Well… I did it! I finished the marathon! My parents, Mike, and I spent a wonderful four-day weekend in Nashville and we couldn’t have had a better time. In the future I will remember that 6:00 am flights out of BWI will require me to wake up at 3:00 am and I still might just barely make my flight (more on that later). Saturday was race day and it is not a day I will soon forget. While I expected some hills in the race and regularly train on hills here in DC, I was not prepared for how grueling the hills of Nashville would be over the 26.2 mile course. Add that to the 80 degree heat on Saturday, and it made for a very challenging race.
Unfortunately, my legs did not feel 100% from the start of the race. I was really trying to stay positive, assuring myself they would loosen up, but they never reached a perfect state of harmony. I had to make a bathroom stop at mile 6, which was much sooner than I was hoping, but I had been hydrating like a crazy person all week in anticipation of the heat. I took my first gel around mile 8 and I was already feeling a little fatigue from the hills. I saw Mike and my parents for the first time right around mile 10 and I was still doing pretty well. I stopped for a minute to stretch, which definitely helped. After looking at the elevation chart for the race, I expected the first half to have a good number of hills, but the second half to be relatively easy. I left my family and headed on towards the half marathon / full marathon split.
It felt kind of awesome to be going off with the full marathoner group, but that feeling quickly disappeared when I realized that I was heading up another big hill. I don’t know how I could have misread the elevation chart so badly, but the second half of this course was not at all easy or flat. It was relentless. I was starting to really feel the effects of the heat too. I hydrated as much as I possibly could, taking gatorade / water and dumping a cup of water over my head at every water stop. I took my second gel at mile 15.5 and charged up the hill knowing I was going to see my family again just before mile 17. I was not doing well at this point, but I was singularly focused on just getting to my family. I stopped again for a quick stretch once I met them and thankfully Mike was planning on running with me from mile 17 – 21. I needed him.
Miles 17 – 21 were the toughest and by FAR slowest for me. I tried taking short walking breaks to flush out my legs but nothing helped. I had never experience muscle fatigue like this before. I felt like my legs were filled with cement. I just couldn’t find my normal, easy stride. Every single step was a battle. I almost cried several times, because I was so exhausted but also so frustrated. I killed myself training for this race, I put so much time, effort, energy into it. I sacrificed social events, weekends with friends, time with my family, yoga classes, everything to train for this race, and I felt like I was failing. I felt like I had done all of this training for nothing.
But then Mike was there with me every single step of the way, reassuring me. He reminded me that it was hot, other people in the race were struggling too, and this course was brutal. He told me to stop looking at my watch, forget about the time, and remember that simply finishing a marathon is a feat in itself, not matter how you get there. I really and sincerely thought about quitting, but something inside me just wouldn’t allow it. I did not come this far to give up. As we approached mile marker 21, Mike offered to stay with me for the rest of the race, but I told him no. I needed to finish this journey on my own. We stopped for a moment, he kissed me on the forehead and said, “No matter what happens, I love you and I am so proud of you. I’ll see you at the finish line.” And that was all I needed.
I don’t really remember much about the last 5 miles, but I tapped into a place I didn’t even know I had. My body had absolutely nothing left to give, but I was going to run across that finish line. I have never felt a rush of adrenaline quite like it, but I sprinted the last .2 miles across the finish line. I did not meet my goal time (I wanted 4:35:00 or somewhere close to it) but I’m choosing not to focus on that for now. I finished a marathon. But what is perhaps more exciting for me is the fact that I struggled so much and didn’t give up. It really makes me feel like, if I can survive that, I can do anything.
If you would have told me two years ago that I would run a marathon, I would’ve laughed in your face. The last two years have been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see what is coming for me next 🙂
My dad made these really awesome signs with pictures of me. I loved them (and him!)