We trained for 22 weeks, logged nearly 400 miles, traveled to Phoenix, and punched the Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon in the facehole!
The night before the marathon, Mal and I were convinced that we wouldn’t sleep a wink, but, surprisingly, we both slept until our alarm at 5:05 AM. As soon as it went off, we both jumped out of bed and started cruising around the hotel room.
I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of peanut butter and banana on whole wheat bread and a glass of iced coffee with soy milk. (Mal and I purchased a few groceries the day before and brewed coffee to chill overnight, so we were set to go in the morning.)
Once we triple-checked we had everything that we needed, Mal and I headed downstairs to meet our Team In Training team in the hotel lobby.
Overnight, the coaches of the Minnesota team left signs on our door, which inspired us for the race ahead.
The lobby of the hotel was a madhouse! There were hundreds of Team In Training runners making last-minute preparations and getting amped-up for the big race. You could totally feel the energy in the room. It was awesome.
Mal and I snapped a photo, did a quick cheer with our team, and then we on a bus to the start line.
We arrived about 15 minutes later, and I immediately jumped in the Porta Potty lines, which were surprisingly short and fast-moving. When does that ever happen!?
Early morning self-portrait.
About 40 minutes before the start, Mal and I headed over to the corals. On our way, we bumped into my cousin, Heidi, and her husband, Matt, who was also running the marathon. Mal and I had plans to meet up with them after the race, but it was so nice to see them before.
We chatted for awhile and took a few pictures before saying goodbye to Heidi and Matt. Then, Mal and I gave each other a huge ‘good luck’ hug and walked to our respective corals.
The next 20 minutes seemed like an eternity. I wanted to get the show on the road already! Plus, I was cold and wanted to warm-up.
The race started at 7:40 on the dot, and before I knew it, I was running over the start line. This was it. I was running a marathon.
The first half of the race was pretty uneventful. Ok, that’s lie. I really can’t remember what happened. I know that I enjoyed the desert scenery, rocked out to Lady Gaga, and practically smiled the entire way. I completely embraced the spirit of the marathon, and I loved every second of it.
I do remember long stretches of highway that were kind of boring and live bands along the route that kept me entertained. I guess I just got into a grove and zoned out.
When the race started, the weather was overcast and cool, which was perfect for running. I kept my pace steady and trucked along.
- Mile 1: 9:30
- Mile 2: 9:18
- Mile 3: 9:19
- Mile 4: 9:17
- Mile 5: 9:19
- Mile 6: 9:18
- Mile 7: 9:20
- Mile 8: 9:22
Eventually, the sun came out and stayed with us until the end of the race.
The next few miles were slower than my first eight, but I still felt strong. The bands, cheerleaders, dancers, and other spectators helped keep my motivation high. Also, all of the Team in Training runners and coaches further motivated me by yelling out my name and “GO TEAM!” when they saw me on the course.
- Mile 9: 9:35
- Mile 10: 9:34
- Mile 11: 9:44
- Mile 12: 9:43
- Mile 13: 9:25
My half marathon time was 2:03:07, which was smack in the middle of the 2:00 – 2:05 goal range that my TNT coach suggested for me. I was psyched and really wanted to keep it up.
But, shortly after I passed the Mile 13 maker, I started to lose steam. I’m not sure what happened, but I felt myself slowing down and realized that I probably went out a little too fast for the first half of the marathon. I knew that I couldn’t change the past, so I told myself that I’d keep my pace around 10:00/mile for the rest of the race.
I stayed pretty close to my goal for Miles 14-17, but then came Mile 18.
- Mile 14: 9:59
- Mile 15: 10:02
- Mile 16: 10:11
- Mile 17: 10:18
Ugh, Mile 18.
My legs started to feel incredibly tight and sort of painful. I talked to Caitlin on the phone the day before the race and she suggested pulling off the course and doing a Downward Facing Dog for a full body stretch when my legs got really right. I did exactly that and it seemed to help because my pace on the next mile was 30 seconds faster than Mile 18.
- Mile 18: 11:02
- Mile 19: 10:29
Mile 20 seemed to come out of nowhere. Seeing the mile maker made me pretty emotional. My eyes even welled up with tears. I had never run more than 20 miles before, so I had enter unchartered territory. But, as soon as I ran by the mile maker, I knew I would cross the finish line.
Passing Mile 20 was a big deal, but I didn’t realize just how hard the last 6 miles would be.
- Mile 20: 10:32
- Mile 21: 10:47
Mile 22 is where the ‘wheels fell off’ for me. I guess you could say I hit the wall… hard.
In training runs, I had experienced ‘Jello legs,’ but never what I experienced during the final miles of the marathon. This feeling was excruciating. My body did not want to run anymore. Every single step seemed to hurt. Plus, the harder I tried, the slower my pace became. It was the most frustrating feeling ever, especially since I was still in the game, mentally.
At this point, I stopped a few times to stretch and catch my breath. I also started to walk through the water stations. Miles 22-24 were the most difficult miles I have ever run. I dug deep to mentally over come them, but my body just wanted to quit.
- Mile 22: 11:40
- Mile 23: 11:53
- Mile 24: 11:56
Close to Mile 25, I saw a friendly face on the sidelines. It was Monica!!! I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy! Again, I almost cried, but I knew that I needed to keep it together to finish the marathon.
Somehow, Monica and I made it to the final water stop at Mile 25.3. I walked through it and told myself I would not stop running until I crossed the finish line.
- Mile 25: 11:19
As soon as I saw the finish line, I just started yelling ‘YES’ over and over again. (I’m so weird, but my brain couldn’t think of anything else to say!) I knew I’d be a marathoner soon enough and the horrible pain would stop!
I had the biggest smile on my face when I crossed the finished line. I thought for sure I’d burst into tears as soon as I finished, but I was too giddy with excitement to cry. I ran 26.2 miles!!!
- Mile 26: 11:17
- Mile 26.2: 1:59
With the help of my friend, Monica, I finished in 4:26:43, which was more than 3 minutes under my ‘icing on the cake’ goal of 4:30. My real goal for my first marathon was to finish with two arms and two legs. A smile on my face was a bonus. So, finishing under 4:30 was truly icing on the cake… and you know how much I like cake!
I really couldn’t have done it with Monica. I was in rough shape when she found me on the course, but she motivated me to finish strong.
I also couldn’t have done it without my amazing husband, who supported me through this entire experience. There is no way in hell I could have finished a marathon without him.
Less than a year ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever run a marathon. Even 5 months ago when I first start training, I wasn’t sure if I could. But, a combination of wanting it badly enough and a supportive husband got me to the finish line.
If you’re wondering, Mr. Speed Demon finished his first marathon in 3:15:58. Mal came so close to qualifying for Boston, he might actually attempt marathon #2 this fall! (And he said he’d never run another marathon!)
I’m still on the fence about running another marathon, but if I do, it will definitely be with Team In Training again. Training with TNT made the experience so much more fulfilling for me.
“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”