Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brussels Marathon Recap : Kelly's Edition

Wonderful people in my life have called and texted and skyped since Sunday to ask "How was the marathon?" Basically I can sum it up in three words: It was difficult. Because Chris is going to recap the day from his perspective (with some tidbits from yours truly thrown in), I will just talk about the race itself.
This is the first sighting of me in the professional photos...see? Right side? 1 minute, 58 seconds in, all smiles. 

As soon as the starting gun went off I was having the best time. People were lined along the course for the initial 5k. There were several bands along the route too. A ten piece brass band, a barbershop quartet, several drum lines, you get the idea. In one particular instance two policemen were joining in rather raucously to the chorus of "When the Saints Go Marching In" which made me laugh, which in turn accounts for my expression in the next picture. If you look closely you'll notice I'm carrying my gels in my hands instead of in a super-cool (read: dorky but extremely practical) running belt. Such a newbie.

So the first 10 kilometers went pretty great. I was feeling good. I was also constantly checking myself, making sure my pace wasn't out of reach for the long haul (which it was but hey, newbie here), and then just kind of going with it. Later on Sunday Chris checked my pace for each 10k segment and it went like this:

1-10k           6:50/mile
10-21k         7:45/mile
21-30k         7:18/mile
30-42.195k  8:40/mile

So. Yes. As you can see, I hit a little bit of a wall in the fourth section of the race. From 30-32k it's a straight uphill climb. But it was really the third section that did me in. The uphill from 30k on was a downhill that we'd traversed earlier in the race and during it I could feel both of my quads seizing up just enough to make me a little nervous for the rest of the race. I prayed a lot to get through to the finish uninjured. After that I backed off my pace which was the beginning of my downfall, I never picked the pace up again!

The little bit of Dutch and French I've acquired since living here has mostly been absorbed while standing on train platforms in the different regions of Belgium. I never knew it would be so helpful during the race but as I listened to the water-station volunteers yell out things like "vier vrouw!" or "troisième femme!" letting me know when I was in fourth and then third and thennnnn fourth again, I realized how handy those train-waiting mintues were coming in! During the race I saw Chris quite a few times too and at about 9 miles in he let me know I was in fourth with the next woman ahead of me about a minute and all in English (phew). I began to believe that a top 5 finish was possible.

After the halfway point I had made a friend and every time he dropped a little I dropped a step to keep him with me and he did the same for me. However, when we pulled up next to the eventual 1st place woman finisher, I really started to feel my quads tightening and I took a good three steps off my pace, the beginning of my slow-down. My friend took a few steps back with me so I pushed a second to stay with him. After that happened about four more times I told him thanks but that he should go ahead and keep up with the group we'd made contact with, I needed to rest a little. Once that group pulled away and the next came up on me, I knew I had slowed down more than I meant to. When that process happened again and again and then again...well, needless to say I was more than ready for the finish line, my legs were done.  

The most amusing point in that last treacherous 5 miles was when the 3rd place woman made her way to me and then passed by. We spoke to each other for a bit, exchanging conversation on how it was my first one and that she'd run the Berlin marathon the weekend before...crazy. Runners are crazy.

Finally, with 3 miles left to go we joined up with the 10,000+ half marathoners who were also heading for the finish. I felt like I was standing still. They just flew past me. I actually thought at one point, "Am I walking...?" I definitely had the "marathon shuffle" going on.

Finish line in sight, I willed my last few steps around the corner and across it. I think I may have actually been whimpering the last half mile (or more) and broke down crying as soon as I crossed. The race volunteers guided us down the finish shoot, barriers preventing us from reaching the rest of the square, and as we walked to the exit I found I had no control over my legs any longer. Two steps to the left, three and a stumble to the right and then another new friend of mine asked in Dutch if I needed help. We linked arms and he helped me reach the exit where only God could have aligned it so that Chris and I reached it at the same time, not having set up a meet-place earlier...we were not the most prepared individuals this day.

Definitely whimpering and what the heck is going on with my fingers...?

From there on out I leaned on Chris. The Red Cross was on hand and saw us struggling so they asked if I'd like to at least sit down for a bit to which I thought, why not, can't hurt. Wrong. They gave me a deep-tissue "recovery" massage which was almost as painful as the last three miles. I'm sure it did actually help with the soreness, at least that's what I'm telling myself, but I may wait an hour or two next time before attempting any recovery methods.

Speaking of "next time" the Boston Marathon is still my goal for the next one. I did qualify with my 3:21:57 finish time but registration for 2014 was already closed about a month ago so 2015 it is. After learning this I was initially disappointed. For about a second. Now I am welcoming the coming year and a half with open arms and a huge smile. It's been three days and I still am rolling around like a turtle on it's back, trying to get out of bed in the morning. It isn't pretty.

finishing "kick"

So with all of this, what I really want to say is: Marathon, I underestimated you. You almost bested me. There were two very real moments where I almost walked and gave up completely. Next time I will show some respect in miles 1-20 and take it a little easier. Or I'll train a little harder, (hopefully not get injured  with 7 weeks to go like this time around), and go for it again, sobbing across the finish line once more but beating this performance. In any case, for now, I will take it easy and then start training to work with your younger, much more fun sibling, Half-Marathon.


  1. WOOOOF! I am so glad to have a recap post from you about the race. I still can't believe you did it. When I heard you finished fourth I thought maybe that meant it was a breeze for you, but apparently not!! Very proud of you. I can't believe your "marathon shuffle" averaged out to an 8:40/mile pace - still faster than I go on my regular runs!! (Which I haven't done for a long time now due to my foot... gotta get back into it.) Congratulations again, bummer about the 2014 Boston marathon but enjoy the next year and a half off :)

  2. Wow Kelly - great recap and congratulations. Hope recovery happens quickly and completely.

  3. Kelly I am totally impressed. Totally.And you have a great attitude about preparing for 2015. Maybe you and Chris could come to Massachussets and scope out the route in the spring or whenever. We'd love to have you. (Yeah, yeah Jonathan and Courtney do live near the ocean and yeah, yeah maybe Jonathan did actually run the marathon... a few times... BUT remember..... the marathon route runs through our town. Natick.) Congratulations again on sticking with it and also on taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities your travels have brought you.


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