Over the weekend, I ran my first marathon relay in my hometown with three of my girlfriends. Let me tell you, folks... THIS is the way to run a marathon!
As is usual on race morning, my day started at an insanely early hour and after a long, bumpy bus ride to the starting line (made even more miserable when my bladder started making noise), I was ready to rumble. I had the first four-mile leg, so my teammates met me at the start to wish me luck and promptly at 6:30 a.m. (still an insanely early hour, in my opinion), I was off to the races.
Originally, I had planned to run the first 12 miles of the relay while my teammates divided up the remaining 14. But with the achilles and knee trouble I'd had the last couple of weeks, I re-evaluated that plan and instead only ran eight miles... divided into two separate four mile legs. One of my teammates really stepped up to the plate to take on the extra four miles, despite the fact she'd never run more than five or six miles at a time in her life. Her relay legs were also divided into two, making it more manageable for her, but I was really impressed and grateful for her willingness to pick up my slack.
My first four-mile leg was a walk in the park. I was surrounded by runners and fueled on by the adrenaline that always provides for me. When mile four came up, I was really warmed up and feeling great, but according to plan, I passed it along. From there, each leg of the relay went flawlessly. Although of varied experience, we all ran strong and fast and took every opportunity we could along the course to cheer each other on.
Personally, I ran a very solid eight miles. My achilles and knee weren't causing any trouble whatsoever and I was well rested. I took advantage of the break in between my four-mile legs to ice, stretch and hydrate. The only hiccup came around mile nine when a fellow runner started into conversation with me. We talked back and forth for about a mile, which helped it pass quickly, but I worried along the way the energy I was expending in carrying on a conversation could be better used in breathing more efficiently. Sure enough, when he made a move ahead and I wished him luck, I had to endure a side stitch for the rest of the way. Nothing that couldn't be tolerated, but it made the last two miles a little more uncomfortable than they needed to be. I guess I learned my lesson that despite my natural inclination to do so, the middle of a race isn't the time to engage in long, friendly conversation.
The final 6.2 mile leg was run by my friend, a former high-school and college cross-country standout. She had a baby just six months ago, but you wouldn't know it by the way she smoked that 10K. Her sub 45:00 leg brought our team into the finish line together at 3:51:19... good enough for 14th place out of 34 total teams, both men and women.
We had such a good time, we've decided to make it an annual tradition. It was all the exhiliration of a full marathon with only a fraction of the pain.
What's not to love about that?!