I’m going to be honest…. I have no clue where to even start with this post. Why I picked it… how I got here… about the race… just not sure so I’ll try to be brief and touch on little bits of everything.

If you are looking for a full detailed report of this marathon 26.2 Quest did a great job of covering the details on the Inaugural year (2010) which you can read here: http://blog.262quest.com/2010/11/soldier-marathon-2010-35803.html

Why I decided on a marathon:
I think (Heather correct me if I’m wrong) I signed up for the full marathon before I had ever even done a half… I said I’d never do a full marathon because I just thought that was crazy – but when Heather said she wanted to do one I figured I’d jump on the crazy bandwagon. I was only at 3 miles at the end of Feb 2011 after taking about a year and a half off from running. Before I had the kiddo I had successfully run a 15k (9.3 miles) without stopping and was itching to train for a half marathon in 2009 (then we decided to have a kid – and we got pregnant the first month of trying!!). So I started back in Jan 2011 running only about 3 miles a week… Early March Heather and I signed up for a 10k to try to get a good qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race (huge 10k in GA) hoping to come in under an hour. I hadn’t run more than 3 miles before then and I BARELY made it under an hour, I think 58:59 was my time so that got my confidence up to start training for real this time.

Started running more and before I knew it we were signing up for our first marathon and half marathon. Ran my first half in June with a time I was really proud of which gave me the confidence to keep pushing towards the full.

My daughter jumping in front of the sign they made for me

My training plan:
I couldn’t decide what direction I wanted to go in – a goal just to finish or a time goal…. Everyone kept saying just run your first marathon to finish and don’t get hung up on time so I decided on Jeff Galloway’s “Marathon To Finish” plan which only has you running 2 – 30min runs and a walk each week with a long run on the weekend (each long run started at 3 miles increasing about 1 mile per week until you got to 26 miles). Sounded super easy considering I was running more than that each week anyway and already had a base of 13 miles. I ended up modifying it to 3-4 short runs (3-6 miles) on week days and 1 long run each weekend (I increased 1 mile per week from 13 miles). JG suggests going all the way to 26 miles in your training runs which I kinda wanted to do – but I slacked off for 3 weeks working on my daughters birthday party so I got really behind. 22 miles ended up being my longest training run. And on average I was running about 25-35 miles per week.

Why I picked this race:
It was 1.5 hours from my house (close), it was pretty small (which I love) only about 400 competing in the marathon 1000ish or both full and half, it said it was a good boston qualifier (which to me said ‘flat’ compared to some other Georgia courses), it was on the River Walk which I heard was really scenic and I’m all about scenery, and I loved everything I was reading from people that did the inaugural event last year. I was sold :)

Before the Marathon:
Well if you have read my post on Taper Madness describing my thoughts before the marathon – you will know I was a MESS before the ‘big day’. A week before I decided to switch from a goal of ‘just finishing’ to a time goal. Probably not the smartest thing – but I was basing it off my previous training times for short and long runs. Most long runs were between 10:07 and 10:30 pace so I felt like a 4:30 finish was achievable (that’s a 10:18 pace). BUT if my runs were already averaging 10:18 maybe I should go for a little faster time goal? Perhaps 4:15??? Or is that stupid??? I found out they had pacers – but they only had a 4:10 pacer and a 4:25 pacer….. I was pretty sure I wanted to at least TRY for a 4:15 and thinking I’d probably fall back to 4:30 which I was totally ok with. So after consulting a few friends (who are all AMAZING marathoners/athletes) they said I could start with the 4:10 pacer and then fall back to a 4:15 (or greater) time but that would at least get me started and let me use adrenaline to my advantage in the first few miles. So that was my plan. Start with the 4:10 pacer and fall back.

Pre Race Meal:
Heather (who switched to the half marathon due to time restrictions on training), Lacy (my marathon training buddy) and I got a hotel in Columbus so we wouldn’t have to drive the morning of – so I was away from my ‘comfort zone’ for eating my typical pre race meal. We found a great pub with the suggestion of one of Heather’s friends and I dined on Salmon (with chipolte glaze on the size), cheddar mashed potatoes and broccoli. Broccoli was a mistake…. just sayin – but the meal itself was great!!! Note: Always pack gas-x if going out of town for a race. I did and was glad!!

