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  • Writer's pictureJessica Jones

The 2020 World Marathon Challenge... Part 5

After finishing in Fortaleza, I went to dip my feet in the Atlantic, followed by a real shower, which felt so good! Had time to grab some food (the best french fries ever) before heading off to the airport, complete with a police escort for our bus! This was to be the shortest turn-around time of the entire week so my plan was to sleep as much as possible on the flight. A tactic that had worked well for me so far. To maximize my potential sleep time on our (relatively) short flight, I decided to eat again at the airport so I could sleep through the meal service on the plane. After the cramps and deciding to back down the last bit of the Brazil race, I was ready to race at home in the US! Needed to recover to be prepared. Heading onto the plane my legs were really feeling the effort. I tried to sleep, but it was the most restless sleep I had the whole trip. Couldn’t really get comfortable in the seat, so ended up on the floor in front of our seats to finally get some rest.

We landed. Back home in the US! So excited. But, there was a sense of urgency. We were rapidly closing in on the 168h deadline to complete the event. So, of course, nothing went smoothly. ur luggage took forever to get to the baggage pick-up. Then, the belt had an emergency stop! We had to wait for someone to come fix it so we could all get the rest of our luggage! Energy and excitement were building. We were almost done! One marathon to go!! We got our pre-race instructions on the bus. We’d be starting just before sunrise, so would get the pleasure of a Florida sunrise over the Atlantic. This would be a five lap out-and-back on the South Beach promenade. Once we got off the bus, there was a little time to greet friends and family that came to cheer us on (both of my parents were there!).

And, we had to take the time to do our ladies pre-race photo. Then, it was time to go! It took a mile or so for my legs to loosen up. They felt heavy, as expected. But, I kept pushing at a comfortably hard pace, and was in the overall lead! I felt good, confident that my legs were going to hold out for this race. I backed off in Brazil so I could not only finish the event strong, but win. A win on home soil! That was the only thing I had left to race for. I wasn’t winning the overall event. I wasn’t breaking the record. But, a solid final race and a win were definitely in sight.

After two laps, I realized the course was short. I wouldn’t make 26.2 miles in five laps. Turns out, the lead bike had us turn around too early on the first lap. After the third lap, I had apparently gained a much bigger lead on the others. I wondered what was wrong. I hadn’t sped up. Then, the RD caught up with me on bike and said he’d just had them make up the shortened laps and I needed to do so this lap. Fair enough. I did my make-up distance and then realized I was behind! Way behind. What the fuck? They didn’t look like they had sped up and I had barely slowed down. I was confused. And angry.

When I turned around to head out for my final lap, I looked at my watch. I was already at 23+ miles. On a five mile out and back, that put me running nearly 29 miles. My frustration grew. I had no idea what had happened with the distance. No idea why the pack was in front of me that I had a lead on the entire race. And I slowed. If I’m going to have to run a few extra miles, I wanted to be sure I could finish, so I backed off my pace just a bit.

As I headed out for my final lap, I was in a fog of confusion and anger. About a mile out, the pack came back towards me, headed to the finish. How did they turn around so quickly? Did they really pick up the pace that much? They didn’t look like it, as I watched them go by. Shortly after that, I saw the RD on his bike. He told me to turn around and head to the finish. He rode alongside me for a bit and I did a little venting of my frustrations. I made my way to and across the final finish line very anti-climactically. I felt cheated of the victory and that overshadowed the other feelings I “should” have had. The sense of accomplishment and enjoyment that comes with it. Regardless, I stayed at the finish area to cheer on all the other competitors as they finished. It was so much fun to watch all of my new friends accomplish this huge thing we had all set out to do (the final finisher was on crutches from an injury in Brazil and finished with only 15 min to spare for the 168h deadline!). So many hugs, smiles, high fives, and happy tears! Truly a celebration worthy of months of training to culminate in the past week of racing, traveling, and overcoming!!

It was really a couple of days after before I could enjoy my own accomplishment. I had run 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents!! I had just finished the World Marathon Challenge 2nd overall!! Pretty epic.

I started this talking about my mental game. I was fitter than I’d ever been, at least physically. But, mentally, not so much. Sure, it’s easy to second guess myself after rest and recovery. I think all runners that fall short of a goal, and don’t end up crawling, passed out, or in the hospital, ask themselves if they really gave it all. Could I have reached that goal if I had been willing to hurt more? Push more? Suffer more? I’ve thought about this long and hard. Talked with my husband and my coach about it. And, I’m pretty confident that, objectively, I could have pressed harder. In fairness to myself, an event like this is a tough one to push yourself to the edge with. If you go too far, it’s a year of training and tens of thousands of dollars “wasted”. So, could I have pushed harder? Yes. Was it smart not to? Also, yes. But, I plan to push my physical edge more in the future. Hone my mental toughness. It’s the only way to know when too much is too much and when it’s just your mind giving in to the discomfort. The pain. I’ll need to be in the best physical and mental shape of my life if I want to tackle my next goal… Badwater 135.

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