Monday, May 21, 2012

Crash and burn.

Apparently, marathoning is not for everyone.

Here's my recap of the 2012 Rockford Marathon (to be known from here on out as the death march from hell)

I got to Rockford Saturday evening after driving to St. Louis on Friday night for a friends graduation exhibit. (To be discussed another day).  My mom had picked up my packet for me, but it was pretty sparse.  The Tshirt was unisex, so even the small is huge on me, and i probably wont really wear it (but i am picky about most shirts)  The swag included a 5-hour energy knock off and coupons for cigarettes and skoal.  Seriously.
It's Rockford, what can i say.  It was hot on Saturday, which did nothing to ease my nerves.  We went out to eat, but i had to force food in my mouth.  I was so nervous, i hadn't had an appetite all day (which is SO unusual for me - i am ALWAYS hungry.) I laid out all my stuff and went to bed early - As of the night before, it was supposed to be a high of 85 degrees, but very windy in the afternoon.  Not good at all.  I truly felt that on a cool cloudy day i could have run a 4:20 marathon.  I knew that would be impossible if it were to reach 80 degrees.

I woke up saturday, and got ready to go.  I demanded that we go early because i am so sick of running to the starting line.  We got down there at 6:30, and it was already 75 degrees.  Insert sadface.  
There was also a shortage of porta potties, so the lines were insane, and - you guessed it- had to run to the starting line.  (although it was only half a block, and dozens of people were still line for the porta potty!)
I started running with the 10:07 group.  It as a comfortable pace for me.  I talked to another girl for a while name Emily who came from Milwaukee.  The first 5 miles were uneventful.   After mile 5, we ran past my old high school, and then got onto a highway.  That was when the heat first hit me.  There was not a cloud in sight, and all that asphault made it feel like i was running across a frying pan.  we looped around, and at mile 7, i told Emily i was going to slow my pace because the heat was getting to me.  She cut back also, and said she was struggling as well.  At mile 9 i passed my moms house.  She gave me a salt pill and gel, and a freezy pop!  The only problem was they were melting already. (damn you, freezy pops!) That gave me a boost, even though i couldn't believe how bad i felt, and it was only mile 9.  I felt every bit as awful as when i was at flying pig.  Right after mile 9 Emily said she was done, and i was alone.  I talked to random people between 9 - 13, but it turned out every one was doing the half, and i wanted to stab everyone who said "only 2 more miles."  

*apparently, a lot of full marathoners opted out at the half.  I don't blame them.  by 9:30, it had reached 90 degrees,  NINETY DEGREES.  They said the high was 84!  And there was not a cloud in sight.  Full blazing sun.  After the split, it got real lonely.  There weren't many marathoners to begin with, and i think we lost a lot more at the half.  I felt awful at this point.  I don't like to sit in 90 degree weather, let alone run in it.  I threw up a little at mile 14.  I felt so hot and sick.  Luckily no one was around.  There were two people very far ahead on me, and one guy back behind me.  I was half running, half walking at this point, and just trying to make it to 16, where my family would be waiting.  A random woman was bringing out ice cold bottles of water from her house to give to the runners, and i wanted to hug her.  The weirdest part was that going as slow as i was, no one was really passing me.  Everyone was barely moving.
My attempt at "the Kelly pose"
At 16, i saw my cousin Ammanda.  Apparently, my mom and everyone had gotten confused on where to be (which sucks, because she had my salt pills)  Ammanda walked with me through the water stop.  They had a guy there advising everyone to slow down, because the temp had become dangerous (No shit.) They gave me a cup of extra salty gatorade, and refilled my water bottle. There was a two mile loop, and Ammanda said she would see me at 18.  I kept run/walking.  A woman handed me a cup of ice.  "Spectators" stopped cheering and started asking us all if we were ok.  At 18, i saw Ammanda again, and Matt.  He grabbed me a gel and a salt pill, and i told him i was mostly walking from hear on out and that i needed him.  The plan had been to meet me a mile 22 to run to the finish, but it would never happen now.  

