Here’s Looking at you, 2014!

New beginnings, a clean slate, a blank-paged book, a fresh box of assorted chocolates with no cheat sheet. Hello, 2014!

The first half of 2013 was packed full for me in the running arena. I started out being introduced to the Ultra Running world the first weekend in January by crewing for a fellow runner and friend at her first 50k. It was sparks from the beginning. It prompted me to create my main goal last year: run my age, which was 31 miles, a 50k. I planned to train during the summer months and run a local 50k in Greenville. Before that training would start, I preempted it by running 5 half marathons in the spring before summer hit: Myrtle Beach Half Marathon, Columbia Half Marathon, Blue Ridge Half Marathon in Roanoke, VA, The Varmint Half Marathon in Tazewell, VA, and Diva Half Marathon at North Myrtle Beach, SC. It was a busy spring and I was seldom home on weekends. If I wasn’t running, I was off crewing for another runner. I loved every minute of it.

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Myrtle Beach Half Marathon – with Kerri and John, two of my favorites

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Columbia Half Marathon – in front of the Capital Building

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Blue Ridge Half Marathon, Roanoke, VA – the 6th hardest US Half and Full Marathon. Ran with a new-found running friend, Mindy.

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The Vamint Half Marathon, Tazewell, VA – my uncle Ron and I ran our first Half Marathon together, in our home state.

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Diva Half Marathon, Myrtle Beach, SC – with Terri, a very sweet dear girlfriend.

Summer hit and I was ready to get started on my ultra training. So, I started my long runs for my 50k training and didn’t run another race for a while. July, August and September weekends were booked for me. When people would ask what exciting plans I had for the weekend, my reply was always “running 16 miles” or “running 20 miles” or “running 23 miles.” As a runner, this is exciting, at first. But, as you know, I got really burned out on running near the end of my training. I decided to move out my first ultra to 2014 since my love of running had waned. And, as you know, I got my mojo back and I started hitting the pavement again. With my renewed love of running, and the sport as a whole, I volunteered for a few races with the Greenville Track Club. And, I think I’ve mentioned that volunteering for a race is second to actually running it. Cheering for fellow runners during a race can be so rewarding.

Even though I trained for 3 straight months during the summer with no “race payoff”, that training was not in vain. No training is never in vain. Just like there’s no such thing as “junk miles.” I fought a very hard mental battle while running those long, hot months and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m a better runner because of it.

The year ended with running fun runs with my running friends and buddies. Christmas Eve morning run is one of my favorites as we meet at a Greenville landmark restaurant, dressed up to the Santa nines, and run 4 miles, then eat breakfast at Tommy’s Ham House before we go celebrate Christmas with our loved ones. It’s not an official race or an official course. We just spread the word by word of mouth and show up at 6am on Christmas Eve morning every year.

And this year, we had an inaugural New Year’s Eve Champagne 5k race on New Year’s Eve night. You could either run as a single participant or on a centipede team of 8 runners tethered together the whole run. I, of course, was part of the centipede team. It was fun to dress up and enjoy the New Year’s Eve party afterward with my running friends.

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But, as the year comes to an end, you start thinking about your running goals for the next year. You start asking your running friends, “What’s big on your race schedule next year?” Well, I have a quite a few on mine for next year, but I’m not going to broadcast them, for once. If you keep up with me on Facebook or through my blogs, you’ll just have to wait and see what I post AFTER I have accomplished it. I thought this would be more fun and it even makes me wonder what I will accomplish this year!

But, here are a few things that I will share with you that I WILL be doing this  year:

1. Run for fun. If it stops being fun, I’m doing something wrong.
2. Run with other people more. I’m a lone wolf a lot. Time to change it up!
3. Volunteer at more local races.
4. Incorporate fartlek training in my runs (go ahead and laugh, but in layman’s terms, it’s called spurt training or interval training)
5. Be thankful every step I take for my health God has so granted me with for now, to enjoy this gift we call running.
6. Don’t take it for granted.

