I ran a marathon!

THE DECISION TO RUN A MARATHON
It was a Wednesday. I was on a break at work. I had planned on signing up for the upcoming weekends race - the Clearwater half marathon. I signed on to active to register and then something crazy happened. I decided to register for the full marathon instead.

Why? Why would I sign up for a marathon on a whim like this? The marathon was to take place only 4 days from then. I hadn't trained. The longest I had run consecutively had been 13.1 miles. The most I had run in one day was 16.2, and that was just the weekend prior. I ran a half marathon in the morning and a 5k at night. So why would I do something so crazy?

There was a point where I thought I'd only run a 5k. After that I ran a half marathon. I thought about marathoners at every finish line. How would they do this all over again to complete a full? It seemed absolutely impossible. I would be tired and burned out. I couldn't imagine running even one more mile. Then my last two races happened. I finished the race and had energy left. I could probably run a little more. I could go on with the day and I didn't need to rest. I could go through my daily activities without a problem. And the last half marathon I did, I ran a 5k that same night. I was sore after, but I had run 16 miles. I thought to myself, the 20 mile training run for a marathon didn't seem that terrible in my head anymore. Maybe I could actually do a marathon one day. And so the decision between half and full came, and I took a leap of faith and registered for the full.

At first I didn't want to tell many people. I told the people who were closest to me, and then a few good running friends. For the most part I got support. I may have gotten a "you're going to fail at this" or two, not in those exact words, but I didn't care. I had made my decision and I was going to stick to it. Then I decided I was just going to let the world know about my crazy idea. The response was amazing! So many people had the faith in me that I would finish. I wasn't sure if I could finish. I wanted to race a distance further than a half. I knew I hadn't trained. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I wasn't physically or mentally prepared. So I figured, if I don't finish I still tried and that in itself is an accomplishment. I would go as far as I could. However, everyone's positive response to my decision made me believe in myself more. I would finish this race!

PREPARATION
Friday came around and I was a little freaked out. I was getting advice and tips from everyone. I realized I needed to carb up that night, not just on Saturday. I started wondering what I was getting myself into. Again, I had a lot of positive feedback and reassurance. I ate a bunch of pasta and went to bed early. 

I wound up getting nine hours of sleep. I still was up early because I get up early almost always, no matter what I do. Then it was off to work. I had a 10 hour shift, on my feet, ahead of me. It was busy. I made sure to stay hydrated. I had gatorade and water and had carbs and protein throughout the day. I felt like a pig, but I ate whenever I felt hungry. I got home and started to relax. I also made sure to have all my stuff out and ready to go. My outfit was picked out. My armband, headphones, body glide (although I really need to find something better), GU, socks - all layed out. I didn't want to forget anything. I wanted to go to sleep early again, but that didn't happen as planned. I think I wound up asleep around 11:30. 

THE RACE
Then it was race morning. The alarm went off at 4:30. I didn't want to get out of bed. It went off again and up I was. I was really doing this. I got dressed, made sure I had everything and headed off to Clearwater. I went over to pick up my bib. It said Marathon. There was no 1/2 in front of that word this time. The little starfish in the corner said 26.2. I was a bit freaked out. 
My MARATHON bib. It says 26.2 in the starfish!

My phone rang and it was Jana! I was going to get to meet another one of my encouraging instagrammers! We walked over to find her. She was easy to spot in her bright orange shirt and we immediately started chatting. She gave me words of encouragement and that was great to hear. And of course we got a picture!
Me and Jana 


Then it was off to find Anna and Kara. Found them at the porta-pottys, which I really wanted to use before I started running, but the line was ridiculous. I figured I could wait. What was I thinking? I was running a marathon. How long could I really wait? We all headed over to the start line. We needed some pre-race pictures. 
Me, Anna, and Kara



After the pictures we lined up at the start together since the half and full started together. My friend John found us. He was running his first marathon as well. The horn sounded as we trotted across the start line. Here goes nothing I guess!
I look way too happy waving there! Did I know how far I was about to run?

I had planned out a method in my head to make it through 26.2 miles. I figured if I ran an 11:30 pace one mile, alternating with walking quickly at a 15 min pace for the next, and kept that up for the length of the race, I'd be able to complete 26 miles in 5:45. That would be like running a half in entirety and walking a half in entirety. Minus the point 2. Then I had to account for the fact that my running pace isn't always a stready 11:30 min/mile and I've never run an entire half without stopping for walk breaks in between. I also didn't know how I'd feel running the 13 miles adding in the extra distance, even though I'd be walking the others. And I didn't know when I'd start to feel tired or "hit the wall". I figured add another 30 min. I assumed I'd finish around 6:15. My secret goal was sub 6, but as long as i finished it would be a huge accomplishment.

My run/walk method was amazing for me. The first mile I ran was slower than 11:30, but we had to cross over the clearwater bridge. I didn't "run" the bridge. I needed all the energy I could to get through this. I wasn't about to start using it up in mile 1. My heart rate accelerates way too high on inclines and I didn't need to get tired out right away. I ran down the bridge fast. Too fast. My pace was sub 10. I caught up to Anna and Kara, who had run the bridge. I needed to slow down. I did. I made sure to pay attention to pace. 

