After 19 weeks of training, it all came down to this race and this medal. Last year I volunteered for the Run Hard Marathon. It was last year that I was inspired. I remember thinking at that time, I think I can do this! It took a friend or two to push me to actually register.
I took that Friday off from work so I headed to the expo early. Which was a good thing because apparently the president decided to stop in that same day for a speech at Benedict College. (How dare he show up on the day before MY marathon causing a ruckus! 😉 ) I heard that traffic was horrendous later that day. I didn’t spend that much time at the expo though because I wanted to rest my feet as much as I could. I picked up my packet and swung by the Fleet Feet table to stock up on my favorite Huma gels for the race. It saved me a trip.
I did my Friday night ritual: soaked in an epson salt bath, ate my pasta dinner and wore my compression socks to sleep. I made sure my playlists were set up in the order I wanted them to play. I packed up my fuel belt. I filled up my water bottles. I laid out all my stuff the night before but forgot to take a “Flat Maria” picture. I think I was just nervous.
I arrived that morning with plenty of time to spare and parked within a block of the finish line. I even had time to stand in line for the porta potty before heading to the start line for the Team RWB picture. I was actually afraid that I would be running late like I do for most hometown races. Ha! I found my RUI friends easily and met up with Team RWB for our pre-race photo.
I was ready! And I was nervous.
It was the perfect weather for a marathon, temp in the 30s and the sky was clear and sunny. I started out perfectly, keeping my marathon pace and not getting caught up in the excitement of the start. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for that. The first half was great. I kept on pace and stuck to my fueling plan that I trained with. I was feeling great. I conquered Saluda, Trenholm and Gervais hills on the first lap, running up each one steadily without stopping. Here I am running up Gervais Hill the first time. (I spy my Simple Hydration bottle!!)
For those of you that don’t know, the Run Hard Marathon is a double loop. Yes, we really do run right beside the finish line as we loop around for a second lap. That could be bad mentally for some, however it didn’t bother me so much. It was actually nice to see my friends, parents, sister and PJ there as I looped around.
It also gave my friend Teresa a chance to jump in beside me right before I passed the finish. She came out to run with me on my second loop. I’m so grateful that she was able to do this. Having her by my side for that second loop really helped me. I remember looking at the clock as I passed the finish to start my second loop. It read about 2:38 and I remember thinking I was making great time.
As I hit the Saluda hill that second go-round, I lost steam halfway up. I remember Teresa telling me that it’s okay to walk, it’s not failure. The thing about Saluda hill is that it seems to keep going and going. And going. It’s a nice long gradual hill and there’s a slight turn up ahead where it mistakenly looks like the top. But it’s not. As you round that turn, the hill continues upward. Ugh. I conquered it the first time but had to stop halfway up the second time. No problem. I kept going.
Here’s where I decided I needed to stop for a potty break. But I really didn’t need to. It’s weird…I felt like I had to pee but I really didn’t. Anyone else felt that way before during a marathon? I figured it was just where I had my fuel belt sitting. The guys at that water stop were funny and I was thankful for the laughs.
I made it to the 16 mile mark for my next fuel “break”. I’m really glad I made the switch to Huma gels during my training. They taste great and weren’t too thick or sweet. After eating, rehydrating and regrouping, I picked it back up again. I came across my friend Chris and his girlfriend around the 16 1/2 mile mark. His girlfriend was a course marshal and he was there for support. They gave me high fives and Chris pumped me up and told me to kick this marathon’s arse! I needed that.
Somewhere around mile 18 is where I started feeling it. My legs started getting sore. There was this lady on the 1st lap around the 6 mile mark that was out there cheering. Her energy was amazing. She was still there, a little after mile 19, at the same spot…with that SAME EXACT energy. It was exactly what I needed. I ran to her and hugged and thanked her for being out there and cheering us on. She had no idea how much that meant to me at that moment in the race.
Not far from her, I rounded a corner and started down a hill as I came up to my friends alongside the road. They were out there cheering for Kristen and me. (Kristen was a little ahead of me. We kept leap frogging the whole race.) My friends are awesome.
I stopped to hug both of them. They drove down further to right before the 22 mile marker and stopped to cheer for us again. I totally needed that.
I started struggling around the mile 20 mark. My legs were sore from the pounding and the hills. By the time I hit mile 21 I felt like I was just shuffling along. Somewhere between 21 and 22 miles, I began taking walking breaks and each time I did, I was beating myself up. I was frustrated. My mind wanted to keep running. My spirit wanted to keep running. I had energy. I was hydrated. But my legs were struggling. Teresa was constantly telling me how great I was going even though I was frustrated at myself.
Once we hit Gervais, I knew I had one more big hill to get up and then I would almost be finished. It was tough. I barely ran up Gervais hill that second time. When we hit the top, I only had about a mile and a half left. That was when I really slowed down. I walked more in that last mile and a half than I would have liked. I was so frustrated at myself that even Teresa could hear it each time I stopped to walk.
When we rounded that last corner and I saw the finish line in the distance, I started to get emotional. My eyes started to water. I started running again and my friend Kimberly was running towards me with my flag in her hand. I had wanted to finish with Old Glory and I’m so glad that she was able to bring it to me. She shouted encouragement as she handed it off to me.
I don’t know how to explain it but the minute I picked up Old Glory, I felt like I started to fly. No lie. I seriously ran faster. And I started to cry. I was going to finish. I couldn’t believe it. I heard my name. I looked over and saw my friend Chris had made it downtown and he was yelling “Go Maria!” I kept running. I heard my name again and there was my friend Jean cheering me.
I remember thinking, “Holy crap, I’m really doing this.” Then I saw my dad at the finish line waiting for me with my medal. As I crossed the finish line with Old Glory flying beside me, my dad looped my marathon medal around my head. And I was crying. I had just finished my first marathon.
I am amazed at the support I had. My friends were still there, though some of them had long finished their relay or half marathon. My family was there. PJ was there. One of my best friends, Jean was there with her boys too! Matt gave me a celebratory shot from his flask. I even had a pan of mac n cheese at the finish thanks to our friend Warren!! It was the best marathon finish ever.
This is an experience that I will never forget. I didn’t finish in the time that I had estimated and am a little disappointed in that…BUT I COMPLETED MY FIRST MARATHON! How can I NOT be happy about that?!?! Running a marathon wasn’t even in my dreams just over a year ago. And here I am today…a Marathoner.
Not only that, but I chose a really, really tough course as my first. That alone is something to be proud of. Curious on how tough it is? Check out this elevation chart:
Oh yeah. I totally ran that as my first marathon. Yes, I am crazy. 🙂
I just want to say thanks to all of you that followed my journey, supported me and cheered me along these last 20 weeks. I’m blessed to have that support during this journey.
For those of you wondering…yes, I want to run another. I want to beat my time. I’ve got a few races in mind but haven’t decided yet. I probably won’t be running the Run Hard Marathon again. The half marathon yes, but not the full. It was a tough course and I conquered it. I’m ready for the next.
See you on the road!
Stay tuned for these upcoming posts:
- 5 Reasons to Work with a Coach
- #MedalMonday: Get to the Green Race Recap
- 5 Reasons to Foster