Okay, okay you were dying to hear all the details of the marathon and now it's been over a week and you're not so interested anymore, but I still want to write it all down. So beware, long post ahead! Don't worry if you've lost interest. I won't feel bad if you don't comment! :-)
If I've talked to you, then you know the race was awesome, great, amazing. Those are three of the most common descriptive terms I've used when people ask me, "How did it go?" Here's why:
We took Peter Pan bus lines from Penn Station to Hartford, Connecticut. Margaret and Cole were just a little bummed that the bus we ended up getting on was actually a Greyhound and there were no pictures of Captain Hook or Tinkerbell on the outside, but there were comfy seats, and a bathroom, so if you ask me, it was all good.
We walked from the bus station to the Expo center to pick up our race packets. Mags and Cole for the Kids K and me for the marathon. The expo was not as exciting as expected, but they gave us cool orange drawstring bags to carry our stuff in and one table had free cheese cubes to sample. I kept noticing all the runners around me, with their sinewy legs and amazingly fit bodies. I started to worry a little, maybe I am not actually ready for this race; I don't have sinewy legs, they still have cottage cheese; I don't appear amazingly fit, my belly is postpartum squishy. But then I noticed a few more people like me and remembered that I had done all the necessary prep, there was no way I would not finish this race.
We hooked up with our friends, the Ortons. Emily and I trained almost every single step of 340 miles together. We have talked about pretty much everything you can imagine during all those miles and runs. And in fact, here is a shout out to her . . . You Rock! I love you! It would have been miserable without her. She drove down with her family (husband and five kids) a little earlier than us and they were swimming at their hotel pool waiting to meet up with us for dinner. We were also waiting for the Astles, Carol came on most of the long weekend runs with us, but is speedy, so did other training without us and had a different race goal (finish in under four hours). We were also planning to see Reagan and Jake and their friend Deanna, as well as Jordan and Erin Colby. Jordan and Erin were stuck in traffic, so they missed dinner. Randy, and Carol made it to join us and we chatted for a few minutes on the street with Reagan and Jake before they head back to their hotel to rest up for the big day.
Luckily we found City Steam Brewery for dinner. They put our three families (nine kids between us) in the back room with the pool table, where we could still hear the live Jazz, but everyone else didn't have to hear us. We ate pasta (of course), bread, and ordered more than we needed in the way of kids macaroni and cheese or chicken finger dinners.
Afterward we took a quick dip in the hot tub, let the hubbies keep the kids down at the pool while Emily, Carol, and I went to get to bed.
After dressing, putting on glide, packing up our gels, filling our water belts with sports beverages, and pinning on our numbers Emily, Carol, and I met up with Erin and walked to the start line. Our families were still cozily bundled at the hotels, but we made our way through the masses of runners while someone was giving gurgled announcements over a loud speaker and found the back of the pack. Emily acknnowledged that when they said, "Marathoners, this way," they meant us! The sky was clear and blue and the air was brisk. I knew I wouldn't want my long-sleeves forever, but I was glad I had them then.
I didn't hear the gun but everyone started moving toward the start, so we followed. Hundreds of people lined the streets cheering and music blasted. I knew it would be a challenge to keep pace at the beginning of the race, because we would be just so darn excited and I was right. We ran around the big park and some of the Hartford streets and I kept checking my watch and holding everyone back. The Orton family found one of the first cheering stations where they smiled, jumped up and down, took pictures and held up home made signs. After a couple of miles Carol left us so she could reach her goal, and just after four miles Erin had to leave us as the half-marathon course split off from us.
So Emily and I followed the runners, the volunteers, the orange arrows on the streets and ran. One section of the course is an out and back on a beautiful Connectict road. I'd describe it as somewhere between suburban and rural, not to mention breathtaking. These homes were surrounded by giant maple and oak trees in an array of colors from green, to yellow, to orange, to fiery red. Some of the leaves had begun to fall and litter the green manicured lawns with their splashes of color. They had pots of mums on the windowsills, cheery orange pumpkins on the porches, corn stalks leaning against their mail boxes, and happy supportive people cheering for us in their driveways. We ran past kids having Saturday morning soccer games and families drinking hot chocolate after having slept in their backyard in a tent. Idyllic, yes! We talked about it together and to some of the other runners we chatted with along the way, "What are we doing in Manhattan?"
