On Cleveland Marathon morning, I woke up at 4 am and went through my normal marathon morning routine: Put in contacts, put up hair, go to the bathroom, get dressed, apply Bodyglide, eat breakfast, double-check I haven’t forgotten anything (bib, gu, iPod, Garmin). Then I triple-checked that I wasn’t forgetting anything and I went to the bathroom (again?) There was red flag number 1.
I left the house promptly at 4:50am and in the car I could feel my stomach making weird gurgling noises. I thought, “Am I hungry or is that nerves?” I think I even commented that I thought I was nervous or something on the drive in.
For the first time in years I have mastered the drive downtown on marathon morning. Take 90E to E.9th Street, E.9th to left on St. Claire, right on w. 3rd and pull in to the parking lot literally right next to the Cleveland Browns Stadium. Once parked, I sat in the car for a bit acting as bubbly and care-free as I could. Ryan had a stomach bug all week and was nervous about his race and I was trying to put him in a good mood.
Eventually, we headed into the stadium to use the bathrooms and hang out with some friends. Bathroom trip number 3 happened, and there was red flag number 2. At this point I was pretty sure I had caught Ryan’s stomach bug but hoped that it was in the early stages. My plan was to run the race and then take care of the stomach bug when I finished. The stomach bug can wait a couple hours to start right?
My stomach kept grumbling, but I was talking and hanging out with friends, so I kept ignoring it. A little after 6am, we all headed out to take a group picture by the starting line, but before that I had to go to the bathroom…again. And there was red flag number 3.
At 6:30am, I headed into the starting corral, putting myself between the 3:30 and 3:35 pace groups and tried not to think about how sick I was feeling. At this point I was still 100% planning to run the entire race. The gun went off and I walked my way to the actual starting line. As soon as I crossed the starting line I was running. I only saw 1 walker in the area. In years past there were tons of walkers and it was a very frustrating start. This year it was smooth sailing; as soon as I crossed the starting line I was running and that probably means most people lined up according to the right pace!
Before I knew it I was on the Shoreway, I turned on my music and set out for a nice run through my city. “My City”, I own Cleveland, right? I was feeling pretty good; I was enjoying being around runners, and enjoying all the spectators…but I was really thirsty. The first water stop came and I immediately grabbed water (after dropping the first 2 I tried to grab). The water stops for Cleveland were great. Every stop I passed had PowerAde first and water second (I hate when they aren’t all the same). Plus they shouted what they had and even had signs “water second”.
Somewhere after the 5K mark, I was right where I wanted to be pace wise…ok maybe I was going a little fast but not by much. I felt a grumble in my belly and the “Oh my God, I have to go to the bathroom NOW!” I seriously looked around and there were runners and spectators everywhere and I thought “They are all going to see me poop my pants.” At the time, I had no idea where the next porta potty was at but was so happy to see it somewhere before mile 4. There was no line and I was in and out quickly. It was weird because in a training run, I would normally stop my watch because that time wouldn’t count as part of my run. Unfortunately, during a race I couldn’t stop my watch. I was losing time and sitting on the pot.
I can’t believe I am talking about poop in a race recap.
I got out, refused to look at my watch and just wanted to get back into the race. As soon as I started running, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again but not just that, I had actual pain in my stomach. I tried to distract myself, “only 21.2 miles to go”, “you have so many people to look for on the course still”, “complete this and it is marathon number 12″, and “shiny spinning guitar medal”. I was so excited to see people on the course. I felt like I was dying but as soon as I saw someone I was all smiles and waves. It was great to see so many people on the course: Katie, Suzanne, Michelle, Frank, Cory, Katie and my future in laws. It was like a little mini boost of energy. The spectators were phenomenal! Signs, cowbells and cheers. I truly felt like I was part of a parade. Thank you spectators!
Around mile 6, I had to go, again, which would bring us to red flag number… this time I was for real going to poop my pants. I was also feeling pukey. I was praying that there were potties every 2 miles because I knew I was going to need it. I found one and was lucky that again there were no lines. At this point, it started to settle in that I was really sick and I needed to decide how sick I wanted to make myself. Then I remembered that my family was waiting for me at mile 17! Must. Get. To. Mile. 17.
I made my way to mile 10 and had to go to the bathroom again. At this point, I knew I was done; it was just a matter of when to pull out. I was lucky that I knew my way around Cleveland and knew how to get to the finish line to watch Ryan finish. He was aiming to go sub 3 and I figured I could at least watch him finish.
For some reason, I just couldn’t pull myself out of the race. I was super sick and just kept pushing myself and it was getting worse. As I made my way downtown, I had to decide quickly what I was going to do. I don’t know why, but when the half marathoners made the turn to go left and make their way to the finish, I went right with the marathoners. My stomach was cramping and still I kept on with the marathoners. I decided I would stop at mile 13 or 14 and walk back. The crowd would be thinner and it would be less embarrassing to stop there. I was already planning to find someone with a phone so I could call my Mom to tell her I was sick and pulled out of the race.
Just as I am coming up at mile 13, I see Ryan! Wait, what? He shouldn’t be there, he should be running. I was supposed to drop out and watch him finish. I felt like my whole face light up when I saw him. I decided that this would be a good spot to pull out of the race. Mile 12.8. It was amazing that I made it that far.
I feel like it was a sign that Ryan pulled out and was on the side of the road waiting to watch me go by. The stomach bug that had plagued him during the week and the day before proved to be too much for him. If he wasn’t there I would have kept running for another mile or 2 and made myself sicker. What if he wasn’t waiting for me to run by? What if he went to the finish line to wait for me? What if I didn’t know he also pulled out and I went to the finish line to wait for him? There would have been a lot of waiting and worrying where the other one was.
When I pulled out at mile 12.8, I immediately felt guilty, crushed, bummed and let down. I felt guilty that I quit; I stopped running. I felt crushed that I got sick the morning of the race. I felt bummed that I couldn’t run my favorite race and I felt let down that I had so many people waiting for me to finish.
As I made the “walk of shame” back to the finish line area, I took off my bib. I was embarrassed to have on a marathon bib and everyone know that I didn’t finish. It took a lot to not start crying as soon as I stopped. I wanted to really bad, I felt like I had my heart broken.
It got even harder as I saw friends who ran the half and instantly knew something was up and wanted to know what happened. Why wasn’t I running? It was even harder to realize that I had my first ever DNF (Did Not Finish). Still stings to even say those words.
When I got home I kept repeating “I am so bummed” and I was. I hoped that by saying it out loud it would make me feel better. I took a shower and started getting ready; as soon as I finished putting on my makeup I started crying. I sat on the couch and tried to get a hold of myself but the tears just kept flowing. If you know me, you know that it is rare that I cry. Ryan even said that the last time he saw me cry was when he asked me to marry him.
It took me a long time to get a hold of myself and stop crying; there were so many emotions going through me. I received a bunch of texts, phone calls, Tweets and Facebook messages that cheered me up and feel like it was okay that I dropped out. I even received a lot of messages “Wow, you are human.” or “You know you are still incredible.” These things made me smile. So many of them reminded me that the bug will pass in a few days and that I’m lucky that it is a bug and not an actual injury. I’m out for a few days instead of a few weeks.
I think I will always look back at Cleveland Marathon 2013 and feel bummed. I don’t think that will ever go away. I feel like I need to get over this stomach bug and head back out to finish the rest of the race, but I won’t.
In the end, it’s just a marathon. It’s not my first and it’s certainly not my last. There will be other marathons.
I love you Cleveland Marathon. See you in 2014.
— Cleveland Marathon (@clevemarathon) May 21, 2013
They love me too 🙂