My mouth was bit dry from the third IPA, but I wasn't concerned. I was relaxed, calm, and just happy to toe the line of another marathon. The time didn't matter. I'd just run 26.2 the week prior in a donut costume and it had only been 6 weeks since I'd run 109 miles. I had nothing to prove and everything to enjoy.
We packed up our campsite as quietly as possible at 4:30 a.m. and left Tybee Island for Savannah. The drive took less than 30 minutes and I sipped on prebottled Pumpkin Spice Latte while mindlessly chewing a bagel. We were obscenely early for the race, but the parking garages closed at 6:00 a.m. I decided to take a short nap and completely zonked out for another 30 minutes in the car.
When I awoke, I got my gear together and then we walked to the race start. There were porta-potty lines and drop bag lines and mobs and mobs of runners nervously milling about. It is my favorite part of race morning. I munched on a Snickers bar as we paraded back and forth trying to find the shortest lines to stand in.
I signed up for the race on the Sunday prior--the time when most people decide to run a marathon, right? I guessed I'd run a 3:50 or so and was placed in corral 4. Hal was in corral 2 and so when parted ways about 10 minutes before the race started, wishing each other good luck. The national anthem was played and then the guns were off. They hold corrals for a minute(?) to give enough space and so I started about 4 minutes back from gun time.
We headed west in the first mile and used the wide expanse of the street to jockey for position, despite the long crawl ahead. I settled into a comfortable pace and just soaked in the sights of the morning. There were spectators lining the residential streets in the second mile and I started to feel warmed up by the third mile. 8:38, 8:15, 8:13
The weather was absolutely perfect. I was very comfortable running in a tank and shorts. Sunny and chilly and just a slight tinge of humidity. I balked a bit at leaving my sunglasses behind as we headed east, but I tugged my visor down and just stared at the mass of shoes striking pavement ahead of me. In town, crowds sipped coffee and held funny signs. I was just cruising at an easy pace. I grabbed a gel out of my sports bra and mushed on. 8:12, 8:09
Mile 6 was one of my favorites of the day. As we headed down Harris looped back around Charlton, we could see the mass of runners in the field. Spectators lined both sides of the streets and I was happy, happy, happy.
By the time I got to mile 10, I knew my pace for the 3:50 marathon was way off if I kept up the pace. I didn't want to bonk, but I was feeling really, really good. I took at gel at 10 and tried to figure out to rein it in for a bit. 7:41
Mile 11 was the last full mile that the full marathoners ran with the half marathoner and I made a point to enjoy the crowds before it became lonelier. As I was finishing up the mile, I latched onto the 3:40 pace group. 7:54
We broke apart from the half marathoners and began to climb onto a highway overpass. It's taken quite a few races to appreciate the tenacity of a lonely highway climb, but I actually liked gritting it out. I tucked in behind the group and then slowly worked my way around as we jostled positions. 8:10, 8:19
I was feel anxious to go faster and when the 13th mile clicked off at 8:19, I decided to just run my own race. I picked up the pace and climbed out of the highway section on my own. Soon, I was playing rabbit and hare with a guy for about a half mile before we ended up running shoulder to shoulder. His encouragement helped me drop the pace back down and it felt GOOD. 7:56, 7:36, 7:47
We started seeing the race leaders fly by in the opposite direction and I was yelling and cheering for them. The energy near Savannah State University was contagious and I pumped my arms up and down as students lined the streets. Every kid that had his or her hand out, I gave it an energetic high five. I found a runner's high at mile 17 and the only thing that hurt was my face from smiling. 7:19
Whoa. Even I knew that there were still 9 miles left and that the marathon will tear runners up in those single digits. So I purposely backed off the pace, but not without realizing I had lost my shoulder running buddy in my excitement. Oops. 7:37
Miles 19-21 looped back with crowds of runners on the right fighting their own fights. Their expressions ranged from dazed and defeated to happy and chatty. I yelled at Marathon Maniacs and continued to share my unconscious dopey smile. 7:42, 7:41, 7:44
Mile 22 looped into a park area and I saw the 3:30 pacer about a minute or so ahead of me. This gave me great encouragement as I knew I had started about 3-4 minutes behind them. With 4 miles left, I could still run 9 minute miles and BQ! 7:43
The course turned out of the confined streets and onto the highway section again on mile 23. The wind whipped wildly around and though it kept the temperature comfortable on the exposed section, it made me fight for the those final miles. But I was so happy to push harder than I had since April that I was ready for the fight. 7:31
Mile 24 was completely on the highway. The zombies I had passed before paled in comparison to the ones I encountered along this stretch. Runners in both directions were spread out and the smiles were few and far between. 7:46
As I crossed over the 25 mile marker, I couldn't contain my elation. Sure, I had run faster before. My PR was nowhere near being touched. But the fact that I had run a marathon a week prior, had been dealing with a wonky Achilles, and was just 6 weeks out from my first hundo, I was pretty ecstatic to lay down a BQ. 7:36
When I came into the finishing chute with the biggest of grins on my faces, I somehow heard Hal yell my name from the sidelines and give me a huge high 5 as I came past. 7:38
I leaped over the timing mat and caught the most air I could muster after 26.2. The last .4 was at a 7:14 pace. BQ 2018, check!
It was such a surprise that it was almost as good as the first time I qualified. The fact that I felt so good and so comfortable the entire race was truly what made it an amazing experience. I had fun and there is nothing I'd rather be doing on a Saturday morning than bopping around with a bib pinned on.