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Before I begin, have you ever noticed how nice and friendly marathoners are?! I don't think I've ever met a crabby, cranky, nasty distance runner. At least during races they seem that way; perhaps in the real world they do the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing.
At any rate, I've been fascinated with the Civil War, and Gettysburg in particular, since I was very young. Don't ask me why because I really don't know. So I was fairly excited to learn of the inaugural Gettysburg North-South Marathon, and registered ASAP. The cutoff was at 1000 participants and the marathon sold out before too long.
I'd been training for this marathon for months; this is my first one of 2011. Strangely, the week leading up to the event saw me feeling rather "yucky"....no energy and just feeling blah in general. I really didn't anticipate doing very well, though I was secretly hoping I could come close to a 4 hour run based on my recent 1/2 marathon time (Garden Spot Village) several weeks ago.
Gettysburg is a 2-hour drive from my home, so I opted to do the packet pick-up the morning of the race. This meant my alarm rattled me awake at 2:45 a.m., my usual waking time during the work week. Unfortunately I didn't get to bed until late, so I only got 5 hours of sleep. The drive down was uneventful, though the entire time I was wishing I was back home in bed....And thank goodness for my Droid and its GPS capabilities. How'd we ever manage in the "old days" when we actually had to use a map or written directions to find our way?! One of the interesting things about this particular marathon is, the North and South were pitted against one another. This meant the Northerners would park in one location and the South in another. Shuttle buses transported us to the starting destination. Northerners got dark blue race bibs, and Southerners got gray. At the end of the marathon, results of the winners from both sides would be tallied up to see which "team" won, and all participants on the winning team would receive a prize.
As I was parking my car, I saw another car park opposite me in the lot, and out came someone that I knew I should know based on his racing outfit...an acquaintance from DailyMile, James D. We met up on the shuttle bus and it was a pleasure to meet this fun and interesting fellow! Like I mentioned earlier, marathoners tend to be a friendly lot. We had a nice chat the short distance to the packet pick-up/staging area and hung out there until it was time to move on down the road to the starting area. While waiting, we met up with Eric, another DailyMile member, and also a fellow member of the Marathon Maniacs.
Packet pick-up and staging area
I always fret about what I should wear during a marathon....I hate to carry extra baggage with me, but will I be prepared for rain? The heat? The cold? And what about the extra food/water that I'll need? Will the port-a-pots run out of TP? Heaven forbid!! The weather forecast for Gettysburg on race day was suggesting starting temps in the low 50's (degrees F) and ending temps in the 70's with a chance of showers thrown in for good measure. OK. Cold, then hot, and rainy.
So, I opted for shorts, t-shirt, and my rain jacket to start, plus my fanny pack loaded with energy-boosting snacks (M&M's and Power Bar Energy Gel Blasts--raspberry) + a small container of water. And Kleenex. And my car keys. And my Droid (gotta take pix!). And I had a baseball cap tucked into one of my coat pockets. The jacket felt great during the first two miles, then it came off for the duration of the run. Perhaps I should have chosen the trash bag overcoat instead? I did take advantage of the bag check, and had a bag with extra shoes and socks (in case of a soaking rain), my sweat pants, etc. I could have put my car keys in there, but that's just scary (even though I've never had a bag check mishap).
Moments before the start of the race
The race was scheduled to start at 7:45 a.m., and it did. We had to walk several blocks from the packet pick-up/staging area to the start of the race, which was fine because that made for a nice little warm-up of sorts. We stood around and waited for a few minutes, got our pictures taken by a stranger, then the race started and we were off! James D. and I ran together for a short distance, then parted ways until the end of the race. Eric had a speedier agenda, and once the race started we didn’t see him at all.
Just before the race starts, DailyMile members meet up: (L-R) Deb, James, and Eric. Great picture of the guys, but what was *I* doing?! Taking a nap, of course!
The marathon course went through a tiny portion of the battlefield/park area, which was beautiful. The majority of the roads, however, were country roads. Roads weren't closed to traffic, so runners had to stay on guard the entire distance. I only heard one driver swearing up a storm at the runners.
Runners seen as tiny white specks on the race course
The race course wound its way through some beautiful countryside, and this orchard was just beginning to come into bloom.
