A Long Run Report of the Toledo Marathon

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A Long Run Report of the Toledo Marathon

Another Sue Siragusa race report being restored:

I know when I run a marathon I usually send out a race report that can be quite lengthy. This one is special and won't be an exception. This isn't just a race report but a coming of age story.

You see, 5 years ago I started running. At the time I couldn't even run a mile and only dreamed of being able to call myself a runner. Just like everyone who starts a new hobby I was excited to start but scared that I couldn't possibly run "gulp" a 5k. I'm glad to say that my first 5k (the Hanson's in March) went so well that I signed up for my first half marathon in Disney World (in January). I had my new running friend Argenta, who talked me into this, and some nice folks at the running club from the YMCA to keep me motivated. That summer I ended up running my first big race, the Crim, followed by the Freepress half which was to be the test ride for Disney. All I can say was a runner was born but I just didn't know it.

After Disney, Sarah talked me into running my first marathon. By now the running club had left the Y (all 5 of us) to form a new running club which you may know as the Your Pace or Mine Running Club. That summer we picked up some new members and together we all trained for the FreePress marathon. It was the best summer that I can remember. Training was so new, everyone was so much fun and together we all finished 26.2 that October.

Now marathons can be like a drug. You either can't stand the taste and never want to try it again or you become addicted and crave more.

I think you can guess which way I went.

Flash forward 2 years, over 79 races and 7 marathons including the Goofy Challenge later and I still really didn't consider myself a runner. Sure I ran but I guess I was having too much fun because in my mind serious runners never look like they are having much fun. During that time our running club grew and grew. All these wonderful new people came into my life and with that new goals were born. I became a Brooksie Way group leader (a position I did for those 2 years) and got to see folks that had never run start and finish their first half marathon. I got to see our club members grow in their running, some to greater distances, some to faster speeds and finally some to achieve the holy grail of running, a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I watched my friends learn to except success as well as failure. It was the failures that made the most impact on me. I learned so much about who I am because I got to share and grow with all of them.

Last year while those of our running club were training for Chicago and those Boston times I had very little desire to run Boston. I alway figured I would age into it. After all I am not a fast runner, never tried to be, never really wanted to work as hard as I saw my friends working and to be honest I was so afraid of failure that I didn't think I even wanted to try. I was happy just to run. I have to be honest I did get a little tired of people asking me if I had run Boston. After all for those people who are not into running Boston is just another event you sign up for. Hey if you run you can run Boston right! Ha Ha Ha.

It was at my sons high school cross county meet that I caught the Boston bug. Here were some normal parents. They didn't look any different than me but they were wearing something I began to covet. A Boston Qualifier Jacket. Blue and Yellow took on a whole new longing for me. After all I had the pleasure of being in Chicago when Jen, Argenta and Nora (my club members) got their Boston Qualifiers in what was the hottest, hardest marathon I have ever run. These ladies were such an inspiration and again being honest I was jealous. I wanted to be with them!

Still here I was a turtle of a runner. Happy to just cross the finish line to get to a beer and celebration cigar. Could I really work that hard? My favorite motto is "speed kills" so how could I run a pace so outside my comfort zone for 26.2 miles.

Again, friends make the world of difference! Not only did my wonderful running family tell me to give it a shot, they did everything to help, encourage and support what would be the hardest thing I have ever done. I saw that Kalamazoo had a first time marathon in May and decided that would be my race. To already make this long story longer, after registering, getting great tips on training from Tom and an awesome book that became my lifeline I began training. Two weeks into it I found out that Kalamazoo was not yet Boston Certified. Yikes what would happen if I actually did get my time and it didn't count. Over Bloody Mary's at CJ's other options were thrown out. This again is thanks to my wonderful running family and fantastic husband that I found a new marathon to shoot for.

Enter the Glass City Marathon in Toledo. I'm a big fan of marathon guide.com which has great reviews of races, calendars and links. They gave it 4 and a half out of 5 stars! Only problem was that the date was 3 weeks earlier than K-Zoo. I had to make some huge adjustments with only 12 weeks to train.

If you loved this winter in Michigan, well then you were just sick. I never ever liked to run on the treadmill and rarely shy away from cold weather but this winter really got me. Add to that the new marathon plan that I was following had tons of miles. To give you an idea I was running at least 2 mid to long runs a week and no days ever got below 50 miles (I did top out at 85 before taper). So many miles were done inside and around Stoney Creek that I couldn't wait for spring.

Four weeks ago I hit a huge hiccup. While running on the treadmill I had a sharp and severe pain in my leg. The gal that was running 50 plus miles couldn't complete a mile. I was hurt. I hobbled  to the phone and called Clint Verran. If anyone could patch me up it was going to be him. The verdict was plantersfasitis causing a pre stress fracture the solution was 5 full days off running, inserts for shoes, three heal treatments and no I repeat no speed work. During the three weeks of treatment I began feeling a little better but my speed (which was getting faster) dropped like a lead balloon. I was depressed to say the least. After all I just went through almost 10 weeks worth of grueling miles only to be stopped so close to the finish.

Clint was wonderful. We had a long talk and he used some wonderful zen type knowledge on me. He asked me why I liked to run and why I didn't seem to like it anymore. We came to the conclusion that I just needed to go back to the Sue I have always been. The gal that didn't care how fast she went as long as she got to the end. The runner that looked forward to the run because the real reward was the fun to be had afterward (at breakfast or the pub). The Sue that didn't fit the runners mold yet still showed up to all the races and had a great time.

