You have heard of phrase “suspenders and a belt”? We took that to the extreme this morning. We set three alarms for 5am so we would be sure and not sleep through our first marathon and half marathon! The strategy worked and a few minutes after 5, both Stephanie and I were up and around, getting ready.
We woke the kids up at 5:30. Much to their credit, all three of them got right up, with minimal prodding. KK and PK met us at our room at 6:00 and we were ready to roll. It was a very short walk from our hotel over to the start/finish area for the Go! St. Louis Marathon. We were there in literally 5 minutes. Of course, that’s why we picked the location we did. No worries about traffic for us. There is a Metro station across the street from our hotel, and every few minutes, each train would unload another batch of runners who would make their way to Market Street.
We got there so early that we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We visited, got last minute hugs from the family, and went our separate ways. PK, KK and the kids staked out a place to watch the start, and Steph & I decided to go find the line for the port-a-potties. We found a line of about 20 of the potties, and the lines of runners waiting for them would blow your mind. It was about 20 minutes till 7 and it was obvious that the people at the end of the line would not get to finish their business before the race started. We decided we didn’t need to go that bad!
A few last minute stretches and we each went to our starting position. Considering there were 17k runners, the start seemed well organized. Signs were prominently displayed so that the runners could line up according to their projected running pace. I wanted to run with the 4hr, 30min pace group and quickly located the pacer leading the group. Stephanie went and joined the group running a 6hr marathon pace.
I kept checking my watch. Is it time yet? 7:00 would never arrive. Then it got to be 7:00. 7:01. 7:02. Still, the race did not start. Not until about 7:05 could we see the runners take off in the distance. And 7 minutes later, I started moving. That was how crazy crowded it was. Another 3 minutes passed and I crossed the start line. Let this run begin!
This was where my run and Stephanie’s run took two very different paths. My pacer had very little to say and you had to be within 5 feet of her to hear her when she did say something. Oh, and did I mention my iPod was stolen two days earlier? I was running this 26.2 miles with no tunes. Meanwhile, Stephanie’s pacer could have been Richard Simmons’ twin brother. About 5 feet tall and full of life. To paint an even better picture, you need to understand that every pacer (male or female) had to wear a special, colorful skirt. (Evidently, in years past they have had too many people want to be pacers.)
About a mile into my race, I did happen across a runner from Tulsa who is in my Saturday running group. We greeted each other, and exchanged pleasantries, but I think we both agreed we would be better served conserving our energy rather than jabbering. Stephanie’s pacer had no such qualms, though. He was full of advice for his running group (“DO NOT use the port-a-potties along the race course! Go in the bushes!”) as well as working hard to keep his crew entertained (“Anybody need to stop for some smokes?” as they ran past a convenience store).
What does a runner think about when they are running a half marathon or full marathon? Well, it is interesting to watch the other runners. There was a runner that passed me during the first 1/4 of the race that was juggling 3 bowling pins. Nothing puts you in your place like getting passed by a juggler. The crowd support was great the entire length of the course. Folks were cheering, jumping up and down (in some cases), and cracking jokes. “Look at you guys! You have run 7 miles before most people are out of bed!” Okay, maybe that was closer to the truth than a joke. But it was still funny at the time.
There were many memorable signs that supporters were waiving along the way. “You’re kind of a big deal.” “Release the Kraken!” “Run like you stole something.” “You’re almost there!” <– not funny when seen at Mile 2.
Stephanie loved her pacer. He would “flash” his running group by pulling up his skirt and showing off his compression shorts. He was not afraid to sing his favorite AC/DC song. And when it was time to start running after walking through a water stop, he would sing and skip and motivate his troops. Sadly, the pacer was taking the bulk of the group on the full marathon, so at mile 10, Stephanie and a few others had to turn back with the other half marathoners. They kept each other motivated and they finished in under 3 hours!
I came into the home stretch almost 2 hours after Stephanie. I was greeted enthusiastically by the family, and I ran by them and gave them high-fives. Mallory hopped the fence and ran the last 100 yards with me to the finish line. She was very curious about my run and was asking me 20 questions. I had very few answers for her. I remember the P.A. announcer saying my name as I crossed the finish line. That was cool.
After the race, the first stop was the medal presentation. I surveyed the crew holding the medals and walked straight toward the best looking one to receive my medal. After the finish line, the runners are forced through a series of corrals containing refreshments. The refreshments were pretty poor. We have been to 5k runs that had better refreshments, but if that’s the worst part of the experience I think I will survive. Stephanie ran over and met us right after we exited the corrals. She was still bubbling with excitement from her 2:57 finish in the half. She had lots to say and lots of questions, just like Mallory. I finally had to tell them, “I don’t feel like talking right now.”
We made our way over to where the family was camped out. Lots of hugs ensued. And our cousins from right there in St. Louis had made it! Lynda and her son, Matthew. After a few minutes of rest and silence, we visited and started snacking.
Stephanie and I were ready to clean up after a while, so the rest of the family drove across the river to Illinois and ate dinner at the Golden Corral. As Dad told me later, when they walked in, Miles surveyed the buffet and turned around and gave Dad a high-five!
Meanwhile, I took my first ice bath. It was 20 minutes of shivering excitement, but well worth it. We both hosed off and tried to nap, but I guess our bodies were so wired that it was impossible. We ended up just laying in bed and visiting about our race experiences.
We got out of bed and went searching for our kids. We found them in the hotel pool along with Matthew, with Lynda keeping watch. We chatted with Lynda for quite a while and then convinced them that we should go eat some dinner, because WE were starving.
We opted to walk a few blocks over to Union Station, the old train depot. It currently holds a Marriott as well as a small mall and several restaurants. We chose the Hard Rock. And while I had my heart set on a steak, I indulged in one of their extremely large hamburgers. And not only that, Stephanie and I both indulged in several frosty cold adult beverages. We had abstained from beer for the final 17 days leading up to the race. That, my friends, is called commitment by elite athletes.
Back to the hotel and we said our goodbyes to Lynda and Matthew. Our family retired to the room and I think every single one of us fell asleep by 9:00pm. It may be hard to define what a good day looks like, but today was one of them. Completing our respective runs, and having our family on-hand to cheer us on and support us is something we will remember for the rest of our lives. Yes, it was a good day!