At last this day was upon me. The day I had been thinking about for the better part of a year. The day that I had been training for all Summer. Would it start out as I hoped it would? Nope. Reality struck about 1:30 a.m. when I woke up from a deep sleep. I was hoping to not wake up until 4:30 a.m., but I was pleased that I had gotten some sleep. All 2 ½ hours of it. For the next 3 hours I tossed a turned like a kid on Christmas morning. I was too excited to sleep. The alarm went off at 4:30. I got up, showered, got dressed, ate my bagel, and did a few stretches. By 6:00 a.m. my husband Kevin and I were out the door and headed to Comerica Park in Detroit.
We got to Comerica Park just before 7:00 a.m. and just before the crowd got there. This meant short lines for the port-a-johns! Yippee! Within 10 minutes of us getting there the crowd really started to build. Everyone was warming up and stretching. The weather forecast was perfect. Sunny and in the low 50's. The Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, said a few words and Anita Baker sang the National Anthem. At 7:30 a.m. the marathon walkers and wheelchairs started their marathon. This was my cue to join the crowd of marathon runners for the 7:45 a.m. start. After a kiss and a hug from Kevin I weaved my way into the crowd and stood where I thought would be a good place for me to start. I started to get a little stressed when I realized that taking my sweatpants off was going to be harder than what I planned on. I couldn't bend over to get them off because it was so crowded. Little by little though, I managed to get them off. I swallowed my GU Energy Gel, followed by some watered-down Gatorade. Ok, I was ready. When 7:45 drew near, the countdown began. We all started cheering and yelling 10…9…8…7…6….5….4….3….2….1! We were off! It took me about 1½ minutes to cross the actual starting line. After I passed it I began to realize that something wasn't right. Oh no, my feet were numb! What? What was this? Is this condition going to improve or get worse? I would have to wait and see.
A half mile into the race I was running at a comfortable pace. I still had my hooded sweatshirt and gloves on and they were keeping me warm. I knew that it wouldn't be too long before I would shed those. Before I hit Mexicantown there was a lone bag piper at the side of the road. He really lifted my already high spirits and those who were around me. The 1 mile marker was coming up fast and I was wondering if I was one my projected pace (10:00 minutes/mile). At every mile marker there was a line across the pavement. At the 1 mile mark I "toed" the line at exactly 10:00 minutes. Bingo! Exactly where I wanted to be! Doing good Karen. Up ahead I saw a familiar figure. Who was this big black man? It was none other than Kwame Kilpatrick, who was briskly walking the marathon course. I would learn later that he walked the first 9 miles of it. But enough about him. What about my numb feet? Yes, they are still numb.
Through Mexicantown there was a mariachi band entertaining the runners. By the time I got to the two mile mark I had shed my sweatshirt and my gloves. The homeless would hit pay dirt. Now I was only wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt. After Mexicantown there was the 1st aid station. I drank both water and Gatorade. I was feeling good and the numbness in my feet was starting to go away. I started to think about the challenge that lay ahead. The Ambassador Bridge. How hard was this going to be? I slowly and steadily ran my way up the bridge and was very warm when I got to the summit. Running down on the other side was fun! Weeeeeeee! At the bottom there was loud music playing. It was great! I was now in Windsor and about to hit the five mile mark. Time for more GU and water. Still on pace. In Windsor we ran along the water front, drank more water, and headed for the Windsor tunnel. I was looking forward to getting back to Detroit where I knew friends and family would be waiting! More Gatorade. More loud music. Into the tunnel we went! The tunnel was downhill going into it. More fun! Weeeeeee! Would coming out of it be as challenging as going up the Bridge? Nope. There was an incline, but nothing like the bridge. Outside of the tunnel, I saw that the crowd was rather large. All the spectators were wearing heavy coats, gloves and hats. Was it really that cold? They must think I'm crazy. I'm dressed like it is 80 degrees outside. I began to look for some familiar faces. All of a sudden I heard someone on my right yelling my name. There I saw my brother Tom and my nephew Thomas. Yea! Then to my left someone else cheered my name. A complete stranger who read my name, which was written across the front of my shirt, was cheering for me. Thumbs up! As I was rounding a corner I heard my name again! There was my best friend Sandy taking pictures. Yea! I was so energized!