And so we jogged a little.  And walked a lot.  Then 30mph headwind started.  Only it wasn't refreshing at all, it was a hot wind. I started to have trouble breathing.  I was so confused and struggling to walk at this point.  All the water stations only had hot water from sitting in the sun.  It was like drinking tea. The 5 hour marathon pace leader was also walking.  It wasn't safe to run anymore.

At mile 22 i collapsed.  I had been staggering for a while, and hearing those weird mechanical sounds that you hear before you faint.  It was just so hot, and i was not sweating at all anymore.  I remember staggering and leaning on Matt, and then laying under a tree.  I just layed there and told matt to get the medics.  At least thats what i was trying to say.  Another woman who was walking her daughter through this death march had a bag of ice and gave me a handful.  i sucked on some, and rubbed it on my neck.  I eventually felt like i could walk again, and was determined to finish this nightmare.

*i would like to point out that when i collapsed, no one paused my Garmin. Assholes.

I staggered on behind the woman and her daughter.  There was another guy who walked next to us for a while.  He was a seasoned marathoner.  I said it was my first, and he responded with "I'm so sorry, i promise you it isn't like this.  I swear, this is the worst it has ever been"  That helped.  A little.  The last four miles just sucked.  We ran through some woods, and it was lonely and scary.  If i would have been alone, and collapsed in the woods, i might not have been found right away.  

The last two miles were in the ghetto.  There was no water.  Even Matt was struggling at this point.  Then i saw Ammanda again.  She had gone home, and been so worried she came back with two giant bottles of ice cold water.  We staggered on.  I ended up finishing with two other people.  The girl whose mom was with her, and another guy whose family was walking with him.  We were all first-timers.  I think thats the only reason any of us finished, because we had nothing to compare this to, we didn't realize how bad this was.  It was 91 degrees at the finish, but the heat index had to be around 95. And to be honest, there were some stretches on the road that literally felt like we were in an oven, and things in the distance distorted from the heat coming off the road.

I don't even know what my time was.  After i crossed the finish line, a woman helped me to the med tent.  She did not pause my garmin either.  I was sat down, and brought ice and powerade.  There was no cheering.  No hugs at the end. No photos.  No people giving me food and telling me great job.  Just being rushed to a medic tent.  I think my time was around a 5:40-5:45.  

In my opinion, this race should have been cancelled.  The few of us stupid enough and stubborn enough to see this through were actually in grave danger, i believe.  I knew this in the second half when people stopped cheering, and started telling us to be careful.  There was not enough water, not enought volunteers, and they were not prepared for this heat.  This wasn't a fun race, it was a sad race.  For the runners, for the spectators.  It was just heartbreaking.  

This race is a complete failure for me, but i really don't know what i could have done differently.  Maybe i should have just stopped at the half and found a different race.  Maybe i should just not try marathoning anymore.  Maybe i am cursed.  Maybe all the global warming stuff is real.

All i know is that this race left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  I still love running.  I actually feel like could do a couple miles after work today (although i wont) and if some day, someone asks me go run 26 miles with them, and the temperature is reasonable, i would enthusiastically be all over it! But i really don't know if i ever want to run a marathon again at this point.  That was a horrible and brutal experience.  

I'm really sorry i don't have a better story for you.  I really wanted to talk about how i ran across the finish line in tears to receive my medal and then drink beers and celebrate, but i was robbed of that experience.  Maybe i am just bitter because wounds are fresh, but this marathon broke my spirit.  I will never ever run a race of any distance in heat like this again.  It's not worth it, under any circumstances, and i am lucky to come out of it ok.  

Marathons are sad.


  1. They cancelled the Green Bay marathon up here after it was going for 2 and a half hours. Many still ran it though and just didn't get an official time. It sort of caused lots of pissed off people because they actually gated off the finish line right in front of people running....but then realized that was just a risk because people were jumping the gates to "finish" the race so the took the gates away. Like you though, there were no volunteers on the course anymore and the people the still completed did so with the help of neighbors and those that lived near the course bringing them snacks and water.

