I ran a marathon!!!

I have been meaning to and was reminded this weekend how I have not yet blogged about my FIRST MARATHON!!! Wow! That pretty much sums up my race.

I need to preface this with a big thank you to Jamie Mains. Without her encouragement and perseverance I would not have ran this marathon. She has always believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and pushed me from the start. Also, Jenna Booher, who always had encouraging words for me when I questioned my ability at times and my whole Foot Rx family…I love you all and thank you for cheering me on in my first!

Let’s start from the beginning…our drive to DC late on Friday night. It was cold before we even left Johnson City. I was dreading it. I hate cold weather! While driving through the great state of Virginia it began to rain…then that rain turned into snow. Now I was freaked out. The distance and time taken to run the distance was already intimidating me to the core. Now I was thinking that I was going to run 26.2 miles in freezing rain or snow. What tha? I didn’t sign up for this. But, Jenna’s positive attitude kept me in check. She said marathon weather?, I think so! I felt like I had been whiny after that. After all, it wasn’t like it was going to be scorching heat. One must choose her battles.

The next day was even worse. It snowed/sleeted all day long!! We went to the expo to pick up our packets for the race. The little amount of time we were outside in that weather troubled me. I was fighting the voice in my head all day telling me “I couldn’t do this” and “What had I been thinking?” I was nervous as I wondered what the next day would hold for us. The forecast said sunny skies so I was hopeful, but we all know how fast forecasts can change.

Finally, it’s marathon day. We wake up at 5:10 a.m. to get ready and make it downstairs to catch the shuttle to the starting line. We were bundled up for it is 36 degrees outside. We bought these ridiculous white throw-away jackets that were supposed to be warmer than a “heavy” sweatshirt. They were not. But they were something. I think we each had on 3 long sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of pants, gloves, and headbands to keep us warm until we got started. To be honest with you, I thought I would be wearing all of it to the end.

As we arrived at the starting line there were signs for anticipated finish or goal times. I lined up with the 4:00 group because I had a few other friends there. I knew that it was highly unlikely that I would finish in less than 4:30 but I sure was going to go for it. I know that we were talking at this point but I couldn’t tell you a thing that was said. I was a bundle of nerves. And cold.

Drew Carey was running so he got up and said a few words of encouragement before the start. The next thing I knew someone was saying a prayer for the runners and the race over the mic. And then…it’s go time! We were off. It took us about four minutes to make it to the start line so I walked. I didn’t run. I wanted to save my energy for when it was being timed. I lost my friends before I hit mile one. They were pushing hard through the crowd. I was using too much and I knew it. I backed off. I could do this alone. I run most of my races alone. This is what I came for. This is what I had trained for. This is why I had gotten up so early those weekend mornings for long runs when I could have been sleeping in. I felt good and ready.

I was still freezing though. I had taken off the 2nd pair of pants at the start because I knew I wouldn’t be able to shed them while running. When we hit the first of many bridges I heard people saying “Watch your step!” I saw a gap in the road so I thought this was what they were talking about…until my foot hit. It was ice. The whole bridge was iced over. Scary. I took very small easy steps because I didn’t want to bust it this early in the race. Once we got over that bridge and got going a while, I started to warm up. I shed my hideous throw-away jacket(It looked like something from ghostbusters. I liked to sing the theme song whenever wearing it). Now you’re singing it! Ha! Between miles 4 and 5 a vehicle went zooming past us in the opposite direction with a clock on top. It said 46: something. Then here come the leaders! Amazing! I got to watch the leaders zip by at their impressive paces. The course was an out-and-back at this point. They were around mile 8 or 9 I think because later I would run that way passing other runners where I once was.

The spectators were amazing at this race!!! I did not go hardly one step in this race without seeing and hearing fans. Signs were funny too. You need something to entertain you when you are running for 4+ hours. Some of my favorites – Honey Badger don’t run marathons, Chuck Norris never ran a marathon, You’re sexy and you know it – You work out!, Don’t Stop! People are Watching!, Run Stranger Run!. There were tons and I’m sure I will remember more later. I seriously loved almost every minute of this race. It was a beautiful course and the weather was perfect, in addition to these wonderful spectators and Marines giving me water and cheering me on.

I remember hitting the half marathon mark and thinking, “Wow, I’m halfway done. I’m really gonna do this.” I PR’d my half marathon time, by the way, which is crazy! I got choked up a few times in the race when I thought about what I was doing, what a beautiful day it was, how great I felt, and all these crazy people cheering for me. We ran by the Potomac River, through Georgetown, around the capital a few times. At a point later on in the race, this man was standing on the sidewalk and just said, “Welcome to Capital Hill.” I don’t know why but this stuck with me. I’m not really sure why. It was a surreal moment for me. I think I was around mile 16. I knew I only had 10 more to go. Those endorphins were really kicked into high drive!

I was fine and felt really good right up until mile 21 or 22. I can’t really remember now. I didn’t get discouraged. I knew I was going to finish and in really good time. But my legs got really heavy and I started cramping. It got hard to pick them up at this time but I kept going. My pace dropped but that was ok. It didn’t drop too much and I was still running. I remember passing a couple walking with their arms around each other at 35k. I was thinking, “How can you be walking this close to the end?” I kept telling myself how close I was and how I only had 4 miles to go. I have ran 4 miles sooo many times I told myself.

Earlier in the race I was passed my a man. I noticed his gait was off. He had only one arm and one leg (he had a running prosthetic on his leg) and he was running a marathon!! And he was passing me!! If that’s not inspiration I don’t know what is.

I pressed on. The whole time I wasn’t planning what to do next or fighting with myself. I was enjoying it and I’m glad I did. I had thought going into this that I might not do another one after this. I just wanted it to be over with so I could say I did it. But, it is an experience like none other. I will do this again.

As I neared the end of the race in Crystal City, I was smiling. Happy. I was doing this. Yes, me. No one else can do this for you. If you want it, you have to put in the work and you have to stay in it mentally. As I passed the 26 mile marker I knew that I still had a battle ahead of me. .2 miles can be the longest distance you have ever ran at the end of a marathon. Then I saw the hill. Basically a steep incline leading to the finish line. They were going to make us work for this finish, huh? I growled up the hill and made my way. That finish line was the best site I had seen all day and I was headed straight for it…