Not sure where to start. Do I start the day before marathon? Or back in April, when training started? Or four years ago, when I was bouncing from doctor to doctor, considering back surgery, and barely able to walk 20 feet? (Warning: This is so not short.)
(Get it? "Back story?") Yeah, that last one. After a few bouts in the hospital, and being unable to stand to brush my teeth because it hurt so much (standing, not brushing), I finally went to an orthopedic surgeon, who told me I have "degenerative disc disease," with four discs seriously just gone. But guess what, everyone has degenerative disc disease. You have it. Your kids have it. That doc put me through some painful diagnostic procedures, then recommended surgery, but he couldn't definitely tell me exactly what was causing so much pain. I went for a second opinion, and that doc recommended I see two other doctors, etc. etc. I finally ended up being treated with meds by a neurologist; I don't do well on medicine (read=lots of barfing), so I literally have a bagful of drugs from her, which I could probably make a pretty penny off of, were I that kind of girl. Which I'm not. But, I kept that bag o' drugs, just to remind myself. I also tried chiropractic and accupuncture. I was walking with a cane most of the time. Sitting hurt. Standing hurt. Laying down hurt.
After two years or so of this, I read an article about back pain that mentioned a local gym specializing in exercise for people with back pain and other disabilities, so I signed up and went three times a week for a year, doing lots of strengthening exercises, and paying out of pocket. It was there that I first confided my dream of one day running a marathon to my trainer, who said, "I don't think that's very likely. Running," she continued, "is just not good for your back. Or for anybody's."
Of course she was right!! What a nut I am! I went to that gym for one year, until August 2004. I saw some improvement, but was still in pain. After I left that gym, I started using the elliptical machine at work four times a week. Religiously. And gradually I saw improvement. I could sit, lay down, and walk without searing pain. Not perfect, but liveable.
My good friend R. had been forever telling me about Galloway's walk/run method and the AIDS Marathon Training program. She made it sound so easy! And fun! So, in February 2005 I attended an orientation session for the AIDS Marathon Training program, and after telliing them about my back, they assured me that they could work with anyone and I plunked down my $75. Training started in April 2005, and mercifully, (for you) I won't recap that here. (Cuz I kind of already have. See every previous entry.)
The Day Before
Since I live in the city in which the marathon occurs, I didn't have to pack, didn't have to worry about hotels or flights or anything. Instead, I focused all my worry on logistics. Which took the form of first: changing the sheets on my bed. Right? Totally normal. Then I did a load of laundry. Then cleaned the house. Was I nesting? Or worried I wouldn't be coming back?? Ever??
After all that, I started laying out everything I would need. This took several hours. I had to write my name on my singlet, and oh yeah, remember somebody gave me that cute little guardian angel pin several years ago? Let's spend a few hours looking for that. Found!
Hmm, now maybe I should scope out driving routes. Let's see, I'll get up at 5 a.m., take the Beltway to George Washington Parkway south to the Pentagon Metro stop, where I was meeting my pace group. Ding ding!! Wrong!! GW Pkwy is part of the course, (so I'd heard), and would, in all probability be closed since 31,000 people will be running it. Call it a hunch.
It is now around 4ish Saturday (and yes I have changed tenses. It's my recap.) I figure an alternate route. I take the Beltway to 395 North to the Pentagon City exit. I find the meeting place and all is well!
While I'm out and about, maybe I should drive a bit of the course. Because remember: I'm in denial about this entire thing. So I figure now is a good time to take a short peek at what I'll be doing in the morning.
First, I open up the elevation map that lovely marine at the Expo gave me:
Wouldya look at that! Mile 0-2 goes from 20 to 180 feet. Huh. So I drive it.
Which pretty much leaves me panting and heaving for oxygen. OK, we'll just walk that part! The next part is, hmm, a downhill of 140 feet. Perfect for IT problems. OK, we can handle that too, just go slow, zig zag, whatever you have to do.
Next I cross Key Bridge, down M St. in Georgetown, where Nicole Kidman is being filmed! And that's the end of the follow the course by car.
Part Two: To come ...