I still can’t believe it!! I can now say that I’ve ran a full marathon. Twenty six point two freakin miles!! Last year I ran the same race but the half marathon distance and finished with a PR. I remember seeing the turn-off for the full and thought that I would NEVER run a distance like that. Those runners were just pure crazy. Welp, now I’m part of that full on crazy runner group!!
I didn’t exactly train the correct way for my run yesterday. My running partner and I only run once a week together. We were getting pretty high miles already – between 10 and 15 miles a run – so I figured it would be fun to sign up to run a full marathon instead of the half I was planning on. Once I signed up for the full the miles during my weekly run slowly increased. I had three training runs until race day… a 15 miler, 16 miler, and 20 miler.
Wednesday before the full marathon I woke up with a full on anxiety attack. What was I getting myself into? I haven’t trained enough! What if I forgot how to run??! I decided to lace up and run a 5K on my treadmill and let go of each worry with every step. My goal was no longer based on time. For the first time ever, I didn’t care if I ran all day long. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could go the distance. My goal was to enjoy the run, savor each mile, and push myself harder than I ever have.
Sunday was Marathon Day. I woke up in the best mood and was ready to just run. I viewed it as a regular Sunday long run, only with a few hundred of my crazy friends. I got ready and waited for my running partner to come over. We were soon on our way to the race blaring RENT (the musical) to get us ready for the run. (I never said we weren’t nerdy 😉 ). There was no time for nerves once we parked. We ran to the bathroom which is always a ridiculously long line and then found our way to the starting line. I got in the line for the marathon start while she went to the half marathon start. The Star Spangled Banner played and I received the best Facebook status from my husband which put me in total tears. I was so proud to be in finally be in the Marathon start and so excited to see what the day will bring.
And with the roar of the horns, we started! I stayed slow at first. It took two miles for me to meet up with my running partner (who has started at the back of the 650 or so half marathoners). Once we met the miles flew by. I stopped at Mile 3 to use the porta-potty and then we were onto the hilliest part of the course. I remember Miles 4-6 being the hardest part of my run last year and this year they were a breeze.
I didn’t start questioning myself until Mile 10. I still had 16.2 miles to go. I was feeling pretty good but I knew that my legs would start hurting soon. Thank goodness for my running partner. She told me to get out of my own head and reminded me that it doesn’t matter if I’d be the last person to cross the finish line. I showed up that day and I was doing it and that was all that mattered. That is all I needed to hear and I didn’t doubt myself for the rest of the run.
Mile 10.5 we ran through the Gator Stadium. That’s always my favorite part of this race. Even though I am not a Gator fan (go Noles!) I do enjoy looking out into the stadium and hearing the music as we go through. We even stopped and took pictures, LOVED it!
It was finally the turn off for the full marathon. My running partner turned to me with tears in her eyes and gave me the biggest hug. She told me how proud she was of me and how she loved running together. This was on her bucket list of races and she did awesome. She told me to keep going and not to forget to enjoy it. We split as she sprinted towards the finish line and I realized that I was truly on the path less traveled. There were only a handful of people in sight running the full marathon. It started to get pretty lonely and quiet after that. We were literally running in the middle of nowhere. I started counting miles around mile 15. I had pulled away from the couple running behind me and there were a couple running in the distance in front of me. I eventually caught up to them and we ran a little bit together. One of the men was running his first marathon too. It was encouraging to talk to someone after so long and great to give and get support from each other. They eventually passed me a few miles later and finished quite a bit ahead of me.
Mile 17 was approaching fast. During my last training run I had hit the runner’s wall. I had cramped up really bad, actually sat down and cried and then managed to finish the last 3 miles of that run. I was terrified I would hit that wall again at 17. But I watched as that mile marker came and went and I was still feeling somewhat strong. I was amazed as Mile 20 passed and I was feeling as good as I could. I was still smiling and waving to all the police and volunteers as I passed.
Mile 21.5 was when the wall finally hit. I didn’t cramp and wasn’t crying but I was just ready to be done with running. I had been running for over 4 hours without much walking. I was ready to see my family, to lay down, and to finally eat some real food. I wrestled with my mind for the next half mile. I knew that it was only my mind giving out. My body felt pretty good and if I could convince my mind to keep going then I would finish.
I got my second wind during Mile 22 and just kept pushing forward. It was a little more than a 5K left to go. I could do this, I’ve done it plenty of times. A 5K is an easy run!! I was running slowly but I was running and that’s what mattered.
Right around Mile 23 I heard someone coming up behind me singing as loud as she could. She ran past me and said “I really don’t think I can finish this”. I yelled back “Its only a 5K from here! Keep running!” I met back up with her at the next water station and we started talking. It was her first marathon too and she was doing it as a training run for a marathon in California next month. After she said she was serious about wanting to quit we decided to stick the last few miles out together. We switched to a run/walk method and talked the rest of the way. She made those last few miles more enjoyable and I don’t think that I would have loved this marathon as much if it wasn’t for her. She pulled a little bit ahead of me for the last half mile as we both focused on the finish.
I was an emotional wreck as I turned the final corner. I was almost done with my first marathon. I ran farther than I had ever thought I could and I actually enjoyed doing it. I didn’t care how long it took me. I didn’t care about the soreness and tiredness I was feeling. I was filled with pride and amazement at my body. I was so happy to hear my little family cheering for me at the finish. I couldn’t wait to hug them and tell them about how far Mommy had run. I stopped to give each of my babies a high five and waved at my husband and finished strong. I earned my medal!! My running friend was sweet enough to bring me a cup of Gatorade and we thanked each other for pushing towards the finish and I turned towards my family.
I DID IT! I am now officially a marathoner. I pushed myself to hell and back and realized that I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it and truly believe that it is possible.