Y’all. I did it. I completed a marathon. I crossed a finish line after covering 26.2 miles. To some this may not be a big deal, but to me it is a HUGE deal. My body was able to do what I never dreamed of it doing and I pushed myself to accomplish a longtime goal of mine. Warning: this post is long and has lots of pictures. I want to remember every detail of this event.
Thursday night was spent packing since I like to wait until the last minute to do everything. My sweet friend Holly stopped by with a wonderful card that had some uplifting words including a gift card to Cracker Barrel. Who doesn’t love a little homecoming? Brittney had also given me a pig Pandora charm for my bracelet when I visited her a couple of weeks ago. I am so thankful to have such wonderful friends who lift me up and encourage me to achieve my crazy goals. Momma and I headed north to Cincinnati early Friday morning. Luckily it was only about a 4.5 hour drive and we enjoyed seeing lots of horse farms along the way which was exciting since it was also Derby weekend. We were able to check into our hotel super early which we weren’t expecting and we rested a little bit before heading into expo. Tip: It is MUCH cheaper to stay across the river in Kentucky than directly in the city. Downtown was super busy but after finding parking we were ready to explore all the fun vendors that the expo would have to offer.
The expo was laid out a little differently than last year, but it was nicer since packet pick up wasn’t held at a separate location. I had chills when I picked up my race packet and made Momma take a picture of this monumental moment. I told the volunteer that it was my very first marathon and he was so happy for me and offered me lots of encouragement. There were a lot of cool photo opportunities spread throughout the expo including signs to pose next to and a local company even offered free backdrop photos like you see below. We took advantage of all that was offered and I made a few “26.2” purchases including a cute Christmas ornament. Asics was the main sponsor so I purchased two race shirts from their booth that was Flying Pig specific. I’ll probably wear those shirts forever.
After the expo we made a trip to Target to get some essentials and last minute items before heading to eat dinner at Skyline Chili. When in Cincy, right? We were able to spend the remainder of the evening resting and getting ready for the exciting weekend.
Saturday morning required a super early wakeup call since Momma was doing the 5k and Bryan was doing the 10k and 5k. We arrived early and were able to scope out some prime spectating spots for the race and check out the Great American Ballpark. I was feeling pretty tired but I enjoyed being able to support them at their respective races and it was so motivating to be able to cheer on so many runners at the finish line. This gave me a little boost for the next day. Saturday night we headed to Cheddar’s for a pre-race meal of chicken and potatoes and it was delicious. I prayed that the meal would rest easy on my belly and that I would have no problems on race day. Once back at the hotel, I laid out my race clothes to make sure I had everything I would need for the marathon. I was in bed at 7:30 and I think I finally fell asleep around 8:45.
Sunday I woke up around 4 and was able to take a shower and eat breakfast. My stomach was a ball full of nerves. It was a quiet ride to the race start. My mind was racing and I desperately wanted to be positive but inside I was terrified and afraid. I always have a fear of the unknown and the marathon was definitely unknown. I did not know how my body would respond to 26.2 miles. I did not know if the weather would become brutally hot. I did not know if my stomach would cooperate (it usually never does). I did not know if my fueling plan would be effective. I was scared. Once parked I stepped out of the car and had Momma help me put my bib on straight. That’s when the tears came. I started crying right there in the parking lot before the race had even started. Looking back, I’m kind of embarrassed that I was so emotional but fear is a crippling emotion. We were able to take refuge at the Bengals’ stadium where I was able to use the bathroom a few times. Thank goodness for indoor bathrooms at races!
Before I knew it, Bryan told me it was time to head to the start. I was still crying but I tried to remain positive in my head. Being nervous wasn’t going to help anything. I gave Momma a huge hug and told her I would see her in 26.2 miles. We made our way to our corral which was wayyyyy far back. Flying Pig does a great job of corral organization so I was very pleased with that. We saw fireworks go off which signaled the start of the race. After about 15 minutes it was finally time to make our way to the start line. Once it was in view I knew there was no turning back and just like that my Garmin was on and we were running. I was able to spot my mom on the left side of the road and she screamed and snapped a few pictures. I needed that one last boost before truly beginning the journey of a marathon.
