The 3:30 am wake-up call last Sunday morning was a bit jarring. But nerves mixed with excitement propelled me out of bed and my dad, Nick, and I got ready to catch the bus that took us to the starting line. We ate a small breakfast on the bus of granola, fruit, and chia seeds (recommended by the Tarahumara Indians in Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run. It’s a really fun read, and based on how the marathon went, the seeds may have actually worked).
We had to take the early bus because by the time we got to the expo the day before, where they passed out the tickets, that’s the one that still had space. The race didn’t actually start until 6:45, so we had some time to kill. Runners huddled along the sides of the buildings in an effort to get out of the breeze. We sat down and tried to keep warm. Around 4 am, my dad went out on a scoping mission—he came back a few minutes later, whispering, “Quick, come with me!”
He led us to the Safeway that had just opened its doors—hundreds of runners were pouring in the stay out of the cold. People lined the aisles: sitting and chatting, lightly stretching, inspecting the foods, reading the gossip magazines. The lucky ones got there early enough to occupy the few plastic yard chairs they had on display. I couldn’t stop laughing!
The time went faster than we thought it would, and soon we had to briskly walk over to the starting line. They had different corrals for different predicted finishing times. Although when I started training I had an idea that it would be cool to run Big Sur fast enough to qualify for the prestigious Boston marathon, I got busier and didn’t train as much as I would have liked to—I thought that I was going to be kind of slow. “What do you think, corral B?” my dad asked (corral B was fro 4:00 to 4:30 predicted finish). But, almost on a whim, I said, “no, let’s go for A instead!”
At that moment I set the goal to run it under four hours. I started out feeling great—there was so much excitement and energy coming off from the other runners. My dad split off after the first mile or two to go at his own pace, a little faster than Nick and I. But as we kept running I felt increasingly motivated by the views of the Pacific beside us and the crowds and musicians that cheered us on from the sidelines. Big Sur is notorious for being a difficult, hilly course. But, to me, the up-hills felt tough but doable, and they were totally worth it for the speed I picked up going back down them.
I kept on going, still feeling surprisingly good. I must admit that I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of those energy gels—they’re just so artificial. But I used them for the first time on this race, and they truly are amazing. As soon as I started to feel like I was lagging a bit, I just pulled another one out and it gave me an instant burst of energy. I had five or six over the course of the race.
Around mile ten I caught a glimpse of my dad ahead of me. I smiled and made it a goal to catch up with him. Luckily I was on a downhill section, so it didn’t take me too long. It was really fun to run with him. I kind of expected that he would pass me again, or at least that we would continue to run together, but he told me to go on if I was still feeling good. A part of me was worried that I was going to crash before the end, but I was still enjoying myself so I kept going at the ~8:11 pace I had been running.
The rest of the race went surprisingly fast. At mile 21 they handed out fresh strawberries that tasted sweeter than I thought a strawberry possibly could. Around mile 23 I started to slow down quite a bit, but I knew that I was so close, that it would almost be over. Approaching the finish I tried to sprint, but my muscles spasmed and cramped up, so I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted to. I crossed the finish line at 3:38:15, beating the Boston qualifying time for my age group/sex by two minutes! I finished 4th out of the 71 other women in my age group, with an average pace of 8:20 minutes/mile.
It was a really great run, and I’m so glad that my dad came up to run it, too, after having run the Boston marathon only two weeks before. A fun weekend!