Well the day finally came. I finished my “first” marathon- the marathon I had started training for about 18 months ago. (You can read all about that sadness right here). It was my second marathon, though, thanks to the kindness of my friends who threw me the Rainey-Check Marathon.
I had signed up for what is called the “whale challenge” this year instead of “just” the marathon. The challenge consists of the 8k race on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. Last year, one of my biggest regrets was not doing that because I walked away from that weekend with nothing…whereas if I had done the challenge I at least would’ve been able to run the 8k. Getting all the way through training just to go to the ER hours before the start line is really tough on your ego and you’ll grasp at any straws.
My friend Staci and I traveled together for the weekend. We had done the Ironhorse Half in Kentucky and Charleston Half in South Carolina together and already knew we made great travel buddies. She was looking to PR the 8k and I just really wanted to get to the start line of the marathon.
The 8k fell on St. Patrick’s Day, so of course we had to dress the part. My plan was to run an easy peasy pace with some pickups in the middle.
We started in different corrals since she was hoping to punch it and I wanted to run easy. As the race started, I felt like a million dollars. Just running, having fun- sun was out, everything was great. I even took a mid-run selfie!
Around mile 3, I started doing light pickups to my pace- heart rate was great, wasn’t breathing hard. Then, I came to the 5th mile and soon saw the finish line up ahead. I looked at my watch (at the total time, not distance, haha!) and thought- I can PR! So I punched it. I picked up the pace dramatically, but still felt awesome. And then looked at my watch and realized I hadn’t realized how far away the finish line was, still had a quarter mile and probably wasn’t going to PR…so I toned the pace down again.
I felt amazing at that finish line- and was about 1 minute off of a PR with a finishing time of 50:24. My miles were 10:32, 10:32, 10:20, 10:04, 8:55. If I had gone at a less relaxing pace in the beginning, I could’ve crushed my PR! But, that wasn’t the goal so I was extremely happy with the start to the weekend. All of my training had increased my fitness so much. And I realized how much I love the 8k distance. It’s PERFECT. Just enough to get warmed up before you kick it into overdrive!
Now, Sunday. The Marathon. The big kahuna. When I woke up to my alarm that morning, I could not have been happier to have made it through the night. The odds of the same thing happening twice are pretty much nonexistent, but the stress of the potential was killing me. I was up and getting ready for the big day.
The weather was INCREDIBLE. I could not have asked for a better day. I ended up in a t-shirt and pullover because the wind was chilly, but was all smiles as we headed down. In my corral (different from Staci’s again), I paced nervously.
Suddenly, my friends Sarah and Matt strolled by and I yelled to them. I ran up and hugged her and instantly burst out crying. I had made it to the start line, finally, and was overwhelmed with gratitude to be where I was. Matt took a picture of us, and they carried on to their corral as mine was next to start.
Then, I was off. I promised myself I’d keep the most comfortable pace I could- no matter what that was. A few miles in, I found myself glued to the 5 hour pace group (about an 11:15 mile), so just kept with it. One of the pacers was wearing one of my favorite shoes- Mizuno Wave Rider 18, so I chatted with him about that. I started chatting with a guy in the pace group (later found out his name was Ted), who was telling me that outside the Ironman he did, this was his first marathon too. So we all marched together one clump of people until one of the women in the group and I started chatting. She said this was her longest run in a long time- we were just about at 8 miles at that point; she was doing the half marathon and paced with us for a “2:30” pace. I enjoyed chatting with her for a while until she decided to walk so I carried on.
At about mile 11, I was SO HOT in my pullover that I decided I needed to take it off. That was super tricky though and I didn’t want to stop running. So I unpinned my bib from the pullover, unstrapped my backpack, pulled out one of my arms, switched hands, pulled out the other arm, put on my backpack, re-pinned my bib and tied my pullover around my waist- all without stopping or stabbing myself with the pins. I felt unstoppable. My pace was consistent, I was feeling good.
Then we got off the boardwalk and around mile 15.5 my enthusiasm not only waned, but tanked. My legs felt like they had caught fire for absolutely no reason and I couldn’t will them to run anymore, so I walked. At first I kind of panicked, knowing I still had over 10 miles to go and really didn’t want to spend the next 4 hours walking them, but I kind of dusted myself off and started to off again and on again jog. As I neared mile 17, I started leapfrogging Ted, who apparently had kind of pulled apart at the same place I did. So we decided it would be easier to keep going with a friend and started doing run/walk intervals together.
I honestly didn’t care how fast or slow the race went, I just wanted to finish and not be miserable. So, we did a quarter mile run, a quarter mile walk. We did that for the next 8.5 miles without missing a single second of running. And my attitude lifted a ton. I was still grateful to be there, and I was getting the race done. At mile 25.5 we decided to run in to the finish. I must’ve punched it pretty hard because I ended up losing Ted and practically sprinting down the boardwalk to the finish….I got down to a 7:27 pace! My friends were along the side cheering for me and I yelled and screamed and hopped and smiled and sprinted.
I HAD FINALLY DONE IT. I had finished my marathon in 5 hours, 22 minutes and 36 seconds. A little less than 3 minutes faster than the Rainey-Check Marathon.
So, there is the end to a story that started 18 months ago- the day I decided to start training for a marathon. Was it fun? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely, yes. Will I do it again? Nope, I’m all set. I’m ready to spend this year with some speed!
In an effort to really work towards my speed goals this year, I am going to take a break from coaching the half marathon training team this fall. It was a tough decision to make, but the best one for me at this point. I’ll be back, though! But, for this year, I’ll be kicking it running my first ever Richmond 8k with a goal of (I can’t believe I’m about to put this in writing) 40 minutes.
For your viewing pleasure- me scootin’ on down the boardwalk towards the finish line!