We ran for a little while and then took a walk break once we got to the first bridge. I felt great. So great in fact that I wondered what I had ever been nervous about in the first place. We did our 3:1 run/walk intervals and kept a nice easy pace. I was feeling great. The crowd support was unreal. People were screaming everywhere and had signs galore. I particularly loved running past the senior citizen home where the elderly were outside with humorous signs such as “hurry up, I’m missing Bingo”. We were surrounded by runners and everyone looked so happy. I didn’t take fluids until around mile 4. I will make note that the forecast had predicted unseasonably high temps so Flying Pig made sure there was an aid station every single mile which was AMAZING. Around mile 5 I took my first gel and we began the climb up “the hill”. I”m from the mountains so I usually don’t mind hills but this hill was killer. We mostly walked and then ran when we could. Bryan talked strategy to me and helped me overcome it. After finally reaching the top of the hill it was time for the marathoners to split off from the half marathoners. I didn’t really anticipate how much this would bother me. All of a sudden there was hardly anyone around us. Mind you, there were actually A LOT of people around us but it seemed like hardly any compared to all the half marathoners we were just with.
We continued our run/walk and it seemed to be working out. We had slowed down but I was totally okay with that. I was okay with being last place as long as I finished. The aid stations were so supportive and people were so kind. They offered Coke, candy, kleenex, anything we needed. It was great. I took another gel around mile 11 and began to hydrate at every station. I was sweating profusely and knew I needed liquid. At every water stop I would take the gatorade cup and fill the rest of it with water to dilute it and then would drink an additional cup of water. At first I could hear my belly sloshing but I was thankful for the calories and the hydration. We went through a really awesome neighborhood around mile 15 that had a lot of crowd support. One lady said “great job, you’re almost there” and I just looked at her and said “no we are not” to which she then asked the person with her how much longer that we had to go. I found it to be comical because 11 more miles to go was obviously not almost there. Little kids were everywhere to offer high fives which I LOVED. Little kid high fives are the best! About a mile later there was a station offering bacon. Wow, that sounded good but I said no. Good thing I wasn’t volunteering at that station because I would have ate it all myself.
By this point there was a lot more walking than running and that was okay. We pressed on. Bryan willed me to run to certain landmarks like a phone pole in the distance or to the next water stop. We were moving forward and that’s all that mattered.
Around mile 19.5 I began to feel dizzy. My stomach didn’t hurt necessarily but I felt bouts of nausea and the road seemed to be moving. Bryan was in front of me and I yelled to him that I had to lay down. Yes, lay down. In the road. In a race. I’m the kind of person that if I’m going to get sick then I just need to lay down. So that’s what I did. I said I just needed a quick minute. Medics came and I was so adamant about being FINE. I was scared that if they thought I was in any kind of serious distress that they would either pull me from the course (not an option) or try to give me and IV or something. I took a gel while I was laying there which made it slightly better. It crossed my mind that I still had more than 6 miles to go. I asked myself how I would ever make it that far feeling the way I did. But, alas, I got up. We kept going. The dizziness got a little better and we made progress. It was obvious at this point that running was over. It was going to be a long walk back to the finish. Another 1.5 miles down the road we were on a shoulder of an interstate portion. The sun was brutal and there was no shade in sight. I had to lay down again. Poor Bryan probably hated me and just wanted me to get up and go. A volunteer came over and offered me a bottle of water that I dumped on my head and it felt heavenly. Again, medics came over but I played the “just give me a minute” card. One medic said that the course conditions were now “code red” which meant that they were dangerous. I did not care because I had a marathon to finish. After continuing on we passed under a tunnel. There was a lady there handing out cups of ice. It was shaded and felt so nice so I decided to sit down and take a gel while we had some shade. I used the ice to rub my face and neck and wrists. I even stuck one piece down my sports bra. I kept that cup of ice for almost the rest of the race.
It was very late in the race at this point and the crowds had died down, however I was so pleased to see that there were still people out there cheering. Some people had been there since daylight and they were still there to offer support. This encouraged me in ways I can’t describe. Other aid stations had ice and it became my saving grace. I had one ice cup in each hand and I just chomped away as I walked. I was going to finish this thing even if I was dead last. Several places had misting showers with water hoses and I also took full advantage of those.
