Nerves started to get the best of me on Saturday and things seemed hectic. Trying to make sure we had everything we needed for the packet pick-up, hotel, breakfast, snacks, and the race took longer than I had anticipated. The jogging strollers were bulky even without the wheels, so fitting in all our gear proved to be a difficult task. Packing, unpacking, and repacking.
The car was filled with excitement as we drove out of town; Boy O had just managed to score 12 goals (I know I'm not supposed to count, but when the score is 12-0, it's hard not to) in his soccer game and we were off the the big city to have a great adventure. We had planned on eating a late lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant but found it closed upon our arrival. All was not lost however; the Ethiopian market was just across the street and we were able to load up on injera, pea flour, cardamom and some kolo (a popped barley that Boy O loves to snack on). Disappointed but still in good spirits, we decided to snack on things we had in the car and headed on over to check into the hotel.
The hotel was fun and as always on this weekend, filled with other marathoners. Boy O seemed to fully enjoy the hotel experience-from rides in the elevator to the flat screen television on the wall in front of the bed. So many new buttons and gadgets to see and touch-pure heaven for this five year old. Both boys had a great time playing hide-and-seek and chase around the beds while Daddy O undertook shuffling all of our stuff from the parking garage to the tenth floor.
Finally situated, we walked to the sports and fitness expo to browse all things running as well as to pick up our race packet. With around 13,000 participants this year, the expo seemed crowded and chaotic, so we didn't dawdle for too long and walked back to the hotel. By this time we were all getting pretty hungry so we took off in search of food. The restaurant was nice, the food was good, and then as fate would have it, my 'dinnertime diva' (aka Baby O) decided to make an appearance. Baby O is and has always been a great eater, but has decided as of late that he only wants to eat what is on someone else's plate. This is fine if it can be shared but most times what he wants is something that I don't think his tummy can handle just yet. The dinnertime diva was also exacerbated by the fact we had skipped his afternoon nap (now I know-if you skip a nap, don't go out to dinner-and if you do, pick a more casual, family-friendly restaurant). Daddy O didn't think anything was amiss and maybe it was just extra nerves on my part, but when I finished my meal, I decided to leave the restaurant early with Baby O and let the other tables finish their meals in peace.
Sleeping comfortably in one hotel room as a family was something that had been a concern but I felt confident things would go well with 2 double beds and a pac-n-play. We wanted both boys to be well rested for the 5 am wake-up call and figured that a couple extra hours for us wouldn't hurt either so their normal bedtime of 7:30 was agreed upon. At 7:33 pm, everything went smoothly. A little too smoothly....
Once the television was turned off, songs were sung, kisses were given, and the kids were snoring I thought we were in the clear. Then at 11:30, Baby O woke up and started crying-this was remedied within 5 minutes-nothing a little rocking and singing couldn't fix. Whew. At 12:30, Boy O woke up and didn't know where he was and cried out for us-I crawled in bed with him until he fell asleep and I thought that the worst was over. Then at 2:30 Baby O woke up crying and wouldn't stop. Nothing would console him. After what seemed like ages but in reality was 10 minutes of screaming, I went to go make him a bottle and I heard a loud knock at the door. The man staying next door was very angry (his wife was running the marathon as well) and told us that if we didn't stop the crying, he was going to call security and have us thrown out. I was horrified-I certainly didn't want to ruin someone else's marathon experience, but what was I supposed to do? Exhausted, I took Baby O-who really was very tired-just out of sorts and out of his comfort zone, down to the lobby and entertained him until 6 am.
