May 3 was a glorious day for a race but, as it turned out, my first marathon was a race simply to finish, and not a race against the clock.
The first 10 miles of the OC Marathon wound through Corona Del Mar and around Back Bay in Newport Beach. The weather was cool and overcast. That, combined with the rush of the crowd, put me slightly ahead of pace (8:45).
All was well until mile 11 where trouble struck. I started feeling nauseous and lost my breakfast. Thankfully a water station wasn’t far away. I can only assume that nerves were the cause because I didn’t feel bad otherwise.
The half marathoners peeled off towards the finish line at mile 12. There were 4500 doing the half and only 1300 doing the full so the field shrunk considerably. I crossed the half-way point just a few minutes behind my goal pace. So far so good, despite the stomach problems.
Pace-wise, I started to fade around mile 16. I was hoping to make it to mile 18 at ~ 8:45 before slowing but, alas, it was not to be. My legs and lungs were feeling strong but my stomach was giving me fits again.
Inspired by fellow dailymiler Michael B‘s marathon strategy, I started alternating running and walking. This worked great, though my pace was certainly lower. I crossed mile 20 doing ~ 10:45 miles. 4:15 was clearly out the window but I was still pleased with my performance, all things considered.
At mile 21 my calf started feeling a little tight and I started walking more than I was running. At mile 22 I was reduced to a pile of writing pain in the middle of the street. My right calf had cramped hard.
I spent a good 5 minutes lying in the road as all manner of fellow runners stopped to make sure I was OK. One fellow stopped to squirt me with a little Kool n’ Fit. Another stopped to ask if I had salt tablets. Another stopped and helped to rub out the cramp. I felt incredible goodwill toward mankind (runnerkind?) lying there on the pavement.
I was on the ground twice more between mile 22 and 23 before I finally gave up on any running whatsoever and simply started walking to the finish.
Let me tell you, nothing is more frustrating than running hard for over 3 hour and 30 minutes and then having to walk for another 2 hours to finally get to the finish line. My spirit was willing but my body – specifically those damned calves – just wasn’t.
All that frustration melted away, though, as I turned the last corner and saw my family was there cheering me on. I mustered up enough grit to awkwardly shuffle the last tenth of a mile to the finish line. My 4 year old, Henry, ran with me… and all was right with the world, cramps and all.