Morning of the marathon:
I COULD NOT SLEEP. We went to bed about 10pm and I tossed and turned until at least 1am…. finally I fell asleep and got about 4 hours of tossing and turning sleep. I’ve always read the most important night sleep before a race is TWO days before the race and I got decent sleep then so I didn’t stress. We woke up an hour before we had to leave.. got dressed (of course had our outfits all laid out the night before). I choked down 3/4 of a protein bar, 2 Imodium (IMODIUM IS ABSOLUTELY KEY if you have a sensitive race stomach) and some water.

My gear:
I had my dual pocket SpiBelt with 2 packs of GU Chomps, my FuelBelt Revenge series 2 bottle belt with 2 10oz bottles and 2 packs of sport beans in the pocket/pouch thing, garmin watch/heart rate monitor, visor, bondi band (pulled over my ears to keep warm), throw away gloves, long sleeve under armour shirt, running tights, thorlo experia socks and my Newton Running Shoes. No music for this chicka ;)

At the start:
Ate a pack of sport beans 30min prior to the start, left my warm up clothes with my friends who came to cheer (shout out to Pam A!!!) and found the 4:10 pacer. Introduced myself and told her my plan to start with her and fall back… chit chatted a little, The Star Spangled Banner was sung, the cannon went off – and we STARTED.

The marathon itself:
First mile we were slightly ahead of the 4:10 pacer and my watch was reading 10:43 pace, then 10:20, 10:07, finished mile 1 at 9:40ish I think…. it was kinda crowded at the start so I figured it would take a bit for everyone to settle into a pace but we were still slightly ahead of the 4:10 pacer. Lacy and I got into a rhythm and settled into about a 9:25 pace just slightly in front of the 4:10 pacer until mile 6 when I saw port a potties and figured I needed to stop while I saw them. There were 4 guys in line and 2 port a potties but I figured

Feeling strong at mile 11.5ish
(Lacy on the left, me on the right)

they would be fast…. WRONG – they took FOREVER. I sat and watched my average pace on my garmin go from 9:25, 9:27, 9:30…. PANIC… WE WERE AT THE PORT A POTTIES IN LINE FOR 1 MIN AND 30 SEC….. I saw the 4:10 pacer pass by as we were coming out so I ran to catch up with her. I ate my pack of GU Chomps at mile 6.5 with water (note: I drink sips of water along the way thanks to the fuelbelt – nice to not have to wait for water stops) We ran with her for a bit and started getting in front a little.

I was PARANOID about going too fast (and totally dying at the end) so I just tried to watch my watch and hang in at about a 9:30 pace…. We stopped again to pee at mile 8 because Lacy’s stomach was upset – this was a quick in/out deal. Still right with the 4:10 pacer. Stopped again to pee at mile 13ish – another quick bathroom stop (REALLY regretting the long wait at the first stop now – should have waited). Jogged slow to let Lacy catch back up. Hit the 13.1 mark at 2:05 – doing awesome at a very steady 9:30ish pace. Saw my hubby and daughter at mile 14 where they gave me 2 fresh fuel belt bottles and I tossed mine to them. (they had made me two huge posters and were cheering for me – LOVED THAT).

Feeling strong until mile 16 where they re-routed us because of a collapsed bridge the week prior so “scenic” it was not….. Started falling back some and started losing Lacy. Kept on truckin…. The 4:10 pacer was right behind me and I pretty much stuck with them for the next 5ish miles…. and it was SO NICE to know they were there. I’d fall back and talk when I needed some support but never fell BEHIND her!!!!!!

Hubby was supposed to be at mile 20 for new water bottles but he didn’t make it in time so I had to stop at 3 water stops. Mile 22 marked my longest run so as soon as we passed the sign I yelled “This is officially my longest run EVER” and got a little burst of encouragement. The pacer Robin said “That is so awesome – hang on to little victories like that – you are doing great!!!” and that got me through to mile 23. I started growing a little tired and doubtful at that point….. Robin (pacer) said Only about a 5k to go – you can do this!! But in my head I was doubting myself. I kept trying to encourage myself “Your goal was 4:30 and you are CRUSHING that, only 5k to go, You were going to fall off the 4:10 pace group early on and you are hanging with them and a few steps ahead…. just 3 more miles- DO THIS”

Finally we hit mile 24 and mentally I was shot. I wanted to cry and stop but tried to keep encouraging myself. I told Robin the pacer “Keep me going – I’m beginning to fade” and she gave me a few words of encouragement. I saw a friend who was pacing another friend and he made a little conversation to try to get my mind off of the run which helped but my responses were short one-two word responses.

