Although I was mentally ready for the race, physically I was not prepared for 20-30 mph winds and freezing cold rain during the Gasparilla marathon.
For the first few miles, we ran over dark cobblestone roads through downtown Tampa into Davis Island. Although running on brick was new to me, I felt comfortable running in the dark. Not knowing where my feet would land was a familiar, uneasy feeling.
For most of the race, I stayed ahead of the 4:45/11:20 pace group, but behind the 4:30/10:18. Despite the wind, my pace sat at 10:30. I knew I would do great as long as the 11:20 pace group remained well behind me.
At about 8:00, the rain hit and I thought to myself, Wow. The rain came earlier than projected. Then at 9:00 a.m., the skies opened and the real thunderstorms came. The rain prior was a mere drizzle in comparison.
Between miles 10-16, I paced with some really amazing runners. I bumped into Beth, a friend of Becelisa. Gasparilla was Beth’s second marathon and like me, she had completed the Disney marathon last month.
At mile 13, I stopped for my first Cliff Shot break and accidentally spilled water on Carey from North Carolina. After apologizing for my clumsiness, I paced with Carey for the next few miles and learned Gasparilla was her fourth marathon with her last marathon being the Arizona marathon a little over a month ago.
During our run together, Carey and I also encountered an older gentlemen who was running in his 46th marathon and had finished the New Orleans marathon just a few weeks prior. At about mile 16, Carey, the gentlemen and I parted our ways when I needed pop into a port-o-potty to pee.
During my second Cliff Shot break at mile 18, I texted Allan at 9:33 to boast about my incredible time. Even with sheets of freezing cold rain and the wind against me, my spirits were up and I felt good physically and mentally. I felt confident that I would finish the race under 5 hours.
Then, without any warning, at mile 21 my knee buckled. Oh God! No! Why is this happening? I walked it off and stretched for a few minutes. That’s when I spotted the 11:20 pace group coming ’round the bend.
“Shake it off. You can do this! C’mon Girl! Pull it together!” I told myself over and over to push me ahead of the 11:20 pace once again.
Then, like a bad omen, my iPod short circuited from all the rain at about mile 22. Nooooooooo! For the love of God, Noooooo! Fidgeting with my ipod, I tried to reboot the music and my energy as the 11:20 pace group passed me.
I shut down and cried as the rain fell once more.
I walked some more and tried to gain my composure. It’s o.k. You’re doing great. You’re going to make it at 5 hours. It’s only four more miles. You can do this! Only 4 more!
Then, the rain stopped and the sun broke though the clouds. I felt compelled to start running again and even attempted to sing since my iPod was kaput. I sang my own version of I Can See Clearly.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright bright bright bright sun shiny day
Oh yes I can make it now the…pain…is…g…gone
All of the bad…f…feelings…have…dis..a..ppeared…
Unfortunately, my poor song selection caused me to start crying again which then caused me to hyperventilate. While walking once more, I talked myself out of the episode and I spotted some port-o-pots. I decided to take a potty break to pull myself together and gain some composure to finish the race.
After my potty break, I felt ready to run and ready to finish. Although my pace had slowed down tremendously to 12:20, I knew it could finish.
“Perseverance!” A runner shouted from behind me. “I love it! Keep it up, Girl. You’re doing great!”
A tidal wave of tears came back again, but I swallowed it down like a tough dose of medicine. Perseverance prevailed even though the pavement on the Bayshore Bridge cut through my legs like shattering glass and unavoidable puddles drenched my already soaked feet.
The last 4 miles were the toughest. The rain chased away the spectators. There were no musicians or DJs to keep us going. With isolation, I had no other runners’ energy to feed off of to keep me moving. Only the wind remained to carry me home.
In the distance, I could hear a crowd cheering for runners as they passed. I knew I was close to the end.
At mile 24, I came upon the source of the cheers. A group of kids from Let Me Play cheered and roared for each runner as they passed. A few of the young boys gave me high-5s as I stumbled passed them. “You’re almost there. You’re doing great,” cheered one of the sponsors as he gave me my final high-5.
Somehow in the last two miles, I found my second wind and picked up my pace. For the last half mile, I bounced back to my usual 9:30 pace.
When I crossed the finish line, I sobbed. I beat my Disney time and a new PB: 5:09:04.