Yesterday morning dawned bright and clear, just like the OCNJ half-marathon a few weeks ago. If there is a better time in the northeast to run at the shore than fall, I certainly have not met it! I made my way up the Parkway for the Atlantic City Marathon to watch my friend Kat run her first marathon. And by watch, I mean horn in on the action and run some with her! I had 8 miles on my schedule and since I find it near impossible to watch a race without wanting to run it, I was super excited when Kat accepted my offer to run with her for a portion of the course. Our plan was for me to meet her at Mile 14… but before we hooked up, there was plenty of action:
The sky was a brilliant blue, birds were migrating and some late monarchs were too! Temps in the upper 50s and breeze that was not too stiff all added up to a perfect day for runners and spectators.
Speaking of spectators, here are two of Kat’s! They made shirts that said “Kat’s Krew. If you don’t get a runner’s high, there is always Plan B!” with a picture of a cat slurping down a cold brew 🙂
The shirts were super cute, but my favorite crew accessory were the signs Mary Beth made. Not only were they hilarious and heartfelt, but also numerous! We could swap out new ones every so often and I know the runners and fellow spectators loved them, since some asked to take pics of them and they also ended up on Twitter.
A major player of Kat’s Krew, maybe even the krewiest of the bunch, was Jeff. He was uber mobile on his bike and because of it was able to provide Kat with GU, fresh gum, music and water when she needed it most and us with laughs (foreshadowing!).
We got our first look at Kat around Mile 9! She looked strong and happy and I high-fived her and then high-tailed it to our meeting spot at the 14th mile water station. I made it there about 15 minutes before she arrived. I knew I would warm up once we got going, but the windy locale was making me cold, so I put on gloves and a sweatshirt that I figured I would shed once we got rolling. I spotted Kat and started running with her. I am sure she knew right away she was in good hands when I struggled for a good block trying to get the sweatshirt off my head while still moving ,lol.
Kat and I logged a few blocks with another Krew member, Noel, which was cool because I had heard so much about her (and vice versa) it was like we had already knew each other well! Shortly after, we bumped into more Krew and mini-Krew members! This group was awesome because they made it their mission to see Kat as much as possible on the course and kept driving to new locations. Every so often we’d turn a corner and there they’d be! Major props for their roving spectating skills!
As we chugged along into the late teen miles, the course was starting to take its toll on Kat, as marathons are apt to do. She faced a few issues, so let’s talk about them for a minute because one of the best things about race reports is learning from other’s experiences! The first issue was that the course was getting boring. Like, really boring. This happens on almost every marathon course (though Melissa, who was running through the redwoods out west on the very same day, may beg to differ!) and it is helpful to review a course beforehand so that you know what to expect and when you might falter. For example, I knew on the ultra that the miles on Rt. 347/47 were going to be monotonous and blah. They definitely were, but I was prepared for them to be so, and I think that makes it a little easier to handle. You just tell yourself that you knew this was going to happen and to go on autopilot and plow through them.
Secondly, Kat was not feeling as good as she hoped at this point and not as good as she had felt during training runs at the same distance. This can happen for many reasons – some days we are just “off”, sometimes our training took too much out of us (Bart Yasso talks about people peaking on their longest training run and still recovering from that during a race) and sometimes it is easier to feel good at mile 17 of a 20 miler (3 miles to go) than a 26.2 miler (9.2 to go – a big difference!). It is why I employ my mental fake-outs of pretending my training runs are longer than they are. At these low points, you must have tricks up your sleeve to handle whatever is coming your way. Practice, practice, practice during training the speeches you are going to give yourself when things go a little haywire out on the course.
The other option to help deal with tough miles is to have your Krew tangle with course paraphernalia. Jeff was apparently concerned that his assurances to Kat that she would make it were enough, so he decided to switch it up with some physical comedy. As we made our turn to get back on the boardwalk, Jeff’s chain became BFF’s with the yellow tape marking the course. The giant orange barrel didn’t want to be left out, so it too joined the party and before long, Jeff was all wrapped up in both. After ensuring no one was hurt, I took a break from my laughing fit to capture this moment:
22 miles came and went and I told Kat I could stop or stay with her. When she said “stay”, I nearly jumped for joy! After some hard miles, I knew more were in front of her. But I also knew she was going to beat this monster and I wanted to be there when she did! The boardwalk miles were tough and our girl was getting really thirsty. Jeff decided to bike ahead to the next water station and returned with the nectar of the marathon gods – a huge amount of cool water!!
We saw her parents and when her dad ran with us for a few steps with his homemade sign about cold beer and warm pizza, I teared up (shocker! But seriously, how cute are parents?!?). She ticked off the miles and after countless people saying “you are almost there!” to which she would say “No, i’m not!”, the end was finally REALLY in sight. Note to spectators – unless the finish line literally within steps, don’t tell runners that they are almost there! I know in your mind that 24 of 26.2 miles completed seems like it is “almost there”, but take my word for it – to a runner in pain, those last two miles might as well be as far away as the moon.
She made her final push to the finish line and Kat’s Krew welcomed her back in style – screaming at the top of their lungs, holding up their signs, dancing around in all their green Krew-y glory, they gave her that last burst she needed to make it home!
Jeff and I crashed the runner’s-only section to be the first to congratulate our girl. Sure, in the picture below it looks like Jeff is proposing, but in reality he is doing something even better for a lady after her race – a calf massage!
Kat’s Krew tracked her down and spent a little time doing the post-race breakdown that is one of my favorite parts of a run! We got some Gatorade in her, had her lick salt off pretzels and all basked in the warm glow of her moment.
A huge benefit to running this race is the ocean that is steps from the finish line. Kat dove right in, surely soothing her screaming muscles, and enjoyed her victory over the 26.2 mile beast.
I loved every step of that run with her. She ran with me during my ultra and it felt so, so good to get the chance to be her support crew this time around. I won’t ever forget the look of concentration and determination in her eyes as she battled her internal struggle and kept moving forward when every muscle in her body was begging her to stop. She and I were texting this morning and she wrote, “I’m already thinking about my next run. Am I addicted?!”. Yes, yes you are. Welcome to the marathon family!