I’m taking some time to write this while it’s fresh in my mind, and it seems like a good excuse to sit still and let my muscles forget that we ran 42km yesterday.
With the prescribed “night before inspirational movie” still playing in our minds, my family left the house for the train to downtown Frankfurt. The staging area, Frankfurt Messe/Festhalle is huge and it has to be to accommodate yesterday’s 14,513 runners from 108 countries.
I checked my bag and we made our way to my starting corral. Being that it was my first marathon my goal was to FINISH, alive, and with an official time. I had estimated finishing somewhere around 4 hours 30 minutes, so I placed myself in between the pace runners with big balloons denoting 4:29 and 4:44. Prior to the start I even had thoughts of being able to run under 4 hours, but I thought I’d see how I felt before upping my pace. I had run in 15 countries, on 3 continents and regularly trained in the mountains. I was feeling confident.
0KM Race Time 10:10am: Being as far back as I was it starts as a walk toward the starting line, as we get closer it turns to a light jog and then we’re through the starting line and off on uncharted territory. My first observations, there’s a lot of people, I’m glad it’s not raining, but it’s very windy, and I need to pee.
6KM I made it about 6km before needing to make a pit stop near an abandoned building. The 4:44 balloon passed me, but was still within my sight.
After my pit stop I think about how bizarre this whole thing is and imagine race organizers in a meeting saying, “Let’s shut down the roads of our entire city so 14,000 people can run around, pee wherever they want, throw paper cups on the ground, and at the end we’ll give them a medal!”
13KM As I pass through 13km I recognize I’m on the part of the course I ran last year as part of a relay team when I was just at the beginning of my running journey. At this point, I’m also thankful for the strategically placed refueling stations, because I forgot my water on the kitchen counter. There are important things you should bring along when running long distances and water is one of them. It’s also getting very windy as we head southwest out of Frankfurt.
24KM I start up the bridge to cross the river and feel tightness and a small cramp in my left leg and I stop to stretch. I feel much better after stretching. I get underway, but I can no longer see the 4:44 balloon.
27KM Seemingly out of nowhere both legs cramp up, EVERYWHERE. It’s the most intense sustained pain I’ve ever experienced and it’s not going away. My legs are frozen. I wouldn’t have been able to stand, but I’m able to hold myself up on a metal course barrier. I’m so thirsty and after what seemed like an eternity a spectator asked if I wanted something to drink. I’m in so much pain but excited for the bit of relief of some water. I take a drink. It’s chicken broth, but I don’t care. Maybe my legs need chicken broth, anything seems better than nothing. I get to the point where my legs will move again and keep going.
27KM-36KM It’s a 9km combo of short runs until my legs cramp up, walking like I don’t have knees, begging God to make the pain go away, and watching a lot of people pass me. I’m frustrated because I feel good, but my legs won’t cooperate. I’m not sure I’m physically able to finish.
37KM Back in the heart of Frankfurt, it’s thinned out around me and some streets are so abandoned it looks like a scene out of The Walking Dead. Empty buildings, trash being blown around, and people, including me, staggering down the street.
38KM I start to feel my legs loosen up and get back to normal and then I see the 5:29 balloon pass. 5:29! I have to finish before 6 hours to have an official time. I look back to see if I can see the 5:59 balloon. Not in sight, but I start running. Not fully trusting my legs I mimic the shuffle step of the 80-year-old woman who just passed me. I’m going to keep her close and pass her in a triumphant victory in the final “sprint”.
39KM-41KM I’m back to running somewhat normally, I’ve passed the 80-year-old and I can see the turn into the Festhalle.
42KM through the doors of the Festhalle, onto the red carpet, I hear my name over the speakers and I’m through the finish line. My first thought is “I can’t believe I made it.” 5 hours 35 minutes. I’m an hour late, but for the first time in my life, I don’t care.
I find my family, my son proudly shows me his medal for the mini marathon (his first race) and we head home.