We met so many wonderful people from mile 23 on. One guy had completed a marathon in every state TWICE and was so kind. I met a sweet lady who was completing her 53rd marathon and she offered so many nice words. We kept going. Bryan just walked right along with me and I apologized over and over that this is how the race turned out but we kept going. I was honestly surprised that my belly had held up. It wasn’t perfect and it probably hated having so much Gatorade and gel in it but it didn’t give me trouble like it usually did and I was so incredibly grateful for that. A medic station was handing out ice cold wash rags and it was the best thing I’ve ever felt on my body. I wore that rage like my life depended on it. Mile 24 is where I became pretty emotional. Someone said “you’re almost there” and I started crying and yelled to Bryan that I wish people would stop saying that because it is a LIE. I know they were just trying to be nice but I was a wreck at that point. I texted my Momma at mile 25 to let her know how close I was. at 25.2 there was a huge clock and sign that read “one mile to go” and that’s when I lost it. That ‘s when I realized that I was really going to finish. It was really happening. Only a mile left. I cried and cried and cried. A Team in Training coach saw me and came up to check on me and I just wailed that I was so happy. He gave me a hug and we kept going.
Finally we saw the Finish Swine. Finally. It was so beautiful. We were entering the white gates of the long finish chute and I could see it in the distance. I was shocked that people were still standing around to cheer. As we came over the last little hill I saw my Momma. She was standing IN the chute. We started running and I’ve never been so happy in my whole life. I wanted to run to hug her but knew that I had to just get to the finish line. It was the greatest moment of my life. There it was and I was crossing it. I cried like I have never cried and smiled so big that my face hurt. A wonderful volunteer gave me a medal and I hugged her. I was so elated. There are no words to describe the elation. My finish time was 7:13. I can’t believe I was out there for 7 hours. Wow. I wanted to be embarrassed about how incredibly slow that was especially considering my paces during training but I was so freaking PROUD of that time. Who cares how long it took?
After making it through the medals, Byran went to get his 4-way challenge medal and I hobbled through the tunnel looking for two things: food and my mother. When I came out of the other side I saw her and cried even more. She thought I was upset but I was just so thrilled and my tears were pure happiness. One Flying Pig official told us to take as much food as we wanted so I was able to stock up on Sun Chips, crackers, and string cheese. Bryan met back up with us and we snapped a few photos. The car was parked fairly far away so Momma went to get it while we waited on a street downtown. I was hurting pretty bad at this point so I just laid down on the sidewalk (again). It was so nice to just sit and bask in the moment before she came to pick us up.
Once back at the hotel I had to assess the damage. The only issue I had was chafing along my bra line. Even though I applied a ton of Body Glide, I did sweat more than normal and had poured a lot of water over me during the race so chafing was to be expected. My skin also had some wicked tan lines from being in the sun all day. Thankfully I wasn’t burnt since my mom put sunscreen on me that morning. After a shower, I felt like a million bucks.
My beautiful friend, Lindsay, came over to our hotel room once we got settled. She had actually came to the race earlier wearing an awesome shirt to support me but had to leave for a meeting before I made it to the finish line. She accompanied my mother and I to my post race dinner of Steak n Shake and we were able to catch up. It was so nice to be able to talk about my race experience and have her understand since she has also been in a similar marathon situation. Lindsay helped me put my coveted 26.2 magnet on my car which was something that I had been looking forward to ever since I signed up for the marathon. We made plans to meet for lunch the following day before Momma and I left town.
I slept like a baby on Saturday night. My legs ached in a way that I did not know was possible. No amount of pain reliever medicine helped and the only thing that brought any kind of mild relief was moving them. So I laid in bed and just moved my legs back and forth. Sleep felt wonderful and I slept with my medal by my side all night long.
It was time for us to head South on Monday. We met Lindsay for lunch and took a trip to IKEA before heading home. I wore my medal the entire drive home and tried to catch up with some friends. I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who texted, called, wrote Facebook posts, and commented on my race pictures. I tried my very best to respond to everyone and was just thrilled with the outpouring of love that I felt.
It has now been four days since I became a marathoner and I could not be more happy. Would I do it again? Probably not. I just don’t enjoy that long distance. Half marathons are more my jam. Regardless, I became a marathoner and now for the rest of my life I will be able to say that I completed a marathon. It wasn’t pretty and it took me forever but I did one. And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.