Finishing the Tahoe Marathon… barely
Twenty-six-point-two miles of hell. That’s what I was ready for at the starting line of the Lake Tahoe Marathon on Saturday.
After months of half-baked preparation, I dreaded race day. The skies were clear, the weather perfect, the scenery beautiful, but it didn’t matter because in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the finish line.
I’ll at least shoot for mile 13, I told myself.
It’s usually halfway into something when I start losing determination. Halfway into the lake when I realize it’s too cold for a swim. Halfway into seven-month marathon training program when I remember I don’t like running.
But, I’d already foolishly told people I was going to run a marathon.
So, as you might expect, the first half, or 13 miles, of the Lake Tahoe Marathon weren’t that bad. My boyfriend ran with me, and we talked a lot. The time, and the miles, flew by.
Just around mile 13, I started to question the sanity of myself and the people around me D especially the ones wearing T-shirts from other marathons. I thought back to a man at the starting line who said marathoners lose some IQ points every time they run a race.
To keep my thoughts from questioning myself, I began questioning what was going on around me.
Is that chick running in the sports bra really wearing gloves?
Why are people twice my age passing me?
Did that car just backfire, or was that my knee?
The Lake Tahoe Marathon’s biggest mental and physical challenge is the hills. Along Highway 28, from Tahoe City to South Lake, the road climbs hundreds of vertical feet at a time, making Lake Tahoe’s marathon one of the most challenging road runs in the country.
Most of the people around me, including myself, struggled up the pavement by walking most of the hills.
As I watched my boyfriend ease up the hill at a jog, more negative demons started creeping into my head, telling me I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t finish. I can’t.
Fortunately, at the climbs spectators came out to cheer on the runners. A woman in a red minivan, with signs taped on the back that read “Go Daddy, go!” blared the theme music from “Rocky” as we made our way to the top of one climb.
The people at the aid stations (all volunteers) were also great. They cheered with unbelievable enthusiasm (even for us at the back of the pack) as each runner came by their tables, drank a dixie cup of water and threw it in the trash. They even cleaned up after the runners who threw their cups on the ground.
Without their positive energy, I, and the people around me, probably wouldn’t have made it.
At mile 23 I saw my boyfriend, waiting for me at an aid station so we could finish the race together. With the finish line so close, we just wanted to get it over with.
So we ran until it hurt, and then we’d walk a few yards. We passed people already done with the race D on their way to their cars with their medals around their necks. People yelled “The finish line is just around the corner!” even though it was still a grueling two miles away.
Finally we turned a corner, and there it was: the finish line. I think we ran those last 20 yards pretty fast, but I’m not sure. It’s all a blur.
All I knew was I hadn’t run more than 14 miles before in my life, and somehow I stumbled across the finish line at 26.2.
I wish I could say all of my hard work paid off, but I think I’m just lucky. I’m 23 years old, I happened to eat pasta the night before, and I didn’t run out of water.
And it was over. It was finally over.
So in the tradition of marathoners losing IQ points with each race, thoughts of next year’s run have already begun to enter my mind.
Maybe I’ll just go for the half marathon.
Renee Shadforth is a reporter for the Sierra Sun.
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