My first marathon has come and gone and I can honestly say I never thought running a marathon would be so fun. The day went better than I could’ve ever imaged and I am so thankful to my friends & family that were there to cheer me on. This will probably be lengthy, so the cliff note version is this: I finished in 3:56:31 (9:02 average pace) with a negative split. I didn’t walk once and felt great the whole time. The weather was cold (in the 30s most of the way), but it was sunny which made for a perfect day.
My parents came into town the day before the race and we had dinner at home before I got all of my stuff ready for race morning.
I had my usual steak and baked sweet potato for dinner and finished it off with a chocolate Honey Stinger waffle for dessert to hit my carb minimum for the day. My least favorite part of training was carb loading, but I got it done without feeling to gross.
I slept pretty well on Saturday night and woke up before my alarm, around 4 am. We had planned to leave the house around 5:30 so I had plenty of time to get dressed. We were part of the cold snap this weekend, but we had a similar situation last year so it wasn’t a big surprise. I did text with my friend Nicole the day before to confirm my outfit choice since she had run the marathon in the cold last year.
I drank my Nuun and ate an English Muffin with peanut butter and then listened to some music while my parents and husband got ready to go. We were out the door on time and headed downtown.
My training group meets in a hotel which was a nice opportunity to use real bathrooms before heading down to the start. The week prior to race week my friend Joe asked if I would be okay with him running with me. He is training for an ultra and wanted to use the race as a long training run. I have run with him in the past and he had run with Nicole last fall so I jumped at the opportunity. Nicole had been registered for the half since she had already run her goal race, but switched up to the full so she could run with us as well. Our other friend Claire also decided to jump in with us also. We easily found each other at the hotel and headed down to the corral, but not before running to the bushes for a last minute bathroom break. We were in corral B, but Joe was in corral C since he got his bib from a friend so he actually ended up sneaking into our corral before initially being turned away. He’s regularly a corral A runner so this was pretty funny to me.
I had been feeling pretty nervous, but once we got into the corrals we were dancing and having fun and I was just ready to go. Columbus kicks it off with fireworks and Springsteen’s “Born to Run” which is a fun way to start. My race plan had been to do the first four miles at a 9:15 pace and then drop down to a 9:00 pace. From my heart rate training I knew I should be able to hang on to a 9:00 pace throughout the race so we aimed for around 4 hours overall.
It was actually slow getting out of the start. Spots were added to the half marathon this year and it was a bit overcrowded. We clocked our first mile at 9:25, but it’s actually an uphill start so I was okay with it being a bit slower. Around mile 3 we saw the leaders coming back up the main road and we cheered for them. We had fun laughing at some of the goofy spectators and the course music was great. We finished mile 4 with a 9:11 average and I told them I was ready to move to 9:00-9:10 paced miles. I took my first Honey Stinger at mile 5 as planned. (9:25/9:12/9:04/9:11/9:04; 9:17 official average).
Heading into mile 6 is a slight incline, but I remember it feeling a lot longer and more difficult during the half last year (though I had been running much faster!). At 6.55 I called out that we were a quarter of the way through. I was really enjoying our run so far and we were just chatting and looking around at things. Every once in a while Joe would tell us some random story that would make us laugh. I knew the first half would be easier than the second so I was just trying to keep our pace in check, but I was feeling really good. During this section we went past Nationwide Children’s Hospital which is where the fundraising money goes for this race. The route to the hospital was different than last year and better took us around the hospital which was nice. As we headed towards German Village, it was very flat and we had to pull back a bit as we were hitting miles too fast. I felt great, but was worried for the second half. We passed a Gospel group who had just begun singing Seasons of Love from Rent and that led us to talk to Broadway shows we love for a few minutes. We ran through German Village where I took my second Honey Stinger at mile 10 and then started making our way back into downtown. Nicole has been dealing with some health issues lately and wasn’t sure if she was going to break off at the half. During mile 12 we kept asking her what she was going to do and at the very last minute she looked at us and we knew what her look meant and we all got excited. I saw my family at this point and frantically waved to them. The crowds were cheering and the band was playing and we took this part of the race too fast, but we were all caught up in the excitement of the moment. (9:06/9:11/8:55/8:54/8:58/9:02/8:59/8:51; 9:06 official average).
