Yesterday I ran the Twin Cities Marathon — my 9th marathon and my 4th Twin Cities. It’s a great race in a great city. Though I have to say this every time: The course is HARD. It’s hilly and has a brutal final 10K.
Here it is:
My previous best time at Twin Cities was 3:58, and I ran that last year. My marathon PR was 3:41, and I ran that in January in Phoenix. So my goal going in was to requalify for Boston, which was a 3:40:00, and if that didn’t happen, to at least have a new course PR. I was really worried about the final 10K, where I have traditionally completely blown up.
But I had a lot of things on my side — including decent training, no injuries and a crisp, cool fall morning. The weather was freaking me out a little bit — I wanted to be warm enough at the start, but I get really hot really fast while running. At the last minute, I opted for a super thin long-sleeve shirt, baseball hat, throwaway mittens and my absurdly short North Face shorts I wear in every.single.race.
Philip ran the 10-mile, so we got to the starting line pretty early. He took off (and did great) and then I waited with my brother-in-law to go. I was in a rush to get into my corral, which stressed me completely out, but I got into Wave 1, and immediately saw my friend Owen. I gave him a huge hug — something I’ve never done — because I was just that happy to see him.
Owen is a speedy runner. A very speedy runner — a 2:47 marathoner. But he’s battled a bit of an injury lately, and I thought he might run pretty conservatively. And I wanted to run kind of aggressively. I thought, what’s the point if I don’t go for it, like, really, really go for it? Philip had handed me a 3:35 pace band at the expo, with a kiss, and said to go for it. And that’s how I felt — I want to give it everything and just try to hold on.
Owen and I have run the first mile of Twin Cities together a few times, we both like to start easy, and then he just takes off, and I settle in. This year, I was honest: Owen, I want to hang on as long as I can. And he was fine with that, and we did that whole thing where you remind each other: We’re all responsible for our own race. I’ve raced with friends before, and you run side by side as long as it works out, and when it stops working out, no conversation, just part ways. I’ve never been mad about being dropped, and I’ve never felt guilty about dropping someone. Run your race.
And we’re off (here come the splits):
8:41 Perfect way to start
7:45 Dear god, I’ve never run sub 8:00 in a marathon
8:07 Water stop somewhere around here, where Owen tried to show me how to drink out of the paper cup by pinching it twice, but I just kept dumping it on myself. I usually have to walk quickly and chugagalug.
8:28 I realize I cannot drink like that and have to walk to drink. Owen slows down and we reunite after each water stop — a pattern that would continue through the race.
8:01 Nice and steady.
13: 8:04 and I hit the half around 1:45, not bad at all.
7:44 Owen needs the 15-mile split and acknowledges he is running faster than he ran a 15-mile race a week ago. We think about if that’s a good idea or not.
8:27 Right around here, my quads started screaming. I’d never been that sore that soon in a race. I told Owen, “I’m making a lot of really bad decisions out here.” And I was. But sometimes you think, man, I am so sick of playing it safe. What’s the point?
8:22 Right around here I start to hate myself in my head.
8:32: I took a swig of Powerade around here, and then looked in my cup. Which had a spider in it. Nice.
20 miles: 8:22 — and an elapsed time of 2:42:51. “Hey, Owen, I just set a 4-minute 20-mile PR.” We’re silent, wondering if that is going to be a bad idea. One thing I loved is neither of us was really negative, and I think a few times, for me, anyway, I was really in a lot of pain — I’ve never run that sore for that long and not been injured. But I didn’t want to annoy Owen, and I knew if I started saying out loud how bad I felt inside, it would ruin the race for both of us. Though every time someone said, “Looking good,” I told him they were speaking only to me. That kind of mocking is totally appropriate on the race course.
8:32 Starting to fade. Owen turned to me, and must have known, and said, “Jacqueline, it’s going really well.” Good man. I had started to give up, walked about 10 seconds, then he turned briefly, and I said, “F&*% it, I can blow up on Summit.” And caught back up.
Mile 22: 9:29. I slowed way down. Climbing Summit, where I’ve recorded some brutal splits the past few years.
10:13 Are you kidding me? Really? I ended up seeing Philip and my brother-in-law around here. I threw them my long-sleeve shirt and gloves, which had come off miles ago. “My quads are shot,” was all I managed. Though they did snap this picture:
Thank god I saw them, because it gave me the energy to get moving.
24: 8:58 I told myself to ignore the runners passing me, to look at the walkers, and pass them. Just pass the walkers. I also put my headphones on around 23, just needing a mental break. The first song that shuffled on was a Paul Simon song, not great for running, but a song that is calming to me, “Graceland,” and I think settled my nerves.
26: 8:37 The songs that came on for the end were Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack.” And my favorite Ting Ting’s “That’s Not My Name.” They are lame, but they were perfect for me — they made me laugh and had a good beat.
0.2: 1:38 for an 8:10 pace. As I came around the corner and headed into the long stretch that is the finish, I seriously thought my legs would give out. At this point, my quads screamed with every step down, and some small pelvic muscles felt like they were overcompensating and were actually swollen. I felt like every tiny muscle from my knees to my hips were completely on fire. I couldn’t even look at my watch, because I honestly was afraid if I did anything but forward motion, my legs would collapse underneath me. Then I would think, I hope I can crawl to a BQ time.
Finish: 3:39:16 (my official finish time is 3:39:13). I set a 2:30 PR, and a 19-minute course PR. And, more importantly, I re-qualified for Boston, baby.
Owen finished a few minutes ahead of me, but was still in the chute when I got there. I gave him a huge hug, again, and said thank you. I know Owen, and he’s a competitive guy. And maybe it’s just my ego, but I feel like he was there for me on Sunday, that he did try to help me — and I don’t think I would have made it that fast that long without him. I really didn’t want to disappoint him. Plus he’s just fun to be around.
Here we are after we had our sweats on:
Philip and Tom were right there when I came out of the chute, and I got a huge, “You did it!” from Philip, and a giant bear hug, and it was awesome. “Thanks for all the Saturday mornings when you did solo parenting so I could run,” I told him. That’s where the real work is, not out on the course.
And I think Tom thought it was pretty funny to watch us all try to put our pants on and then stand back up — I still can barely walk 24-hours later.
I know there’s more I want to say, but I’m out of coffee.
Thanks for reading.
And happy running (and Boston-qualifying).