The day did not start off well. As my family and I pulled out of our garage it began to rain. We stopped at Starbucks so my daughter and I could get our favorite drinks. I don’t normally drink coffee and only drink Caramel Macchiato occasionally but so many people talk about staying off coffee the week/month before a marathon I thought I’d try it to see if it’d give me an extra boost – anything for a better finishing time right? It began to really pour down rain while we were in Starbucks. I was beginning to dread running the marathon since the weather guys had all been saying the rain was probably going to hold off until the afternoon and here it was 6:30 a.m. and already raining like crazy.
The marathon began at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The backup of cars wasn’t too bad but I decided to get out of the car anyway and walk. It was good I did as the area where I got out was right in front of Gate C, the starting area for the marathon. I was supposed to meet my training group at 7:00 a.m. I went in and saw a bunch of the group standing around but wanted to go to the bathroom so headed to the closest one. My favorite part about starting off at the Metrodome is we could use regular bathrooms inside and not have to use port-a-potties. Of course, there was a very long line. I went downstairs instead and there was only one person in front of me at the downstairs bathroom. I had placed my bib on my shirt but decided to move it to my shorts as it seemed to make my shirt ride up and it was harder to get my shirt back in place with my bib on it. I was standing in front of the sink by the exit door to the restroom so I could check in the mirror that my number was visible on my shorts. All of a sudden someone sprinted in the exit door and into the stall straight ahead of the door. IT WAS A MAN!!! I couldn’t believe it. I looked around to double check that I was really in the women’s restroom. A minute or so later he sprinted out and two women standing at the door said, “Was that a man?” They had funny looks on their faces. I told them, “Yep, that was a man” and they said there was a very long line at the men’s restroom. Very odd since it’s always women’s restrooms with long lines. I then had to go all the way back outside to drop off my sweats bag. When I went back into the Metrodome my group had already left to go out to the start line. I tried to find them near the 4:30 pace group but couldn’t. I was disappointed I wasn’t able to start off with my group but hoped I’d run into some of them along the way.
The Twin Cities allows 11,000 people to register for the marathon and has two start Corrals. Corral 1 I think is for the sub-3 hour runners and everybody else is in Corral 2. When the start gun went off it took over 5 minutes for me to cross the start line. It was 48 degrees at the start and had stopped raining. I wore the tank top from my training group and a throw-away sweatshirt since it was so chilly. As we left the start line we were in the downtown area with office buildings and businesses along the course, so not very many spectators. I began to warm up quickly and decided to take off my sweatshirt. Just as I did I saw a couple and the man picked up a discarded shirt and was showing it to the woman. I tossed my shirt near him and kept running. I looked back and the man had picked up my shirt and had a big smile on his face. It was a really good sweatshirt but way too big for me, especially since I’ve lost a lot of weight with all this running. I hope he was able to use it. I kept on the running gloves I had picked up at the expo for free. I knew I’d be in trouble if my fingers got cold.
Not far past this point I could hear the bells of the Basilica of St. Mary ringing. This church is America’s first basilica, built in 1914, and as you can imagine, a huge, beautiful old church. The bells were very loud as I ran passed the church and there were a bunch of people in front of the church cheering for us. It was great the church had the bells ringing for all us runners.
Just past this area we turned left and there was a line of port-a-potties. It’s also a park and about 15 or so guys were using the bathroom at the edge of the park. Disgusting! I noticed as I came around the corner the police officer manning the corner had what looked like a video camera out and had it pointed toward the men. I hope they get fined for urinating in public. It’s absolutely disgusting they didn’t even bother to go up into the trees/bushes. Plus, they are at mile 1 – why didn’t they go at the Metrodome??!! Plus the port-a-potties didn’t even have that long of a line. This is the only thing that’s been bugging me about this race.