I was near mile marker 9 now. More water. More Gatorade. I was running faster than my goal pace. Could I maintain this pace the whole way? I heard so many stories about people running the first half of the race too fast and then "hitting a wall" when they made to it mile 20, and they would barely be able to make it to the finish line. I was hoping this wouldn't happen to me.
Up ahead I again noticed a familiar figure. Who was that white man holding the cute baby? It was my Dad and my son Blake! I veered to the left and waved to them. Up ahead my Mom and Mom Varga were taking pictures. This was great! Off to the warehouse district I went.
Just before mile marker 10 it was time to suck down more GU. More water. More Gatorade. More strangers yelling my name. A few high-fives.
A right turn on Jefferson Avenue meant that Belle Isle was near. The crowd of spectators that I was nearing was getting bigger. Mile 11. More Water. More Gatorade. Still below pace. As I was making the right turn to go over Belle Isle there were people cheering me on. I drew so much energy from them it was insane! On the other side of the bridge I heard another person yell my name. I looked to my left and there was my friend Neal. I veered to my left, gave him a high five, and told him I felt great. It was so good to see him. Mile 12. More Water. More Gatorade. Still below pace.
Soon I would be half way done with the race. I knew that Kevin would be waiting for me there. I was looking forward to seeing him. At 13.1 miles the timing clock read 2 hours, 10 minutes. If I kept at this pace I would finish at 4 hours, 20 minutes. Two minutes faster than my goal. Could I achieve this? I would have to wait and see. Suddenly I heard my name again. To my left were Neal and Kevin. Kevin handed me more GU. I told him I was doing awesome, we exchanged "I-love-you's" and off I went. Quickly to my right there was another aid station. However, I had to skip this one because it wasn't staffed adequately to handle the influx of runners. I was not about to stop and wait for someone to poor me a cup of water. Stopping was not part of my plan.
Mile marker 14 was coming up. More GU. More Water. Still below pace. I was starting to feel a little cold because there was a breeze coming off the water. My bladder was getting full too. But not full enough to stop and do something about it. Again, stopping was not part of the plan.
Near mile 15, I noticed the Wheaties Pace Setter up ahead. Based on the signs on his back and the runners around him they were running at a pace that would have them finish in 4 hours and 20 minutes. This was perfect since this was now my new goal. I'll stick with these people. Mile marker 15. More water. More Gatorade.
Mile marker 16. More GU. More water. Get me off this Island!
Mile marker 17. More Gatorade. More loud music. I said get me off this Island!
At last I made the right turn onto the bridge. Another familiar face. There was my brother-in-law Rich taking my picture. This meant on the other side of the bridge there would be more familiar faces. More energy! Yea! Up the bridge, down the bridge. No weeeeee's. However, at the bottom there they were. Mom, Kevin, Neal, Rich, Jeanne, Mom Varga. Yea. This is awesome!
A right turn onto Jefferson Avenue and through mile marker 18. More of the same. Still with the pace setter. Oh no, what the heck is wrong with my right foot! I feel as though I need to crack a bone joint. But I would have to stop to do that. I'm not stopping. Not part of the plan. I'll just try to ignore it.
Mile marker 19. More of the same. More strangers cheering me on. Yada Yada Yada!
A "Michigan left" brought me into Indian Village. A beautiful neighborhood with very large homes. Many of the people that live in this neighborhood were cheering the runners on. I would soon cross mile marker 20. Time for more GU. More water. The last 6.2 miles is what this marathon is all about. How I would run these last miles was the true test. Would I hit "the wall?" I would have to wait and see. For now, I would just keep running. As I was about to turn down the next street I could hear more loud music playing. I rounded the corner and there was a huge party on someone's front lawn. They were having a party for us! Cheering us on and handing out beers to the runners. Although tempting, beer was not part of the plan. I declined and kept on running. After this I noticed that the Wheaties pace setter passed me. I didn't even realize that I had ever passed him! Was I slowing down? Were him and the people around him speeding up? Did they drink any beer? Hmmm?
