Publix Georgia Marathon 2018 - I Didn't Quit

How's that for a tagline?

This is going to be long, buckle up!

The TL;DR version is I finished - after the finish line was down, elapsed time about 8:19, Garmin time 8:15.

The Backstory 

I wasn't going to do another full marathon yet.  I have run three full marathons before - all of which took me nearly 6 hours.  In the first two, my training was probably a little weak and I ended up with some injuries that sidelined me a little before I could get back to running again.  After the first, I lost toenails and had IT band issues.

Finishing the St. Jude Memphis Marathon - 12/2009 Time - 5:55:04 (PR)

After the second, I had an achilles injury that would not withstand any athletic shoe - so I had to hit the pool for 3 months.

Rocket City Marathon - 12/2010 Time - 5:57:35

The third full marathon I trained very very well, but the race was extremely hilly and I didn't get a new PR - however, no injuries and I recovered extremely well afterward.  I could feel how strong I was and I was proud of my finish.

Really Big Free Marathon - 11/2012 Time - 5:56:53
After that race, I began the process of trying to become pregnant, and didn't run any marathons although I ran a few half marathons along the way - then became pregnant and had Ruby.  Since Ruby was born, I have run 5 half marathons, including one during the Tybee Run Fest in February which was amongst 5 other races to total a full marathon distance between a 5K Friday night, and the rest of the races Sunday - those races cumulative time was 6:49:xx

I had planned to only run a true full marathon after Ruby was in school, so I could devote more time to training - however - the Atlanta Track Club is very crafty and they sent out information after I completed the Triple Peach Series (Peachtree Road Race 10k, Atlanta Track Club 10 Miler, Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon) that anyone who completed that series AND the Publix Georgia Marathon would achieve ULTIMATE PEACH STATUS and receive a special award.  I signed up immediately.  I knew the race would contain a Half Marathon as well, and figured I could drop to the half if as I approached the race it seemed like I should drop.  I thought based on my performance on Tybee Island (having gone 26.2 over two days and 23.1+ on one day) I had reason to believe I could finish, possibly within the 6:30 course limit, or at least within the 7 hours the finish line would be open.  The weather seemed like it would be temperate and cloudy, and I decided that the worst case would be my first DNF - how I had been running since 2007 without ONE DNF, I don't know, but I figured that wouldn't be the worst thing ever and I could at least go for it.  I was encouraged by those I ran with at the MARC (Metro Area Running Club) that I had a shot.  I did know it was a very slim shot, however, and that if I was off that day, it could go horribly wrong.  I knew my training was closest to my Rocket City Cycle - the one where I became injured during the race.   Not anything like my Really Big Free Marathon training cycle, in which I peaked at 50 mpw and had multiple weeks over 40mpw, all over 30mpw aside from taper.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I knew it would be a long day regardless the outcome.  So - here goes nothing!

Race Day

Friday night before the Sunday race, I sent Ruby to her cousin's house for a sleepover so I could have a really solid night of sleep.  Saturday I rested and managed to amazingly get another solid night of sleep!  Sunday morning I woke up feeling rested and ready.  I had picked clothes the night before, laid out everything I needed.  I ate and took care of personal business (bathroom, bodyglide, etc.) and it was time for Henry and Ruby to bring me to the starting line.  It was actually Henry's idea - he was concerned how my driving might be after such a difficult race, and I was grateful.  I didn't have to fuss about parking before the race - I could move straight to bathroom and corral!  I slipped into a hotel right by my corral and the hotel staff directed those of us in line for the lobby bathroom that we could go up to the 2nd or 4th floor to use bathrooms there without needing a key!  How kind of them.  It was perfect.

I was even able to snag a mirror selfie! 

The forecast said we would start at about 52 degrees, and while it would become warmer, peaking at about 67 at 2pm (when I hoped to be finished) , it was supposed to become increasingly cloudy throughout the day.  (It didn't, btw - stayed sunny!) Seemed a bit warm but not bad, so I went with my Skirt Sports Cascade Skirt - and my clothing was perfect, except that the waist of the Cascade Skirt was such lightweight fabric that my waist pocket (the Running Buddy) was pulling my skirt down at the beginning when it was fully loaded!  I had never experienced this before - I ended up switching more gels into my thigh pockets and it resolved.  Anway - I headed from the bathroom to the corral and took one more selfie for good luck before we began moving to the starting line!