As we crossed the halfway mark I was still feeling good. We saw our friends Marissa and Tory who cheered my name loudly. Next thing we know, our friend Dan chimes in from behind us joking that it’s not fair that I had my own cheer squad. He passed us to catch back up to the 4:00 pace group and we headed into a really crowded water stop. I think this is the only time I stopped because I had to come to an almost dead-stop to keep from running into someone who cut right in front of me. At this point, I hadn’t walked at all and kept on running through the water stations depending on Nicole and Joe to find me. Claire was at my side at almost every water station. We headed onto the main road and then into campus. I took my third Honey Stinger at mile 15. Some of our group wanted to stop at the port-a-potty, but there was a line so everyone just kept on through campus. I pointed out the music building to my friends and then we headed down towards the stadium. Since there was a game the night before, we did not have to run through the stadium which I was really happy about. I didn’t feel like running down and up those inclines at mile 16.5. As we got around the stadium and onto the main road, we lost Claire somewhere. I think she may have finally stopped to go to the bathroom. We were about to head into the hardest few miles of the course which are a quick uphill and then a gradual incline. Joe commended me on the strong uphill, but I knew once I got up it and through the next section it would ease out. I ditched my gloves and pulled down my arm warmers right before mile 19 since we were finally in the sun. At mile 19 we were heading into some quiet neighborhoods so I stuck in my ear buds for the first time and turned up my music. We caught up to Dan again who assured me the hardest part of the course was over. We hit mile 20 and I took my fourth and final gel and knew I’d see my friends soon. (8:54/9:05/8:54/8:59/8:58/8:58/8:53; 9:02 official average)
I knew that around 21.5 a bunch of my running friends would be there cheering me on including a large cut out of my friend’s dog that she made.
I had been looking forward to seeing them since mile 16. I also a knew a woman I used to work with would be right around here too with her pup and I was looking forward to seeing them. At this point, we entered a pattern of Joe telling me to slow down. My legs just wanted to go go go and it felt better than running slower, but I listened because I still felt good and didn’t want to lose that. Finally I saw my friends and I smiled and waved and laughed at their signs.
We headed into a downhill after this and it was not fun, but I knew we were getting so close. Some where around here Joe started grabbing my Gatorade or water (I switched off at every stop) so I didn’t have to waist energy weaving. I knew from running this part of the course with Courtney that it was only 3 miles to go once we got to Panera so I focused on getting there. We passed it and I knew we were getting close and I couldn’t believe how good I still felt. We took mile 22 a bit fast and Joe pointed out we needed to slow down again.
Last week my friend Cory told me things got rough for him around mile 23. This is the point where I started to feel tired, but my legs still felt good. I mentioned to Joe and Nicole I was feeling tired and Joe encouraged me to keep pushing, letting me know I’d get a second wind when we got closer into downtown. He told me I was going to crush my 4 hour goal. This is the point where I noticed a lot of people starting to walk. I hadn’t walked at all and realized I was still going strong and could push on to the finish. We hit mile 24 and turned back onto Neil Ave, I knew I just needed to make it to Buttles and I’d be so close. I turned my music back off at this point and took my ear buds back out since the crowds would start to pick up again. Runners were really starting to drop to a walk and I noticed a lot holding their hamstrings trying to work out cramps. We finally reached Buttles which is a slight incline and I said “This little hill is killing me!” Joe told me I was doing great and to stay strong. I also asked him when that second wind would kick in. Finally we got to the last water stop and I was so excited. I was almost there and knew I could make it in under 4 hours. We hit mile 25 and I just started to take off. Joe instructed me to get to his right and hug the curve into the final incline heading into mile 26. I just pushed up it wanting to get to the top as quickly as possible. I passed a guy who had stopped to walk and the crowd was chanting his name to keep going. We hit the top and Joe pointed out I just had to make it around the curve. It felt like forever, I even asked him where the finish was.
Joe pointed out my family to the side of me and I smiled at them and started pushing to the finish. Joe said, “It’s all you!” and I sprinted ahead and crossed the line. Joe and Nicole followed behind me and I said, “Do you think I made it under 4?” They both kind of laughed and said “Oh yeah, definitely.” We all compared and had 3:56 and some change on our watches. (8:47/8:51/8:53/8:31/7:39 for last .20; official 8:45 average)
We walked through the finishers chute and I told Joe and Nicole I felt horrible. Joe pointed out I just ran a marathon and I should feel horrible. Mostly I was just tired. My calves were cramping from sprinting at the end and I needed my chocolate milk! After getting through the finisher’s chute, we headed over to our training group’s tent where I met back up with my family. I hugged my mom and started crying. My husband asked me why I was crying and I told him, “Because it went better that I could’ve ever expected… and my legs really hurt!” I got some warm clothes on and celebrated with my friends before we took some pictures.
I felt a lot better at this point and we started to walk back to our car which brought us back past the course. My husband spotted one of our friends running up the final stretch and I cheered like a crazy woman and she smiled and waved at me. Right behind her was another woman I spent a lot of time running with this season so I began yelling to her. I was so happy to see them both smiling and looking strong heading into the finish.
My parents and I went out to dinner last night and then when I got home I celebrated with some wine before heading to bed early.
I took today off from work so I have just been resting, hanging with the puppies, hydrating, and eating. My husband still had to go to work so I got up early with him and ate some gourmet mac & cheese for breakfast that was leftover from our dinner out.
I exceeded my own expectations for this race and am still in disbelief with how well it went. Even more, I had fun while still running hard. I am really proud of myself for sticking to a slower pace in the beginning. Since this post is long enough already, I’ll write some overall thoughts on my training later. For now, I am looking forward to enjoying some downtime and fun running once I’m recovered before starting half marathon training for the spring!