So, here’s to you and yours in 2014! Dream big. Life is so short, so take chances, risks and live passionately. Auld Lang Syne, 2013!

Colossians 3:23-24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Falling in Love with Running…Again

As some of you know, for the last half of this year, I was training for my first ultra run. I am 31 years old this year and I wanted to run my age…a 50k (31 miles). So, in June, I started a 16 week ultra training plan. I was planning on running a local 50k here in Greenville, but the closer it got to the day, the race entries had not even reached double digits. October 5 was race day.

During long distance, I usually need support, mentally. Like, a lot of support. My mind is my greatest enemy, and the thought process during a long run is brutal sometimes. A few close running friends know this about me and know that the tougher the love they give me, the better I do and succeed. For instance, read my blog about my first bike ride up Paris Mountain. Tyler was my “screaming-at-me” coach for that day I finally succeeded up the mountain. Like my first marathon, I wanted my first ultra race to be big and fun. I wanted this due to the fact that if it were not a good experience, I wouldn’t want to do it again. And, as you all know, I run for the love of it. Running is not a duty for me. It is a pleasure…which brings me to my story.

About the time I decided to choose another ultra marathon to run later, I was really tired of running. Not physically tired, but mentally tired. I didn’t look forward to it and my joy had left me. It had become a duty and an obligation. So, I turned to Crossfit, which I love now. Runners need strength training and Crossfit answers that and it is loads of fun and challenging. You never do the same thing twice, at least for a few weeks or so. I love the community, as I do the running community. And, besides, you do get to run a little in Crossfit, as well.

So, I took a break from running and was doing nothing but Crossfit. I didn’t go out for a run for a full month. During this time, I started worrying about myself, as well. Running changed my life over 4 years ago. I caught the runner’s high and it had never wavered until now. I wondered if I would ever feel it again. My mom usually calls me on Saturday afternoons and asks me how many miles I did that morning. During that month, she would ask me if I ran that morning. I would answer, “No, I went to Crossfit instead.” Which is not a bad answer, don’t get me wrong. But, I could sense it in her voice that she knew and noticed that my joy of running had left. After years of all that motivation I have dished out, I was the one that needed it. After my Saturday morning runs, I always have a smile on my face, no matter how bad my legs and feet hurt after running double digits.

My uncle Ron just completed his first marathon in D.C., the same one I ran as my first marathon last year. As the days crept closer to his big day, I think I got more excited for him than he did. I relived what it felt like last year when I stood in that crowd of 25,000+ runners; the sense of accomplishment; the feeling of “I can do this!,” the camaraderie among thousands of strangers that share a bond, the feeling of knowing all of those months of training is getting ready to pay off. I received text updates from my uncle’s marathon as he ran that day. I celebrated with him as if I had just finished it, too. A week later, the New York Marathon was on TV. I teared up as I watched the crowd cross the starting line, “New York, New York” playing in the background, and followed them on their journey to victory.

Driving to work, I would drive by runners getting their morning or evening runs in. The luring was stronger than ever. I was still going to Crossfit and I started hoping that we would have a “running WOD.” I volunteered at Spinx Runfest, our biggest local race each year, which includes a marathon, a half, a 10k and a 5k. I was one of the marathon course monitors. So, I got ride along on my bike, keeping tabs on the course and the runners. I thoroughly enjoyed that day, enjoyed cheering on complete strangers and wishing I was out there with them, suffering together.

My joy was coming back, and it seemed stronger than ever. After all the luring “Running” had been doing to me, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I hit the open road with my dog. Running is sort of like a dog’s love. The road never punishes you for not spending time with it every day. It’s as if you never were apart. That first run back, I wanted to run forever; like I owed it so many miles for being gone for so long. The Forest Gump mentality had set in. I had fallen back in love with running and I didn’t want to stop.

I felt bad, mentally, for losing my joy of something I love so much. But, it can happen to anyone. During my ultra training, I was doing nothing but running, which burned me out rather quickly. I have learned that cross training is very important. Crossfit is a great outlet for me to do that. Some people can run every day of their life and still not get burn out. But, as we all know, everyone is different. Change is good for me and diversity is what makes the world go around.