Ready to get moving!

So we begin!  I'm feeling both like my effort is high and that I'm letting everyone pass me - I check my pace and it is about 14:50 which is perfect.  Average pace to finish within the course limit is 14:52, although I expect to be slower than that by the finish, I was hoping to stick close to that pace through the first half, with some faster on downhills and slower on uphills of course, but this seemed a reasonable pace goal for early race based on all my training runs and races.  I knew my best chance of running under the course limit was to have somewhat of a positive split planned, but nothing drastic.  I did my best to let everyone go by me but mile 1 clicked off and I checked the split and it read 12:40! :O I told myself to relax and settle in, because there were half marathoners all around me, and I was going to be out here a long time.  Mile 2 was right on track at 14:56 and I felt that I was in the right zone for pace - however I didn't feel in the zone at all personally.  My effort felt higher than it should for the pace, I felt somewhat frantic emotionally, just kind of all over the place.  I got the feeling that today was not going to be my day - but I continually tried to calm my mind and just keep moving.  Mile 3 15:04, mile 4: 15:15 - the hills were just ongoing.  Up and down and up and down.  Somewhere around this point I saw someone come alongside me that had a green marathon bib!  We both became very excited - a MARATHONER!!! We weren't the only ones at this pace and point of the race!  As we talked I came to find out she had started the race late - she thought it began at 7:30, not 7am! She had been running hard trying to catch up, and she did.  But now she was paying for it and walking.  She had not run a full marathon before.  I told her how I went out too fast at my first marathon and it was very difficult.  I hadn't run more than an 8k race before my first and had no feel for how to pace a distance race - no matter how many long runs I did on my own, the energy of the race swept me along on race day.  She gave me much needed energy by finding someone with my same goals.  I told her about how the course split at mile 7, with those who were too slow at that point being sent to the half marathon side of the road - and that she would likely be able to continue at this point if she kept moving.  This was also something I was looking forward to - the race would decide for me.  I would keep moving, but if I wasn't allowed to continue the race would be over.  We saw some characters and stopped to take pictures, because we couldn't pass up the chance to be photographed with Peppa Pig!

I knew Ruby wouldn't forgive me if I missed this!

After the photo op - I kept moving, and she fell behind.  I told her we should look out for each other later, but I didn't see her again.  Mile 5: 14:49, Mile 6: 14:22 - At this mile marker I hit the manual lap button on my Garmin because from mile 1 I was consistently .2 over each mile marker, and I knew this would become increasingly frustrating as I became tired later in the race, so I matched my watch to the markers to make things easier on myself.  Around this part of the course is when I got some race photos taken as well!

Approaching mile 7 and the course split - 15:18.  I talked with someone else a bit during the split on the course - I wasn't the only one taking the right side of the road! Hurrah!  I joked, "Well, the course is split now, there's no turning back!"  Then I left her behind me, as she was doing a run walk interval and I gradually gained ahead.  I had run this part of the course during a training group run with MARC and I had a good idea a big hill was coming up - and yes it was.  As I turned to hit mile 8, I faced a familiar steep hill.  I walked up the steepest portion, and then began running again as it flattened out.  Mile 8: 15:47.  At the top of the hill a course supporter cheered me on and reminded me - "My race my pace" - Said you're doing great, "just keep ahead of the flashing lights".  I heard some cowbells behind me not soon after that, and realized that was not just a joke, that the back of the course was chasing me.  I thought - I'm running right about on the course limit pace, slower at times but faster at other times and I knew my current pace after mile 8 and the course flattened out was faster than course limit average pace - yet they were gaining on me.  I was running about a 13 minute mile when they passed me (I didn't know exactly at that point, I was looking at a lap pace average of 14:16 though, and I knew I had been speeding up, so I knew I was running faster than that).   I was very irked when they passed me, now - maybe they were on pace for the overall course limit... but they were running too fast at that time for me to have any chance of staying ahead of them.  Maybe they had to play catch up - but what they did was effectively take away any chance I had to finish on time because then I had to go to the sidewalk.  The course support was being taken down.  I was on my own.  My only saving grace was that they handed me a turn my turn direction sheet so that I could (if so determined) make my way through the rest of the course and find the finish line myself.  Mile 9: 14:23