When I would run, my miles were around a 10:30 pace. When I walked I walked around a 15:30. The first part of the course was very pretty. The views over the bridges are amazing. The houses are beautiful. I was super cheery and excitied. I knew I was going to pull this off. The half marathoners turn around point was slightly ahead and so I could see them running back towards their finish. Jana screamed over to me with some more encouragement. Then I saw Johanne and shouted over to her. A little while after that I saw Anna and Kara again and they cheered me on. It was awesome to see friendly faces. 

Then I reached the point where the courses split. half marathoners turn around. Marathoners go straight. Was I really going straight? I kept on going. There were two women who were running around my pace, I would pass them when I ran and they would pass me when I walked. We got to chatting and one was also running her first marathon. We talked a bit more, and every time we'd pass each other there would be some encouragement. It was nice after that split point, because there weren't many people on the course. 

It was still a pretty area, and honestly I really didn't know what areas I was running through unless I saw signs telling me what neighborhood I was in. I ran along the water and admired the view. I got to see awesome looking birds. Yes I know they are indigenous to Florida, but I'm not a native and I still love to look at them. They are very different from the pigeons I'm used to. I was having a good time. I was taking in the scenery, something I don't normally do. I was singing, out loud. I did parts of the gangnam style dance during the 9th mile. I didn't care if I looked crazy, I was out there having fun! I was running a marathon!
Halfway point!

I reached mile 13 at 2:45. That was a bit faster than I thought I would. I was feeling great. I wasn't tired, I was still cheery, and I had a lot of energy. And of course I needed a picture, I was halfway there! I kept going. My plan was still working. I figured if I got to mile 20 and I was still feeling fine I'd push myself a little more. But I knew that 20 is where it gets hard. Mental blocks, physical pain. I wasn't going to push myself at all until that point. 

I passed a girl with a Run Tampa visor and spoke with her for a few (later to find out it was her first marathon as well). I found myself more social that usual. I really like this about running. And about the marathon. I feel I wouldn't have done it as much during a half. 

I kept on moving. I remember mile 15 feeling like it was really long. I kept looking at my watch and wondering why I wasn't making any progress. Then I finally got to 16. I kept going. Around mile 17 my knee started to hurt a bit so I slowed down and picked up my legs as if I was marching to stretch them out a bit. That seemed to help. I passed mile 18 and I was relieved. I still felt good. I still had a lot of energy. I thought I'd start having difficulties at this mile because when I had run 16 previously I knew I could run a bit more, but I was sore. Therefore I knew it would be painful miles. When I passed 18 and only had a little bit of ache in my thighs I was happy.
Mile 20. Still happy. Still feeling good!

Then I got to mile 20. I was still smiling. I felt good. I was excited that I had made it this far. Wow. I just ran 20 miles! I texted a few people with updates. Mile 20 - 4:22:38. My legs were starting to feel it a bit at this point so I knew my time was going to slow, but I realized I could actually finish in under 6 hours. I think that gave me a boost of motivation to keep going. So did the text messages of encouragement. 

Around mile 21 I started talking with a guy who thought he was crazy for only training for 4 weeks. He was getting tired. As we went up an overpass (boy there was a lot of bridges and hills), I had a GU. I asked him if he had any and he didn't. I gave away one of my precious packs. You really need support and encouragement during a race like this when you're feeling out of it. If I could provide that, and any other help I would. One day I'm going to need it.

I started getting tired around mile 22, so I switched up my game plan a little. I felt like I might need to walk a little more in the end, so when I got bursts of energy during my walking miles Id run a little here and there. 

I got to mile 24 and I really started to feel it. I was tired. It hurt to run. I could tell the bottom of my feet were blistered. But I was at mile 24. I had run 24 miles. I had 2 to go. I had it in the bag. And at that point even if I walked both miles fully, I would have still came in right under 6 hours. I started making the turns and following the cones. There was no one to follow. Some little old lady didn't understand what the roadblocks were so she drove right onto the course and at me. I ran around her car. I followed the cones some more around the streets. I was so close. 

Mile 25. During this mile I almost cried several times. I was going to do it. I was going to finish a marathon. The feeling was incredible. I wasn't done yet, but I KNEW I was going to finish. I followed the arrows marked on the street showing me the path. I got nervous for a second because I thought I was going to have to run back over the clearwater bridge. Oh well, I thought, Ill just walk to the peak and run down. I was relieved when I found out I didn't have to cross it. I had to run down a spiral ramp leading down from the bridge instead. It didn't feel good on my knees so I walked down. 

When I got to the bottom I could see the finish. I had to hold back the tears again. I had my hand to my mouth in awe of myself. I was going to become a marathoner. This was it, I was practically there. 

They called my name out as I crossed the blue mat. Then a few more steps to cross the finish line.  
I DID IT!

I just ran a MARATHON!

My chip time was 5:49:25, so I was able to meet the secret goal I had of completing the race in under 6 hours. I couldn't be happier. 
That bridge in the back was part of the race!


Sporting my bling!

Of course I needed to get a bunch of pictures. And then unfortunately we had to try to find food quickly because I had to go to work right after. Yes, that's right. I had work after running a marathon.
The service was slow, and I wound up having to take my food to go. Then I worked for 5 hours before I got to go home. I got to talk to my sister about the race, and then I passed out for the night.

To know that I was able to accomplish something so incredible still amazes me. It still feels like I dreamt the whole thing up. 
My first marathon medal!

I ran a marathon. I ran 26.2 miles. Wow. 
That's what 26.2 miles looks like.