The Too Bad, So Sad, Your Granddad Marathon, Part II: The Race

Here’s my race report of my very first marathon, the Lehigh Delaware Heritage Marathon. In Part I, explained how I came to run this race instead of the ING NYC Marathon, and left off where I’m freezing my hiney off at the start line.



And then the gun goes off!

We did a little loop around the race start, which was nice because the runners got to see the people cheering for them.

Lehigh marathon

My daughter and my mother in dueling pink coats.

My mom and brother had to get on the road back to Ohio, so I didn’t get to seem them again for the rest of the race. Sad face. 😦

We ran a couple of loops through Northhampton roads,

marathon lehigh

This woman made a shrug from an old race shirt. Brilliant.

and I held back, not wanting to take off too fast. I stayed with the 4:30 finish pacer gal. After the first 3-4 miles, we headed north onto a rail trail next to the Lehigh River. It was hard-packed cinders, and it was a trail…a trail-run marathon!

lehigh marathon

The Lehigh River.

It was quite pretty. The sun was starting to peek out. The trail, while cinder-ed up, was wide, with a gradual elevation gain (aka a “false flat” – it looks flat, but it’s just fooling you).

Lehigh marathon


Saw some nice signage…

lehigh marathon

Bart Simpson and his buddy. Cracking me up!

I felt good for the first 7-8 miles. Then the wind, which had been a polite breeze before, roared into a brisk headwind. At times I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from blowing away. The wind cut through my running pants and slapped my cheeks. The 4:30 pacer girl was starting to slip ahead a little further. Oh boy. I found a couple of ladies to pace with, and we chit-chatted for a while. Both just happen to be teachers. (Teachers make the best runners. We’re so goal-oriented.)

It was right about then that every ache and malady I’ve ever had running, even some that I’ve not had in years, popped up by mile 10. Achilles? Hadn’t felt it in 3 years, until then. IT band? Tightened up like a rope. Of course, the plantar fasciitis (heel pain) in both feet that I’ve been successfully able to corral into “maintenance mode” this entire training period was SCREAMING at me by mile 12. Eeew-boy. And I hadn’t even finished a half-marathon yet.

Coming up on Mile 13, though, I saw a lovely sight: my husband and two kids yelling and waving, and MARY!!

lehigh marathon

Spotting Mary and her daughter Miss B (in the red glasses).

After saying hello and a quick hug, I headed off on paved track away from the river, for a 3 mile loop that would take us back past where the family/friends were. I was dying for a bathroom. My lungs were tight, as it was the first really cold run I’ve had this season. I love running in the cold weather, but I don’t think my lungs were acclimated and I ended up taking a few puffs of my inhaler during the race (that’s a first). I felt immediate relief, BUT STILL.

I headed back toward mile 17 and Mary’s husband Michael caught these pics of spectators doing The Wave for the runners:

lehigh marathon


lehigh marathon

The Wave: Not just for stadiums.

I finished the loop and met up with the family and Mary again. I had to give Mary a great big hug…

lehigh marathon

I was hoping desperately that a hug would make the foot pain go away.

Obviously it was so great and uplifting to see Mary on the course. But maybe that was another thing that just threw me off. I’m used to having Mary next to me for races…even on the long runs she would run part of it with me. Seeing her on the sidelines felt weird, and lonely. I know that sounds silly, of course I know that it’s me, and only me that can get myself over the finish line, but after the hugs at mile 13 and mile 17, I felt a huge pang of missing her. She’s like a sister to me. After the race she told me it felt weird being on the sidelines and not out there too. Sigh.

lehigh marathon

Only Mary could make a port-a-potty background look good.

I had to take a bathroom break. Luckily no lines, but with all the crap I had to carry with me, it took a while to get re-situated. I lost about 5 minutes, I’d say. Not that it really mattered at this point, as the 4:30 pacer girl was long gone. I kissed the fam, and took off. Lordy, 9 more miles. It might as well have been 20 more. My son took this photo of me, and really, there’s not much exaggeration in my facial expression:

lehigh marathon

That about sums up how it felt.

Miles 17-19 I tried my best to get into Run-Forrest-Run mode. I couldn’t believe I was feeling that much pain when all of my long training runs had been good runs. I had to do a couple of walk breaks. My achilles was inexplicably painful again. Wait – there IS an explanation – I was back on cinders going gradually uphill. Great.

Around mile 19, I pass the finish line on the other side.

lehigh marathon

Just such a tease!

I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be motivating: “Hey, there’s the finish line, you’ll be here soon!” or demoralizing: “Hey, there’s the finish line, you’ve got 6 more miles, sucka!” In-Training Nancy would’ve picked the first. Marathon Nancy selected the latter.

We entered some sort of parkland, which in my mind resembled some sort of Death Valley.

lehigh marathon

Death Valley?

Runners heading in the opposite direction were passing by.

lehigh marathon

I might have looked like a green-eyed monster right about then.