I finished my training plan by doing just the miles needed. No speed no pressure. My goal of running 4:00:59 (my Boston time) was not in my head the same way. I was going to run the race, race the race with no real hope of getting my time. I was going to do the best that I could and celebrate whatever the outcome. I wanted to do what I had never done before, finish a marathon with nothing left (if you know me I usually dance after I cross the finish line with way more energy than I had the whole race).

After posting my goals other members of the club decided to run the half (and one crazy gal joined me in the full) in Toledo and cheer me in. The pressure was off. We were back to the fun. While I still planned on running hard, even had a plan just in case I was running well I really didn't worry about my time.

Saturday in Toledo was great. We meet and had a great pasta dinner. We talked, laughed and relaxed. The weather for the next day was supposed to be winds at 28 miles per hour with 40 mile an hour gusts. (half of the race at our front, half at the back) It would be 44 degrees but feel like 30. Not to worry after all running is what we came to do and we did train in crappy weather all winter anyway.

Sunday morning John and I meet Irina, Veronica and Jason for a quick breakfast before the run. I had written the time of 3:12:47 on my arm. If by chance I made it to the half point under 2 hours and to the 21 mile mark at 3:12:47 then I would have a chance at my goal time, however if one of those times were off I planned on backing off and walking some so I would still be able to run the Kalamazoo marathon.
Talk about things being off. We got to the start just on time (as a matter of fact Veronica and I ended up jumping out of the car and jogging to the bathrooms, then the start). The winds were just as predicted and it felt more like 20 than 30.

Once we got to the start we separated. I went to my pace group (a suggestion from Deb was to stay with them as long as I could and see what I could do). They had two different pacers. One would run with us until the half and another would pick us up and run the second half to the finish.
I have to tell you I was no stressed at all because hey I really didn't think I would be staying with them the whole way anyway.
The great thing about being with the pace groups was that it felt like running a training run with the running club. We all talked and shared stories. I met some amazing guys and gals over the first 15 miles. It came out that I was trying to run in under 4 hours for a Boston time. I couldn't believe the encouragement that everyone gave me. As a group we all agreed that we would like to push the pace just a little so that we could come in just under 4 hours (3:59:59 was the number on everyones lips).

The pace group was great. Most everyone stayed together up to 20 miles. We lost a few and picked up a few but there were about 10-12 of us at the 20 mile mark. At mile 21 Jennifer one of the gals noticed the clock. I had showed her my arm at the start and she said "Sue do you see that 3:12:47 on the dot" I guess you have to stick it out now. To be honest I hadn't really thought much about the time after the half point. I thought I would be dropping back at any time but now by virtue of a stupid pen mark on my arm I was committed. How could I give up now. By mile 22 we began to loose people. It was hard to see people drop back. When your tired your mind some times over runs you mouth so when a perky relay gal bounced past us I couldn't stop the words bitch from crossing my lips. Our pacer then chimed in "I should throw my GU at her" which added a bit of comic relief that was much needed. At mile 23.5 it was just me, Jodie and George our pacer. I started to slow and drop back. Jodie yelled at me, get up here Sue, come on it's my turn to block the wind, now get up here and draft behind me. (yes we all took turns in the lead with our pacer to block the wind). With a mantra in my head I get back with them but at 24 miles Jodie had had it. She pleaded us to go on and grab that Boston Time for her.

Miles 24 to 26 were the worst 2 miles of my life. Everything hurt. I wanted to cry, to stop, to give up, yes give up even when I saw the 26 mile sign I wanted to stop. George wouldn't let me! He kept on saying I'm not letting you stop, you got this far your going to do it. At the turn going into the stadium (where that wonderful finish line was) stood Joanne and Anna. They waited almost 2 hours to cheer me in!
My motto has alway been if you can't be fast be cute! Well there was nothing and I mean nothing cute about my finish. George was by my side. I remembered enough to give the fist pump I wanted to do and that was it. Every step, every breath was concentrated on getting to that mat. The clock read 4:00:41 a Boston time. I stopped my watch, turned and gave George a big sweaty hug. He told me how proud he was to get me to the finish and to look at my watch. To my amazement my time was 3:59:04! The turtle had done it!

George left and I went right into the arms of John and Irina. The tears and pain all came at once. Suddenly my legs didn't want to hold me, cramps came from my legs and my abs with unrelenting pain. All I wanted to do was sit, but my wise husband and friend walked me around and kept me upright until I was under control of my own body again.

After a change of clothes, a beer and yes a wonderful cigar to celebrate we waited for Veronica. It was so windy and cold! Let me say Veronica is one of those amazing people that has a will of iron. She didn't get to train for this marathon at all, was sick the month before and hadn't been able to run because of traveling for work. She signed up to get Ohio out of the way (yes we are both trying for all 50 states).

Seeing Veronica cross that finish line, cold, tired and successful made me come full circle.

You see it finally came to me. I never considered myself a real runner. Yes I ran but not seriously. Yes I trained but without any real goals.
Yet Veronica is what a real runner is. Running because she can. Running with her heart and not her head (because we all know runners are just a bit crazy). Running to celebrate the gift we have from God that let's us lace up our shoes and put one foot in front of the other, over and over again.

So Now that your eyes are as sore as my legs from reading this I hope you will all look at each run as I do now. It is a gift. It's not the speed, it's not the goal or even the reward of a medal that makes you a runner.

Thank you all for being part of my life and making it so rich and rewarding.
Your all the best.