I rescheduled my first ultra and will be running with a bunch of other crazy running friends of mine February 8 of next year, 3 months from now. I’m totally stoked about this race. There is a 6 hour, a 12 hour and a 24 hour race that is going on simultaneously that day. I, of course, will be doing the 6 hour race. I have friends doing one of either of them. Yes, we are crazy. But, we love it. And, yes, we question ourselves quite often, when the pain starts, when you get up before the sun, when you start to lose toenails, when you do nothing but run,…why do we do this?

The answer for me is always the same. For the love of the run.

Run to Get Lost

This past Saturday’s long run had 16 miles on the schedule of my 50k training. I mainly run on the Swamp Rabbit Trail because it’s mostly flat and when I get delirious in the longer mileage, I don’t have to think where I’m going. After about mile 15, I am not accountable for what I say or do, let alone where I run. LOL

After last week’s back trouble near the end of my 19 miler, I had dreaded this run all week long. Last week around mile 16, my back pain stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my face. I had to stop, lay on the ground to relieve my back and finally had to call a friend to come pick me up where I was. This made me angry and worrisome all at the same time. I was worried that the longer mileage was going to put me out of my 50k dream of finishing and as you all know, I broadcast my goals online. This is not for bragging rights, let me tell you. I broadcast my goals and my runs for accountability. If I don’t post anything for a few weeks, people start checking up on me and making sure that I’m still motivated and accomplishing what I said I was going to do. And for those that know me, it takes a lot to get me down.

My running buddy was on vacation this week, so I was a lone wolf for my long run. I decided to start on the Travelers Rest side of the SRT and mix it up. It wasn’t until I started to run that I decided to just let the road take me to wherever it may lead. I ran all over downtown Traveler’s Rest and started taking side roads, not knowing where they may lead. I saw a steep hill on another side road and took it just because of the hill. Besides, I’ll never get better at running hills unless I run them. I ran to the top, turned around and looked back, and the smile on my face was all I felt.

comfort zone

I got a call from my mom after about an hour and a half in and wanted to meet up for a few miles. So, I circled back and ran/walked with her for a couple miles. The Gatorade she brought was a Godsend. I, then, continued on the SRT toward Furman and ran all over campus. Another 5k race was going on. I ran alongside them and encouraged a few runners along the way. As I was passing the waterstop, they offered me a bottle of water. I told them I wasn’t in the race, but they smiled and said, “That’s okay. Looks like you’re in it for the long haul.” At this point, the sun was getting a little higher, so most of that water ended up on my head.

I got back on the trail and was plugging along. I passed a few runners I knew, nodded or waved, asked how many miles they were doing today and felt encouraged knowing that I wasn’t the only one out here going through this addictive torture we call “happiness.”

About this time, the motorcycle cop that patrols the trail, slowed down to my pace and started up a conversation with me. It went a little like this: “Looks like you’re out here for a while. I always think that when I see you runners with those belts around your waste with the bottles on them.” “Yeah, I have 16 on the agenda today.” “How can you all run that far?” “Well, it’s 90% mental, honestly. It’s a mental battle. Your body can last longer than your mind can. So, you just have to train your mind.” “Yeah? I used to run when I was younger, but not much now. Well, I admire you for it and have fun, if that’s what you’re doing!” I laughed and smiled and said, “Yes, thank you! I wouldn’t do it if I weren’t.” He rode away shaking his head with a smile.

I finished my 16 miles with mostly no back pain, thankfully. Sometimes, a simple run, no matter how long, can renew your strength in yourself and in humankind. I’m not a fast runner, as I’ve mentioned before. I run for the love of it. And I thoroughly loved my run Saturday by mixing it up with running roads that I didn’t know where they ended or where they went. I have 20 miles on the schedule for this coming Saturday. Let’s just say that I plan on getting lost. On purpose. The mystery of it is kind of its own high. So, I’ll be in bed Friday night around 8:30pm in order to get high on Saturday morning around 5:30am. Yes, I know it’s crazy. They should make pills for this.

