Since I first entered the lottery for the St. George marathon, I've battled a nasty IT Band injury. I remember waiting for the lottery to be drawn and wondering what I had gotten myself into. I didn't really think I would get in and then since the day of that fateful email, I've wondered how I would ever get to the start line let alone finish the race.
Even on Saturday, as Marty and I rode the bus to the start line (at 4:30 am) I wondered how my knee would hold up. The bus ride was long and between the two of us (Marty battling the same injury) I really had my doubts. Still, I was determined to finish the race.
The starting area was filled with excitement. Marty and I hit the porta potties and then found a spot right next to the fire. We sat there for about 40 minutes and visited with some of the other runners. At one point I closed my eyes and said a little prayer. People started getting lined up at the porta potties again so we hit that line one last time. Just as we came out we noticed the race was on. We dropped the clothing bag and took off running.
I ditched my sweatshirt during the first couple miles. At mile 3 we stopped for water and Marty took off his warm-up pants. Another quick water stop at miles 5 and 7. Veyo hill was long and steep but we kept a nice pace and we didn't get passed. The next several miles were slightly uphill and it seemed to go on forever. We stopped at every aid station... mile 9, mile 11, mile 13, 15, and 17. A couple times we stretched our IT bands during the water stops (only stopping for 10 seconds or so). We were really looking forward to seeing family at mile 16 but when we got to Snow Canyon they weren't there. Still, the spectators at that point were a real boost. I was still feeling really good at that point and was shocked that the knees hadn't given me much trouble so far.
The hill at mile 19 was more than I expected. It seemed to go on forever. I was getting to where I really had to focus on just making it to the next aid station. After the aid station at mile 21 I had pretty much hit the wall. Marty and I were still together at this point but I was really having a hard time keeping up with him. After mile 22 he went on ahead. My pace was slowing and everything was a blur. Once I hit the city, I tried to focus on the encouragement from spectators. I ran along the side and high-fived as many kids as I could. I was just really trying to mentally stay in the game.
Honestly, I don't know for sure how often I stopped for walk breaks after that. I was really mentally not with it anymore. I remember seeing a sign that said, "7 MORE BLOCKS" and I wanted to rip it up and scream at them.. but I didn't have the energy. I kept waiting for those corrals around the next corner and wished I had memorized the route a little more closely. One too many walk breaks that last mile. People were wizzing past me. Finally, I saw something in the distance and I could barely make out the words, "FINISH LINE"! I gave it everything I had at that point and then I heard my mom yell, "GO MEL"! It was over... I DID IT. I finished in 4:01 just 3 minutes behind my little brother.
It's true what they say about the marathon. The first 20 miles you rely on your mental and physical strength... the last 6 miles are purely spiritual. I know its true because today just 3 days later I really can't give you a detailed explanation of what happened those last few miles. All I know is that somehow my legs carried me across that line.
At the finish they had these giant water misters. I stood there for a minute and soaked myself. I couldn't believe it! 4:01... I never expected things to go so well with the injury and all.
The marathon is quite an experience! I'm very happy with how it went. The weather was perfect, the spectators were awesome, my brother was an excellent running partner. Much to my dads dismay, I have to say... there probably will be a NEXT time. I just don't know when. I would like to get a lot more miles under my belt before I do it again, I need to get injury free. Next time, I want to finish strong!