Well, I am officially a marathoner.
Can’t decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing quite yet. ;)
One of my favorite things about running the marathon were the signs that people would hold up. One read, “You think you’re stride is a little funny now, wait until you see how you’re walking tomorrow!” I remember chuckling at that, but little did I know just how awful our bodies would in fact feel the day after. I laugh and laugh when I watch my father attempt to walk, especially up or down the stairs… but then when it takes me 60 seconds to just stand up from the couch, and how every step is utterly painful, I quickly shut my mouth.
So want to hear about this marathon of ours?
The morning of, we we were up and getting dressed at 6am. I made sure to stuff more carbs into my system, since I was surprisingly still hungry after carbo-loading the day prior.
Oh, what did I eat the day before the marathon? How about… *pumpkin pancake*cinnamon crunch bagel with cream cheese*peanut butter and jelly sandwich*chocolate milk*veggie straws*large chocolate milkshake with extra chocolate syrup (more carbs!)*french fries with ketchup*cappuccino*everything bagel*chicken*sweet potato*pasta*chocolate milk*swedish fish*
Note to self: stay away from the milkshakes next time. It may leave you feeling a tad sick. ;)
So at 6am, we got dressed, ate some bagels in the hotel room, and then drove the 20 minutes into the city of Richmond to join the other marathoners. My mom and sister were getting geared up and ready to run their half marathon at 7am.
Sadly it was raining quite a bit when we arrived, and continued to rain pretty heavily through the first three miles of our run. When my dad and I began the marathon fifteen minutes after 8am, we thought we were the last ones on the course. Everyone else was already significantly ahead of us. It didn’t take much time for us to catch up though. The difficulty comes when you are sifting through the mobs of people, while trying not to lose your partner in the process.
The first ten miles flew by. I felt great the entire time, and nothing could wipe the huge smile off of my face. I felt like I was on top of the world. I received a few phone calls from friends to encourage me which did just that, and it was kinda fun running with my phone too because I received some wonderful texts from friends as well. My legs were in phenomenal shape, my hip was feeling really good, and I was eating a “honey stinger gel” every mile to ensure that my body would be properly fueled towards the end of the race. At this point we were averaging a 9:45/mile pace. I was thrilled by our pace, because it meant that perhaps we would make my time goal.
You see, my primary goal was to finish the marathon. Because that is an accomplishment in itself (in my opinion!). And I could not be more proud of my dad and I that we were able to do just that. But really, I wanted to run the marathon in 4:20… 4:30 really since I knew a bathroom break would be necessary when running for that long of a time.
At mile 13.1, we had completed the half marathon in 2:10 and were still running strong. At this point I remember thinking, I cannot believe I am only halfway. But with the hundreds of spectators cheering us on, I was really enjoying the experience. Mile 16 is when the marathon began to get really difficult. We had to cross over a bridge to enter the city of Richmond, and this bridge was at least a mile long. I became really discouraged at this point. First off, I had to use the bathroom but there were no toilets. Second, there were zero spectators on the bridge which gave room for me to start to give up/think negative thoughts. A friend challenged me to pray for someone/something every mile, and that was something I had been striving to do. So while crossing that bridge I began to pray for several people who have been heavy on my heart recently.
The mile 17 marker was an answer from heaven. We had just finished running over the bridge, and there was that 17 number with tons of spectators and volunteers passing out water, powerade, sports gels, and donuts… yes, I repeat: donuts. And bathrooms of course.
The donuts were a tad problematic. You see, donuts are my weakness. As in, I am in love with donuts. So when they were passing out bite sized pieces of glazed donuts, I was ready to kick off my shoes, pop-a-squat, and eat the entire box right then and there! Thankfully I was
only kinda smart and only took one little piece, which in the end wasn’t the most responsible idea as it did trigger my stomach and made it more upset than it had already been during the last several miles of the run.
Mile 18 and 19 could have been worse, but because we were running through the city- there were tons of people smiling and encouraging us, and urging us onward. Oh, how thankful I was for all of those strangers. I kept saying “thank you” over-and-over again because I was so grateful for each and every one of them. During the course of the marathon, we also saw some hilarious signs. Some included:
You’re running better than the government!
Your feet hurt because you’re kickin’ a**!
Your perspiration is my inspiration!
That’s not sweat! Those are just your fat cells crying!
Who needs toenails anyways?
If this were easy, it would be called your mom… not marathon!
[insert your name here], I know you are a stranger, but YOU are my hero!
And I could go on-and-on. I wish I would have taken photos of all of them. They had me laughing and smiling. There were old men bowing down to us, older couples setting up their own stands outside of their homes passing out pretzels, oranges, or candy. Little kids high-fiving us. I wish each of those spectators knew just how thankful runners such as myself were for them… I never realized until then what a difference encouragement from all of those people would really make on my performance.
Mile 20 is when frankly, things got rough. My hip had been bothering me for the last five miles, but it got one hundred times worse by mile 20. During the race, I finally came to terms that perhaps I did sustain a hip injury several weeks ago, and it wasn’t getting any better. Even the ibuprofen I popped at mile 17 did nothing to help it.
I have never experienced the kind of pain I felt in my hip on marathon day. First off, there was a ton of pressure in my hip. It felt as if someone had put a balloon under my skin and was pumping it up with air. Shooting pains were coming out of my hip and right knee (this was new) and going through my entire leg. When we would stop to walk through a water station (something we had agreed to do before the race- walk through every water stop which came every 2 miles), by mile 20 it seemed as if I was dragging my right leg along when we would begin running again. Spectators would look at me with pity in their eyes while I’m sure commenting that she’s not going to make it! It would take about 2 minutes of hard limping before my right leg would go into pins-and-needles and then eventually numb. So numb in fact that I would have to look down and touch my leg/wiggle my toes to make sure that my leg was in fact there.
Pretty bad, huh?
By mile 22 I was done. I remember running by this lovely lady who was encouraging me onward, and she said keep going, you can do it. I looked at her in the eyes and said, I’m done. She said, no-no-no and so I continued running. My dad reminded me, small goals… lets make it to mile 23… and thinking about it from that perspective really made a difference.
Before I knew it, mile 23 had passed… then 24. At this point, I was upset. It seemed impossible for me to keep running for an additional 20 minutes. I laugh now, but then I was plain old angry at that huge mob of happy peppy spectators holding up there NOT-so-funny posters (I got sick of those signs after a while) and this old lady dressed as a cheerleader pushing me along. I’m pretty sure I glared at her as I walked past all of them. Ha! But knowing how close we were to the finish line got me running again.
When I saw the number 26, and then my mom and sister standing on the sidelines, my eyes welled with tears. I was so happy. To make things better, Rach came out wearing this silly blanket as a cape and ran in between the Daddy-O and I for a minute or two. Then, there it was… the finish line.
The announcer came over the speaker and said “Dominique Coulter and Charles Coulter” and my dad and I threw our hands in the air and began chanting and screaming while sprinting through that finish line.
And then I cried. And collapsed on the sidewalk. I cannot put into words how emotional that moment was. I was so content- so proud of my family- so proud of all we had just accomplished.
I remember telling my parents last night that I would never run a marathon again in my life. It was the most difficult thing I have probably ever done, and I probably permanently damaged my hip in the process.
But after a goodnight’s rest and our final time of 4:44 published online, my dad and I can’t stop brainstorming when we are going to run our next marathon. Really, we just need to beat that time goal of ours! Now we want 4:15 or bust!
So there you have it. Thank you to everyone who encouraged, challenged, and prayed for me during this sixteen-week process! I could not have done it without you all.