Hit mile 25 and let out a big “Thank God!!!!” – only 1.2 to go. Note: My garmin was a good .2 miles off from the mile markers (since about mile 18) and was driving me NUTS when it would beep for the mile and I wouldn’t see it till about a minute or so later. Came around a corner with a lot of soldiers and someone said”Only half mile to go” – that half mile just sounded like it would take forever but I pushed on turned a corner and saw the row of flags!!!!! Flags meant FINISH LINE!!! I suddenly forgot about my time and just

Coming down the row of flags to the finish line

slowed down like I was a celebrity getting my picture taken by all the paparazzi. I saw my husband and daughter and slow-mo’d for some pictures waving and what not – heard my friends yelling GO PAM GO PAM… crossed the finish line saw my friend Gina and lost it. I COULD NOT BELIEVE my time. The clock time said 4:10:25 and that’s all I thought about until it hit me my start time was about a minute off clock time – I BROKE 4:10 – I FREAKIN BROKE 4:10!!!!!!!!!! Official chip time of 4:09:16 – Yeah I’ll take that ALL DAY LONG :)

I grabbed a power ade, talked to Gina and congratulated her on her 3:25 domination, then found my pacer Robin and gave her a big hug and told her thanks for keeping me going!!!!

And then I hobbled to the tent and was greeted by my other friends some who ran, some who were just spectators, hubby, daughter, pastries and a garbage bag full of ICE!!!!!!!

Another side note: I can’t remember at what miles I ate the other Chomps and sport beans but 4 during the race was not enough.. wish I had at least one more pack of chomps.

Post marathon:

Anna Claire was so happy to see me
She just kept loving all over me. Felt great!

After it was over I felt like I should be shaking and giddy with delight and pumped up – but I just kinda felt …. the same. Like it didn’t happen or something. I don’t know – I just hear all these people say all these feelings that came over them and I felt like I was missing those feelings….. I don’t know if I was just tired or it hadn’t sunk in or what….. But I felt like something was missing. I just ran 26.2 miles – ran the WHOLE WAY which even when I signed up I didn’t think I’d do…. Maybe marathons just aren’t for me…. I started telling people it was probably my first and last.

Then the drive home I started recapping things for my hubby and started feeling the excitement…. made a few phone calls and hearing people say how proud of me they were I got more excited. Had a flood of text messages saying I was awesome and got more excited. Came home, posted to facebook (duh) and got even MORE congrats…. then it hit me. I just RAN for over 4 hours straight!!!!!!! I did something that very few people ever even attempt. I just ran a marathon. A MARATHON!!!!!

As the anticipation started to build waiting for race photos to post and waiting for official race times to come in I started thinking of all the places I could have shaved off time (ahem mile 6 bathroom), things I would have done differently on water/nutrition during the race, how I would have trained differently, etc and I realized maybe this isn’t the end for me…. maybe I need one more marathon to try to do things a little differently…. or maybe I should just leave well enough alone. We will see…

Final Thoughts:
I started writing a post BEFORE the marathon where I was encouraging everyone that they can do it. And coming from a completely non-athletic background…. my longest run EVER before I started ‘running’ was .17 miles (that’s POINT ONE SEVEN) before I got winded… and now I’m running 26.2…. I’d say if you WANT to do a marathon – YES it is possible. But I will also say don’t ever feel like if you don’t do a marathon you aren’t a real runner because that’s just not true. I’ll admit – I did get to that point. I felt like if I didn’t do a marathon I wouldn’t be “in the club” (like there is some right of passage by doing a marathon) but I don’t feel any more ‘in the club’ now than before I did a marathon. Do what is good for you. If 5ks are your thing – then go and rock out as many 5ks as you can. Work on getting faster or just doing a ton. Maybe you just want to do a 10k or a half! That’s AWESOME!!! Or heck – maybe racing isn’t your thing??? The pre-race anxiety is enough to drive me up a WALL (post to follow on my next goal). Don’t worry about races – I know some runners who NEVER run races, they just really enjoy running!

Moral of the story? Don’t run for anyone else or because you feel like you need to prove something…. Run because you love it, run for the health benefits, run for the alone time, run because you CAN…. whatever gets you motivated – just run.

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2 Responses to Marathon Recap: Soldier Marathon

  1. Unknown says:

    Loved the recap! Congratulations on your run – you deserve it! Loved the part about breaking 4:10 – awesome!

  2. The Partins says:

    That was a great review!!! I am so pumped to go run (even though I just did 11). So happy for you!!! I hope I do half as good as you!!!

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