Another thing I loved about the out and back is that we were able to see and cheer for the leaders coming back the other direction, running, no exaggeration, twice as fast as us. We also saw Reagan, Jake, and Carol all right on track to reach their race goals.
People playing live music plus a few DJ's were spread out along the course to help us stay motivated. A young band rocking out, a fifty-something acoustic guitarist keeping it mellow, a middle-aged band covering Neil Diamond all contributed to the party-like ambiance. By the time we were hitting our painful, we still have a long way to go part around mile 18, we had a lot of positive energy stored up from all that had gone before. I received a call from Nate who's in Finland around mile 10, Matt texted me about the Kids K, we met runners from Boston, Los Angeles, upstate and asked questions of people wearing team t-shirts.
We talked politics and came up with some ideas on how to solve the world's problems. All of that filled us, so after being lead back into downtown via service roads, past railroad tracks, and up steep on-ramps that sucked a bit of life out of us we were still able to keep running. Next highlight, we saw the Ortons cheering for us again at mile 22. Emily made a quick stop to peek at her baby Lily and then had a spring in her step. Following that was a table of still cheerful volunteers holding signs and directing us to an aid station with gummy bears, sport beans, and fresh fruit. An orange wedge never tasted so refreshing.
Although my hips were stiff, knees hurting, right glut knotting up, quads burning and I could feel a couple of blisters forming on my big toes there was just NO WAY I WASN'T GOING TO FINISH! In fact none of that even mattered because my spirit felt totally unconquerable. Emily and I recalled a sign from the beginning of the race, my favorite. It read, "Legs, Mind, Heart." I called Matt as planned at mile 25. He told me they were waiting less than a mile away. Emily got choked up, which in turn choked me up and we told each other to stop crying so we could still breathe. I thought I might cry at the end, but because I'd be so spent or in so much pain, but really I was crying because I felt- triumphant!
Around the next bend as we approached our last stretch of road Matt, Margaret, Cole, Stella (sleeping in the stroller) Carol, Reagan, and Jake were there cheering, jumping up and down, holding signs, taking video. I veered over to kiss Matt and hug Mags and we soared up the road and around the corner to the finish line. We heard the announcers were applauding the runners coming in at this point, saying, "We saw the leaders come in two and a half hours ago. These people have been out there running for FIVE Hours! It takes a lot of dedication to do something for five hours." Amen! :-) They called out Emily's name and I looked up at them, wanting to hear my own and one of them put his hand over the mic and said, "What's your name?" Emily and I both called it out together and they repeated, "Heather Herrick. Way to finish it together ladies."
We took our medals, hugged, and Emily said, "We just did that!" As we walked over to get water she said, "So, that took us four months!" Emily and I were both drenched in sweat, some of it already dry and forming salt lines around our foreheads, but the smile on her face and the tears in her eyes were BEAUTIFUL! Our families came running around the corner past the water station where more hugs were shared, photos taken. Matt asked me how I felt, "Amazing!"
"Are you proud of yourself?"
No hesitation, "YES!"
Then he kissed me, even though I was sweaty and gross.
We hobbled to the food tents and took one of everything: yogurt, cranberry walnut cookie, cup of mac and cheese, cup of apple crisp, potato chips, apple, banana, bagel and cream cheese, and fruit cup. We had to eat as we walked back to the hotel so we'd have time to shower before check out. I did have an adrenaline drop, and got really nauseated during that walk, but after showering, stretching, and eating every last bit of food off that plate I felt good again.
I'll spare all the details of a very long bus ride home, but even that couldn't dampen my mood too much.
Natalie and Victor invited all of the runners and their families to come to their place where she'd prepared a delicioso pasta dinner, with homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert. We swapped stories from the day and compared battle wounds, talked politics and took turns holding each others' babies.
Left to right: Jake, Deanna, Reagan, Me, Emily, Erin, Carol
Enjoying dinner at the Monreals, gracious hosts extraordinaire!
Enjoying dinner at the Monreals, gracious hosts extraordinaire!
So all in all, it was AWESOME, GREAT, AMAZING! Thanks to everyone who made it possible. Let's do it again soon . . .errr okay, not too soon!