Somehow, it got colder and windier. I was just starting to fall into a numb-footed rhythm, when suddenly around a bend at mile 20, seemingly out of nowhere, they send us on a hiking trail, 200 feet STRAIGHT UP.

lehigh marathon


The gal in black in the photo above and I blurted out “Holy Crap!” at the same time, and look around incredulously, like it couldn’t possibly be the way to go. But it was.

lehigh valley

Remind me to bring my hiking boots next time.

Not one person ran up the hill. I couldn’t have run up it even if I wanted to – I was afraid I’d REALLY pop my achilles. The expletives started entering my head.

At the top of the hill,

lehigh marathon

The view was the only nice thing about that hill.

it flattened out a tiny bit…and just kept climbing for the next 2 miles.

lehigh marathon

Good god, make it stop.

At this point the trail had large sections of giant, ankle-twisting gravel…

lehigh marathon

Pure torture. It might as well have been loose sand.

…and I just kept saying to myself, “Don’t face plant, pick up your feet,” over and over again. This was when I wanted to quit.

I’ve never, ever wanted to quit a race before. Wanted it to be over? Yes. Quit? No.

This was a new and highly unpleasant place to be. I was losing the mind game. My mantras weren’t working. Thinking of my Gramma wasn’t working. My music was making me all pissy (No, I’m Not On Top Of the World, Imagine Dragons). All I could think was, “What am I doing to myself? This is torture!” I started tearing up.

By the time I got down the mountain at about mile 23, I was shuffling, barely lifting my feet off the ground. I was walking waaaay more than I cared to. I was fighting constant tears. It was friggin’ cold. THIS WAS NOT FUN ANYMORE. Then a glimmer of fun peeked around the corner with about 1/2 mile to go. The glimmer was tiny and cute and has my eyes:

lehigh marathon

Sometimes we call him Bub. He’s the best.

My 7 y.o. son  was waiting for me, and he started running on down the empty parking lot parallel to the trail – running with me! It certainly put a little spring into my step. I didn’t want him to see me cry/walk/fail. We smiled and giggled and we ran into the finish chute together holding hands – a first. We never would have been able to do that in NYC. Bub and I have been knocking heads a little lately, so it was a soul-boosting moment, despite the physical hurt.

lehigh marathon


I squeaked in under 5 hours. I honestly couldn’t believe it. After mile 20, I thought for sure 5+ hours was my destiny. Under ideal conditions, I wanted 4:30. Under these less-than-ideal conditions, I guess I’ll take what I can get.

So here’s my grand analogy: It’s like you’ve been planning for your big wedding for months upon months, and for logistical reasons, you have to cancel the wedding 2 days beforehand. So, you decide to go elope in the boonies with just a couple of friends/family. The end result is still the same (you’re married), but you didn’t get to wear the white dress or have that first dance and it’s just…not…quite…how you pictured it happening.

So if that holds true, then I need to be satisfied with the marriage, not the wedding. I need to be proud to be a marathoner, even if it wasn’t NYC. Because in the end, it’s the journey, not the destination, right?

lehigh marathon

Why I run.

I’m going to mull that over while I go soak my feet for a million years or so.

Early Runs Are Actually Quite Nice

Running has turned this Night Owl into an Early Bird.

I have been a night owl all of my life. When I was 8, I used to get in my bed, and after my parents would kiss me goodnight, I would take out a book and read it by the light of the bathroom light shining into my room. When I was 12, I would stay up and clean out my desk or night table, carefully rearranging the contents. When I was in college, I pulled way too many all-nighters. I just try to squeeze in something into every waking moment.

Therefore, I am not a morning person. But now that I’m a mom, a teacher, and a runner, I have no choice. This past summer, I’ve become a convert into the run-first-thing-in-the-morning crowd. Marathon training is a no-excuses kind of commitment, especially the long runs. You can’t skip the long runs.

I was rewarded recently with a beautiful, foggy dawn on a long training run. My friend Lori (who is training for the Marine Corps Marathon – go Lori!) and I were going to do 12 miles on the North County Rail Trail in upper Westchester County. We set off at 6 AM – after picking her up at 5:30 AM, and getting up at 5:00 AM – (I still can’t believe that I’m typing that) and after about 1/2 mile, the trail took us over an old railroad bridge that spanned over the Croton Reservoir. The sun was just peeking up over the hills and breaking through the fog.


Breaking dawn.

The fog was blowing through both above us in the sky, and below us on the water. It was sublime.


“Let us go in; the fog is rising.” – Emily Dickinson

It was a lovely 12 miler. We were done by 8:30. Eight thirty! I found my happy place in morning, and had the rest of the day to soak in the joyous running afterglow. Of course, I stayed up late that day, but it’s progress, people!

When do you like to run? Are you a morning runner? After work? Evening? Share in the comments!