Posted by: Joe English | October 24, 2007

Race Report: Nike Women’s Marathon (Guest Writer)

Editor’s note: One of my runner’s named Linda wrote to me about her experiences this weekend at the Nike Women’s Marathon. Linda is an experienced marathon runner, but she has been battling with stomach issues all season. This story captures the pain and difficulty that can come up in a marathon – and illustrates how those difficulties are not limited to those experiencing the marathon for the first time.

Linda speaks of several people that are either team-mates or coaches in the text below, but the name that you might note most is Erin. Erin is Linda’s son-in-law, who has been battling a form of cancer called Lymphoma. Linda takes great inspiration from running in his honor.

Well, as you know it was a tough day. I felt fine going out; I stayed with the 4:30:00 pace group up the first hill, then when we got to the first of the long hills, I took it at my own pace. When we hit the long downhill I picked up the pace as I often do running downhill, catching them at around mile 11.

Then it hit, the familiar GI issues, so I mentally readjusted to just finishing in whatever pace I could. But, it quickly went from bad to worse: I felt so nauseous it was hard to keep running. I saw Heidi’s husband Darrell somewhere around mile 8 looking for Heidi. We had been together along the waterfront, but had lost one another in the crowd. The next time I saw him around mile 9 or 10, he still hadn’t found her and he’d been there to see the 3:55 pace group go by. After I left him, I kept thinking about what could have happened to her as she’s always ahead of me on the hills and I was sure I hadn’t passed her on the downhill.

As I approached the marathon-half marathon split, I was oh so tempted to veer off with the half marathoners – though veer might make it sound like I was moving at a more rapid pace than I was at the time. But I kept going. I’m not a quitter! This past year, watching Erin go through his second lymphoma diagnosis, chemo and all the continuing side effects. I thought about how I couldn’t quit due to some nausea, back pain and stomach cramping issues that will go away within a couple hours of finishing this event, when Erin ’s issues will be with him for life.

The third time Heidi’s husdand Darrel found me, somewhere out on the beautiful stretch in Golden Gate Park, he said that Heidi had had stomach issues and was still behind me, but to keep going and he’d run her up to me. Heidi and I finally met up around mile 15. Fortunately I saw them just ahead of me as I came out of pit-stop #2. As I ran to catch up, touching her on her shoulder, she turned to me and said, “oh, thank God!” We determined at that point that we would go the distance together, though I must say that a huge part of me wanted to head into the finish line with the half-marathoners. Going another 10 miles seemed nearly impossible at that point: As we wound out to the Great Highway through the hundreds of spectators near the finish, I thought again of Erin and why I was running. I knew that with enough will power, I could, somehow, go another 10 miles.

As we looked out at that long stretch ahead of us Heidi said to me, “ok, we’re going to run from stop light to stop light,” and that’s exactly what we did. We waved to our friend Tam at mile 25, and saw Hillary looking awesome (on her way to the finish!). We saw friends Perry and then Carl. I hugged Carl. When he asked if I was in the “bite me zone”, I shed a few tears and gave him a little grin. Next I saw Coach Julie, with her wonderful encouragement and enthusiasm, and then I needed to stop for my third pit-stop.

Heidi had kept moving when I stopped. I caught back up to her at the top of the hill, which we were told was our last (they lied) and we continued on. At the turn to run along Lake Merced we dropped our hydration belts between some rocks, taking one bottle along with us. The next pit-stop came somewhere around mile 20-21. I just had to stop again, and again Heidi carried on. This time it was a full five minute wait just to get into the one lonely Portapottie. When I came out, I was able to run for about 15 minutes without stopping, but I couldn’t catch Heidi.

From there it was another pit-stop, a couple of “barf” stops, and then I picked up of my hydration belt and it was time to tackle the final couple of miles back along the Pacific Ocean .

More hugs and tears with Carl (by then his cell phone was toast) then Julie (hers too was not working). As Julie commiserated about her broken cell phone, she turned to me and said something to the effect of “here we are talking about our phones, while you’re feeling so awful,” I told her it was ok, but that I might throw-up on her shoes. She didn’t think that was a great idea since her shoes were clean and new, and incidentally just like mine. But then, we thought, we could always trade, only mine were smaller than hers. It’s funny how little trivial conversations stay with the foggy brain.

Tam found me somewhere near mile 25 and walked for a long way with me with her hand on my shoulder. Darrell passed me with Karen and said “come run in with us,” but I just wasn’t ready. Shortly thereafter there was Heidi waiting for me saying, “I promised you that we would run in together, so let’s go!” I sprinted the final few hundred meters, losing Heidi who had already sprinted in once before. I told her as we were running for the last curve into the chute, “it’s really hard to cry and run at the same time.”

I finished with my arms in the air, but I’m not sure I was smiling – the photos will tell all. I literally grabbed my Tiffany box off of the tray, and as I had my chip removed, I was thinking to myself “please don’t barf on this nice young man’s head!”

As we made it through the crowds, we met up with so many of our team mates: Elisa, Nicole, Karen and Cassie. Everyone helped get me fed and re-hydrated. Then after some photos, it was off to the hotel to recover. I know this experience was tough, but in my delirious state at 2 a.m. this morning I was actually already contemplating another go at it in Sacramento (in December)! What was I thinking?!?

Note: I’m sure that Linda will be back at it soon. And she’ll get these tummy issues licked. When she does, she’ll be headed for Boston, which is her long-held dream.

For more coverage on the Nike Women’s Marathon, click here.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA

Running Wild is a free column from runners and triathletes from running coach Joe English. Check out our archives of training and motivation articles!

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  1. […] Do you have a story to share? I’d love to hear how your day went. Please post a comment here on this page if you have something to say. For one such story, click here. […]

  2. Bless her heart! What a trooper…a good soldier for a great cause. Kudos!!

    I wish the best of health for you and your family, Linda. Thank you for sharing your story!


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