I'm finally a marathoner.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but I fucking did it. I finished the St. Jude Marathon.
My alarm went off that morning at 4:15 and I didn't even snooze it. I was so pumped to get dressed and ready for this race. If you know me, this is a rarity. I even texted Debi before she had a chance to text me!
I had layed everything out the night before so that I didn't need to think in the morning, which is such a help. I had a cup of coffee and a banana while I got dressed and I mindlessly checked my Sosh-Me which was filled with some sweet good lucks. Then it was time to get my shit together and head to Jana and Scott's to get downtown!
I kept up with my normal long run routine and drank Nuun on the way there and had a Picky Bar at about 7:15 and a Gu around 7:45. There were plenty of pictures taken and the excitement was thick in the air. I felt surprisingly calm and my nerves were at a minimum. I was going to do this. As Josh had said the night before, "Don't stop. Unless you are dying. Just don't stop." .
My posse (Debi, Jana, Scott, and Danielle) and I lined up in Corral 10 which was the 4:45ish pacers. At about 8:17 we crossed the start line and we were off. I was so excited and loud and obnoxious but I didn't care because I fucking love to run!
As we were running along Riverside Drive an adorable runner came up behind us and introduced herself as one of my Instagram friends, Lauren! Now I'm not saying it happens often or anything, but getting recognized from this crazy social media stuff is one of my favorite things. I love meeting new friends! We ended up running with Lauren off and on throughout the race and she is amazing. Around this time I also got to meet another reader...hi Debra!
We stuck with our every 5 mile Honey Stinger fuel stops like we did in training and we walked through most water stops. I had my Camelbak filled with my beloved Nuun Energy Wild Berry, but several of the water stops also had Nuun Tri-Berry so I was able to conserve what I was carrying. There were well organized water stops every mile and people handing out Gu every few miles. Having Nuun on course was so amazing, and I wish every race would do this!
Through the first half, the course support was amazing. I just felt so happy to be running and I knew I was smiling and truly enjoying myself. We were able to stick together for the most part and run our race. Speaking of "our race", I realize I never really talked about my goals for this race. For my second attempt at my first marathon, I knew I shouldn't have any time goals but I couldn't help but set some:
A: a PR for Debi which would be sub 4:50
B: sub 5:00
C: Finish the damn thing.
By the time we hit the turn off for the half, it was just Debi and me. I was really upset that we had lost Jana because I wanted to share this first marathon with her. Debi comforted me in the fact that Jana was with Scott, a Marathon Maniac that has run some ridiculous amount of marathons. I was also worried about Danielle. I knew she was strong on her own, having just run her first marathon on a whim. But I couldn't help but worry about our friends. I was also keenly aware that our chances of getting Debi a PR were slipping. Of course, Debi, always unselfish in her running, couldn't care less. So we kept on running, because we were there to run a fucking marathon.
Around mile 16 the need to pee struck me. I was determined to hold it because I didn't want to let the sub-5:00 dream slip too. Unfortunately, as I had been warned, the crowd support truly does disappear after the half. There were still people out there cheering us on, but it got quiet, which allowed for plenty of time to think about things...like how a little pee was definitely escaping. So I ended up having to stop at a porta-potty around mile 20.
And then it got hard. There's something so exciting, yet scary about hitting mileage you've never covered before. When we got to mile 21, I knew I was going to make it to the end obviously, but I was also saying, "This is fucking hard" a lot. It was also around this time that I started to feel that familiar sick feeling that I had felt during our last 20 miler. I started chowing down on peppermints that were available at water stops, hoping that it would help. I had no desire to puke through the finish line.
Towards the final few miles, our friends Michelle and Angela came up behind us looking so strong. I was so happy to see them, although I wasn't able to express it for fear of puking all over them. Plus, Michelle was able to report to us that Jana and Scott were still running strong, which made me feel relieved. That gave me the push to keep on fighting, along with Debi's constant positive talk. Unfortunately, as we ran back through the St. Jude Campus, I couldn't fight the puke any more and I had to let it go. There went a couple more minutes as I puked and rallied the best I could. From there we picked it up and carried the fight toward the Red Birds Stadium and the finish line.
Crossing that finish line was everything I dreamed it would be. I experienced so much during 26.2 miles, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. I fought my demons and came out on top. It was hard and it hurt, but I want to do it again. We finished in 5:03:23, which means I accomplished my "C" goal. Next step is to PR that bitch.
Jana and Scott finished not too long after us, and I was so happy to see them. All of our weeks of hard work had payed off, and Jana and I were marathoners! I also finally got to cross that finish line with Debi. She stuck with me through so much, and it meant the world to me to have her by my side.
By the way, if you're ever feeling low, go run a marathon. The outpouring of love from family, friends, and social media peeps is insane. You all supported me so much this whole year, and the messages I received on race day were amazing. I am so thankful for all of you and I hope I can show the same support to you!
Since I'm not really sure how to wrap this up, I'm just going to say, I'm a fucking marathoner and I fucking love to run. I will always run the St. Jude Marathon because of this sign I saw a beautiful 20-something girl holding along the course:
I'm alive today because you are running this race
Talk about inspiration.