I had thought that this might happen - but I had no expectation that it would happen this early in the race.  At first I tried to keep them in my sight but they were going too fast.  I made it to the aid station before mile 10 and they were getting ready to take a picture together to celebrate being done.  They had no water in cups, only these huge 1.5 liter bottles of Dasani - I took one.  Who knew when I would be able to get water next?  I kept trying to go on, running on the sidewalk, lugging a huge bottle of water.  I was questioning everything at this point.  The end of the race passed me!  Should I even keep going?  Does this mean the end?  I could just quit.  I came to mile 10 about a half mile past that aid station and a volunteer there asked me how I was doing, if I was ok, did I need anything, any water - they saw my giant bottle and were like - oh.  I told them - I've got this but I think I need to ditch it! It's too heavy.  They asked if I wanted a small one - YES!  They walked quickly ahead of me to grab an opened not full bottle of water, they told me they had only used it to sprinkle some water on the wheelchair athletes, they didn't drink it - hey.  Even if they had... I MIGHT have still taken it.  As it was, I definitely did.   I felt immediately lighter.  Mile 10: 17:14 

Running on the sidewalks was already taking a toll on me - they were uneven and hard surfaced, just before mile 10 I started a mile+ long climb.  Everything was awful.  I would have no aid stations!  What was I even doing??? I encountered another runner, who asked me about a turn (no one had given her a turn by turn direction sheet) and then continued on ahead of me.  Hey - at least I wasn't the only one out here.  We turned onto College and I noticed on my instructions that we were going to hit mile 11 and 12 on this road.  I hated the road for being so long.  I needed anything to distract me at this point.  Mile 11: 17:09

At this point at least things had somewhat flattened out - and we passed a "PRETZEL" station! Not good for gluten free me, but they were nice and had some positive energy.  One of the volunteers offered to fill my bottle, so my little water bottle got filled up and I was able to carry some on my way.  Up ahead I knew I would get to turn into Agnes Scott College and then BACK onto College Ave.  I hoped that the way would be obvious because they were taking down cones.  Mile 12: 16:43 

I was going now at about struggle long run pace, but I was moving pretty consistently forward.  The turn into Agnes Scott was a tiny little semicircular drive, very obvious, and I was relieved not to have to guess the route.  There was an aid station and everyone cheered me on.  It was at this time that I noticed that a little behind me I was hearing cheers - there was another runner!  I turned onto College and kept going - the next direction was left and I was eyeing the road full of traffic ahead of me, stopped traffic on one side where the truck was taking down cones.  Trying to decide when and where I should cross to be safe and stay on course - I turned to cut across the road, and the runner behind me was nearby - she asked if we needed to go left, and I said yes.   We headed across and I knew she was close behind me.   Before long we talked briefly and I discovered she hadn't been given a turn by turn sheet.  She was out here to finish, and I could help.  I stayed ahead of her and led the way as we headed through Decatur.  I was feeling really positive as we were cheered by some people along the way and we passed the halfway point, the timing mat on the ground was taken up, but the person was still there monitoring and said the sensor was still reading us - this is my last official course split.  Mile 13: 16:45 - Half split: 3:27:28 (Slower than my half on Tybee when I was running after having done a 5K and 10K, btw)

We continued to talk and at times I started to struggle a little more, and we took turns with leading each other.  Dr. Bonita - her name tag said.  She told me that she was the one who had a heart attack at the Thanksgiving Marathon and that she was just out here to finish and take it easy, and had been cleared in February to do this race.  I was impressed and wanted to be sure to help her to the finish, but she was really helping me.  We kept each other going and I knew she needed me for directions so I had extra incentive to push along.  Mile 14: 18:51, Mile 15: 18:01 