This entry was posted on August 5, 2013. 1 Comment

Running after Boston

Boston Marathon 2013 has forever changed runners. I’m sure by now you’ve all heard and read how runners feel about the Boston Marathon. It’s like the Holy Grail of running. It’s where all runner’s hope to be one day. I, personally, am a slow runner and may not make it until I’m 50 years old, but I’ll get there one day. I hope to go in the next few years and just run the 5k. Just being around those elite runners and feeling the electricity is enough for me right now. I’ll run the 5k and cheer on the marathoners as they run up “Heartbreak Hill.”

I ran the Blue Ridge Half Marathon the weekend after the Boston bombings. The volunteerism and the spectators were off the charts. Or, it could have just been how the awesome town of Roanoke, VA, is, but I’d like to say it’s a little of both. Boston jackets and shirts and even Red Sox hats were seen everywhere. People were proudly wearing anything that had to do with Boston. Before the race began, we had a moment of silence. The Boston flag was waving above the starting line. As the national anthem was sung, we all stood proudly, hands over our hearts and watched that bright blue flag wave in the air. I always get emotional when our national anthem is sung, and this time was no different.

roanoke bib

roanoke medal

roanoke shirt

Runners from all over the country and even the world gathered in their small cities and towns on the Monday night after the bombings and ran for Boston. Whether it was 2.62 miles or 4 miles or 26.2 miles. It didn’t matter. It was the coming together and bonding for Boston that we were after. If you didn’t have a Boston shirt, you wore blue or yellow or tried to order one supporting the OneFund Boston that helped aid the victims.

This was my home group. (o:

boston run

Races will never be the same. Spectators and runners alike will always wonder if something will happen and wonder if a bomb will go off near the starting or finish line. Trash cans are not just trash cans anymore. Anyone with a backpack may be looked at more than twice now.

But, will the running population decrease? Have people stopped running? Oh, no! Quite the opposite. Boston 2014 will probably have record-breaking numbers. People have started running when they never have before. You see, running is more than just a sport. It is an activity that not only tests your physical endurance, but also your mind. Half of running is the mental battle. Your body is stronger than your mind thinks you are. This is why you can’t listen to your mind. Listen to your body when you run. When your mind tells you that it hurts, run faster, run farther. You’ll know when it’s time to rest. Your body will know. People who run go through this mental battle and it leaks into their everyday life. So, in short, runners are strong people. People who run marathons have trained their body and mind for months. The tragedy at Boston has done nothing but make people come together which makes them stronger than ever. The bombers messed with the wrong people. Runners are overcomers!

I know it’s been a while since my last blog. I’ve been busy…running my fifth half marathon for this spring next weekend. But, I’ve also been taking it easy…training for my first 50k this summer. So, it’s gonna be a long, hot summer. But, I’ll keep you posted…I’m sure to have many adventures doing those long runs every weekend.

Oh, and meet my boy, George! He’s my new addition, Golden Retriever and Chow mix. I thought I was going to be able to train him to run with me on those long runs, but I don’t think he’s gonna be able to. He’s not a running breed…he doesn’t do over 3 miles. But, he’s a great friend and loves to listen to me complain about what hurts now from the previous run…LOL.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2013. 1 Comment

“You doing Myrtle Beach next year?”

When people speak of Myrtle Beach or going to Myrtle Beach, things like flip flops, sun tans, pińa coladas, Ocean Boulevard and beach music come to mind. But to some runners along with myself, every second or third Saturday in February means it’s marathon time at Myrtle! Among my close running group inside the Greenville Track Club, you might overhear one say, “You going to Myrtle next year?” This doesn’t mean, “Are you going to the beach for vacation?” It means, “Will you be running Myrtle this year?”

This is one of my favorite “get out of town” races every year. Only death or a bad illness keeps me from going. I get to room with some of my favorite elite runners and hang with the best. I get to see them often throughout the year at different hometown races and at GTC events, but at Myrtle, I get to run with them for three days, talk about this year’s running plans, discuss different eating plans and cross training, and dream and plan the next few years “must have” races.

Let me give you some background on out-of-town races. It is not just to go run that race and mark it off of your list. It’s a time of letting your hair down and hanging out with some of your best friends; friends who know the lingo, understand your passion and addiction and never tire of talking about running. That’s pretty much all we do all weekend. Oh, and run. We run, too.

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You experience those morning-of butterflies together, visiting the port-a-potties a few times, decide where to meet after the race, and as soon as one finishes, you stand at the finish line and cheer every runner that comes through (even though they are strangers to you) until your whole gang of running buddies have finished. Runners share a bond that only runners understand. You see each other at your worst and best times. Those best times meaning, “sweat rolling down your face, stinky, your Achilles “killing” you, but you PR’ed that day.” Those are the best times.

So, Myrtle this year was no different. Actually, it was the best year yet of my three years running it. I got to run it with one of my very dear running friends. We crossed the starting line together and he let me cross the finish line one second before him. True friendship, I tell you. Tried and true. (Thanks, Jeff!)

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I took the race easy this year just enjoying the run. I’ve been doing that more and more since completing my marathon in October. I truly love running just for the run and I am glad that I have the health and strength to do it.

About the half-way mark, I let my mind wander to just being thankful. I thought of my grandmother that passed away the year before. Tears came to my eyes. She was always a “go-getter.” She was the kind of person that always said to “go and try everything you can. Life is so short. Live it on purpose.” So, that day, I ran that half marathon for my grandmother, Lexie. I know she would be out there if she could.

I talk a lot about running for yourself. Don’t run for anybody else. Do it all for you. Running is a one-man sport. You are competing with yourself. And, I still feel this way. But, I have some friends that run for different reasons, be it breast cancer, a recent tragedy or a charity of some sort. So, I have decided to incorporate that into my running this year. Run for a cause. Yes, it’s still for you, but there’s just something about having a person or a cause to run for that makes you push and breathe a little harder for. Both of my grandmothers had some sort of cancer at one point in their lives. So, my races this year may not be running for a “cancer,” but they can be run for my grandmothers that can’t run today. Running for someone who can’t…that’s a pretty darn good reason to run, if you ask me.

I know I “chase rabbits” a lot in my blogs, giving more details about the races or runs and not just about the race itself. But, that’s what running is. Yes, it’s about the race, getting through different mind obstacles and a mile-by-mile replay. But, it’s also about enjoying the whole experience. I’m a big-picture type of girl and like to talk about it. So, in short, I thought the following during the race (not in any particular order): “Boy, it’s good to be running the whole race with my friend. Man, I miss my grandmother. This is for you, Nan. I really wanted to try to PR today, but I think I’m just gonna take it easy and enjoy today with Jeff. Ooh, I need to come look through that store I just passed after the race later. Boy, those eggs, pancakes and bacon smell like heaven right now! I hope Alfred is feeling good…he’s running his first full today. I wish those women behind us would just shut up! I think I’m getting a blister already and it’s only mile six. Talk about perfect weather for a marathon! Man, I wish I had signed up for the full. Man, I’m glad I only signed up for the half (at the split)! I’m freakin’ awesome! Only 2% of the population ever run a marathon…glad I’m in that 2%. Today is a good day to be alive. I know it’s only a half, but it feels like a full already. Where is that split again? Oh, there’s Kerrie and Bobby to run us in! I’m so blessed to have friends such as these.”

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It was, indeed, a good day to run and another year of Myrtle Beach was penned down for the books. Race stories were swopped, laughs and hugs were shared, pictures were taken, cheering and heavy breathing was heard, pounding of the feet was felt, medals were received, lots and lots of food was eaten, not enough outlet shopping was done, and 13.1 and 26.2 miles were ran. Just another day in the life of a runner.

tyler

This entry was posted on March 6, 2013. 2 Comments

From 26.2 to 5k – It’s All About the Journey

As you can read and see, I took a little hiatus since my marathon in late October and just enjoyed “the run” again. I basically haven’t ran over 10 miles in one run since October 28, 2012. But, I intentionally, planned it that way to give my body a rest after months and months of training. In November and December, I only ran fun runs and “jingle jogs.” I thoroughly enjoyed taking a rest, eating those holiday treats, and having no “mapped-out” routes or scheduled mileage to do on Saturdays. After 10 months of hard-core training, I decided to give my body a break.

It is now mid-January. I started the year off right by running 7 miles New Year’s Day morning with my running buddy, Tim. We had a nice, wet run on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and enjoyed an All-American recovery breakfast at Waffle House. Nothing says, “Good morning, America!” like a full breakfast from Waffle House…the place that never closes.

Since then, I have gotten back on track with my training. I have a full year planned. I have 3 half marathons back to back in February, March and April. Then, I enter the summer months with 3 triathlons: 2 sprints and 1 international. My big goal this year is to run my first ultra, 50k (31.07 miles roughly). I turned 31 this past December and I wanted to make this my goal for this year: run 31 miles in my 31st year. This is planned in October with a few of my other running friends. Then, I’ll end the year in November with another marathon.

When they said “dream big,” I took them literally. My dreams get bigger and bigger each year. Not just in running, but in life.

So, this past Saturday was the first 5k of the Greenville Track Club’s Running Series season. You already know that I am not a fast runner. I run for fun and for the passion. But, I do try to work on my speed, as I attend the track speed workouts every Wednesday with the Track Club. It was a cold morning Saturday. My car thermometer read 29 degrees on the way downtown. I huddled with my running friends waiting for the national anthem to be sung, the countdown and the “gun” to go off. The Greenville News Downtown 5k is known to be the “fastest 5k” in our running series. It has uphills, but it also has its share of downhills which give you that “make-up time” advantage. As I have mentioned before, in running, as in life, you have your good days and your bad days. I didn’t feel bad Saturday, but I wasn’t feeling that PR.

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About halfway, I started realizing that this was not going to be a PR day for me. My current PR is 30:11. I just haven’t been able to break 30 minutes yet in a 5k. But, it will come. It will. So, I was struggling up one of the inclines and a man and his son were running up beside me. I heard the father say, “What is one of your biggest goals when you grow up?” To which the son replied, “To work at the Pentagon.” The father said, “Then, run with that in mind and let that goal push you to finish today.” I saw the little boy, approximately 7 or 8 years old, run a little faster. I couldn’t help but smile. A father was teaching his son about life through running.

I also saw another man who was in front of me for a little ways. The back of his shirt had something along the lines of being a Marine, just not as fast now. One could tell he was in his forties or fifties and he had gained weight since his Marine days. As I passed him, I patted his back and said, “You got this, Marine!” The feeling of encouraging another runner far surpasses that feeling you get when someone else encourages you on your run. I guess it’s that whole “better to give than to receive” aspect. Either way, I felt like a million bucks.

So, it may not have been a “big red letter day” of running for me. No PR’s were set, no second winds were felt. But, I thoroughly enjoyed that run by running beside people that I don’t know and learning something about them and watching them pursue and conquer that run.

I have said this many times, but running is life to me. I thank God daily for my health and strength to be able to run and cycle and swim. I love it and I enjoy sharing my experiences with others that either enjoy these same pastimes or wish they could do more, but can’t.

So, here’s to 2013! Looking forward to taking life on with more passion than ever. I will treasure my runs, rides and swims with everything within me, because one day, I may not be able to enjoy them.

But, today is not that day.

This entry was posted on January 21, 2013. 1 Comment

My First Marathon: Running with 25,000 of my Closest Friends

I have thought and thought of a hundred different ways to tell you all about my first marathon. I have typed pages and then deleted them, because to tell you the truth, I could write about it in a hundred different ways from different angles. Truth is, running a marathon is all about the journey leading up to the actual race. The day of the race is your reward. Plain and simple. So, you all have already “read” with me my journey getting here. So, let me tell you about my reward.

