This blog has been on hiatus for most of the winter. Wet, cold, windy weather did little to inspire me but I’m back again with the warm weather and good news. I finished my marathon yesterday. I felt good. I ran across the line with a smile and then started walking like John Wayne in full cowboy mode. The whole experience was amazing. Standing in the rising sun waiting for the race to start and looking out across the port. Cancale never seemed so lovely to me as it did yesterday morning. Rather than try to write a true narrative, here are some highlights of yesterday’s 42.2 km run from Cancale to the Mont Saint Michel:
–Listening to the sound of the Breton bagpipe music blaring as we waited for the gun to go off and the race to start. I could feel the goosebumps on my skin.
–I’m not sure why I was so scared of the hill at the beginning of the race. When we drove to Cancale two weeks ago to check it out, it seemed so much more imposing. As I was actually running up it yesterday, I kept thinking it has to be harder than this. I suppose the combination of the hills I ran as part of my training plan and the energy of starting the race made it go by that much faster.
–The wonderful group of Renault runners from outside Paris that I attached myself to and who were an essential part of my making it all the way. Running, or more specifically training, might be an individual activity but nothing beats the encouragement of running with others and feeding off of each others energy.
–Running by a Texan flag around Km 20 and doing a double-take. French flags, Breton flags, even a Normand one…normal. I wasn’t really expecting Texas in the middle of the French countryside!
–Seeing Laura and Elise waiting for me around Km 32. Laura ran out to meet me, her arms wide open and I stopped to hug her and take some pictures…so much for my 4:30 goal! Blame it on the girls but it was such a boost to see them and stop for a hug!
–The hard part i.e. Km 34-36–running in the middle of nowhere…fields, a few brave supporters, and nothing or rather the knowledge that I still had a way to go. I write that and yet at the same time I already knew somewhere inside of me that I could and would finish.
–Sucking down gel after gel, thinking of my friend who had mailed them to me a few months ago–the ultimate energizer, pure fructose plus a bit of caffeine and knowing that she was thinking of me.
–Counting down the kilometers from 37 onwards and savoring each step bringing me closer to my goal.
–Choosing not to look at the Mont Saint Michel off to the side especially as I got closer to the finish line. In what has to be a first for me, I kept my eyes off the Merveille. When I signed up for the Marathon, everyone I talked to told me one of two things either: “the wind” (as in won’t you have fun running 42 km into it) or “you can see the Mont from the start line and it will mentally destroy you” which translates to “good luck sucker, why didn’t you sign up for Paris?” I got lucky with the wind; we were blessed with a light breeze most of the way and even at the end, I had dealt with far worse out running around the neighborhood. As for seeing the finish line, you can’t see it from Cancale but you can see the Mont Saint Michel early on in the race hazy in the distance, still looking majestic silhouetted against the blue sky and mist. I focused on the group I was running with, each supporter, music group and rest stop we went by instead of looking off into the distance.
–The amazing boost of energy that came out of nowhere in the last 2.2 kilometers. I didn’t feel tired, I felt like I could fly. (It makes me wonder how much of running truly is mental–could I have run like that earlier in the second half?) I just started smiling and everything came together so effortlessly. Sure I came in at 4:33:18, long after the winners and countless other runners but I was as happy for everyone who finished from the winner on down because we all earned our way across the finish line. I can admire the amazing people who were faster than me and not feel jealous because I feel amazing too. I did it and no one can take that away from me.
–Any write-up would not be complete without a big thank you to all the supporters and volunteers who lined the race. Every little cheer made me smile, every person waiting with water and glucose was another smile, and the music always made us pick up out rhythm.
–Oh yes, and McDonald’s. One of the things about living in France, at least outside of Paris, is that trying to find an open restaurant outside of normal dining hours is difficult to say the least. While you can normally turn to a bakery for bread and a good sandwich to tide you over at any point during the day, they too have their opening hour quirks. Our local bakeries tend to be closed on Sunday afternoons. By the time, I got through the exit area, hooked up with Anthony and the girls and finally made it to our car, it was late in the afternoon. We started driving home looking for a place to stop for a late lunch/early dinner….nothing. In desperation, we ended up walking into McDonald’s, the only open “restaurant.” Try and picture me wearing my marathon running bib, finisher medal and open track jacket, walking up to the counter with the rest of our family to order the ultimate in unhealthy food and imagine the reaction. The teenager who served us looked somewhere between shocked and impressed–he did manage to stop staring long enough to take our order. I don’t think fries have ever tasted that good; I got sick an hour later. (I’m not blaming that on McDonald’s; my stomach sometimes acts up after long runs.)
I’ve spent today being lazy, enjoying my tired legs and wearing my official shirt like a peacock. I don’t care. I’m still floating today! Oh, and I must be crazy–I already know that I want to do another one!