Running alone in a massive sea of runners is a high like no other. I can’t express how helpful it was to have my mom running that first mile with me. It took my mind off of how long the rest of the race was and stifled my excitement. A large part of my struggle running long distances is the mental part of it. Being a Virgo, it’s a large part of my personality, this over analytical and obsessive nature is something I struggle with daily. So, thankfully with mom’s help, I was into mile two before I knew it.
Around mile 3, I was running down Park Blvd. near the San Diego Zoo. In the middle divider was scattered Team In Training fans and supporters. They carried with them signs and pictures of all ages of cancer survivors. I don’t know if it was the photos or the cheering or the fact that it was race day, but I nearly lost it. I tried to focus on my breathing and running as I wiped away a few tears and continued on my way. It was a small taste of the emotions to come later.
Around mile 5 and 6 we were rounding through downtown on Market Street. It had been relatively downhill getting there and I was feeling good, with one exception: despite my bathroom stop before the race started, I still had to find an outhouse! I contemplated running into a mini-mart on one of the side streets of downtown. But I am so self-conscious that I thought everyone would be watching me. Starting, pointing and laughing at me. I couldn’t handle that.
I ran, but merely from muscle memory. I was on auto-pilot, with one goal, find a restroom. Nearly, 20 minutes later, heading out of downtown and onto the 163 highway I saw them. About 5 outhouses in a row off to the side, and with no line! It was like winning the lottery. I was so happy. I probably cut 100 people off as I ran the most direct path to them. And let me just tell you, it’s not a comfortable thing, trying to rush in the middle of a race, in an outhouse, with the assumption that people are waiting for you outside. Let me also tell you, everyone else there is in your position and they aren’t thinking about you.
With that out of the way, I headed out of downtown and merged onto the 163 highway. Like most people, I had never had the opportunity to run on the freeway. Let me tell you a little something about freeways. They have absolutely no give and you have no idea the angle that most of these roads are on. The first mile on it wasn’t so bad. The second mile was torture. It was mile 9. It was uphill. And looking back on it now, this is where I hit the wall (well the first one at least). I don’t remember too much of that stretch, but I remember my legs cramping, my shins burning and wishing that they would just fall off to relieve my pain. There were a few moments where I thought I was going to have to stop running and walk… these thoughts kept me picking one foot off the ground and placing it in front of my body. I never stopped to walk. Though many did. And it was tempting. Then, God smiled down on me and mile 10 was downhill.
When I hit the off ramp of Friars road, at mile 11, I was ecstatic to be off the highway. I picked up the pace a tad and looked out for my parents. It’s where our hotel was and I knew they would be out there with some outrageous signs of some sort. There they were, at mile 12, right in front of the Fashion Valley Mall. The sign read: “Go Yvonne! Go Beaner!” (It’s a long story…. short version: I am tiny, Mexican and love me some frijoles).
I got through mile 12 and 13 fairly easily. I was half way done. It was 8:30 AM and already 75 degrees out. So, I decided to dump a cup of water on my head to cool off. Then my left headphone went dead. That’s when I realized I had just poured water all over my new headphones and shuffle and probably just ruined them. I was going to have to run the last half of the marathon sans music. I had never run without my music. I started to panic. I tried to run and pat dry the one headphone that was not working. Stuck it back in my ear and…. nothing. Oh well, at least one was still working. And I only have 3 more miles to get to Amber who was going to jump in and run the last 10 miles with me.
Little did I know what was waiting for me along the straight and flat road otherwise known as mile 15.