I made sure that I kept up with the pace setter. At mile marker 21, I looked at my watch. I was on pace. More Gatorade. Still no wall. Just after that, there to my right were Sandy, Rich and Jeanne. More energy!
Mile 22. More water. More Gatorade. More people cheering me on. I have 4.2 miles to go. I think I'm going to make it. The runners around me are starting to slow down. Some are walking. Some have stopped completely and appear to be in a lot of pain. I think I'm going to make it. There to my right were Neal and Michelle cheering me on. This is so cool!
Mile 23. More water. I look at my watch and I notice my pace has begun to slow. I'm feeling very tired. Walking is tempting. I guess I have hit "the wall." A soft wall, but a wall nonetheless. Hitting this point made me more determined than ever to keep on running. I made a sharp right turn and to my left were Tom and Thomas cheering me on again! By the time I got to mile 24, I was back on pace. Oh, and that Wheaties Pace Setter that was supposed to keep everyone on pace. Well, the last time I saw him he was breathing heavy and pounding the pavement like there were bricks attached to his shoes. Maybe he shouldn't have had that beer………
As I ran through Eastern Market, the crowd of spectators was pretty small. The only person I expected to see there was Dan Earle who was handing out water near mile 25. So, I was surprised and happy to see Aunt Katie and Uncle Dennis there cheering me on. Thanks! Soon I rounded another turn and came upon a water station. I didn't think Dan would be at this water station, but by my dumb luck I just happened to grab a cup of water from a hand that was attached to him. Cool!
I was feeling good as I passed mile marker 25. Only 1.2 miles to go! I began to pick up the pace. Everyone around me was slowing down.
I made a left turn towards Greektown. As I got further into Greektown the crowds were getting bigger, the music was getting louder, and I was running faster and faster. And there to my left were Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Kenny cheering me on! Towards Ford Field I went. On my way, there again were Aunt Katie and Uncle Dennis. I was passing other runners left and right. Picking them off one by one. I was grinning from ear to ear. This is unbelievable! Tears started to sting my eyes. I was still picking up speed. Strangers cheering me on. This is amazing! Still passing runners! Right before I entered the tunnel onto Ford Field there were my friends Sam and Krystal. Go Karen Go! You got it! By this time I was in a full sprint. Into the tunnel I went. Screaming! Oh no! This tunnel is a lot steeper than I thought it was and my eyes haven't adjusted to the darkness of the tunnel. I made my way cautiously but quickly down through the tunnel. At the bottom I saw the field and I screamed as I ran out the tunnel. Passed some more runners and made my way to the finish line with my fists in the air. I was going to achieve my goal. I passed the finish line at a time of 4 hours, 20 minutes and 50 seconds. This is my "gun time."
After I crossed the line I received a medal for finishing the race and was given a Mylar blanket. The blanket would keep my body temperature from dropping. The timing chip that was attached to my shoe was removed. This chip has kept track of my time from when I actually crossed the start line, and crossed the finish line. Since it took be 1 ½ minutes to cross the start time, my official time is 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 20 seconds! My goal had been beaten by almost 3 minutes!!
After getting my picture taken and doing some stretching I made my way up to the main concourse of the stadium for nourishment and a 20 minute massage. That felt great!
Outside I was greeted by my family and friends and received roses. Afterwards we headed to our house for a celebration. Thank you to everyone that joined us.
All in all this was the greatest, most monumental day of my life, and I was grateful for the people that took the time to share it with me. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and my son, but a marathon is something that most people can't do. Getting married and giving birth is something that people do everyday. Even if they don't really want to.
Someone asked me before I ran this marathon if I thought that running a marathon would be more painful than child labor. I will say this: Child labor is much more painful, but running a marathon is a greater achievement.
I walked away from this marathon with very few battle wounds. I only have one blister on my foot. The foot that was bothering me at mile 19 was swollen for a few hours after the race, but the next day the swelling had gone down and it was just a little soar. I managed to keep all of my toe nails.
Will I every run a marathon again? Absolutely. Not next year, but maybe in a few years.
I wrote this story of my marathon with much excitement and a few tears. If you have read this far, thanks for letting me share this story with you.