I want to end 2015 on a high note, but not without sharing one of my lows. I had four running-related goals for 2015: complete 6 half marathons, my first marathon, Beat the Bridge, and become a Double Agent. After completing the 40th Marine Corps Marathon, I needed one more race to qualify for Marathon Maniacs. I checked my schedule to see what race I could find with a generous time limit and without the pressure (i.e., walker friendly if I needed to). I had to decide between two full marathons in 16 days or 3 in 90 days. Two sure did sound better than three! I said to myself, “I must be a crazy!”, but I was determined to reach my goal even if I had to run, wun, walk, or crawl!
I decided on Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon which was two weeks after MCM. I was so excited about my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series race! I had a few friends to run the half and they had a blast. My HB and I were excited because neither one of us had ever been to Savannah.
Road trip! It was a beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon when we arrived. The sky was blue and the sun was beaming…and it was hot! We arrived at the expo to pick up my packet and last minute items. Eeeek! It’s getting real, y’all!
Before the Race
When we arrived to the corral area, I noticed there weren’t many full marathon runners or race walkers. I got a little nervous. Note to self: stick to Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathons. It was an extremely foggy morning and the humidity was disrespectful. I stalked the weather for days before the race to see what kind of conditions I would be dealing with. I definitely wasn’t expecting high temps for a fall race, but that’s exactly what we got. I know this may sound strange, but there was a somber atmosphere before the race. It was definitely a vibe that I couldn’t shake. Something was telling me that this was not going to go as planned.
The music started to play to get us pumped up. Even through the static-filled music, my nerves found a way to turn into excitement. As I bobbed my head to the beat, the announcer for the pre-race festivities issued a heat advisory warning (i.e. switch to the half marathon if you are running the full, walk instead of run, visit aid stations if you feel you need to). It was time to head to the start line. The announcer repeated the heat advisory warning AGAIN! After he repeated it the third time, I got worried. It’s no secret that I wanted my life back. I had been training since June. I was ready to sleep in on Saturday mornings and run only if I wanted to, but I knew a few more sacrifices needed to be made. My biggest fitness goal for the year was within my reach and it was time to rock ‘n’ roll and shake and bake! I didn’t realize I would be shakin’ and bakin’—literally.
If you are part of the running community then you probably know about the disaster that occurred on this day. If not, you can read about it here. RnR Savannah will definitely go down in the history books. Around 9:30 a.m. the temps had already reached 70+ degrees with 99% humidity. It wasn’t even mid-day yet, and the thought of 99% humidity scared me. Not to mention, I am a back-of-the-pack’er which meant I would be out there longer than most. Check out this photo from the start line. It’s unbelievable!
Before Disaster Struck
As I approached mile 7-ish, I could feel the heat and humidity. This is where my HB met me on the course. I was so happy to see him! I smiled, waved, and kept moving. I noticed a significant amount of runners walking. These weren’t race walkers, and people weren’t even walking a brisk pace…more of a mall stroll pace. I kept doing my 45:30 run-walk-run intervals then I switched to 30:30. Around mile 9-ish it started to get really tough. I could barely breathe and I had to make it to the first cut-off.
After reaching the cut-off, I slowed down a bit because it was getting unbearably hot. A few water stations that I passed by ran out of water and Gatorade before I even got there. Thank God I had a back-up hydration bottle. Based on the amount of people at each medical tent, it was obvious the heat was taking people out one by one. Next, I heard an officer announce from the bullhorn that runners would be diverted due to the conditions. My heart sank! This couldn’t be. How could they divert us? What does that mean? Can I keep going and finish my 26.2 miles? All I need to do is finish with an official time. Yes, all of these thoughts were swirling around my head. Can you imagine making it to mile 20 and still getting diverted? That happened to a lot of runners ahead of me. I called my HB and he was just as in shock as I was.
It was getting so hot that it felt like a fan was blowing hell our way. Local residents brought out their hose pipes so we could refill our water bottles and others passed out cups of ice and water. Yes, the conditions were just that bad. I don’t think anyone saw it coming either. This was nothing like I’d ever experienced before. After the race, I found out that a runner collapsed and died on the course, and more than 1,100 runners were diverted to the finish line due to the conditions being deemed unsafe.
As bad as it hurt, I managed to plant a smile on my face before I crossed the finish line. I kept smiling because I saw all of the faces around me filled with disappointment. I now know what it’s like to train my bum off and have nothing to “officially ” show for it. I couldn’t imagine if this happened to me on my “first”. After crossing the finish line of my 12th half marathon, the race volunteer handed me my medal. I didn’t even want to put it on. My husband was there waiting for me. He didn’t know what to do or say. He knew I was crushed.
My heart broke on this day. It broke for the many first time marathoners, those chasing a BQ (Boston Qualification), those needing this last race to complete their 50 States, or like me needing one more race to qualify for Half Fanatics or Marathon Maniacs. I felt every emotion you can think of. I was angry, sad, hurt, confused, disappointed, and the list goes on. I’ll admit, in the beginning I was very selfish in my thinking, but I think most of us had the same reaction. Mainly because things could have been handled differently. It made me so sad all over again thinking about the young man who passed away. Then I found out a second man passed away at his home later that evening. It could have easily been me. My heart goes out to those families. Some people run for bling or to chase PR’s. I just wanted to qualify for Marathon Maniacs, but it wasn’t my time. Maybe one day I will get to return to Savannah to redeem myself.
I knew God had something far greater in store for me, and indeed He did! Had I not been diverted in Savannah, I would have never considered the Magnolia Marathon. MagMar was everything I needed RnR Savannah to be. It just felt right and it made my diversion so worth it! Everyone (race organizers, the people, the officers, crowd/community support) was so gracious and it blessed my soul! And thank God for the generous time limit because a sista didn’t need any pressure. Recap coming soon! I met two amazing people, Bob and Phyllis, who held down the back of the pack with me. Phyllis (1st time marathoner), a cancer survivor and Bob who had double knee replacement. Bob placed 2nd in his age group and Phyllis placed first! Who does that on their first marathon? Certainly not me lol! I was so proud of them and being able to watch them complete the marathon along with the race directors/organizers and their team, my HB, and a few other spectators made my heart happy. You felt the love and support. You may not know this about me, but I LIVE for moments like these!
DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE WHILE FIGHTING FEAR
I may always be in the back of the pack, but I’m not lying when I say that’s where the party is! Just sayin’. I used to beat myself about not being “fast enough”, but a few weeks before I headed to Florida for the Eau Palm Beach Marathon, I had a heart check. God said to me so clearly, “Why do you obsess over your pace? Wasn’t I with you when you completed your first marathon? Did you need to be fast to complete it? What’s wrong with walking? I am enough!” Talk about putting me in check!
Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals! Even if you have a setback, dust yourself off and try again. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney