I ran my first full marathon this weekend. I ran the Akron Full Marathon and I ran it for something bigger than myself.
I woke up on September 24 at 4:27 a.m. without an alarm. In roughly 2.5 hours I would be toeing the blue line.
I remember thinking, “Did I remember my running shoes?”
I had some weird race dreams in the days leading up to the marathon including losing my feet on the course, forgetting to run the full and only running the half, and having to run barefoot because my race shoes were in Cleveland.
While bizarre, not much was going to keep me from running that race so I dig my yoga, I ate my waffles, I tied my shoes (which I didn’t forget), I had a last minute decision to wear my memorial ring with my parents ashes in it and then I headed out of the hotel room.
Everything went so smoothly race morning – like my parents aligned it. Traffic and parking were easy, I ran into my friends John and Maria without having to even text one another, the weather was INSANELY terrific. I even met the 4-hour pacer, Jacque, and she was full of encouragement and a contagious energy.
Then the race started.
Miles 1-18 were ah-MAZE-ing! The first 10 usually are for me as it is. Ten-milers are my race. Perfect distance for me. But in those first 18 miles I chatted and got to know so many awesome runners.
I met a woman who started running when she was 40 and at 46, she vows she will run Boston before 50.
I met a fellow first-time marathoner, Tony, who had the same 4-hour finish goal as me.
I met a 65-year-old man (Jim) who has been running for 40 years! He has run Boston 15 times. Will he be running it this year? Nope. He is taking his wife to Italy…and running a race there! He also shared running tips with me and the mistakes I might make along my own running journey.
These miles reminded me of how fun it is to be a part of this running community. Every runner has “been there.”
From chaffing to blowing snot – we get it. It’s ok. Just keep running.
I also got to know Jacque – the pacer. If you decide to run a marathon, I hope that you have a pacer as remarkable as Jacque. She let the group know when we would come up to a water stop, what pace we were on and reminded everyone to stay cool. She remained composed and encouraging the whole 20 miles I was with her. My wish for any first-time marathoner is that they get their own Jacque. She was instrumental in my strong finish.
What threw me off in the first 20 miles were the water stops. I really wanted to stay with the 4-hour pace group but when I would stop to fill my water bottle (a 10-second stop, at that) I would find myself sprinting to catch up with Jacque. It was her job to get individuals across in 4 hours – it was our job to keep on pace.
In my last attempt to make ground up after getting water, I dug myself into a hole. Mentally I kept getting mad at myself for stopping, sprinting, stopping, repeat. But I got myself out of that hole. I accepted that maybe this marathon wasn’t my 4-hour marathon. Instead, let’s focus on finishing healthy and listening to my body. I looked down at the ring I had put on that morning and felt proud that I hadn’t stopped just because Plan A didn’t work out how I wanted. I didn’t pout and give up. I slowed. I did not stop.
I would rather have positive splits then a negative attitude.
I saw Ryan at Mile 21 and he asked, “How are you doing?”
As I ran past him, high-fiving as we did at each mile-marker he came to, I said with a smile, “It’s looking more like 4:15 today babe.” I kept going.
Miles 20-23 were for me. I overcame some mental battles those miles…but I dug myself out (with the help of Ryan).
Cheers to a great boyfriend
Ryan helped me so much during that race. He would text me when he got to another mile marker that he would see me. In doing so, I looked forward to that mile. I thought, “Oh he is at mile 21? I’m at mile 17. Just 4 more miles.” He must’ve walked 8 miles that day to get to see me 5 separate times on the course, including meeting me at the finish. Each time he saw me he would say, “You got this babe,” or “Keep going!” and give me a giant high five.
He was a huge help in getting me to the finish. I could write paragraphs on the support I got from him that day. Instead, I’ll just say right here: I love that guy.
Paying it forward
At mile 23, I was still behind the 4-hour pace group. But I came up to Tony – the other first-timer I met with the group.
Miles 23-26.2 reminded me that runners stick together.
I’ve received loads of advice from fellow runners and so much encouragement. At mile 23 I was able to pay it back. I stopped with Tony, we stretched for about 30 seconds and we kept going. We talked and the miles passed. We stopped to stretch briefly once more and headed into mile 25. In the last quarter mile, Tony said he was ready to kick it in. I told him to go get it.
I finished the marathon with a dead sprint. I came down the last hill and into Canal Park stadium with a sub 7-mile pace. I had a smile and my parents on my hand. I did it. I became a marathoner. I finished strong and healthy. I finished in 4 hours and 5 minutes. I raised $3,363.74 for The Gathering Place. I helped people. I gathered a whole lot of miles this training and I found my purpose: I want to help as many people as I can, in any way that I can.
So now what?
Now, I keep training. The marathon was great. Will I do another? Absolutely! But this wasn’t a one-time thing. Health and wellness mean so much to me. I will continue to train and learn to be even healthier for the next race. I aim to incorporate more biking and swimming into my routine. Could a triathalon be in my future?
Certainly not ruling it out. As long as the community of people the sport brings you continues to be what it is, I will continue to work towards giving back what it gives to me. Happy running and training friends!