I had planned on getting to the race start an hour ahead of time to meet with the other eight people from Greenville to take a picture who had come to run the race, as well. But, the metro system busing 30,000 people to one metro station was more than we had accounted for. We finally arrived to the race start in Arlington about 30 minutes after I had planned for. Bathroom lines were a mile long; guys were hunkering down behind pine trees to beat the crowd. At this point, I really wished I were a boy.

After we make our last bathroom visit, we start walking to the corrals that are labeled with the finish time we expect we can finish in. On the way, Tim takes my picture with some pretty awesome U.S. Marines.

So, I wish my running buddy, Tim, good luck and Godspeed and he walks on to his corral as I walk to mine. I wanted to finish in 5:30. I start talking to the people around me in my corral. By the time the gun went off to start the race, I had made yet another 3 or 4 best friends. It’s amazing that you can arrive to a race knowing no one, and by the time you run through the finish line, you have made some of the best friends you’ll ever have who have gone to hell and back with you. All within 5 hours. So, if you need friends, try long distance running.

The gun goes off, and I wish my newly found friends good luck, a good time and Godspeed and safety. And we’re off! We walk for about a minute due to the large crowd and by the time I finally cross over the starting line and see all the Marines, the flags, the firetrucks, the signs and hear the music, my heart is thumping so fast and strong that I just let the tears mount up in my eyes. I had brought my phone and earplugs for music for later when the crowds die down and I needed motivation, but now was not the time to plug in. One could just look around them and have all the motivation they would need. The electrical current through the crowd was astounding. It’s like being on a strong pain killer without the side effects. You think you can literally fly. No, you don’t think it. You believe it.

We start running from Arlington by Rosslyn and will run by the Potomac partly on George Washington Memorial Parkway until we cross the river and run through Georgetown. I knew by the time we leave Georgetown, the hills will be over until we reach the last .2 mile. Almost to the end of Georgetown, I meet up with another fellow Greenvillian runner and chat a few minutes. It was great seeing an old face in this vast sea of friends, yet friends I didn’t know the names of. But, what’s in a name? We talk about the flight here, the storm, our goals to finish and how we feel. At that point, we both felt great. We wish each other good luck and “see you at the finish!” – knowing we probably wouldn’t see each other at the finish, but it sure does sound good in the middle of a race.

I really felt awesome my first 13 miles. If it were a half marathon, I would have had the best second PR on a half marathon. I was just worried about the second half, after mile 18 to be exact. In all of my training runs, I usually hit my wall around mile 18. I run out of fuel and I break down emotionally. It’s like my whole body is running on nothing but fumes and it affects my whole being.

But, it’s like they knew. From around mile 12 to mile 20 where you have to “beat the bridge,” crowd supporters and even the Marines at the water and food stations had signs in their hands or were stuck in the ground with sayings to either make you laugh, help you take that next step, make you cry, or just make you more determined. And they did just that for me. Signs are one of my favorite things about races. Here are a few I love or stand out to me: “Hurry up! The Packers are on at noon!” “Frankenstorm can’t scare a runner.” “Runners are sexy! Your pace or mine?” “Free Hugs!” “Single [male] runner looking for single female marathon runner!” “You can do this, Perfect Stranger!” “Beat the bus!” “Beat the Bridge!” “Blisters are in this season!” “Toenails are for sissies!” “Your feet hurt because you are kicking so much butt!” “Worst. Parade. Ever.” “Chafe now…brag forever!” “This seemed like a good idea 4 months ago!” “Where are you all going?” “You’re not slow, you’re just enjoying the course.” “In our minds, you’re all Kenyans.” “Staying up all night making this sign was hard too!” At mile 1: “You are NOT almost there!” “There is no app for this. Keep running.” “You think running a marathon is hard? Try waiting on you to finish!” “Why do all the cute ones run away?” “You think you’re tired? My arms are for holding up this sign!” “Ice baths and cookies at the finish!” “This parade is going too fast…where are the floats?” “5 to 1 you hurl before this is over!” “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.”