I'm not sure where around here, but somewhere in mile 14 or 15 we met up with another runner!  The runner I had been talking with at the marathon split, who was doing the run walk intervals - she caught up to us!  Her name is Karla, and she joined our little group.  Now we were a trio - and we were going to finish.  We headed through Emory and the directions told us to turn RIGHT onto Dickey, and we'd hit mile 16 on Dickey - well, Dickey was on the left, and we already hit mile 16, so we kept going straight.  This is the only course modification we did, and I have zero guilt about it because the directions were wrong and even without the extra two tenths I had in the beginning, we hit that lap right around Dickey.  We moved on.  Mile 16: 20:14

Hills and more hills.  We were climbing climbing climbing it seemed like always climbing with brief downhill here and there.  The sidewalks were killing me.  Occasionally in neighborhood areas I was able to get on the road and run.  I ran on the sidewalks whenever I could, but there was a lot of walking.  Karla and Bonita were walking exclusively but they could maintain a faster walking pace than I could - I was running downhills and whenever I could on flats to keep up.  Although, Karla and I were trading places a lot.  She had no water on her.  I started to realize she probably hadn't had any water since the last aid station around mile 9.5 since she was behind us back then, I was sure the others were already down by the time she got to them.  Karla told me, by the way, how she was watching me and my pace when the back of the pack passed me and that she knew they were going to fast.  I felt vindicated but none of that could help me now.  We were getting closer and closer to 20 miles.  We had each other.  There was no reason not to keep going now.  Mile 17: 21:04, Mile 18: 19:58

As we approached mile 19 - behold.  We saw an angel.  It was a woman in running clothes, and she had cases of those 1.5 liter Dasani bottles.  :O It was a miracle!  Karla indeed told us she hadn't had water in almost 10 miles.  We drank.  I filled my little bottle.  Karla took one for the road and we kept going.  Mile 19: 21:48, Mile 20: 21:09

Hallelujah, we hit Mile 20!  THAT is supposed to be where you hit the wall, right?  Well - we were crawling through the rubble of a wall for miles now.  No aid stations, no course support, people going about their day, traffic.  But we were doing this.  Bonita kept the highest level of positivity - reminding us - We're still here!  We're still standing!  We're doing this!  We keep heading along through some neighborhoods and I start thinking of water again - I knew I needed to take a gel around mile 22, and I was running low on water.  I thought to myself - I need to start praying for water or someplace to buy water... and then ahead of us we see someone who looks like a runner talking to a woman outside her home.  They seem to be discussing directions, as I can see the runner is holding the turn by turn sheet.  YES! It is a another runner!  The woman asks us if we need anything, maybe some cold water?  YES!  She goes into her house and quickly brings out ice cold bottles (handheld size thank goodness) of Dasani.  Miracles. Mile 21: 24:04

The runner we met up with was in really bad shape, limping heavily due to Plantar Fasciitis.  We chatted a little, but I was running downhill on the road for once and I wasn't about to give up that chance to feel good and move, and we left her behind.  We now have to enter Piedmont Park - I'm again feeling nervous about the directions like with Agnes Scott-  we're going off of the "roads" and entering some less perfectly mapped territory!  We were moving between people walking their dogs and enjoying the sunny day in a leisurely way, while we were over here trying to finish a race, DANGIT.  I helped Bonita get her phone out and then  back in to her hydration pack, it had been ringing and ringing because people were worried about her, having expected her at the finish already.  She assured them that she was fine, and to leave her alone so she could finish her race.  We managed to navigate the park perfectly and come out onto 12th as described in the directions.  Mile 22: 23:53