I don't think I have ever had a good night's sleep before any marathon, but this one took the cake. Baby O was fabulous in the lobby-there were endless new things to see and do for him. He made friends with the entire night crew, right down to the janitor and door men. The front desk even asked me at when 5 o'clock came around, "Mrs. O, do you still need the 5 am wake up call that you requested last night?" I can laugh now, but at the time, all I could think was, "How am I going to run 26.2 miles while pushing a stroller in a couple of hours?". Meanwhile, with all the excitement, Daddy and Boy O could not get back to sleep either. You would think this would be miserable for a 5 year old, but in their frequent visits to the lobby, Boy O exclaimed to me, "Mommy, Mommy, Tom and Jerry's on!". Oh, how his viewpoint lifted my spirits in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
In spite of all the upheaval, I will say that it did give us ample time to pack up the car again and prepare the strollers for the run. I was happy when it was finally 6 o'clock and like magic, Baby O fell asleep instantly when placed in his stroller. He stayed that way for hours. When we walked to the start in the pouring down rain, he was asleep, when total strangers came and knocked on the rain cover to the stroller, he was asleep, and for at least the first 10 miles, he remained asleep. In fact everyone commented on what a wonderful baby he was. And a little part of me hoped Daddy O and I passed the lady that was sleeping next door.
The beginning of the run was hard-there were a lot of people and it was difficult to maneuver through the crowd, but despite the number of elbows at every turn, Daddy O and I were determined to remain side by side and together with the strollers we became quite a force to be reckoned with. The support from the crowd was incredibly positive and even better from fellow runners. I found myself smiling all the time and having fun acknowledging all the words of encouragement. We did have one rough spot around mile 6, the front wheel of Boy O's stroller got caught in a railroad rut and did a complete 360 flip with Boy O strapped in. The rain was coming down hard, the puddles were pretty deep in some places and it was hard to see the ruts in the road. It certainly gave us and everyone around us a jolt-we were immediately surrounded by other runners, trying to help us make sure everything and everyone was okay (Boy O was, thank goodness)and to get back on track. Given the situation, we recovered fairly quickly.
Every mile brought some sort of entertainment-from jazz bands to cheerleaders, and even belly dancers. At one point I looked at Boy O in his stroller and he was dancing away to all the music surrounding us. Around mile 20, I noticed my legs and knees tightening up, but was more concerned with just getting it over with and kept going (it rained steadily the entire morning). At mile 26 as we made the turn and could see the finish line ahead, my emotions got the best of me and I started to cry. It had been a long 24 hours, but it made the finish that much sweeter. We now know that not only can we run a marathon pushing strollers, but we can do it on no sleep. It makes some things in my life seem very simple in comparison-which I guess is why I like running marathons-I may leave tired and sore, but I leave thinking that I can do just about anything.
Our pace was slower than previous marathons, but we were very happy with our 4 hour and 7 minute finish time-with two potty breaks, one stroller accident and two bottle breaks-I'm actually surprised it didn't take longer. It was still raining at the finish, we were all wet and tired and the kids had been amazing troopers not only during the race but for the last 5 months of training, so we decided to get back home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures during or after the race just yet, but I did manage to take some on the trip home. They pretty much say it all.
Fun Fact: Boy and Baby O came in 17th and 18th in the under 20 age group! Pretty good for their first marathon, don't you think?
Even though staying in a hotel at this stage in the game was probably a little premature and naive on our part and I had almost reached my breaking point early Sunday morning, it was completely worth all the work and fuss. Not just the marathon, but all of it. Even the lobby episode. It was the first time I had ever heard Baby O assert my name over and over. Ma Ma! Ma Ma! Ma Ma! He wanted me and only me!
I confess that sometimes I feel lost in the mix with Daddy O and Boy O-he says Da Da and Bubba all the time, even when they are not around. I admit to feeling envious of the special bond they have with one another. I also admit to thinking from time to time that perhaps Baby O isn't very attached to me at all. But for whatever reason, at 2:30 am-Ma Ma was the only one he wanted and it filled my heart to the brim that I was able to provide the comfort he needed (even if it was in the lobby at 3 am).
Many people have asked if we will do this again. It was a great experience, but I don't think either of us wants to push a stroller anytime soon. It's nice not to have to worry about getting a certain amount of miles in during the week and being able to sleep in on a Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to it!