- Location: Maryland: The Baltimore Marathon
- Date: October 16, 2010
- Age: 44
- Time: 4 Hours 28 Minutes and 8 seconds.
(Me crossing the finish line! My calves hurt!)
Not long after I finished the Sacramento Race and long enough after I told my story to anyone who would listen, I came up with my harebrained idea – if I could do one marathon, why not 50? One in each state to be exact and only one every year! Here’s the math:
Age started: 43(first marathon) + 50 marathons= 93 years old at the end.
Ok – maybe you’re thinking – you’re going to run marathons in your 80’s and 90’s? God willing! I made Mourad promise if I went before he did he has to finish for me. He just laughed – I don’t think he believes me but the proof is in the pudding as they say.
I knew I would pick Maryland for my second state because it is the obvious choice. It’s my hometown state, I get to run a terrific marathon and see my mom and family.
I checked out the date to make sure that it didn’t conflict with anything important at my kids school, work etc. but the date was perfect. Jasmine is taking the PSAT test that weekend and I will unfortunately miss one of her soccer games. She is very supportive of me and maybe thinks I’m a bit nuts for running these marathons. Ahmad and Mourad are very encouraging as well. (if the latter doesn’t fall over covering for me – we are busy and short handed!)
Supportive hubby comes through again. I follow the same training schedule as last year but more rigorously this time. I do longer runs and the weather gods are still with me. As luck would have it we have a few hot weekends which make those long training runs a bit harder. Speaking of the “last training run”, it was a hum dinger! This one was scheduled to be the last twenty-one mile run. Mourad begged me to start at 7 AM given the high temperature was going to be 90 degrees but hard-headed me had to have coffee, read the paper, etc. I started at 8 AM and paid for it later.
Back to the run! Mourad dropped me off a few miles past the Marriott in Pleasanton. I ran back to the Marriott (potty break – remember the importance of this from the California story?), ran on Dublin Canyon Road to Villareal (base of my neighborhood), back to the Marriott (potty break #2) and back to Villareal. I had to walk part of the last leg. I was seeing spots, was thirsty and felt like I had lead legs. If you read my first story, you know what happened. I hit….the WALL! (Dramatic music played here).
All’s well that ends well. Even though someone stole my last stash of Propel along the route (can you believe it?) Mourad came and rescued me. He also checked on me via cell phone. What a guy! Have you ever tried to run, talk on a cell phone and keep sweat out of your eyes? Quite the feat!
I am prepared as I’m ever going to be. The weather forecast has been getting better every day. The current prediction is for mostly sunny skies but windy with temperatures ranging from 48 – 62 degrees! I’ll take it!
My sister is running as well. Her team consists of four people and she is running the second leg of the relay which equates to approximately seven miles.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In case you don’t know, you can run some marathons in teams of four splitting the distance among the runners. Great way to start out without doing a full marathon on your own!
10:23 PM Friday 10/5: So here I am in the hotel room. We had a great lunch today with Aunt Pat, Mom, Laurie (my sister), Heather (my niece), Meghan (my cousin) and her daughter Hannah, in Little Italy. Carb loading! I had picked up my race bib an hour before and decided to sign up with the 4:30:00 pace group. If I make it, it would be 3 minutes 50 seconds faster then Sacramento – we’ll see!
En route to my hotel room later that night, I met a lovely woman named Betsy from New Jersey. She was quite nervous. I asked her what pace she was aiming for and she said 4:30! Fate! I invited her to walk with me to the starting line and join my pace group. Since we’re both alone, I thought it would be fun. I hope I sleep tonight!
5:22 AM Saturday 10/16: Betsy and I went to get our first cup of Jo – definitely not Starbucks but free! I feel somewhat nervous but I am sure this feeling will escalate as we get closer to starting time.
As I am getting ready for the race, I go over the last minute checklist, take a deep breath and visit the ever present potty before departing. I stick to my traditional pre-marathon breakfast (if you can call the second time a tradition) of a banana, water and coffee one hour and a half before the race and a Power Bar and water a little over one hour out.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Runners all have their own strategy about food as well as what type pf clothing they wear, shoes they like, etc. We are a superstitious bunch and if you’ve read my Sacramento story you know that it’s a big “no-no” to try out something new on a race day that you haven’t done prior in training. This race was definitely easier to dress for than cold Sacramento! I went with the lucky running skirt, lucky red running bra, lucky running shirt (see a pattern here?) and my nifty new Baltimore Marathon running shirt over it. The latter could be a violation of the “not tested” rule but it’s so light I know it won’t hinder me even if the weather gets nicer as the run goes on.