So, I beat the bridge and as I was crossing it, I hit my wall. My feet started hurting to the point that adrenaline wasn’t making it go away. I was now running past the point that I had ever trained. I had only ran up to 20 miles and this is where it is all heart and just putting one foot in front of the other…because there’s no other way back to the finish. But, as we exit the bridge and start running through Crystal City, the crowds are growing again. Even with the race’s water and food stops, spectators were giving out stuff as well. One of our food stops around mile 22 were Dunkin Donuts donut holes. I choked one down, and threw the other away. Even my mouth was tired and it took me forever to chew that donut.

Around mile 22, I was passing these 2 other African-American girls. They were talking and just having a good time. My emotions were raw and they could tell. One came up beside me, put her arm around me and said, “Girl, you okay?” To which I just nodded my head because I was on the verge of tears. She said, “Is this your first marathon?” I nodded and smiled and tears ran down my face. She then said, “Girl, you let it out! Cry, cuss, whatever you wanna do. You earned it.” I laughed and cried. And they laughed and enjoyed the moment with me.

Past mile 23, you play your last mind game: “Just a 5k more. That’s all it is. Just a 5k. You got this.” And today, I really can’t tell you anything about my last 3 miles. All I remember is thinking I have 3 miles to go, that this is nothing, it’s all paying off, a Marine is going to put a medal around my  neck, I think I may kiss him if I don’t throw up first, and I will NEVER do this again.

The last .2 mile is straight up hill to the finish in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial. To be honest, I can’t even remember that hill. I know it was a hill, but after the pain I felt, it wouldn’t have mattered if it were flat or down hill. I run a little harder up the hill knowing I was finished. I cross over the timing pad, a Marine high fives me and I see a group of them standing together holding medals. I walk up to one, he smiles, hangs the medal around my neck, says “Congratulations, Miss!”, and stands back, and salutes me. I choke back my tears and just say “Thank you.” I can’t say anything else because I would just break down.

I walk on back to get my picture taken in front of the Iwo Jima, sit down and would have stayed there if a storm wasn’t coming in soon. My feet hurt, my whole body ached, I was starving and I needed to find a familiar face. I called my family back home and barely could talk due to the emotion I was feeling. I told them I would call back later when I was back at the hotel.

After fighting the crowds for an hour to get back to the hotel, all the while sitting on the ground in the metro, not caring because my feet hurt so bad, I finally make it to my bed. As I lay back on it, I thought, “Never again. I’ve done it. No more.”

So, I took my Epsom salt bath, ordered in room service and feel asleep in no time.

The next day, the storm had come and it was a perfect day for it since I planned on doing nothing.

And, here’s the most important fact to my story: The pain started going away on that Monday. My body was recovering. I started moving around the room. And the glory of finishing started settling in. By Tuesday, I felt good and I wasn’t walking like Frankenstein. And the most astounding thing crossed my mind, then: “Yeah, I’m definitely going to do this again. I’m thinking once, maybe twice a year.”

And the phrase hit home: “Pain is temporary. Glory is forever.” Yes, the pain hurts like heck while you’re going through it. It feels like you literally go through hell and come back. But, after it’s over, that pain goes away and all you really remember is the pride and glory of finishing a great feat such as running 26.2 miles…on your own accord.

Some friends have compared it to having a child. You don’t really remember the pain after they get here.

I am now a marathoner. My goal, for now, is to do 1 or 2 a year. After the pain goes away, you get the fever and you start Googling where your next one is going to be.

Some put it like this: “Running sucks! What time tomorrow morning?” I can so relate.

So, there’s my first marathon story. I’m glad I got to tell it to you all and thank you for sharing in my joy and my journey.

Before I left my room that morning, my mom texted me the verse: “The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.” And that feeling, indeed, is so sweet.

And here’s a free piece of advice: Never ask a person if they will run any more marathons after they have just finished one. They answer will always be NO! But, just give them a few days. That answer will most likely change. It did for me.

This entry was posted on November 12, 2012. 2 Comments