Good morning, my dear bloglettes! So, if you have read my Blogspot-hosted blog, which I’m transitioning over to be hosted by WordPress at this URL, I ran the Savannah full marathon last weekend.
Savannah was …. an adventure!
I arrived mid-day on Friday and took a cab to the expo on Hutchinson Island. My first impressions? What a gorgeous city! After picking up my race packet and perusing the overpriced running merchandise they were hawking — I only caved once and spent $2 on a 26.2 sticker, thankyouverymuch — I took a ferry across the river to historic downtown Savannah.
Check out these beautiful old cobblestones!
Savannah really was a lovely city. Here’s a cute little old building I found.
There was an old timey candy shop inside — I was good and didn’t get anything. It was all basic pasta and other high carb foods for me that day.
After a very restless night of waking up every hour or so, I finally got up at 4 o’clock, feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. My hotel technically served the free breakfast from 6 o’clock to 10 o’clock, but because there were so many marathoners staying there, they were gracious enough to put food out around 3 o’clock. I grabbed my much needed coffee, slathered my bagel with peanut butter and honey, and tried to calm my nerves with a New York Times crossword puzzle while I ate.
I slipped on my running clothes, pinned on my bib, fastened the d-tag to my shoe, and quickly applied some of my favorite pink semi-matte lipstick for that extra little something. On the shuttle to the start line, I met a new friend who was running her first half marathon. We chatted all things Disney, and I told her I’m planning on doing the Dopey Challenge in 2017!
When the shuttle dropped us off in downtown Savannah, it felt like a scene straight out of a film. Foggy, dark, mist in the air, the hint of streetlamps shining off of the Spanish moss hanging from all the trees. Sounds like the perfect backdrop for a cozy mystery novel — except for the DJ blaring “Uptown Funk” and the plethora of porta-potties, lol!
I went to the bathroom one last time, munched on a banana, and sat down to finalize my music playlist. The hour and a half wait went by surprisingly quickly, and I nervously stood in my corral as I heard the announcer releasing the corrals in front of me. It was a BIG race — 21,000 runners — so it was a good 40 minutes after the wheelchair participants started that I even saw the start line. I started smack dab in the middle of the pack, so I can’t imagine how much longer the corrals behind me had to wait.
When it finally came time for my corral to be released, I crossed the start line with a sense of awe and disbelief. Was it just the nerves or the excitement or the lack of sleep that was making the whole thing feel very surreal? A few miles in, I settled into my race pace and felt good. The sun was fully risen, and the fog was starting to lift.
Oh, and it was hot. Capital H-O-T hot. I’m from the deep south, so I know heat and humidity. I spend a great deal of time training in such conditions, so thankfully it didn’t bother me at all. I simply drank more Gatorade than usual, kept a salt packet on hand, and slowed down my target pace by about 15 seconds. I’ve fainted from the heat before, so I know how to listen to my body and take care of it during conditions like these. But unfortunately there were many runners yesterday who either weren’t prepared for the extreme heat and humidity, or whose bodies for whatever reason weren’t able to keep up yesterday.
It was around mile 4 I think that I saw the first ambulance. I was crossing an intersection, and the ambulance was barreling towards us, sirens blaring. As I sprinted through the intersection to avoid being hit by the ambulance (oh, the irony), it finally occurred to me that the ambulance was coming for a runner, and that’s why they were driving through our course. A couple of miles later, I heard another siren from behind. All the runners on the street started running to the left of the road, so that the ambulance could pass us. This time I saw who it was for — a young woman with an oxygen mask on her face, lying on the sidewalk with medical staff around her, waiting for the ambulance.
At this point I really started getting scared. I mean, I knew it was hot, and I knew it was humid, and I know that runners have to be extra careful in such conditions, but it’s very frightening to see it with your own eyes every couple of miles. I mentally tuned into my body even more, forcing myself to drink more Gatorade (but not too much, because over-hydrating is also very dangerous) and take a GU earlier than planned. I also recalculated my interval plan to include more walking breaks. I knew I would finish in plenty of time, so finishing slightly slower was not a big deal if it meant staying healthy and safe.
Around mile 12, the course split the marathoners from the half marathoners, and the pack thinned out greatly. To be honest, I was so concerned seeing people collapsed on the sidewalk every few miles that I don’t even remember if we were running through scenic neighborhoods or not. Miles 12 through 13 were brutal. It was mostly uphill, on the on-ramp to some major highway, and it felt like said highway was going on forever. By this point there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the sun was beating down on the pavement, with no cover from Spanish moss anymore, and no spectators to cheer us on. I walked. Briskly, but I walked. I told myself we’d be off the highway soon, and that I could start running again once it was shaded and flat.
Somewhere along the highway I passed an aide station handing out frozen sponges. Boy was that amazing!!! I squeezed the sponge over the back of my neck, patted it all over my face and legs, grateful to have something cold in my hands. I vaguely recalled the outline of the full marathon course, and knew that we would be doing an out-and-back loop through the southern part of the city before coming back along the highway around mile 23. On my right, I saw a blur whizzing past me in the opposite direction — the top male finisher already back from said loop. Then the second male. Then the third. Then the top female finisher. They were an amazing sight, and quite an inspiration!
Then, I saw more and more runners coming along my right in the opposite direction. Except, they were either jogging slowly or walking, and all had bibs that indicated much slower corrals. “Dang,” I thought to myself, “they entered the wrong corral! Either that or they went out way too fast and are having to walk now because they hit the wall.”
Never did it occur to me that maybe there was another reason I was seeing so many slower-corral runners apparently already at mile 24, while I was keeping up a decent clip and was only at mile 13.
Then I saw it. A line of police and race officials, waving their hands at us to turn around. Confused, I took out my earphones to hear what they were saying. They were diverting the course due to the extreme conditions. What?! Disbelief set in. How could they do this? We signed a waiver. They can’t get sued or held responsible. (Believe me — I’ve run MUCH hotter and more humid half marathons where they planned so poorly for the weather and ran out of water, and they were not liable for anyone’s medical problems as a result, since we all signed waivers).
I was confused. I was shocked. I was mad. Here I had been training for months for my first full marathon, and I had just been told, “Nope, not happening.” But, I quickly turned my attitude around. First, I told myself, there must be a REALLY good reason they made this decision. (And, sadly, there was — there were so many collapsing runners that they were running short on EMTs, and two runners even died, I later learned. It truly was for our own safety, which I do respect.). Also, I reminded myself that this was not a reflection on me. I wasn’t a failure, I hadn’t quit. I did my best to run a full marathon, and I still finished strong running across that finish line even though I only got to do 16.2 miles instead of 26.2. What mattered is that I gave it my best, didn’t quit, stayed safe, and crossed the finish line feeling strong. What mattered is that I had my health, I was very fortunate not to be one of the victims of the extreme conditions yesterday, and I have many more marathons I can run one day.
So, yeah, Savannah was an adventure. I feel grateful for my health, I feel proud of myself for not giving up and still running across the finish line, and I feel determined to run a full 26.2 race in the near future. We can do our best to work hard and excel, but sometimes there are things outside of our control in life that thwart our plans. And that’s OK. It’s how we deal with it that shows our strength.
In spite of the unexpected adventures of the marathon, I am proud to say I did my best, and I was happy to wear the marathon medal around my neck afterwards, knowing that I will persevere and run a full distance race soon enough.