If you haven’t noticed over the last 6 (!!!) years of my blogs, I love talking about what I’m doing and what’s coming up, especially when there’s a big event on the horizon. When I was training for my last half marathon, I chronicled a lot of the training runs over on my Instagram stories. So it shocked more than a few people when I posted last week that I had just finished my first ever marathon. Here’s the story behind the surprise!
All the way back in May 2017, some friends in our Bible study group decided to sign up for the 2018 One City Marathon and spur each other on during the long training runs. Always up for a challenge, and one of the few in the group who already enjoyed long runs, I enthusiastically signed up and began to chart out my training plan. I signed up for a half marathon in the fall and trained so well I crushed it, placing first in my age category and third among women.
In the meantime, though, one big piece of life changed: Willow came home a month after my decision to attempt my first marathon. Training with a newborn was very difficult, and I cannot emphasize enough that if not for Nathan encouraging me and being an equal parent with me, I could never have taken the time to train well for the half. When he met me with our still-tiny 5-month-old at the finish, I could not have been more proud of my accomplishment considering the change.
Just a few weeks later, I booked a gorgeous wedding in Charleston…that just so happened to fall the same weekend as the marathon. I was already thinking about canceling or deferring to the next year, and that was the nail in the coffin for me. When I train well (and train to run fast) it’s really hard on my body, and I had started to experience some real pain just training for the half. I had a nagging hamstring issue that would flare up on and off over the next year, and I was worried about further injury. So when I got to be at a destination wedding instead of running a marathon in freezing cold weather, I honestly wasn’t that sad. I deferred to 2019.
After that, I promptly forgot about it all. In the back of my mind I wouldn’t start training for another year, so I just wasn’t worried about it. I never stopped running, but having a long run of 7ish miles and training for a full marathon are completely different. All of a sudden, February 2019 rolled around and I realized I was signed up for the marathon in one month. I considered canceling it - there’s no way to train well in such a short time - but decided that I wanted to run one in my life, and I might as well just go for it.
I still didn’t train. It was cold, Willow and I were sick a lot, and I knew a month wouldn’t make a huge difference. Then the Wednesday before, I woke up unable to get out of bed. My doctor’s visit was inconclusive, but he said I had textbook flu symptoms. I agreed. My race was again in jeopardy.
Despite all of that, despite the fact that Tamaflu causes insomnia (who knew?!) and I didn’t get a good night’s sleep all week, despite my lack of preparedness, and despite waking up with a still-sore throat, never having run more than 13.1 miles ever, I decided to go for it. I would stick with a slower pace than I was used to and make peace with walking part of it.
I won’t go into every agonizing detail of every mile, but the first 21 miles were kind of a breeze. I was shocked. I did run slower than usual (9-minute mile vs. 7:30), but still…I hadn’t prepared at all! Around mile 18, I left the group that was keeping me on track for a 4 hour marathon (my pie-in-the-sky goal time) and inadvertently sped up. I had a dozen people texting me encouragement, Nathan and Willow visited me in person and FaceTimed me twice, more friends showed up to cheer me on, and at mile 24 when I legitimately felt like crying for the next two miles, I got one last push. I hadn’t walked at all, and I wasn’t going to start then.
At mile 25 I texted a friend who promised to meet me at the finish. The last mile was a blur. I somehow imagined it would be easy, and it wasn’t I would say I almost quit but let’s be honest - I’m far too determined and stubborn to give up so close to the end. When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line I started crying, although no tears came because they were all used up (I literally had pieces of salt on my face from sweating so long!), and I gave one final push to the end. I finished a marathon in 3:58:12 with almost no training and the residual flu. My friend hung a medal around my neck and I hobbled to the Victory Arch for a picture.
I couldn’t have been more proud of myself. And while I wouldn’t ever recommend what I did to anyone else, it worked for me. Now I can officially say I have run a marathon (and yes, I have the car magnet to prove it!!!).