I began tossing around the idea of a marathon after my 4th 1/2. I saw it as a challenge and wanted to prove I could do it. After all, I never thought I would be able to survive 13.1, so why not 26.2? I started planning out my training program using Hal Higdon. Most of the plans are 16 weeks, but I wanted to start early in case I got sick, or had a set back. I did end up having set backs in regards to my endometriosis, but overall this training went better than I ever imagined. It was so fun to run distances I had never run before. Even my first 20 miler went great.
People thought I was crazy to run in the winter, but I prefer it. I do not run well in heat. I learned all about the joys of chaffing in unwanted areas, runners trots, black toenails, losing toenails, and runs that never ended. I learned what to eat and what not to eat and how your body really can get dehydrated in cold temperatures.
For weeks leading up to the race, I researched blogs about the St. Louis Marathon. I obsessively checked the weather and race maps. And of course, I doubted my ability to do this. If worse came to worse, I’d drop out at the 1/2 way point.
We headed out to St. Louis on Saturday and met up with my sister & 2 nephews. Despite the fact that you’re supposed to save your feet, we walked the 1 mile to the expo to get my packet. All day I was gagging from nerves. It was rather attractive. We got my packet, and headed on back to the hotel to figure out dinner.
My meal before long runs had become pizza and diet coke. So pizza it was. I ate so.much.pizza. But I was still so nervous it wasn’t enough. Maybe I hadn’t trained enough. What if I get really bad cramps from the endo and I can’t finish? What if I disappoint all my friends and family who have supported me through this?
Surprisingly, I slept well. Woke up, gagging as usual. Somehow gagged my bagel + peanut butter & coffee down. Obsessively layered on Ruby’s Lube to prevent chafing. Checked my ipod and garmin religiously, and headed down. My mom walked down with me to see me off, while my sister stayed at the hotel with the 2 boys. The plan was they would see me at the halfway point (at our hotel) and then the finish. I was sort of bummed that they wouldn’t be able to see me in different spots along the way, but with kids it’s hard.
I tried to keep my cool as I waited for the race to start. I just kept telling myself to take it 1 mile at a time. That’s all I had to do. The race course was brand new this year, so I didn’t fully know what to expect. At mile 3, I had the biggest panic attack of my life. We crossed a bridge (new to the course) and my legs literally felt like they were in quick sand. They were shaking and I could barely move. I thought for sure the race was over for me, something was wrong with my legs. I noticed other people were talking, so I took my headphones out and realized everyone was experiencing it, the bridge was literally waving up and down from so many people on it. PHEW. It’s not me. I can do this. I put the headphones back in and plugged onward!
As I crossed the halfway point, I thought to myself “This is it. No turning back now.” My family cheered me on & offered my coconut donuts (LOL). By the way, these do not sound good after you’ve already consumed GU and your stomach is sloshing around.
I’m kind of glad I didn’t know what was coming. Hills. Hills were coming. The last 1/2 of the race takes you through Forest Park. AKA DEATH. The course weaved in and out, up and down all over the park. So many times I thought to myself, when do I get to leave this freaking park?! Around mile 20 I had to pee. So bad. My bladder was going to burst. But I knew that if I stopped, sat on a porta potty, I would never get back up. I forced myself not to think about it. I also decided at that point I could not, I would not, eat another GU. I started doing a no no in the world of running, and tried something new. Drinking Gatorade. Praise baby Jesus my body didn’t hate me for it. I also took a tramadol, because the endo cramps had started to kick in and I knew I could be in trouble.
One of my favorite moments from the race was meeting a guy (maybe in his 60’s) at a water stop. He started asking me about running and asked if this was my first full marathon. I said it was, and he told me how he had been running them for years. He told me how awesome I was doing and that I looked strong. He told me we could run together, so we did. We only stayed maybe 1 mile together, and he needed to walk. He then told me to go on, finish strong and be proud of myself. THIS. This is why I run. People are so encouraging and loving. They want you to succeed. It’s not about beating others, it’s about beating yourself. So I took off.
I was in the final freaking stretch. The finish line was so close. I blasted my music, and took off (it felt a lot faster than it was).
Holy crap. This was happening. I WAS FINISHING. I saw my family, waved, and pressed on. I finished in 4:39:28. I ran 26.2 miles. I actually did it.
This was by far my best marathon. Everything went as smooth as could be, and I finished strong. Thus started the tradition of running St. Louis every year.