Well, that isn’t entirely true. We only ran through an *actual* zoo for a mile or so during the 2011 Baltimore Marathon in which we were told to “watch out for the animals” (true story). Luckily for us marathoners, the zoo animals were kept under the watchful eyes of zookeepers while we all ran past. That wasn’t my most memorable part of my first marathon ever (more on that later) but it was the most unusual experience I’ve had on a race yet. I mean, how many times do you get to run past a penguin during a marathon?
This race was the second part of the Maryland Double that Jules and I signed up for in January of this year. The requirements for the Maryland Double, which nets you an additional medal, is running in both the Frederick and Baltimore Running Festivals (half or full for either) in a calendar year. Needless to say, it requires quite a commitment to complete as we had to train this year in some nasty weather. Only 1200 runners signed up to attempt it in 2011- only 3000 or so have done it since 2007. From training on icy streets before the Frederick half marathon to battling the scorching heat before the Baltimore marathon, weather made preparing for these races tough, which was fairly ironic considering both races we were blessed with great weather- sunny skies and great temperatures for running.
The marathon was quite an new experience, as you need to manage your energy and pace like no other. When you are moving for 4+ hours at a time, preparation is critical. I ran with a fuel belt loaded up with water and energy gels which proved to be a lifesaver on the course when I needed a boost. I’ve found that carrying fuel and water is a smart idea, especially when the course has too few aid stations (like the first half of the marathon). However, I was able to refill upon hitting the aid stations which was a relief.
Around mile 12 (of 26.2) is when I began to have ankle pain. It was at this point in time I changed from running non-stop to a run/walk combination. But, by mile 20, I was unable to run for more than few hundred feet at a time. So I limped the last six miles, trying to eke out any running I could. When I got close to the finish I realized I had an issue. Do I limp across the finish line (and break my long standing tradition) or do I sprint? I started hobbling towards the finish line and when it came into view, I looked at it and knew instantly.
With a guttural roar I took off. I didn’t care about the pain, my time, the crowd, or any fellow runners left. The end was in sight and I wasn’t going to stop till I got there. Of course, once I crossed the finish line all the pain came rushing back but it was worth it. As I type this post I’m still on crutches (resting my ankle) but my first race really embodied the saying “Pain in temporary but Glory is forever”.