Yesterday, I ran my FIFTH marathon.
It will never cease to amaze me that running a marathon is a Thing I Can Do, no matter how many times I do it.
The day before the race, Heather was remarkably calm. I was kind of nervous, but if my “cadet” wasn’t nervous, I couldn’t show nerves as her “coach” and friend who had done this before. I wanted to pump her up, rather than potentially bring her down because of my own neuroses. Her calmness was contagious, and I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow on Saturday night, relaxed and excited for what was to come.
My alarm was set for 4:30am, and I bolted upright at 4:23, before it even went off. We were slated to leave the hotel at 5:30, and though I knew I probably didn’t need a full hour, it didn’t hurt to have a little extra time to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. I blasted some T-Swift (obviously) on my phone and found solace in the pre-race ritual of prepping everything I needed to run 26.2 miles. I choked down an English muffin sandwich with Nutella, banana jam (that is my jam) and honey.
We met the rest of the 26 Strong Team in the lobby and walked over to the park together for a pre-race photo under the bean. Heather and I ducked out afterwards to head over to the VIP tent, courtesy of a lovely friend who works for BofA and hooked us up. The most clutch thing about the tent was that it meant the baggage check lines were short. I rarely check a bag at races, but the possibility of having flip-flops and a cozy shirt at the end was too tempting to pass up. Also, there was a ladybug on our table! We took that as a good sign. We did some stretching, I drank hot water, we used the bathrooms and started lining up for a 7:30 start around 7:10ish. Toto, this is not the NYC Marathon.
Though Heather and I didn’t plan on running together, I wanted to be with her until the start to assuage any of her last-minute nerves/worries — and it was more fun to wait with a friend than wait alone. When we talked about the race afterwards, she said she never thought she wouldn’t finish so she was pretty calm.
Causal pre-race selfie.
We took off, and during the first mile I still couldn’t believe I was running a marathon. Though I’ve obviously run a few now, I never want to lose sight of what a special accomplishment running 26.2 miles is. Honestly, with feeling like I didn’t have enough training under my belt this go-around, I wanted to do my best to take in the sights and sounds of the race and really enjoy the moment. I’d started the race with THEO duct taped to my shirt, and I smiled back at every single person who cheered for me.
View from the start
I started off the race a little bit too much all up in my own head, and so I started chanting to myself “You’re running a marathon! You’re running a marathon!” As I ran those first early miles, I remembered starting off with Liz in 2010, and thinking about how far I’d come in my running since then.
My goal was to run somewhere between 4:10 – 4:20 — basically I just wanted to keep under a 10:00 pace. Jess had told me to start conservatively, and I based my own mental plan on similar race plans she’s given me in the past: slow first half, pick it up in the second half, give it all you’ve got for those last few miles. The first few miles, I started hitting low 9:00-paced miles, and even one sub-9 mile. SLOW IT DOWN, THEODORA.
I saw Michele in the first few miles, and we took a selfie together. My ponytail game is STRONG.
I tried to consciously hold myself back and slowed to what felt like a shuffle, but as I approached mile 10, I already started feeling some tightness in my legs and hips, and I panicked. Was I hurting because I was running slower than my natural pace? My goal was to do 9:20-9:30 for 10-15, and then drop a little more from there 15-20, if I felt ok. After miles 5-6, my duct tape started faltering, and I spent a few miles grabbing at my chest trying to get the letters to stick, but I eventually yanked them off.
I was SO happy to see Emily AND Emily at mile 11, and Emily made me stop for a photo. When I sent this to my mom, she was shocked I stopped. I wasn’t PRing, so I could at least get a little love from a friend. True story: I was running in place while her friend took this photo because I was terrified of my legs cramping up.
That first half went by so quickly, and before I knew it, I was at the halfway mark. I remembered seeing my mom at mile 12 last time, and then I saw a clock. I wasn’t sure what time it was when I actually started, so I had no idea what time it was. The clock said 9:48, and it read 64 degrees. Shit. Another two+ hours, and it was only going to get warmer. There was zero cloud cover. The weather was perfect…for anything but running a marathon.