We are now at about mile 1. I’m lucky that my training group did the majority of our runs on the actual course so I was ready for the first hill coming up shortly. I knew it would be best to hold back and not push it. It was also very congested so it wouldn’t have done any good for me to try to weave in and out of people as I probably would have twisted my knee or something trying to get around everyone. I had made the decision to run/walk the first 2 miles to keep myself at a slow pace as we should do. It was still congested so I kept doing the run/walk for another half mile and then felt like I was okay to pick up the pace. Unfortunately, it was now also raining again. When we arrived at the first lake, Lake of the Isles, I jumped over onto the walking path with some other people to get out of the congestion. From Lake of the Isles we ran to Lake Calhoun. The wind had picked up by now with the rain and it was really blowing off the lake. We were now beginning to see a bunch of spectators. There were a small amount of spectators on the lake side of the street. A man running near me was yelling at the people thanking them for blocking the wind for us and yelling at the people on the opposite side to move over and help block the wind. He was hilarious. I love people like him joking around with the spectators.
After Lake Calhoun we went up a parkway with another hill and over to Lake Harriet. A man was warning people about a deep pot hole filled with water just ahead. I’d managed to avoid the deep puddles so far and was glad I heard him in time to avoid the pot hole. Unfortunately, just past him we turned left and this area is a slight uphill which meant all the water was flowing completely across the roadway and there was no way to avoid the water. I could feel my socks get really soaking wet. This was at about mile 6.5 and I just gave up trying to avoid the water now. I was lucky enough to know my husband was waiting for me at mile 14 with a dry pair of shoes and socks.
Just past mile 8 I stopped at a port-a-potty since the line was not very long. Just my luck though when I got to be the second person in line it took forever for the people to do there “stuff” and keep the line moving. This wasted time for me. I almost just got out of line but figured I might have the same problem at the next set of port-a-potties so just waited it out. While standing in line the rain was flowing off my hat.
I don’t remember exactly where along the course but I noticed as I was breathing white smoke was coming out of my mouth, it was that cold. I looked around and it was happening to other people too. Hard to miss with all the heavy breathers running along beside me.
I eventually made my way to Lake Nokomis, miles 11-13. Going across the bridge was a bit windy. Thank goodness it finally stopped raining. I’m sure I ran in the rain for about and hour and a half. When we got off the bridge there were once again a lot of spectators. I was in awe that so many people were standing out in the cold rain just to cheer for all of us.
I’m now getting close to mile 14 and there were even more spectators along this section. I began looking for the Milo donut/bakery shop since my husband and daughter were going to be just past this building. Thank goodness I knew where they were going to be or I’m sure I would have missed them among all the spectators. I stopped and they helped me get out of my soaking wet shoes and socks, dry my feet off, put Vaseline on to prevent blisters, and switch my timing chip to the dry pair of shoes. I had stuck a note to the dry shoes saying “chip” so I wouldn’t forget the timing chip. Wouldn’t that be awful if I’d forgotten my chip! This took at least 5 minutes but I think it was worth it as I didn’t get one blister. My husband had my favorite energy drink so I drank a bit of it and took my Ziploc bag of orange slices and ate them while running. I also took six mellowcreme pumpkins in a Ziploc bag that my husband folded over on my waistband so I’d have my sugar rush after mile 20. That worked well. Three of the pumpkins were on the inside and three were on the outside so it was balanced out and didn’t bounce as I ran -- something to think about if you don’t have pockets. I had Kleenex (bad allergies) and Gu in my one pocket and didn’t have room for the pumpkins.
Just past mile 15 we began running along the Mississippi River. There were people handing out bananas and I took one. There were not very many spectators along this part of the course but I couldn’t believe that I could hear the spectators on the OTHER SIDE of the River. Unbelievable, it’s a wide river. I got excited hearing spectators cheering on the other side. I made my way up and over the Franklin St. bridge (mile 19) and started down the other side of the river. As I came around the corner at the end of the bridge there was a big sign saying “Medtronics” – one of the big sponsors of the marathon – and once again a big group of spectators. Along this section the funny man who kept joking around with the spectators earlier in the race was running near me again. We ran close to the same pace for awhile and I enjoyed listening to all the funny things he had to say to the spectators.
I knew I was running a good pace but kept thinking about the fact that the “big hill” was just ahead at about mile 21. Finally I heard one of the people from my training group calling out my name. We ran together for a little while and she told me the group had actually started out behind me as they were just in front of the 4:45 pacer at the start line and I was lined up at the 4:30 pacer. At the next water stop she got ahead of me. We were getting close to the “big hill” I was dreading. Going up the hill she started walking and I caught up to her and told her I was thinking of all the things a previous coach of ours had taught us about running up hills and I told her I had the coach “in my head” getting me up the hill. She started running up the hill again and thanked me for helping her through it. It made me feel good to be able to help her.
Once you’re up the hill you round the corner and are at the University of St. Thomas and then finally on Summit Ave. THIS IS WHERE THE MARATHON REALLY STARTS. I was now at about mile 21 ½ along with thousands of spectators lining the street. Summit Ave. is a very long but gradual hill that seemed to take forever in training whenever I ran it. On race day there are so many spectators along Summit that it doesn’t even seem like the same street -- there are people the entire 5 miles to the finish line cheering for every single runner.
At mile 23 I felt like I had to try to speed up and kick it in to the finish line. It was really hard as I was getting tired and my legs were really feeling it. I knew if I kept up my pace though I’d be close to a 4:30 marathon and I was still in awe of that fact. I began my training hoping for a 4:45, so I was really motivated to keep going. My training buddy fell behind me just a little bit, but another person from my training group now caught up with me. That helped me to pick up the pace a little, but he got ahead of me.
Somewhere around mile 24 one of the three coaches from my training group and his group of friends were screaming out my name. It was so awesome to hear my name being yelled out over all the noise of the spectators! That put a little spring in my run.
I knew I was getting close to mile 25 which is where the Target tunnel is located. Target is a big sponsor of the marathon also. They have a tunnel you run through with music blaring. I knew once I got through the tunnel I’d be able to see the curve a little ways up, which meant I was almost to Cathedral Hill. You wouldn’t think the spectators could get any louder but I began to hear the spectators at the finish area and you can’t even see them yet!!!
Cathedral Hill is the downhill, FINAL portion of the course where you run past the massive Cathedral of St. Paul. As you come around the corner and see the Cathedral rise up in front of you, you know you’ve made it. As you come down the hill the spectators are so loud, you just can’t imagine how loud they are at this point. I found out later that night another one of my coaches was across from the Cathedral with a group of people including his brother taking pictures. He said they were yelling my name but I didn’t hear them. He says his brother got an awesome picture of me with the Cathedral in the background. I sure hope so and can’t wait for him to download the pictures. Another person from my regular run club also said he saw me at the Cathedral and I looked strong. I didn’t hear him yelling out to me either. Wow!
Now that I rounded the Cathedral the Finish Line is straight ahead, with people still lining the course, and you can see the State Capitol building just beyond the Finish Line. My husband and daughter were just before the Finish Line but once again I couldn’t hear them calling out my name it was so loud and I never saw them. My husband did get some pictures of me coming into the finish. I picked up my speed as best as I could and finished the marathon in 4:33:39. Not bad for someone who just got back into running two years ago.
At the Finish Line I was given my medal. Later when I looked at the medal it’s funny that it looks like a big rain drop after all the rain we had to run through. I was also given a warming blanket and a piece of tape to keep it closed so my hands would be free. I was glad to have the blanket as I knew I was going to start getting cold very quickly now that I was not running anymore. It was in the 50s when I finished. They had bottled water, delicious rolls from Great Harvest Bread Co., bananas, Land O Lakes chocolate milk, and believe it or not, hot soup – I got the chicken soup. I then had my chip removed and went over to have my picture taken with my medal. As we were leaving, a runner proposed to his girlfriend at the Finish Line as they crossed the finish. It was so romantic.
I can’t say enough about the awesome spectators at this race. THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of people stood out in the cold rain and cheered for us. As I was coming into the finish I felt like an elite runner so many people were cheering. Every one of you should add this to your “soon to do” marathons so you can have as great a marathon as I had, even in the pouring down rain.