Now we really knew we were definitely going to finish.  3 miles left, right? That's nothing.  We kept dragging ourselves forward.  I was feeling some discomfort in my right toes - my sock was doing a thing it had never done before - I think this is due to my walking gait being different than my running gait.  The whole thing was rotating over my toes and feeling like it was being sucked back under my foot - the "seam" on the top of the sock was pushing directly back on the front of my toes.  We climbed the downtown streets heading toward Georgia Tech, passed Bobby Dodd Stadium - I imagined taking a picture but reality Dana was in barely trudging forward mode and that sounded like a lot of time and work.  We had to do this weird out and back thing that Bonita was not impressed we did - I didn't want to cut the course.  Some odd sense of integrity for us just out there doing it ourselves, but hey - we were offered a cheat earlier in the course by some people brunching under tents who declined to offer us ANYTHING other than a shortcut. -_- So we might as well do this as right as we could.  

Mile 23: 24:12, Mile 24: 18:08 (I honestly have no idea), Mile 25: 22:30 

We began heading back on our out and back - we knew we were so close to the finish.  Head across North, onto Lucky, and we should hit mile 26 after we pass Ivan Allen.  We hit it much before that, of course - because taking all the sidewalks had added a lot to our overall distance.  About .5 mile extra on top of the .2 I adjusted for early in the race.  Some people out and about on their day talked to us as we headed up, congratulated and complimented us on what we were doing.  We only had to turn left up ahead on Baker to finish!  We knew there was a chance the finish line was down.  We had no idea what to expect when we turned.

Mile 26: 24:59 (thanks uphill climb in the final mile - and also of course, a wait for a crosswalk)

We turned, and saw trucks full of barricades, everything was loaded up.  There was no finish line.  An Atlanta Track Club coach had been waiting for Bonita and talked to her right away, she said come this way - you're all Ultimate Peach?  Lets go tell them and get your stuff.  Of course, it was all packed away.  But the rest of the ATC Staff/Volunteers there were all congratulatory and told us what a great job we did finishing, and that we could contact them to get our Finisher Awards.  Someone went deep into a truck to find us some Powerade and Water.  We had done it.  We were finished.  Someone took our picture in front of the Aquarium and I can't find it.  -_- I received a notification on my phone, but I accidentally cleared it and I have no idea what app it came from.  It wasn't from any of my regular messaging apps.  I might never get that message.  But they were my angels.  Karla and Dr. Bonita - if you're out there reading this:  THANK YOU.  I'm preeeettty sure I would have quit had I not ran into them.  I did bargain myself back into the race many times on my own - at least go until the half mark.  At least go till mile 17 (I have no idea why that was in my head).  I think if I had made it to 20 I would have forced myself to finish no matter what.  But I think there's a pretty good chance I might have quit after the halfway point without the extra support.  Although I physically felt pretty off early in the race, and I felt emotionally challenged as I have with any marathon - I also felt like pretty much everything else kind of fell exactly into place.  Meeting the two other runners, including one I met early in the race.  The water angels appearing right when we needed them.  The Atlanta Track Club Staff/Volunteers being there for us at the finish with Powerade and Water and being happy for us and reassuring us we could celebrate our accomplishment with earned finishers awards - just not right that moment because they were packed on a truck.

Sitting with my feet up on a step outside the Georgia Aquarium - waiting for Henry to come pick me up.

I'm not going to contact for an official finish time, because obviously we finished outside the Course Limit and such - but that doesn't negate the fact that we did it.  I was not prepared for this outcome, though - I thought either I'd finish with the finish line up or I'd DNF.  I've had to take some time to process this.  Now I have obtained my finishers awards, I feel pretty well recovered!  Still a little sore, 5 days later, but no injuries.  No blisters.  Minimal chafing.  All in all I'm doing pretty well for the wear!  And I've scratched that marathon itch.  No more until I've gotten into more of a fit and fighting shape, and have the weekly mileage to support a stronger training cycle, like I did for the Really Big Free Marathon in 2012.  

Here is the link to my Garmin Activity Report - to really see all the nitty gritty.

Picking up my swag from the Atlanta Track Club Office-  using my Soul Slings Petal Ring Sling
The Ultimate Peach Swag was this wooden Medal and Bib Hanger  - here with my Medals from the Series