Run Together, Fun Together

group
Some of us, post race; smiles of victory!

The 2016 Honolulu Marathon has come and gone, and, for our running group, it was a great success! Mother Nature, once again, blessed us with a mostly overcast, cool day and, best of all NO RAIN! Thank you, Mother Nature.

As the fireworks sounded the beginning of the race and we shuffled toward the starting line alongside 30,000 other runners, Don and I each had specific goals in mind for our race. After running last year’s marathon in a respectable 5:02:51, I hoped to run this year’s in less than 5 hours. I had in mind a goal of 4:45, but didn’t expect to knock the more than 15 minutes off of my time to make that goal; it was more of a guideline to help me stay under 5 hours.

Starting the race in the dark of early morning is kind of exciting, and the couple of hours before the sun is fully up feel kind of like a head start. I got a little caught up in the spirit of the moment and kept finding myself going above my pace for the first several miles and needing to slow myself down (at one point my watch said I was running a pace of 8:45, who was I kidding?). We wound our way around Waikiki and past the Honolulu City Lights; it was fun to see them lit up for Christmas without crowds of people milling around them, but my favorite part of the whole course was the first trip up Diamondhead. The race crew there was a group of enthusiastic high school kids cheering and high-fiveing every runner who passed by. Their enthusiasm was contagious and lifted the spirits of us runners as we trudged up the hill in the dark. It’s one thing to be up that early on a cold Sunday morning because you’re stupid ambitious enough to want to run a marathon, but it’s another to be up early on a cold Sunday morning just to support people who are crazy enough to run that far. It was great to see their smiling faces and their cheers made it easier to charge up the hill.

I had hoped to be up the hill near Diamondhead by the time the sun was up, and I managed to do it. I felt pretty good, buoyed by the many miles logged in training and the enthusiasm of the onlookers, until about mile 15 when I started to fade. Last year I didn’t eat enough during the race, and it caught up to me by mile 18 where I began to do a lot of

Li Hing Mui: salty, sweet, sour, looks kind of illegal.
Li Hing Mui: salty, sweet, sour, looks kind of illegal.

walking. I didn’t want to do that again this year, so I made the plan to start eating gels earlier and to eat more of them. It’s hard to know exactly what does the trick nutrition-wise (it’s so much easier to know what doesn’t do the trick), but I think having some extra nutrition along the way helped keep the fade from becoming a full-fledged walking spree. I still swear by the lemonade flavored Huma energy gels; they have the least booger-like consistency and the best flavor of any gels I have tried thus far. A friend who is a veteran marathon runner recommended something called Li Hing Mui, which is dried plum with lots of salt, for cramping. I don’t usually get muscle cramps while running (knock on wood), but I do sometimes feel like I need more salt, so I took a couple Li Hing Mui from him the night before the race. They taste really good, kind of sweet, sour, salty and earthy all at once, and at about mile 18, where I really began to flag last year, I had a couple of nibbles to perk myself up.

26-2-miles-of-alohaIt wasn’t until mile 23 that I had to start talking myself out of walking for the rest of the race- five miles farther along than last year! Small victories!- and, as usual, when I started to think about walking, I also started to remind myself that, after this race was over, I NEVER HAVE TO RUN ANOTHER STEP FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Unless, of course, if I want to. People often tell me that they could never run a marathon, that they could never run even 3 miles, and they’re probably right. The hard thing to master about running isn’t the actual putting one foot in front of the other part, it’s the mental part. The talking yourself into doing something that’s hard for increasingly longer distances and amounts of time. The ability to identify a desire to stop versus a need to stop- I wanted to walk at mile 23, I wanted it more than anything on Sunday, but did I need to? Nope. When I finally made it in sight of the finish line, I had to dig down deep to find the power for a strong finish, but I managed to find it partly because I just wanted to cross that goddamn finish line and be DONE with this already and partly because I refused to look as fatigued as I felt.

It was a long, tough race, but it was also a fun race. I worked harder this year than I did last year when my only goal was to survive. It is amazing how much I have learned about running and about myself in the past year; one of the most important things I have learned  how to do is to pace myself so that I don’t go out so strong that I can’t finish my planned route. For this marathon, I had hoped to shave a few minutes off of my time and finish under the 5 hour mark. Despite the fact that I ran the first 10k faster than I’d planned, I still managed to conserve enough energy to finish with a time of….. wait for it….. 4:39:48!

I call this look the "Get outta my way, I see free malasadas" look
I call this look the “Get outta my way, I see free malasadas” look

I really can’t believe that I managed to shave almost 23 minutes off my time, but it made me so grateful that I didn’t walk the last three miles. I think there were a lot of factors that went into making this year’s race more successful than last year’s. The weather was extremely helpful, so were my shoes. As much as I love the lightweight Topos, they just weren’t enough shoe for such a long distance and the Newtons proved to be more cushiony without being too much shoe. I think having had the experience before was also helpful; it’s a lot easier to build on a foundation than it is to start from ground zero, and it’s easier to talk yourself into pushing through the fatigue when you’ve been there before. As always, the running group was instrumental in getting me both to the starting line and the finish line. Misery loves company (which I think should be our group motto since the slogan is already “we run for the hill of it”), and it was great to run into group members out on the course and be reminded that we were all suffering and we were in it together.

While I am glad that the race is behind me, I am sad that the group is on hold for the next couple of months. We’ll start training again in February for the Hapalua half, but it was strange to not get an email with this week’s running workouts on Sunday night, and I felt a bit lonely as I laced up my sneakers (now dry but still smelly) for a short recovery run this afternoon. I’m going to take this break to focus again on making my core and legs a little stronger (read: more ab and leg days at the gym, insert eye-rolling emoji here), do more yoga to increase my flexibility (going for more ballet-dancer and less Tin Man), and sleep in past o’dark thirty on a Sunday morning.

medal

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One thought on “Run Together, Fun Together

  1. Oh my god that is insane- 23 minutes!! Sounds like a really great race, both in terms of organization and your own effort. The mental struggle is real, but crowd support can really lift you up and get you through it.

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