I proudly completed my first marathon on October 9, 2016 at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota. I can simply start this post by stating: running my first marathon was not just the longest run of my life, my first marathon was an experience. Until race day, I boasted my four month long training was probably the hardest part about running a marathon, and that the race would just be the “after party”.
I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.
My pre-race training goal was, what I thought, a 4:15:00 finish, approximately 9:45 minutes per mile. This pace “plan” was met with some great long runs in the ballpark pace without feeling like I was pushing myself too much. I could go about my regular life after my long runs without being too broken down. I set to run the marathon around 9:50-10 minutes per mile (watching my pace on my Garmin) for the first 16-18 miles and then hopefully be able to push my body to it’s limits in the final stretch.
Unfortunately, even though I had a great Summer of training to complete my pace goal, my body just did not show up for race day in the way I had hoped. Don’t get me wrong, my body was there but it was hurting more than it should have. I remember starting to panic around my already fatiguing body at mile 8, knowing I would have to be happy with finishing my first marathon at whatever pace was meant for the day. I think was too cold, I think I should have ate more that morning, and I think I just thought too much.
My first marathon was an experience like no other in my life. No long run or training plan interval run could hold a candle to actually running those 26.2 miles. One thing I have absolute confidence in about my training plan is that without it, I would not have finished the race. I am so proud of my marathon finish because I did the best I could with the day that was given to me, and trust me, I did not give up.
Something was missing on race day. All Summer long I ran in “beast mode”. Beast mode is fun, beast mode is wake-up and take on the day, like life just pulled you from the forest and told you to get living. I wasn’t in beast mode on marathon day. Sure, I pushed hard and had some great moments. However, I can’t look back and see the raw joy I expected to feel.
The best thing about running my first marathon was experiencing the race with my husband. On the other side of this blog post is a woman who got extremely lucky when she was 20 years old. I met Pete, fell in love, and we truly have been number one to each other, ever since. He has seen me through my best and my worst. I like to think running the marathon together was him getting to see me at both! Without Pete, running wouldn’t be as joyful because I wouldn’t have him to share it with. Running makes us better individuals, a better couple, and better parents.
I had some pretty awesome runs this Summer with Pete. We were blessed to have help from our parents on long runs and did 16, 18, and 20 (Pete, my brother, and I ran the Bear Water Run 20-miler) miles together. I also got to run with my kids by pushing the double jogger. Some of the most fun I had training was running with David as he followed along on his bike. One time, I told him I needed to run seven miles, so I’d run two loops and he could bike with me for one. He ended up biking all seven with me without complaint. Every time I asked him if he was ready to go home, he asked if he could bike more. Surely, he has a little of his mama in him!
In addition to my husband and kids, seeing our family and friends out supporting us brought me to tears at some miles! In addition to Pete and I, my brother, two sister-in-laws, and cousin all crossed the marathon finish line that morning. I couldn’t be more proud of all their finishes. Following their training made my own training so much better. On Saturday mornings, I’d finish my long run and over the course of the day would hear as my family also finished their runs. The support and praise for each other was continuous. Everyone was a champion.
Even the cheering I received from absolute strangers pushed me harder than I ever imagined. At mile 24, I saw a young man sitting in a chair holding up a sign. I was struggling, mentally and physically, and this man looked and pointed right at me. He didn’t cheer, smile, or move. He just pointed and stared like he was telling me, “I see you. You got this.” It was exactly what I needed two miles out. I needed to be calm, stay focused and remember that even though I could barely run, I could finish. I’ll never see that man again, but I will remember him forever.
This Summer would not have been what it was without the constant support of my family. My husband and kids, my parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, and extended family who brought me up when I was down. They checked on me when I was hurting. They watched my kids so I could run for hours. They made it easier to be a wife and mom, and also be able to run. Plenty of times I was stressed, on edge, late, moody, difficult, tired, hard to get a hold of, distant, and self-absorbed. Ultimately, I am incredibly loved, supported, and happy. I can’t say I always recognized the necessity to let those in who love you, before I became a runner.
My 4:44:47 finish time was backed by four intense months of training and I do not regret a single step last Summer. Running has absolutely changed me for the better. The fact that I stuck with my training plan, raised four kids, and am happily married is proof that I can do anything I put my mind to.
“At mile 20 I thought I was dead.
At mile 22 I wished I was dead.
At mile 24 I knew I was dead.
At mile 26.2 I realized I had become too tough to kill.”
Even though running the marathon was the hardest thing I have ever done, I can’t wait to do it again – better. Will I run another marathon? Hell, yes. Did I think I would at mile 23? No way. Five days after the race, I ran again. Then again, and again, and again because I love to run! Hopefully, the next few months post-marathon can be a celebration of what my body did and an exploration of the other things it can do. In addition to continuing to run this Fall, I signed up for my first indoor triathlon in January. I’ve started to swim and indoor bike and I hope to cross another amazing experience off of my bucket list.
Since many of you reading this today have shared in my marathon journey, I want to personally THANK YOU, thank all of you for inspiring me to be best person I can be. Thank you for supporting me during this incredible experience!