(this is a continuation of a prior entry – click here to read part 1)
Mile 12 – Mile 21
We stopped at a nutrition station that I had erroneously thought was a halfway marker (turns out it was more like mile 12). Stretching ensued, along with changing of socks and munching on the peanut butter sandwiches that I’d made for us before we left in the morning. I felt refreshed, and I hoped that things would improve. At this point, I strapped on my headphones, hoping that the sounds coming from my freshly loaded iPod would distract me from any further discomfort and get me walking on a rhythm. By the time we made it to the lunch area setup somewhere in mile 14, I was hobbling. The pain in my left leg was astonishing and nearly crippling. I limped my way to the medical tent, but they told me that they couldn’t dispense any medication. Fortunately, an angel of a walker overheard my plight and offered me as many as I would like from her bag of ibuprofen. I took three from her, thanking her profusely, and moved slowly and carefully up the hill through the lunch tent to grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
By now, my spirits were considerably lower. I was focusing on using my breathing to get me through, because the walking was so painful. About 45min to an hour after we left the lunch tent, the ibuprofen had kicked in and nearly completely removed the pain in my hip. The pain in my knee remained, but it was dulled slightly. I could walk, but I didn’t have much of a head of steam anymore.
Oddly, Heartbreak Hill and the other hills of Newton, MA, were no particular trouble; I think the change in gait that was needed to propel me up the hills was enough to give my hips and knees a rest from the repetitive stress of doing the same movement over and over again on the flat distances.
When we made it to the end of mile 21, we were astride Boston College, a former stomping ground of mine from my Masters degree days. And this is where I hit the wall.
Mile 21 through the finish
I sat down to stretch at the next-to-last nutrition station, on the side of the campus, and I realized that getting up was going to be a lot more difficult than I thought. DH was ready to continue walking, although by this time he was tired and not feeling 100% either. I paused for a moment. I could either stop right there, giving in to the fact that I didn’t think I could take another step, or I could ignore that feeling, will my feet to move and see what happens. I chose the latter option.
Once I started walking again, I realized that I was getting small blisters on my feet. They were nothing compared to what I’d endured in those bad sneakers during my training, but they were adding more annoyance to the journey. Add to this the fact that the ibuprofen was wearing off prematurely, and I was moving only based on sheer will. Since this is a walk that’s done on sidewalks (no roads are closed for the walk), we were required to stop at every red light that we came across. Early on, this was no big deal, but when you have only minor momentum and you’re five miles from the finish, every little stop is a small attempt at defeat, chipping away at your resolve and your ability to keep the head of steam going.
Every mile marker was an inspiration, begging us to keep moving. By the time we were coming into Kenmore Square, a mile away from the finish, we were both moving slowly…but still moving. Coming down Boylston Street didn’t give me nearly the victorious feeling I expected, until we were crossing Dartmouth Street from the Boston Public Library into the chute to the finish line. It was amazing. It was impossible. We had finished.
After the race, we sat on the grass and stretched for a while. Then, hoping we had enough left in us to get there, we limped our way back up Boylston Street for the block it took to get to Marathon Sports, where I bought the two of us “26.2” stickers for our cars. I so badly wanted to earn that sticker, ever since I first learned about the walk, and I was going to use whatever energy I had to get it.
We then gingerly made our way back to the car (parked in a garage a couple of blocks away), and I drove us home. We hadn’t really considered whether or not either of us would be able to drive after the race, and I was truly grateful that my LEFT leg was the one that was tweaked and that I drive an automatic transmission car. If I had a manual transmission, getting home would’ve been one tricky proposition.
We drove home, tired, incredibly sore, and very happy to have finished it. And that’s where we got to the part we hadn’t bargained on, the hill we hadn’t anticipated climbing: what happens AFTER you do a marathon.
Next up: Recovering from the marathon