathon. I got dressed in the living room to not disturb my husband, watching the steady pattering of rain on the skylights, while I pulled my traffic-light yellow tank over my head. Crap! Why does it always rain for the start of Cleveland? What to wear? What kind of jacket? I scrambled around the house looking for my LL Bean breathable waterproof jacket, which I hadn't seen since last fall. I'd wear it only if it looked like a steady all day rain because I'd cook in this thing despite the "breathable" claim.
I knew we didn't need to get up there that early...I tried to tell Bob that it's a quick thing riding into Cleveland on a Sunday morning; the parking is easy and just a block from the start, no sweat, but I knew he just wasn't going to budge about getting there an entire hour before the race start. It would cause him mental anguish, so I relented to his early nerd disease, since I understand his disorder, but thank God I'm not so severely afflicted, but running Cleveland for the last five years has me well versed on Cleveland timing. I figured, what the heck...more time to stand around and "leg watch!"
I like the Cleveland Marathon because it's the kickoff to the official running season and I do like how quick and easy the start is. I think the marathon is over-priced for what you get, but I tried to lessen the sticker shock by registering for Cleveland early. I registered just before my acquaintance with my new bad lover runner boyfriend, Plantar Fasciitis. I barely ran the month of April and I was just starting to run well again in May, but the Plantars was still there...a constantly present low level pain that accompanied me along every run like a shadow. Still...it was steadily getting better. I continued with my Keebler Elf in training sock, I did my stretches every day and kept rolling my bare naked feet over the softball that has taken up residence under my work desk in the work cave. My husband still offered to do cross friction massage on my aching foot even though we stopped touching each other in every other way.
Honestly, I knew I was taking a big chance by running this half marathon...I trained like crap because of my foot, so I haven't run 13 miles in ages. I was risking undoing all the healing that taken so long to acquire, but I was going to run it anyway. My life has been a roller coaster of love, loss, and change; I needed a good long run to heal my soul even if it hurt my body. I was desperate to run a good long ways.
So, I couldn't find that blasted LL Bean water resistant jacket. I brought along three different sweat jackets--I would decide once I got to the parking lot what to wear, if any jacket at all. I grabbed my baseball cap with hesitation because I hate covering up the red tresses, but need to keep rain off my glasses. I'll decide about the hat later, too. I walked out the door knowing I was running a few minutes late. Bob's probably been sitting in the park-and-ride lot now for 20 minutes, sweating with building irritation at my lateness, even though I'm rarely even a few minutes late. I offered to drive my Sienna up to the marathon, so everyone could stretch out their aching legs, the stench of 4 long distance runners less revolting than if I had everyone stuffed in my 3 foot long Yaris.
Indeed, the drive up was easy and pleasant, accompanied as I was by three of my best running buddies. Just the night before we saw Maria, another cherished running buddy at her pasta party where she supplied a generous vat of pasta and sauce sufficient to feed the entire 1oK participants list of the Cleveland Marathon. Debi, Bob, and I were all registered for the Half, Roger was doing the 10K after a mere eight weeks of healing from getting hit by a car, and Maria was going for the whole 26 mile enchilada with a sub 4:00 time goal. The rain on the drive up was the on again off again intermittent variety. Who knows what it was going to do; ask 10 people what weather forecast they heard and you'd get 10 different answers.
I decided on fashion first! I was going to wear a long-sleeved old sacrificial running shirt to keep me warm for the start, which would probably get pitched by mile 2, to reveal a traffic yellow tank and my comfortable black running skirt. I was going to wear my new Nike Pegasus Clima's--with barely 50 miles on them. I was going hatless because of pure vanity. Sure enough we were practically the first runners to arrive to Cleveland. I poked an elbow at Bob, made a good natured comment that we could help set up the course. We went to the Galleria to be first in line to bathroom which would soon be a meandering long line of bare legs stretching through the glass ceilinged Galleria, pattering still with than on again off again rain. Who knows what the weather was going to do; who knows what my foot was going to do. I was going to take this thing minute by minute. We saw Jim C. running around the periphery of the Galleria like a hamster running around a maze. This dude is crazy fast. We shook our head. He was going to run the full marathon, but he needed to warm up, I suppose.
Close to race start, we headed out into the steady rain to pack ourselves into the corral. Bob went further up in the corral--he was going to follow the 4:00 pace group to try to come in under a 2 hour half marathon. My PR for a half-marathon is 1:58 but a sub-2 hour marathon would be a miracle given my training, so I hoped to come in somewhere between 2:10 and 2:20. Debi and I lined up with the 4:30 pace group to start. The rain drenched my hair along with spirits as we waited for the start, but at least we were a pack of running humanity in it together.
