So I also forgot to mention in my last post that on the Wednesday before my parents arrived last week, I got a call from Megan. She started the conversation with, "Don't freak out..." which is always a good sign. I shouldn't be surprised - earlier this Spring I had a message on my cell phone from her that said, "Meredith - call me back as soon as possible, it is an emergency." Practically in tears, I called her back and was like, "Megan! What's wrong?!" To which she replied, "Oh nothing. I am out furniture shopping and I wanted to see if you would recommend a micro-fiber couch." But, I digress.
So...I get a phone call from her last Wednesday and she tells me to not freak out, but that she has just left her doctor's office because she was incredibly swollen, like Martin Short in Pure Luck kind of swollen. Or Violet in Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory kind of swollen. Apparently one of her supplements had high levels of niacin, and it just didn't jive well with some of the other supplements she was taking. But - the prognosis was good and by cutting out the particular supplement, she was able to get back to her normal, non-puffy self.
Fast forward to race day - Sunday, May 4th. I woke up at 4:40am and after a quick shower and a Starbucks DoubleShot, I was raring to go. I ate a banana, and a peanut butter Clif bar - the breakfast of champions. At 5:45am, I headed down to Megan's room. I passed a group of girls in the hallway who were running the half that day, they asked me to take their picture, so I did and asked them about the course. They said the course had been redone, and all of the hills had been taken out. I had my doubts about this, but I took their picture and continued on my way. We met my dad down in the lobby - he was the kind soul who had volunteered to drop us off at the starting area. When we got down to the lobby, my dad said "Everyone said that it will be easiest just to walk." I was like, "Hmmm - yes, it would be easier to walk, but it would take forever to walk a marathon!" But he was talking about walking to the starting area rather than driving, which made sense. So, we set off on our 1.5 mile trek across a huge bridge over the Ohio River. I don't know if I have ever mentioned my fear of bridges on here...but I am terrified of bridges. Luckily, I was able to make it across without falling in and we got to the starting area about 6:10am. We said goodbye to dad, and made our way to the bathrooms inside the Bengals stadium. The line was really long, but it went by fairly quickly. Pretty soon, we were making our way to the 4:30 pace group. The start time was actually delayed about 15 minutes to do a three-alarm fire on the race course, allowing me one last porta potty stop.
The race got started shortly after 6:30 with a big display of fireworks and a whole lotta "Eye of the Tiger" blasting from some speakers. My adrenaline was pumping and I was so excited - it seemed like everyone had come through both hell and high water to get to this point, and finally we were there, running the marathon. The first few miles were pretty uneventful, we went from Ohio into Kentucky, and then back into Ohio. We shed our long sleeved shirts and tried to settle into our pace. The course was lined with spectators and their cheers of encouragement were so great. This is by far the biggest and best crowd on a marathon course that I've seen. There was water and Gatorade at each mile, and we were clicking along at a 10/mile pace. I was a little concerned that we were going so slowly, but I felt like we might be able to make it up in the later miles. At mile 6 I asked Megan to hold my water from the aid station for a second so that I could dig out one of my Shot Bloks. I handed her the cup and she proceeded to drop it. Great! Oh well - I would make up for it at mile 7. At mile 8, I got some water and before I took a sip, Megan asked if she could have a quick drink. So I gave her the cup, she took a sip, and then through the cup past me into a field. At this point, I realized that she might be trying to sabotage me. I would later come to realize that she was just really out of it. We both made sure to stay hydrated and drank a little from each aid station we passed - it was still cool out, but the sun was out in full force and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
At around mile 8, I asked Megan a simple question and she was like "Um...no, I can't talk." Then a few miles later she was like, "I'm just going to walk for a second and catch my breath." So we walked for a very brief period, and then started back. Around 11, we passed this line of very cute 5 year old - all standing there with their hands held out for high fives. I ran over and gave each of them a high five and then ran back to Megan. Megan was panting and was like, "Maybe if they all band together, they can carry me to the finish." (*I need to insert here, for those of you who don't know my sister - that she is like the poster child for being in good shape. She is a marathoner, a triathlete, a duathlete, and a certified personal trainer. For her to be in this kind of pain this early on was definitely a warning sign that something was seriously wrong with her*) It was also at this point that she claims she saw the "Angel of Death" standing on top of a building. She wasn't doing so well, and we decided that we would run together until mile 20, and then I would pick it up and try and make up some time. My muscles were starting to ache a little from going so slowly - we were at about a 10:45 pace at this point. I kept looking at my watch, seeing my 4:30 finish time tick further and further away with each second, and saying that we needed to pick up the pace. Megan kept saying, "I can't pick up the pace any." It was kind of sad really.