  2. You WILL have your marathon will happen and it will mean so much more to you when you do. Do the Fox Cities Marathon in September :) It's usually cool by then and it's a flat easy course about 3 hours from you :)

  3. i'm so sorry :( my heart is breaking for you. i wish you had stopped at the half, i wish i could have ginger-napped you on thursday after our run so you couldn't have experienced that, and i wish more than anything you'd had a nice cold day to run on.

    i know they say first marathon experiences are rough but this just sounds unreal. i am very thankful that you are ok...

  4. I am so sorry. I think you should do the fox valley marathon. It is September 16. Last year it was in the 50s and rained the entire time. Of course it could be the opposite. I am running the half.

  5. Oh my God! How crazy! Like, literally, this sounds crazy and sounds like it made you pretty crazy. I only ran 11 miles yesterday, and I went super slow and drank lots of water and tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. And I was done by 11:15am. I could not imagine doing 15 more miles on top of that (without wanting to kill myself). But now you have an awesome story. "Remember that time we did the death march through Rockford? And we were literally frying eggs on the street, and my shoes melted off my feet? And then there was a solar eclipse and it was all better?" OK, so you're allowed to embellish a little. And maybe the solar eclipse wasn't until later that evening.

  6. I can only imagine what you were going through! That sounds like an impossible race! I'm so sorry!

    I do love the "Kelly Pose" though. Your marathon experiences can only go up from here, right??

  7. Holy cow girl!! Cowgirl? You are a trouper and deserve some serious rest!!

    I second Kelly's response.. "Your marathon experiences can only go up from here, right??"

  8. I'm so sorry to hear what a horrible expereince this was but you are seriously awesome for crossing that finish line! You have other marathons this year and they WILL be so much better!! Take a couple days break and just run for enjoyment not so much to train for a while.

    I'm SO proud of you!!!

  9. I felt EXACTLY like this after my first marathon as well. It was the very hot and cancelled Chi 2007. I was angry and defeated at the finish and vowed that marathons were not for me.
    Ginger you are totally BADASS for finishing that sucker! It was an effing blast furnace out there yesterday.
    What are the odds you'd have to endure the heat of the PIg and then some again??
    Own the anger and frustration for awhile cuz it all sucks royally. But KNOW that a marathon under different conditions is a whole different animal. My second marathon started with B and ended with oston Qualifier. I highly recommend Grand Rapids in October. Highly.

  10. Wow, I am so proud of you! When reading this I totally thought the story would end when you collapsed. You are a warrior!!!!

    Keep your head up, I know it wasn't the perfect situation and the race didn't go as expected, but you made it through. That, my friend, you should be very proud of!!!!

  11. All I can say is ....AMAZING!!! You should be so proud....

  12. I've been waiting for this all day. I knew it would be bad. I was thinking of you, and another lady running Rockford, all weekend. I've had several CHI Marathon experiences just like this. So brutal. Take a deep breath, things will look better next week. For now, just apprecaite the fact that this monster is in the DONE column, best you can do at this point. So glad you are okay.

  13. Marathons ARE sad and this blog post made me PROUD. Good for you to finish and holy hell, why did you finish? You have a huge pair of balls, girl. I'm glad you survived. Having never done a full and really no desire to, I have mad respect for not only finishing the race but for doing so in such awful heat. Now you can focus on the next race, maybe a measly little 10k? :)

  14. Even though it was a tough race, you finished! And that skirt is super cute. I think it was sad that they didn't have enough cold water and gatorade for everyone. That was a bad deal (and very dangerous) on their part. What I would have done, after doing a hot half marathon a few weeks ago, is that I would have brought a Camelbak full of ice water. The pack is insulated and has kept my water still icy after my long runs in the heat last summer.

  15. So glad you made it through, spite of the horrible experience, your great day is still out there waiting for you. You're definitely a badass!!!!

