Through the Wall

Two weeks ago I ran the Portland Marathon, and it’s taken me this long to make my peace with it. Despite all my training and planning, the race didn’t go as I intended. By most measures, the race was not a success — I started too fast, I didn’t pace myself for the heat, and I let that awful negative voice creep in.

The first 15 miles were incredibly strong. I was loose, I was motivated, and I was annoyed by the chatty runners at my usual pace so I kept pushing faster and faster to get out of earshot. At the half marathon mark, I was on pace to shatter my PR by almost an hour. I kept pushing as hard as I could.

And then there was the St. Johns Bridge. The beautiful, iconic, takes-almost-two-miles-of-running-straight-uphill-to-get-there St. Johns Bridge. The beginning of the end St. Johns Bridge.

I wasn’t going to be able to keep my fast pace no matter what, but not up that hill, and certainly not on an unseasonably hot 80 degree day. So I had to walk. I made it to the top and crossed the bridge, but I didn’t have much left in the tank with nine long miles to go.

The next few miles were slower, as I alternated running and walking in two minute intervals. It wasn’t pretty. I was weak. I was dizzy. I was furious at myself for not just ignoring the chatterboxes and staying at a pace I could maintain.

And then I hit The Wall. Runners often talk about The Wall, and I can assure you it is not a myth. The Wall is real, and she’s a stone cold bitch. Any arrogance or vanity I had going into the marathon was sufficiently humbled at mile 21.

The last few miles were as dark as any I’ve ever completed, but I kept going. Even at my lowest point, I never once considered quitting. I would have crawled to the finish if I had to.

Though race itself didn’t go as well as planned, the overall experience was a resounding success. Training gave me the discipline I needed to gain control of my ugly vices, and take ownership of my health and sanity. I’m not thrilled with my performance on October 5, but I’m quite proud of the work that got me there.

It’s too soon to say if I’ll ever run another marathon. Part of me wants another chance to get it right, but part of me doesn’t want to put my body through that much pain again. For now, I’m doing my best to relax and recharge.

26.2 is more than enough.

4 thoughts on “Through the Wall

  1. Hi Kate! Congrats on your Portland Marathon finish! I had heard that St. John’s Bridge was the hardest part of the race, but I didn’t realize what people really meant was that the gigantic climb up to the bridge is the hard part. When I saw the incline up I just had to laugh because otherwise I think I would have sat down and given up.

    Funnily enough, I actually think the worst part was from mile 18 on where you’re just trudging along with the merciless sun beating down on you with no where to go for shade – even though it’s a steady decline it is awful with that sun!

    I feel exactly the same as you – not happy with my race day performance, but happy with the training that got me to the finish line!

    1. Thank you, and congratulations to you, too! YES, the sun was absolutely brutal. Who would have guessed that an October day in Portland would be so hot? No matter how tough it got, we can be proud that we pushed through and crossed the finish!

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