So, we make it to mile 13, and Megan tells me to go ahead. She said she just couldn't have it on her conscious for me to miss my goal time because of her. I debated this in my head for a few seconds, and then said, ok - I'll go ahead. I cried from mile 13 to 14. I felt terrible for leaving her, but I just kept thinking, you've worked so hard for this, you need to pick up the pace and make up some time over the next few miles. At mile 16, one thought went through my head. Basically, it was "What the hell are you doing!?" The whole reason I got into marathons was to have something to share with my sister. I was so inspired by her at the White Rock marathon in 2005, and running the Flying Pig with her was a dream come true. I only get to see her two or three times a year - and I was disgusted with myself that I had left her alone on the streets of Cincinnati just because I wanted to finish the race in a good time.
I turned on a dime and headed back down to find her. All these people kept yelling at me, "You're going the wrong way!" Some of them seemed genuinely concerned. I told them, "Yes, I realize that." When hundreds of people are going one direction and I am going the opposite...I know I am going the wrong way. But for me, continuing on towards the finish without Megan was the wrong way. I found Megan shortly after mile 14. She was off of the road, and up on the sidewalk, staggering along with a terrible grimace on her face. I burst into tears and ran over to her. I told her that I would rather finish with her, even if we had to walk, than finish in my goal time alone. She was really out of it and was like "I need to get to an aid station." Her legs were buckling and she was on the verge of passing out and/or puking.
Luckily, there was an aid station a few blocks up, and she hobbled into. She told the people there that she was dehydrated, epileptic, and pretty sure she was going to pass out. They radioed for a van to come get us, and I leaned against one of the poles in the tent and began to cry. I can't really explain how I felt. So relieved to have found Megan when I did, but so, so disappointed to have quit the race. Megan and I waited for a van, and waited...and waited...and waited. We sat on a curb for TWO HOURS before a van came to pick us up. We were both pretty thirsty, but the first aid station had no water. At one point I ran to get water from a water stop, but then I heard an ambulance and thought it had come for Megan. I ran back to the first aid tent to find that no, the ambulance wasn't for Megan. We kept thinking that at any minute the van would show up, so I didn't want to leave to go get water. The aid station also didn't have any mylar blankets, and Megan had started to shiver uncontrollably. A lady who was volunteering for the race, and parked in a van just a few feet away from the aid station, let us borrow her blanket and we wrapped it around Megan. I asked the lady in the van if she would drive us to the first aid area at the finish, and she said "No, I'm only here for people who need a ride to the finish." Ok...well that is what we were. But she said she couldn't physically take people to the finish, she could only radio for them. This made no sense to me, seeing as how the people at the first aid station were all equipped with radios to call for vans to take people to the finish. It made no sense to have the van parked right next to the aid station, if it wasn't going to be used to transport people. I also asked the aid station people what would have happened if Megan had had a seizure, or a stroke, or a heart attack. Would they have let her lie there for two hours? They said they would have called for an ambulance at that point - which makes sense - but I think it is absolutely ridiculous that she had to wait for two hours to get medical attention.
Two problems caused the van to be delayed for two hours. One, our first request for a van got deleted by the 'master control' people accidentally. Second, the van that was supposed to come get us went to mile 14, didn't see anyone there - so they turned around and went back. They forgot that the lady at the aid station specifically said that we were waiting at the First Aid station at mile 14.5. It was completely unbelievable. Finally, after the very last walkers of the entire race had passed by the aid station, the van pulled up to get us. I was able to borrow one of the volunteers cell phones early on to alert my parents as to what was happening and where we were. So, we got in the van and headed towards the first aid area at the finish line, where my parents and Beulah were anxiously waiting. The guys in the van asked us how were doing and Megan said that she was ok, just dizzy and dehydrated. About 5 minutes into the ride, after taking a few wrong turns, the driver was like, "Oh - would yall like some water?" I was like "Yes! She just said she was dehydrated!!"
By now it was about 12:00pm. We had stopped at the aid station at 9:30am. We pulled up to the first aid station and medical people immediately began to take Megan's vital signs while someone ushered me out of the medical area. I found my mom and Beulah at the entrance to the medical area - I was so relieved to see them! My mom told me that my dad was running (he was literally running, which is impressive - especially across the huge bridge) back to the hotel to get the car.
OK...part three to be posted soon!