I tried to keep Debi in sight, but the Cleveland Marathon is just such a tight pack of people that I lost her after only a mile. I lost Wendy and Denise too. I discarded the cotton long sleeved sacrificial race shirt at mile 2. The rain was starting to subside. It wasn't cold at all. I was ecstatic for every right painless footfall, but I started to feel my plantar fasciitis at mile 3. This was a huge improvement, because I usually feel it within a half mile. I'm a chit-chatting fun loving training slackard when it comes to training runs, but on race day...I'm a different person--very focused and intense. I didn't talk to a single soul the entire race. I didn't want to utter a whisper to anyone about the pain in my foot because that would acknowledge it and make it real...make me slow, make me want to rationalize to stop running, but if I stayed quiet, I'd be O.K. The pain was not the stabbing sort, because if it was, I knew I'd have to consider stopping, but this was the low level complaint of gradually improving plantar fasciitis. I could run through this, but the challenge was maintaining a good pace. I think runners are very in tune to their bodies and I knew I could handle this for 13.1 miles, as long as my head didn't get in the way.
I used a combination of distraction and intense focus. At mile 6, I felt the need to dissociate from what was going on with my body, by eavesdropping in on the conversations around me. I never felt the need to join in, but I listened to chit-chat of runners doing the full-marathon. The pace was a tad to fast for me to converse easily, so this was good. Other times, I tuned in to my breathing or my posture--anything to take the focus off the licking pain with every strike of my right foot. I followed the 4:15 pace group until mile 9 or 10, then I picked up my pace. I was running next to a race walker. I was astounded this guy could walk as fast as I could run--faster actually. I think he got ahead of me. I was vaguely aware of a burning pain on my left heel.
Around mile 11, I heard a familiar voice; it was Skirt Sara from Solon, but I heard her voice after I passed her, so I half turned and waved to acknowledge her. It was so nice to hear a friendly and familiar voice, even if I caught her a little late, in my hyper-focused state. As I was getting closer to the finish, I started to slow, but I was ecstatic with what my time was going to be. I crossed the line looking like and feeling like shit, but I was happy. I finished in 2:06--just 8 minutes slower than my all out PR! I ran that race on pure love of the sport because I had nothing else going for me that day--inadequate training, a lingering injury, a crazy upside-down life, too much work and not enough play. I was thrilled. Debi came in the shoot just a few minutes after me. She looked surprised that I was ahead of her in the corral, standing there stupefied, wondering what to do next. Debi had visions of me stopping and walking sections of the course. Then there was Bob...he ran as well as I thought he would. I predicted a 1:55 half marathon for him--he came in at 1:58, a PR for him by seven minutes. Roger ran his 10K like he wasn't hit by a car two months ago, he ran it like he'd been training like a demon all winter! We all ran very well.
My feet were a mess. My Nike Pegasus Clima's are failing me for long distance running. They burrowed two holes through my Smart Wool socks, leaving me with a bloody left heel blister. Funny, how after five years of running, my legs feel fine, but my feet are hamburger. I hobbled back into the Galleria with my happy running buddies. I noticed the Southern Ohio School of Podiatry had a Clinic set up to tend to the wave of messed up runner feet with a row of these really cool reclining lounge chairs. I signed up to have my foot taped and my blisters tended to. I had three young guys tending to my feet. I was digging this. I've never been into that mamby pamby pedicure paint your toe-nails crap, but having three guys tape up my ugly runner feet was something. Tacking on an extra month to my plantar fasciitis recovery was worth it...
The next order of business was to watch the full marathoners come in. The sun was shining now in typical Cleveland marathon fashion after the preview and lingering threat of all day rain. The skies were blue and when the wind wasn't blowing like crazy, it felt almost warm. Jim, Bob, Debi and I clung to the fence watching the awesome sight of marathoners come over the finish. We craned our necks looking for the confident smile of Maria coming over the finish line. Finally, we saw her--she met her goal of coming in under 4 hours. I think her time was 3:58. Doesn't she look great?? We found Maria in the crowd and took a picture. This year's marathon really messed up my hair, but oh well...I had a great run. As I write this, I'm sore as hell. I feel worse than after a full marathon, but it was wonderful being out there. So very worth it.