After 14, I started losing any of the mental strength I’d channeled early in the race. All I wanted to do was walk. I never felt pain, per se, but I started feeling uncomfortable. I promised myself I’d not walk at all until I had just single-digit miles left. At mile 16, I started walking through the entire two-block water stations.
I’d signed up to have my race results pushed to Facebook and Twitter, and I assumed they’d update at the 5K/10K etc. As I got near mile 18, I knew I’d be around 30K and that motivated me to keep going strong for those tracking me at home. I felt like I was sending a silent message to them that I was doing ok by keeping a strong pace!
By mile 20, I’d really given up mentally. It was starting to get warm, and everything felt tight. I stopped a few times to stretch my tight calves out on the curb. For 20-25, my goal just became to walk the water stations, and run as much as possible in between, but there were definitely a handful of walk breaks. If I was walking and saw a mile sign, I’d usually start running again. But by mile 25, I wanted so badly to be done, that I forced myself to keep on trotting through.
Liz’s sign is my everything.
I saw Liz, Jenny and Shannon somewhere around mile 25 and was happy I was running again and feeling a little stronger. Somewhere around mile 25, I became so overcome with emotion that I was about to finish another marathon. (Also, I stopped to think about how 25 miles is really freaking far.)
I knew the finish was uphill (evil), and though I felt it, I just kept powering through. Those last 100 yards were nothing short of magical, and I grinned as hard as I could for those cameras and tried really hard to not stop my Garmin immediately so they could get some good photos. I finished in 4:18, which I am honestly truly psyched about given my training. And truly, any day you complete a marathon is a pretty damn good one!
The VIP experience in Chicago is AWESOME. After I got my medal, they escorted my limping self over to the tent, where I hung out and waited for Heather. Once she finished, we hung out and got massages, drank pumpkin beer and ate mac ‘n’ cheese. Life was perfect.
Heather finished a little bit after me, and I am SO proud of her. Heather’s a few years older than me, and has taught me a lot in the past year or so that we’ve been friends, and it was fun to turn the tables and teach her everything I know about marathons. Toward the end of her training, she battled an injury, but she persevered to get to the finish line healthily. In the time I waited for her (I couldn’t get back out to the finish line and then back into the tent because of security), I understood my mom’s worry about me when I’m running races! Once I saw her walk into that tent, I attempted to run over to her and give her a big, sweaty hug.
The next question everyone’s asked me after yesterday: how are you feeling about New York? Well…quite honestly, I’m just taking things one day at a time. Today, I cannot possibly imagine running 26.2 again in 20 days. I have some SoulCycle and Uplift planned for this week, will probably run again (SHORT!) on Wednesday and Jess and I will figure out my long run plan for the next two weekends before I’m back at it all over again.
Some notes on fueling, honestly more for me than for you: I had a Honey Stinger at mile 6, half a thing of margarita shot bloks at mile 12 and then the other half at mile 18, half a banana at mile 20 (THIS MARATHON HAS FOUR BANANA STOPS. REASON ENOUGH TO DO IT.) and another Honey Stinger at mile 22. I had water at nearly all of the water stops, and had a tiny splash of Gatorade once or twice in the final 6 miles. I had started the race with a handheld water bottle full of Nuun, and ended up ditching it about halfway through.
A HUGE thank you to Saucony and Competitor for everything — from our entries, to our travel and hotel, to the camraderie of this weekend, to the (semi-surprise) photo shoot on Saturday morning. (<— More TK on that!)
And thank you to all of you who supported me via sweet comments or cheering out on the course. A special thanks goes out to my incredibly special coworkers who made me a good luck video <3 I really lucked out with them. And congrats to everyone else who ran yesterday! If you have a recap, I’d love to read it! Link it below in the comments.