At the half, I saw a bunch of friends, again at one of the relay stops. This was a pretty bright spot for me, but it was probably the point where things really started going downhill. I’d looked forward to running this stretch of the race because this was the part that I ran pretty frequently throughout training. During a lot of my super long runs I’d run past the Mile 14 sign and either pretend it was the mile 24 and I was close to the finish line, OR I’d imagine what it might feel like to be cruising past the sign on race day loving life like I was around that mile marker at the Shamrock.
Unfortunately, this time I was NOT loving life. My stomach felt really full and I tried to drink water or gatorade and eat gels but it just made me feel like a tubby sloth. I kept trucking along hoping that somehow I’d get a second wind closer to the end of the race (mile 19 was one of my fastest at the Shamrock) and looked forward to seeing more friends along the course.
And see more friends, I did! This was amazing and what truly made the day something special and worth remembering. One of my best friends (and neighbors) waited outside our place to wave at me. I remember thinking “how unique is it that I could literally stop and use my own bathroom at this race?? That never happens”. I also ran into a few other people, including my friends Amy and Jason and their daughter, who had some clif bloks ready for me since I mis-calculated or mis-read where the gu was on the official course.
My condition started to really deteriorate after that. I was physically hurting pretty badly and I was also basically barfing/spitting up amber colored liquid that tasted of stomach acid. I was almost to Mile 20 where my friend Kelsey was waiting with my canned bio freeze when Cortney (who is a dear sweet angel and life saver) caught up to me. I knew I was running pretty slow and I figured at some point she’d catch me and it was almost a relief when she finally did. Her team was running a bit behind me (I beat them to both prior relay exchanges) but Cortney is pretty fast so I knew she would probably catch me since I had slowed considerably since I’d seen her waiting to start back at the halfway point.
At this point, I was seriously contemplating quitting and seeking medical attention. I’d toughed it out for over 20 miles and my stomach situation was pretty terrible and my legs were hurting pretty badly. I was feeling super light headed and weird too. Everything seemed way too bright and I was feeling faint. I really felt no shame in giving up since I had fought so hard already but Cortney took over and ran with me, even continuing on after her leg finished and she had handed the tracking device over to her husband who was the last runner of their relay. Her determination filled in for mine, which had completely evaporated somewhere along the way. She took the option of quitting off the table.
Cort and I ran together a lot throughout training and many of those miles were filled with tons of chatting and conversations about all kinds of things, but as we trucked along slowly from miles 22-26, we stayed pretty quiet, both of us in a lot of pain.
I was a mess. Whimpering, sniffling, complaining. “I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” I moaned. “You will,” Cort said “I’m not going to let you quit because you would hate yourself if you did”. She’d planned to run with me for a while to keep me going, but at a certain point we both realized she had to finish with me because she was already too far away from her car and the only thing left to do was make it to the end.
We continued to run in silence. It took a lot of effort to just keep moving so making conversation was pretty tough. Running through downtown Newport News would ordinarily be pretty freaking bleak, but this day it was downright miserable with the wind picking up and our bodies screaming for rest.
Eventually we turned a corner and there was the home stretch. Quite a distance away (but still within my very poor eyesight) I could see the end of the road where we’d finally turn right to make our last sprint to the finish. Knowing the end of all this pain was near gave me that bit of extra energy I needed to push myself a little harder toward the end. Cortney and I separated somewhere around here so when I finally made that last right turn and began to approach the finish line, I was alone again.
It was such a surreal moment to finally be finishing. I was WAY behind my target time (like 34 min behind my big goal and 18 min behind last year’s PR) but I wasn’t even mad. I was raging at the end of Richmond, completely furious with myself and my body. But here at the finish line of the One City (finishing so slowly my boyfriend and friends were concerned I might have been in the back of an ambulance somewhere) rather than being mad, I was strangely calm and just relieved to be done. And also slightly frustrated because a relay runner who was just kind of casually jogging along ran right between me and all of the friends who were waiting on the right side of the finish line barrier so I literally never got to see any of them. It was not the finish I’d imagined for myself at all.
But I made it. And in true Katie style, I put the last of my energy into a sprint across the finish line.