- If you want the short version: I came, I ran, I conquered.
- If you want the long version: keep reading.
When my alarm went off at 4:40 am on Sunday morning, my nerves and excitement immediately kicked in. I took my time eating my toast and getting dressed. I checked, double checked, triple checked that I had everything. I also went to the bathroom about twenty times, maybe more. At 5:45 I drove to my mom’s house. She was already ready to go, so I dumped my stuff in her car, and we were off to Fair Park.
The weather forecast had predicted severe and widespread storms. We experienced some rain (on and off) and overcast skies on the way to the race site but nothing major. As we sat in the care in the parking lot, we heard on the radio that the severe storms were going to be skipping us. (Yeay!) With about an hour until go time, we put on ponchos and got out of the car. I had plenty of time to stretch, go to the bathroom again, and hang out before walking over to the start.
My mom was walking the half, which started a half hour after the full, so she wished me luck, and then left me alone at the start. The race was relatively small (There were 700 full marathon finishers), so there were no corrals. I had planned to run with a pace group, but they didn’t have a pace group for the finish time I wanted. (The 4:20 group seemed too fast and 4:40 seemed – I hoped! – too slow.) I just planted myself toward the middle of the crowd and took off running when it was time.
- Mile one: 10:01
- Mile two: 10:07 (<— I took off my poncho here and threw it away.)
- Mile three: 9:41
- Mile four: 9:32
The first few miles were hot and humid. No poncho needed. I had hoped to hit a 10:00 pace for each mile. It’s faster than my long training runs had been but slower than I usually run a race. It ended up being hard mentally because I wanted to go faster! I saw person after person pass me in the early miles. I started to pick up the pace a little bit, even though I knew I shouldn’t. I also struggled when I came to hills. Normally I sprint down hills to use them to my advantage, but I wasn’t sure if I’d regret sprinting so early in the race. My indecision turned into inconsistency. Fast, slow, faster, slower. As a result, miles 3 and 4 were faster than they should have been.
- Mile five: 9:52 (<— Gu)
- Mile six: 9:59
- Mile seven: 10:09
- Mile eight: 10:06
- Mile nine: 9:51
This stretch of miles ran along White Rock Lake. It was great to race there after logging so many training miles in the same place. So many spots that I passed held a memory: The street where all the DRC training runs started and ended, the stretch where we once joked about creating an experiment testing the hydrating properties of alcohol (I volunteered to be the control and drink water), Winfrey point where I ran the Texas Half. I tried not to think about how many miles I had left or how big the lake looked. I did a better job of pacing during this stretch. As we peeled off the lake, I could see the storm brewing in the distance. I heard another runner say that he saw lightning. I felt a big gust of cold wind and the rain started. Thankfully, it was just a light drizzle and the cold air that it brought with it felt good.
- Mile ten: 9:41
- Mile eleven: 10:11 (<–Gu)
- Mile twelve: 10:07
- Mile thirteen: 9:40
We entered the neighborhoods, and I knew that I’d be seeing my big brother during this portion. The course map didn’t have mile markers (harumph!). I knew I’d see him (we ran right by his house), I just didn’t know when I’d see him. I spent three miles waiting to see him and getting all jazzed. I’ve had people cheer for me at the finish, but I’ve never had spectators on a course before. At one point, I texted him to say that I thought I was nearing his street. (His response: “If you can text, pick up the pace.” Ha! Thanks, