Marathoner

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Beginning with a forty-five minute ride, just long enough to allow the nervous butterflies to settle, on a no seat-belt, cold leather, rattling windows, I-rode-in-this-vehicle-everyday-my-6th-to-8th-grade-years classic yellow school bus, I arrived at the starting line at 5,240 ft of elevation, for the St George Marathon at 5am, with 59 of my classmates, er… fellow runners.  🙂

With a 6:45am start time, and 7,600 runners to transport 26.2 miles outside of town, early arrival at our shuttle-busses was encouraged with prize incentives, and I was game to get to the start early, to relax, drink some hot coffee, and mentally prepare myself for the long run ahead.  A fellow runner and smart-phone owner provided us with a temperature update as we arrived in Central, Utah, the starting location of our race, and informed us that it was 27 degrees.  Hm. “Okay,” I thought, “maybe I should have worn a pair of sweats…”  Stepping off the bus, I was hit with 20 mile an hour sustained winds pushing me back down the hill, away from the start.  I laughed.

The race volunteers were prepared with mylar blankets, gloves, and hot beverages for those of us early up on the hill.  I will be forever grateful for those shiny plastic blankets.  Who knew that one thin layer would keep my upper body so warm for so long?  I quickly made friends standing behind a trailer to stay out of the wind, sipping my hot coffee; we had plenty of time to get to know one another and relax that chilly early morning.  There was no Moon, and the race would not begin until dawn broke.

Just as the sun started adding a blue tint to the dark black of night, occasionally through gusts of wind, I could hear someone singing the National Anthem.  The race was about to begin!  Unfortunately, I was in line for the restroom.  You know, before the race, when everyone decides to make one last potty stop?  I was in back of that line.

In fact, this race wins the medal for “The Most Unfortunate Circumstances”  at the start of any race I have ever participated in.
1. I started coming down with a cold the Wednesday before the race.
2. The eggs I cracked and started to cook for my pre-race meal had worms in them… Ew!  (The up-side? There were more eggs, sans worms.  I cooked and ate those ones!)
3. It was cold and SO WINDY!!!  I stood two hours, bouncing and dancing around to keep my legs warm (my feet did go numb) before the race began.
4. I made it through the pre-race restroom line with plenty of time to spare only to discover my ‘Moon time’ had begun, go figure, right before the longest race I have ever done; I laughed (What’s a girl to do?)  Fortunately, I found a kind, prepared woman who saved my day with some equipment.

After all of the obstacles, I somehow managed to get through the restroom line again, strip off my warm layers, drop them off at the U-Haul, and then had to wait a few minutes (I had time to spare!) to cross the start line with the 4:45 pace group at about five till seven, exactly where I wanted to be in the mass of runners.

Even when the unexpected happened again and again on race day, everything worked out fine!

Sunrise on the Mountains.
Sunrise on the Mountains.

The course was beautiful.  Spectacular.  I met a runner moving at my pace before I had even run a mile, and we decided there at the beginning to stick together for the full 26.2.  We were constantly amazed by the amount of aid stations on this course.  The St George Marathon was incredibly supported.  While the overall event is largely on a deserted (beautiful) highway, every two miles there was a fully stocked and staffed aid station, and after mile 19 they appeared every mile! 

Utah’s mountains and rolling rocky hills were a sight to behold.

Sun rising over the hills.
Sun rising over the hills.
Having fun with my new friend!
Having fun with my new friend! (photo credit to the great, happy photographers at zazoosh)

Yvonne, my new marathon friend, kept the positive vibe the whole way, and I am SO grateful that I met her and that she chose to spend most of the race with me!  She has so much stamina, and a great athleticism that she has yet to fully step into.  (Let’s just say she had a 3 mile kick and left me 10 minutes behind in the dust…  Amazing!!!).  I fully expect that when we meet for our ‘destination marathon’ she will totally kick my butt.  😉

One of the first big hills.
One of the first big hills.
The first glimpse of Snow Canyon.
First glimpse of Snow Canyon, a dramatic sight of white rock amidst outcroppings of red.
Sun shine... one of my favorite things!
The sun was so bright!  And the sky so blue!
A much appreciated, long, slow downhill.
A much appreciated, long, slow downhill.
AMAZING red rock all around St George.
Stunning red rock cliffs all around St George.
Still smiling...!
Still smiling…! (photo credit: zazoosh)
So tired and so happy at the finish with Grandpa.
So tired and soooo happy at the finish with Grandpa. (photo credit: Granma Cj)  🙂

All I wanted at the end of that race was my protein bar (above, in hand), a shower, and a nap.  I was exhausted!  (and a little cranky).  

But…  I did it!
I ran the St George Marathon. 

I ran a marathon…

I am a Marathoner.

Finisher!!!
Finisher!!! (photo credit to zazoosh)

Thank you Grampa for all your encouragement and advising: while training, before the race, and after (how to stretch, shake-out, and teaching me to get the pictures so I can remember this event forever and post them in my blog). 😉  I had a great experience doing this race, regardless of all the unexpected surprises.  Thanks also to Mom for answering all my other training questions.  Without you two, I probably would have still made it, but certainly would have been less confident about running so far.  I hope to have the opportunity to run a marathon with both of you, soon.  And thanks Granma Cj for all your support, insight into your marathon experiences, your lightheartedness and giggles, helping me get the ‘right’ color of nail polish for the race, and feeding me and making me well again post-race.

Thanks also to all my runner buddies and Saturday’s Run group!  You are not just the gals I run with, you’re great friends, and I am so lucky to have you all in my life.

So, here’s to the next race!

Where is your next race?  
For me …?  Something at sea-level… 🙂

with joy in running,
~Alaina

13 thoughts on “Marathoner

  1. Congratulations! Isn’t it great how even with all of the chaos that happen before the event (worms in your eggs???? crazy), that it all worked out? Clearly, your training and preparation paid off!

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  2. You had a plan. You stuck to it – thru wet and dry sunrises – inconveniences in your schedule – stiff muscles after the long runs. Rather than grumble, you captured each day with pictures and poetry.
    Congratulations Marathoner!

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  3. Congratulations Alaina, or should I say “Marathoner”. I laughed reading your race report as my first marathon was also a comedy of errors or unfortunate events, and that’s what made it more special and memorable. Well done.

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    1. Thank you, Mal, I am pleased as punch that my experience was relatable and can draw a chuckle from the reader. (and that I’m not alone in the “comedy of errors” first marathon approach). 🙂 St George will certainly remain in my memory for all time.

      After your first marathon, were you hesitant to participate an another race, or did it propel you into excitement for another?

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      1. I seem to recall my marathon thinking went something like this. Later that day I said never again. The next day or two I proudly told everyone I was a marathoner and didn’t take off my finisher’s shirt. I then spent a week in Fiji and had lots of time to reflect, while still wearing my finisher’s shirt. About three weeks after the marathon I started to think that another one was possible – a faster one. That thinking continued to grow and by November 2011 (my marathon was July 2011 – Gold Coast Marathon) I was ready to lock in another one.

        And enter another marathon I did (July 2012). I was planning to run 4hr 45mins. I ran with the 4hr 30mins pacers for the first 15kms (9 miles) and felt great, but very suddenly I knew something wasn’t right. From the 17km mark to 30km I struggled. I saw my family at around 31km and I decided I would finish but only walk. My son decided to walk with me. Finally at 34km I decided I needed to have a little lie down on the side of the road. An ambulance picked me up and I spent the next eight hours in hospital.

        I was dehydrated and some fluids soon fixed me up. I found out a few weeks later that I had a virus and didn’t know. So that’s my second marathon story. I still plan to run another one but not for a few years.

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        1. WOW! Thank you for sharing that story. That was quite an ordeal! I am happy you are well, and I am very impressed that you plan to tackle another marathon. I wish you all the best on your next running adventure, and I am excited to hear about your success a few years from now. 🙂

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