  16. Marathons are a strange beast. So many variables which get amplified over the 26.2 Im glad you are healthy and made the right decisions. Dont let this one get you down- im sure in the future you will look back at this one and it will be your motivation for one in much better conditions. If you could finish this one, you can certainly kick butt in much more ideal conditions! :)

  17. I'm so sorry you had such a horrible experience. Heat just sucks your spirit away, doesn't it?

    Still, you covered 26.2 miles. That is an accomplishment! Was it smart to continue in that heat? It sounds like you did it as smart as you could with the circumstances you had.

    Maybe you'll do another marathon some day. Maybe not. But don't let this experience sour you on the whole thing. A running coach I had once told me I was allowed to be upset for 24 hours and then I had to move on. It was the best advice regarding running I've ever gotten.

  18. Ugh, I am so so sorry it sucked so bad. The warm water and people not even cheering? WTF Rockford?! At least at Chicago the spectators still stay out and pretend you are not crazy.

    I hope you are resting today and rehydrating and feeling better.

    A few other people have mentioned their first marathon was like this - mine was too - Chicago 2010 - got in to the high 80s and I just felt awful. It sucks that we train so hard and get shit weather - then what was the high today? 65 or some bs? Seriously, you are crazy badass for doing this at all and I am happy you made it through okay! Congrats on your first race even though it sucked! And I know you will do those other two this year and they WILL be better :)

  19. Oh, Sara. I seriously HATE that it was like this for you.

    You are a strong runner. If you decide to go for it again, kow that it'll likely be a completely different experience. I hope you do - you deserve the happy finish line experience!

    Way proud of you - you finished that fucker. Not sure how - but you did it!

  20. Marathons are heart breakers because anything (including awful weather) can happen on race day. You should be so proud of yourself for finishing no matter what your time was. Marathons really aren't that bad so I hope that you will run another one. I agree, where were the assholes to pause your garmin?!Sheesh!
    PS- your race outfit was great, I loved it!

  21. Oh my goodness. I am so sorry that this had to happen! I hope that you're starting to recover and feel better about the whole situation. You finished. You pushed yourself to your limits. You deserve to be rewarded for all of it!

  22. I'm so sorry u had a rough time! My friend was running as her first too. I was helping out. I will write a spectator recap tomorrow!! Great job for finishing. I know it's not what you hoped for. It wasn't for anyone! Do another. I swear it will be better! Can't believe u kept going after collapsing! And I love that you put that cigarette add stuff in there! We noticed it to!

  23. First, I like your blog a lot. All I can say is I am glad you ran a marathon a little later and did it like you wanted. I tried running the Chi Marathon in '07. Now I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, but I would have been able to finish. They called it on us when I was around mile 15. They did not have enough water. Two stations were out and I had to hit a CVS, luckily I had money. It hurt a lot to try and not finish. The whole experience left a terrible taste in my mouth. I gave up running and gained a bunch of weight. Now after a year I am finally back to a good weight and running again. I like to run and hate that I wasted so much time because of a bad race. It did make my smarter though. I have vowed to never race again in the heat. It is killing me though at the moment because I really want to see where I am at, but I won't waste my precious time trying to race in this heat. Sept and Oct will be here before you know it. Keep up the good work.

    1. I'm glad you came back to running! :) I have a feeling all of us will have some good races come Oct! I can barely wait :D

  24. I just came across your blog and had to read this recap since I was there that day, too. And boy did it suck. I'm glad to hear you kept running after that and didn't let that be your only taste of marathoning.

    I had a similar experience in St. Louis. I had trained all winter and spring without a single day above 45 degrees. On the day of the race on April 10, it hit 90. And it was my first marathon. I was probably just a hundred people ahead of the point where they didn't allow the marathoners to keep going and complete the full anymore. So my fate was already sealed to misery on the second half. Finished, but was upset, too.

    Way to keep going!! And glad to know you have such great support!