10 years and 38 minutes

The moment I have been working for all summer finally arrived: the Fox Valley Marathon! Having committed to run a marathon for the second time in my life after a decade, I was full of emotion and anxiety that had me in tears moments before the starting line. I was so glad I was there with my friend Susan who comforted me as we used the portable toilets for the 3rd time in about 20 minutes. I had serious concerns about making it through 26.2 miles without making another pit stop. I was mentally preparing in this moment … to poop my pants. If you have any sympathy or empathy whatsoever you aren’t laughing at me right now. Okay, who am I kidding, I’m laughing now.

Once I took an Immodium and that crisis seemed to pass, I hesitantly left the comfort of my friend and entered the corral at the 4:00 hour mark, among thousands of strangers. I focused on a woman’s shirt with 1 Corinthians 9:24 on the back until I heard “Y’all ready for this?” on the loud speakers. I began bouncing up and down the music and suddenly, I *was* ready for this. Impatiently waited my turn to cross the starting line, as groups of runners were sent off every 30 seconds (making it less crowded at the start!).

I held back a lot at the beginning, with adrenaline pumping and the desire to take off. I was running comfortably and felt great. I wanted to keep it around 9 minute miles and was almost exactly that for the first mile. I began to speed up but was staying within what was an “easy” effort.

I Felt GREAT the first 22 miles, thinking “this is too easy” and getting lots of compliments on my energy as I whoo-hooed my way along the Fox river … and told juuuuust about everybody “good job!” I jumped for cameras and was ecstatic to see my husband and kids cheering me on. At about mile 10, I saw my kids waiting to give me a high five. I slapped their hands and kept running. But something made me suddenly stop and turn around. I just HAD to give them hugs. They weren’t expecting it and it messed up my husband’s photo opportunity. He snapped a shot just as I turned around. But looking back, it’s one of my favorite pictures from the day. That moment when I decided to hug my kids. They are more important to me than the 10 seconds it took from my time and it felt so good to make them even more a part of my experience. I got to see my family four times throughout the morning and it just made my day and gave me reason to smile, especially toward the end when I was hurting.

Around mile 19, I had an angel of a man at an aide station refill my water with a jug. I had been running low and was trying to fill my handheld one cup at a time and it just wasn’t cutting it anymore. This volunteer ran alongside me to fill my bottle, so I finally had plenty of water. Thank you!

I knew I had started to slow down around mile 20 but as long as I kept it back at 9s, I’d be well within my goal and maybe even run a 3:50! How awesome would that be?!? But then I totally bonked. Like a switch was turned off, I just had nothing left after mile 22.5. I had extra Gu and electrolyte tablets in my handheld pocket but the zipper was stuck on a piece of plastic. I should have just stopped to fix it and get something but I just kept thinking I’m almost there! I was getting dizzy and my brain was foggy so I know wasn’t thinking quite right. Just when it seemed my legs wouldn’t move one in front of the other anymore and I could barely grunt to passersby, a familiar but unexpected face was cheering me from the sidelines.

Brandi! My ultrafriend (pun intended, she ran a 50 mile race the day before!) ran alongside me as the 3:55 pacer passed me by and was long gone despite my desire to keep her in my sight. I knew I was still on track for under 4 hours but Brandi thought I was cutting it close. She encouraged me and rebuked me. “You better move your ass NOW. You don’t get to come back tomorrow. This is your time. Let’s go!” Her kick in the butt helped me keep moving and finish strong (well, by that I just mean running) when all I could think about was laying down for a nice little nap or at least stopping to walk. I kept shuffling one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t let her in on my little secret because I wanted her to push me. But she could hardly believe it when I crossed the finish line with a 3:53! An entire 7 minutes below my goal. Who does that?!? But I did end up in the med tent after the finish. Not smart. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I had no motivation to keep going and I literally was stumbling before aide workers were able to support me and walk me to a table. I was so dizzy and just couldn’t see to even walk straight. After about 10 minutes with ice bags and Gaterade, I was recovered and ready to find my family, friends and FOOD. This small race made it easy, not like the 45 minutes it took me to find Matt 10 years ago in downtown Chicago.

The post-run food was incredible. There was bananas and oranges and water of course, plus freeze-pops, cookies, chips, crackers, bagels, soda and steak. I grabbed a box from the coconut water people and filled her up. After a can of 7up, a bottle of water, a bag of potato chips, 2 oranges slices and half a banana, I went back for seconds. And thirds. The mini Oreos were the *best*.

The day was a bit warm in the end for running but gorgeous overall and especially for spectating. My family was able to drive wherever they wanted easily and park for FREE pretty much anywhere they wanted. Along the course, there was a good amount of people but never over crowded (there was one pinch point when we first entered the Prairie Path and I happened to have caught a pace group right then). The course was beautiful, some roads but mostly on the shady Prairie Path through manicured parks and along the Fox River with plenty of sights to see along the way. And I enjoyed the out and back where we could see the front (and back) runners. That can be demoralizing but I liked having people to cheer and focus on along the way.

I had a BLAST for 22.5 miles and while the last 3.7 was pretty hellish, I was sooooo glad to be done. Overall, it was a great day. I walked away in Matt’s arms with tears in my eyes once again as we headed home …

And now for the stats:

Got a marathon PR of 3:53:09 beating my goal of 4 hours by 7 minutes and my previous marathon 10 years ago by 38 minutes. As a bonus, I PRd my half marathon time by 9 minutes in the first half of the marathon with a 1:54!

Splits: 8:57, 8:36, 8:44, 8:49, 8:39, 8:36, 8:32, 8:38, 8:42, 8:52, 8:36, 8:22, 8:29, 8:37, 8:36, 8:47, 8:50, 8:57, 9:06, 9:05, 9:01, 9:00, 9:14, 8:51 (Thank you Brandi!), 9:16, 9:46 (d’oh!) and 3:25 (9:13 pace for last .37 according to Garmin).

317th overall, 19th in my age group, and 96th of 492 women.

5 Miles: 43:53 (8:47)
13.1 M: 1:54:08 (8:43)
22.5 M: 3:17:26
26.2 M: 3:53:09 (8:54)

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