I will begin with the end. I completed my first marathon; it was an arduous task.
We started running at 7am before the sun woke up. It was raining, but, fortunately, still around 45ish degrees. The first 3 miles were on pavement, and I was worried I was going to be get too hot and would start shedding layers.
Then, the climbing started on a muddy sick single track. We turned upwards while the landscape thickened; the rhododendrons fell closer to us because of the moisture and the fog enveloped us. There was fog above us, next to us and below us. So, I put my head down and climbed for 3 miles until I reached the wider quasi-dirt road. Then, we reached the first aid station. The adrenaline was still pumping as i grabbed a cup of water, some banana and a slice of orange. I left the comfort of the tent and started climbing, again in the rain and fog. Again, I put my head down to avoid the rocks and some of the deeper puddles, which had turned our wider trail into a "creek bed." This continued for 10 more miles during which we had to gain 2500 feet.
Once we reached the blue ridge parkway, I started to panic. We were at 5180, but it was not the altitude, which bothered me, it was the cold: the very cold wind and the colder sleet, which came in sideways and seared through my clothes - my soaked thin rain jacket, and my two layers of thin high tech fabric shirts. Before I reached the turn around tent, I considered stopping and asking to be taken down because of strong concerns of hypothermia, but once i reached the tent, got out of the wind, and ate some more food, some braveness kicked in. It was temporary, but it lasted enough to bring me back to the trail.
The down should have been easier. I had gravity to help me; I no longer had to climb, but this was a false assumption. The rocks were slicker, the puddles deeper and the rain kept coming and the fog was thick. I should have gained immeasurable time back from my ascent, but instead I focused on not slipping and keeping my head down and focused. For many miles, I was alone and concerned that I had missed a turn until I reached one of the few aid stations and was revived by Gatorade. These thoughts and concerns continued until I was spit out onto the campus of Montreat College.
There, I followed the road/path back to the Lake where I knew we finished.
From an outsider's view - this marathon may have sounded as though it was torture and why would anyone chose a mountain marathon as your first? There is no hope for a good time; there is no hope for speed; there is no hope for flat stable land with sunshine. However, - it provided a challenge - I wonder if I will be able to repeat. It allowed for such intense focus and determination - that now - any other marathon will seem enjoyable. Those several hours(not going to repeat my time) provided me with strength and confidence to run another. - for this - I am grateful.