Water stops/aid stations were located every two miles along the course. They did a great job, and my only complaint was at the first one either they didn't have enough volunteers to pour the water, or they grossly underestimated how fast those cups of water and Gatorade would fly off the table! A lot of us had to stand around and wait while our cups were being filled. That and in just about all the marathons I've ever run, trash receptacles are never placed far enough away from the tables to actually be utilized. If a runner is going to actually place their empty cup in the trash can, they either need to down their water in one massive gulp or stand around while they drink. Most runners just grab their cup and go, and they're not done drinking until they're quite a ways down the road, then they toss their cup onto the ground, creating tons of extra work for volunteers in the clean-up department. If the trash cans were placed 50 yards down the road, what a lot of work would be saved!
The aftermath of a water stop
As I mentioned, the course was beautiful! It was hilly, but in a kind and gentle way. No massive steep hills, at least not in my opinion. If you're used to pancake terrain, these hills might have seemed like monsters. The course was well-marked and there were tons of volunteers along the way.
A well-marked course
Somewhere around the 10 mile mark my right foot started to hurt. It brought back bad memories of the left foot pain I experienced at mile 6 in the inaugural Washington D.C. marathon (2002) that caused such a severe case of tendonitis that I was in a cast and on crutches for 6 weeks and unable to run for years. I slowed down quite a bit, which I found extremely frustrating because at the halfway point I was on course to set a new 26.2 PR, even after slowing for several miles prior. The pain seemed to subside when I'd slow to a walk, but would resume when I started running again for any length of time. And so that is how the last 16 miles went...run, walk, walk, walk, run, walk, run, walk, walk, walk....
Only 10 miles to go! Right about now is when I always ask myself, "What did I sign up for?!"
At about mile 23 it started to sprinkle a little, and I even put my ball cap on for about a mile. Thankfully that's all that it did, and it let up without causing any kind of soaking! The closer I got to the finish line, the more I wanted to RUN, and so I did....I'd see a cluster of people ahead of me and think, "if I can just get past them". Plus I kept looking at my watch and was determined to at least finish in under 5 hours. The crowd was outstanding at the finish line, and cheered for everyone as they approached the line. I was impressed that our name was flashed up with our time as we crossed the line....those timing chips are amazing things! My official finish time was 4:50:36. A beautiful finishers' medal was placed around our neck once over the line, and we were handed some water and Gatorade.
Gorgeous finishers' medals!!
James D. caught up with me after the race and we hobbled back to the staging area together, reliving parts of the race and commiserating over our aches and pains. We grabbed some bananas, bagels, chips and drinks while waiting for the results to be tallied. The winning "team" (North or South) would all receive pint glasses. As you can see from the first photo, the winning team was the North. By the time the awards were all handed out, the rain started coming down, and I can only imagine that the walkers on the course were getting soaked! We hopped on the shuttle bus and made our way back to the parking lot. I happened to glance at the license plate of the car beside mine and discovered the nifty vanity plate shown below. As it turns out, it belongs to one of the guys I was talking to in the seat in front of me on the bus.
I spied this license plate on my way to the car after the race...that pretty much says it all.
I would like to say that the trip home was uneventful, but it wasn't. I was about 10 minutes or less from Gettysburg on Route 15 and traffic came to a massive backup. We were all diverted off of 15 onto a smaller road for about 5 miles, but that too, backed up. Apparently there was a nasty accident which closed the highway, and what should have been a 2 hour drive took about 3-1/2. Imagine sitting in a car in the rain with a hurting right foot working the brake and accelerator in stop-n-go traffic after running 26.2 miles. I could barely stay awake! But I made it home without incident, thankfully.
Today, the day after the marathon, my foot is still a bit weird feeling, but it doesn't hurt as bad as it did yesterday. And strangely, I don't have any muscle aches at all. Normally I can barely walk after a marathon due to muscle pain, and going up and down stairs is just, well, painful and nearly impossible! But not today. I'm not sure why exactly...is it because I had the forethought to take some arnica tablets after the run? (Arnica tablets are an herbal remedy that helps reduce muscle aches and stiffness, swelling from injuries, and discoloration from bruises). If that's the case, I'm hugely impressed and will take those little puppies after every race!
So, I'm babying my foot by staying off of it as much as possible, putting ice on it, and taking the arnica. I'm registered to run a half marathon this Saturday, but I honestly don't know if that will happen now or not. Time will tell....
And I forgot to mention that the shirts we got with our race packet were fairly awesome, too! Love marathon swag!!