One week ago I ran my first marathon and it was an amazing experience! I have been training for this since late June. I have been a runner since I joined my school’s cross-country team in middle school, and have always had the idea that I’d love to run a marathon someday. However, I have had periods of not running on and off in the past several years, and it seemed like it would never happen. In October 2014, I flew out to Oregon for a whirlwind weekend to surprise one of my oldest and dearest friends, Ruth, at the halfway point of her first marathon. Ruth, who is in remission from lymphoma, was raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I wanted to run a marathon next for the same cause — but I didn’t know how to approach that goal, as I hadn’t been running for at least a year.
The only way to train for a marathon was slow and steady. I decided to create a series of smaller goals to build up to it, starting with a 5K, which I would tackle after I was done with wedding craziness (I got married only a couple of months after Ruth’s marathon).
In the spring of 2015, I did a Couch to 5K program that culminated in running the “Run Through the Jungle” 5K. It went through a big cat sanctuary — so I got to run past tigers and lions (oh, my!).
I spent the summer after that 5K training for my first half marathon, which was the same event that I ran for the full marathon. The half was so exciting, and I loved training for it too. The following winter I was doing a lot of dog-running for David’s side hustle, and then began running again in earnest to train for the Hoosier Half-Marathon down here in Bloomington.
This past summer I have learned so much about myself, my body, and running as I have trained for the full marathon. I joined Team in Training just like Ruth, but there isn’t a chapter in my town so I did all the training solo. I relied on books, websites, and my sister-in-law Mary and friend Maggie for most of my marathon-training information. David was (as always) hugely supportive, and my mom and friends texted and called with encouragement and questions throughout the training process.
Finally it was the marathon weekend! I took Friday off of work, and Friday morning as I packed, my legs hurt like crazy and my hands were shaking. I was so anxious. My friend Nia texted with me and tried to calm me down, and finally David was back from his classes and we headed up to get my mom from the airport. It started to feel fun once we were up in Indy and my mom had arrived. We went to the expo and got my race packet and met the Team in Training coordinator, who presented me with a bag of goodies as a prize for raising the most money (I hadn’t realized I had done that!).
When we arrived at dinner, LINDSEY was there to surprise me! It was so incredibly exciting. After that we all hung out in the hotel watching funny videos online, talking, and preparing for the next day. I slept pretty well that night, although after waking up at 4 AM, I was pretty much done for the night. In the morning I met the rest of the Team in Training people (including the coaches), and lined up in the dark with thousands of other runners.
I wrote out a six page account of the marathon, but I won’t ask anyone to read that. Instead, here are some highlights:
- I stopped to pee only once — at mile 1.5. It was slightly ridiculous but I’m glad I did because I didn’t have to stop again throughout the whole race!
- Ruth surprised me at mile ten (ish) and it was the BEST THING EVER.
- Not only did Ruth surprise me, but there was a never-ending rotation of exciting new signs because my AMAZING friends had sent signs with Ruth! After the marathon, Ruth shared photos of my friends holding their signs back in Portland.
- I had a very dramatic experience at mile 15, where I pulled a muscle in my shoulder (stupidly, trying to hold my phone with my arm when I got it out to listen to music) and nearly panicked. But I am quite proud that I managed to use breathing, self-talk, and stretching to calm down and loosen the muscle, and I felt fine afterwards — actually quite high, and I ended up dramatically dancing and mouthing all the words to You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates.
- I got to see my people like five times. Every time it was amazing and I felt filled up with love and gratitude for how well my people love me!
- Mile 19 was my biggest “runner’s high” mile. I felt incredible. I had just seen my people at the art museum grounds, and then I’d seen a really enthusiastic high school cheer-er who had yelled, “You’re running a fucking marathon! That’s AMAZING!” when I ran by. I was running past the Free Basket sculpture, and I took a joyous selfie and then dramatically danced and mouthed all the words to Defying Gravity from Wicked. I almost sang aloud, but thought better of it.
- The other hardest mile was mile 23. It felt really contradictory. On the one hand I thought, three miles! That’s nothing! but at the same time, I could not imagine that I still had to run three miles. I felt like I could do it, but that it would be so miserable. I was trying to monitor my mental state throughout the marathon, and that was a time when I felt like I was having to constantly prevent myself from becoming demoralized. I wasn’t demoralized – I wasn’t having to pull myself out – but I was having to constantly prevent myself from falling in. That was really hard, and it wasn’t a very pretty or interesting part either.
- The Team in Training coaches helped me so much at the end. They coached me through the last two miles, and when we got to mile 26, they yelled their heads off to encourage my sprint. I saw my mom, David, Lindsey, and Ruth cheering in the crowds, and the music was blasting, and all around me hundreds of people were cheering. It was definitely the best .2 miles of my entire life.
- After the marathon, there was a lot of relaxing, laughing, eating, and napping. We had an amazing dinner at the Weber Grill (less than a block from our hotel), and the next day we all enjoyed a hotel breakfast before Lindsey went home. Ruth, Mom, David and I visited Butler University, where I had done my main internship for graduate school, and then we sent them back to their opposite coasts and drove back down to Bloomington.
I am such a lucky person to have amazing family and friends who care about me so much. I know I will remember this experience, and what it taught me, for the rest of my life. I know my dad would have been so proud. And I learned that I can do hard things — really hard things — with dedication and support. I learned that I can get myself through scary, panicky moments, all on my own. And I learned — yet again — that the people who love me will always show up, whether it is in person, via the mail or phone, or by sending along geeky signs to encourage me during a marathon.