Back to the race! I knock on Betsy’s door and we walk down to the lobby. After verifying directions, we head on down to the starting area. Betsy’s really nervous now. I try to calm her down a bit as I seem the more relaxed of the two of us (not saying much.) The weather has gotten even better – already sunny, slightly windy and low humidity. I have a really good feeling about today.
On the way, Betsy and I meet a delightful college gal named Jenny. If she is all of 21 years old I would be surprised. (I’m sure I have shoes older than she is!) She hails from Wisconsin and this will be her first marathon! (At least she’s not Canadian – remember Sacramento?) Her goal is to complete a marathon before she graduates. As Betsy is somewhere is her thirties, I am definitely the old gal of the bunch!
So the old gal takes charge. We check our sweats in and do the last minute potty visit and hydration chug. We timed things perfectly with walking to the starting line without feeling stressed about having too little or too much time.
As we are getting in line, military planes pulling American flags fly over us. A beautiful voice is singing the Star Spangled Banner and it’s hard not to get chocked up with emotion. Baltimore city Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake steps up to the main podium near the start line to give a welcoming pre-race speech. The organizers of this event have done a magnificent job thus far. A black and white balloon arch festoons the starting line. The main areas are clean and well organized considering the crowd. After the Mayor’s speech, we pause for the Pledge of Allegiance. The same warm, clear feeling comes wafting over me as my first race. Concurrently, Betsy announces that she wishes she had gone to the bathroom again.
Betsy, Jenny and I amble over to join the 4:30 pace group. Here we meet the four leaders who will be one of the two highlights of my journey today: Pete, Shannon, Sean and Greg. Pete is clearly in charge as he goes over the race course, how the pace group works and other pre-marathon instructions. He encourages us to introduce ourselves to our fellow group members. There are 12 of us in all with five people running their first marathon. Pete cautions us a lot about hydrating today as the weather is windy and we will not feel the sweat or the salt that will be in our faces.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This marathon is my first “official” use of a “pace group” (although I ran into them in Sacramento.) The goal of a pace group is to lead you to a certain finishing time. For example, based on my last marathon, I selected the 4:30:00 group. I figured this would be a reasonably achievable goal. The leaders will run the marathon at a certain pace that guarantees you will finish at that designated time if you hang with them. They also encourage you along the way, make jokes that help take your mind off of the pain in your hamstrings (gluts, calves, quads, right big toe) and point out the local color and highlights of the host city.
One minute until we start – the ole’ ticker starts to palpitate at a record pace. We are about to embark on our journey. Pete reminds us to reflect on all of the time we spent on training, giving up time with family, friends or general leisure time for this race. He brings it home by saying we have already gone through the hard part and this will be the fun part. The first timers are looking at him a bit sideways. I understand his meaning. He breaks down the race into three segments:
1). the first 10 miles: enjoy it by talking to others if you want, taking in the sights and generally enjoying yourself.
2). the second 10miles: “This part is for you”, Pete says. Make sure you are hydrated, have your nourishment handy and do all of the necessary actions to keep the body working properly.
3). the last 6.2 miles: “This is a 10k,” Pete smiles, “You can do a 10k – no problem!”
We are pumped and ready to go. 8 AM hits and WE ARE OFF! Miles 1 – 10 go pretty much like Pete said. Betsy and I stop at Mile 2 to visit the facilities. We start up again and Betsy stops to tie her shoe. I told her I wanted to catch up to the pace group and unfortunately I never saw her again. Betsy from Oradell, NJ, if you ever read this story, contact me! I also forgot to mention that right after the start I lost Jenny too. Jenny from Wisconsin, if you ever read this as well, how did you do?
As promised, our fearless leaders keep us on track and well entertained. As mentioned in one of the pre-race notes, we walk through every water station staying hydrated and taking GU as needed. During the course of the race we run through many notable Baltimore neighborhoods diverse in their ethnicity and history: Patterson Park, Waverly, Federal Hill, Little Italy, Druid Hill Park and Canton. Colorful people in all shapes, sizes and outfits surround us. Some notables along the way: the “Tuxedo Man” who has run every Baltimore Marathon in yes, a full tuxedo, identical twin Asian sisters who were running in tandem and in identical outfits, two ladies festooned with crab shaped tutus and countless others wearing shirts depicting names of loved ones.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For those of you not from Baltimore, the state of Maryland is known for its Blue Shell Crabs which are delicious! (vegan exception for me!) For many who live here, the crab culture is as serious as going to a Ravens game or attending church on Sunday.
Mile 10 – 20: We follow Pete’s instructions once again. The wind has kicked up and we are running the rolling hills. They don’t seem like much to the naked eye especially after training on huge hills but in the later miles any hill can seem big. The group leaders caution us to be careful on the down hills and not to go too fast. Shannon asks me at Mile 15 how I feel. : “Good, too good”, I reply as I know the toughest part is yet to come.
I don’t know about other marathoners but so far Miles 22 – 25 are the hardest part for me. Maybe it’s because it is past the point where I have trained and before the last 1.2 miles of adrenaline will kick in. Pete seems to sense this and he talks to me a lot during Mile 24. I know if I stay with them I have nothing to fear. He encourages me and lets me know how the course will run from now on. He assures me I will be fine and at Mile 26 until the end, it is all down hill (literally). I’ll follow any and all advice he is willing to dispense.
Mile 26 – I look around and notice I am the last of our group to still be with the pacers. “Where is everybody?” I ask. They reply, “Some are behind and some are ahead. It is so unusual to see someone stay with us from start to finish. You did a great job!”
And now is the time that my three Papa Birds and one Momma Bird decide to push the baby out of the nest. They urge me to go ahead of them. “You’ve got this”, they say, “Go bring home 4:25:00.” “I’m good”, I pant back, “It’s already a personal record for me if I stay with you.”
They won’t take no for an answer. As a group, they know when someone has more “gas in the tank” as Mourad would say. They start to chant: “Go Pam go! Go Pam go!”
Persistent bunch that they are, they don’t let up. You can guess what happens next. I start to cry, thank them and off I fly on that pure adrenaline that floods my body. As Pete promised earlier, the last mile is the fastest one I will run. Another 9 minute mile I believe! Sacramento again minus the Beatles music! Defies logic, doesn’t it? Your feet fly on pure emotion filling you with an unmatched euphoria! It’s all down hill and it’s beautiful! I enter Camden Yards (where the Baltimore Orioles play baseball) and the last stretch. I look to my left and there is my sister holding a sign saying “Go Pam go!” Double wow!
The finish line is in view. Although I didn’t make 4:25:00, I am coming in at a very respectable 4:28:08.
My feet touch the line and the tears are commingling with the sweat. An unknown lady in purple gives me a big hug as she has just crossed the line as well. (There is a lot of love at the finish line. It’s like Woodstock without the weed.)
You’re probably wondering what the second highlight of the race was. The kudos on this one is not about me – it’s about my sign holding sister, Laurie.
Let me preface this by saying she did not start out loving the sport of running but evolved into it as I did. She started on a treadmill, built up her confidence and cardio stamina, strength and stride and eventually ventured outside. She has participated in several 5k’s and relay marathons prior to Baltimore. I had been begging her to run it by herself but she said she wasn’t up to it yet but did sign up for the 6 mile part of the relay team. She mentioned the day before at lunch that she was contemplating a half marathon. This comment will become quite ironic very quickly.
The day of the race she misses the bus to the relay point by only a couple of minutes. Panic stricken, she and another gal running the same leg of the race who was in the same boat, hop in a cab in hopes of making it there. Due to the volume of traffic in the city, the cab becomes stuck and is going nowhere. With time ticking away and a major adrenaline rush at their backs, Laurie and her cohort in crime bolt out of the cab and start running up Howard Street to the relay point. Bags secured on their backs they run UPHILL almost 6 miles to the exchange area. With the grace of God they make it there with five minutes to spare. Wiping their brow, they grab the relay chip from their partner, hand the bags over and run 7 more miles to the third exchange point. Congratulations Sister on your first half marathon!
Sadly enough, my story ends. Next year, God willing, I will be in Virginia for the Marine Corps Marathon. I will be running this one in honor of my good friend, Mr. Lionel, who wore the Marine uniform proudly. I am hoping Laurie, my niece Heather and I can do this one together. Laurie will not be providing the transportation.
October 19th, 2010