Cleveland Marathon 2013

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?

Hanging out with friends inside Browns Stadium
Hanging out with friends inside Browns Stadium

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.

Starting line pic
Starting line pic

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”.

Runners on the shoreway from Cleveland.com
Runners on the Shoreway from Cleveland.com

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.

Still Going
Still Going

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.

@mojamala2 Hope you feel better soon! 2014 #CLEmarathon is YOURS!!!

— Cleveland Marathon (@clevemarathon) May 21, 2013

They love me too 🙂

23 thoughts on “Cleveland Marathon 2013

  1. As hard as it was, you definitely made the right decision to pull out. And you might be even braver for talking about poop in a race recap. You and Ryan will have plenty other races to conquer – we all know this won’t be your last CLE! p.s. great seeing you both on Friday night.

  2. I can’t imagine the emotions you are going through, but no one can blame you and your man for stopping. I can’t imagine running and having to stop that often for bathroom, I give you both so much credit for making it as far as you did. And as for the pre-race red flags, I am so jealous that going to the bathroom multiple times before the race is not normal for you… I still have to do that, It’s a red flag for me if I DONT go at least 3-5 times before.

    Your city really did put on a great race. I LOVED that the water stops were consistent and marked well and organized, best I have ever seen I think. It was cool to tour Cleveland on foot and see things, it really is a cool city, must be even cooler to live in it.

    I’m happy you are running it next year, redemption will be yours!

  3. That is so tough! Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to have the race you trained for, but you did the smart thing, which is sometimes the hardest thing.

  4. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I won’t pretend to understand the emotions involved in a decision like this, but I know that you made the right call. You didn’t quit, you were overcome by a health issue. We all know that you would have crushed that course if you had been well! Despite careful planning, training and learning from experience, life will always throw us curveballs. The friends that commented that you’re human are spot on! You did what you had to do and I respect you more for being so open about it!

    Also, I love that you take such pride in our city! 🙂

  5. Every athlete knows what it’s like to compete under crummy conditions, be it weather, mental fatigue, or physical duress. But adversity makes one stronger and you’ll be better for your experience (but it sure sucked while you were living it!). How do we know?

    Ask any athlete about that pleasant run/bike/row etc. a couple of years ago on the easy course when the weather was beautiful and the competition was soft. Guess what, they won’t remember a damn thing . . . .

    But the run/bike/row when the weather was for shit and the course was gawdawful? That athlete will be able to tell you every excruciating detail. And so it will be for you! Seeya next year!

  6. Hi. I follow Ryan on Twitter (I’m @SQLRunr), and have been running marathons since 1987, and have completed around 50, including 3 50Ks and 1 50M. I’ve also DNF’d 5 or 6 times. It’s important to listen to your body and make the decision that will be best for you in the long run. There will be other races, and your best running is yet ahead of you. In fact, I’m pleased that you did drop, both for your own sake and as an example to others that it’s ok to drop when something’s wrong, and something was wrong. You could have put your life at risk by continuing.

    Best of luck on your upcoming marriage, and enjoy this great Cleveland summer coming up!


  7. So So sorry to hear about the DNF, I wondered what happened to you. I thought I was in 3:30 shape if not 3:25 or better. Following plan to pull away from 3:30 group at 14 miles I dehydrated and cramped severely around 8 and walked way too much down that long St. Clair stretch. A friend Karen from Second Sole pushing a wheeler for Charity came up and passed me at 25 and I couldn’t even get myself ot run with them. Any finish is good finish!.3:57..not a PW.

  8. I’ve had my fair share of DNFs for one reason or another and I know exactly how disappointing it is and how hard you can be on yourself. Just have to know it wasn’t the norm and it was out of your control. Look forward to that next race and prove those demons wrong!

  9. So sorry to hear and hope you’re feeling better. That stomach bug is awful and to have it while running… I’m amazed you ran as far as you did!

  10. I am so sad for you! I know how you feel and completely understand the disappointment. I also had to drop out of the full in Cleveland this year because of a stupid foot injury that I’ve been ignoring since before the Athens Marathon [yes, we creepily run a lot of the same races and I see you everywhere!]. I ended up having to finish with the half marathoners to get to my bf at the finish line. I was limping, wearing the full marathon bib, and crying. I feel your pain!

    On the bright side, you made the best decision for your body at the time and that’s what is most important. I hope you feel better soon and I know you will crush your next marathon when you are finally healthy!

  11. This is one of the best race recaps I have read. I don’t know what it is but I think it’s just that you wrote this in a very heartfelt way that came through when I read it. I agree with everyone that I’m sorry to hear you had to pull out but it was the best decision. Cleveland will always be there. It’s important to treat your body right so YOU can be there!

  12. So sorry that you got sick! But as has already been said, you handled it well & did what was best for you, and that’s what really matters! You’re still awesome… I can’t even imagine running almost 13 miles (yet) but I look forward to that in the future! I hope you feel better soon!

  13. Really sorry that you weren’t feeling great on the day, but as per the texts you received…You are only human! And pulling out at least meant no-one saw you poop your pants! 🙂 There will be plenty of other races that you will enjoy running because you won’t be panicking about your stomach and where the nearest loo is!
    Hope you’re feeling a bit better now.

  14. Oh Jess. This was a great recap. It is good to know you’re human and these things happen. You are such a fighter! I’m so glad I got to see you in action and can’t wait to continue to hear about your running- you’re keeping me pumped up for my half in October!

  15. Logo,

    Excellent post. It was clearly difficult to write, but you’ll be glad you did it when you read it again after next year’s marathon. I’ll share two thoughts:

    This was my life from Summer 1999-Spring 2006. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease during the summer before my sophomore year of high school, and spent every waking moment for the next 6 3/4 years worried about where to find the closest bathroom. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has, for the last number of years, been active in promoting its Team Challenge series of half-marathons and triathlons. More information is available here: http://www.ccteamchallenge.org/ . I suspect that your story would resonate deeply with those in training for Team Challenge, and I urge you to share it with the NEO Chapter.

    Also, the water stops looked totally different by the time us slow pokes got there ;). Pittsburgh offered much longer stops (still with Gatorade and water clearly divided) with stations on both sides of the streets. We can chat about it over a beer soon!


  16. It sucks that you were too sick to finish this race but on a positive note…You are obviously a rock star on the road. Your blog highlights how awesome you are (even though that’s probably not your intention). I think it’s great that you wrote about your situation in such detail because your story encourages people to listen to their bodies. You did what was best for you then and in the long run. And you ran 12.8 miles while sick!!! That’s pretty freakin awesome!!!!

  17. so sorry you got the stomach bug and were not able to finish. but you are right, its only one marathon. and you truly are one awesome runner. you are such an inspiration and were such an encouragement to me. i looked for you at each race over the training and often times i would see you while you were in the home stretch but you always had a smile and a wave for me. its runners like you that have welcomed me into the community & that make me damn proud to say along with you “i am a runner.” hope you are feeling better. xoxo.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear about your race :(I think you made the right decision to pull out. You couldn’t help that you were (hopefully not anymore) sick and there isn’t a point in making yourself sicker. Hope you are feeling better!

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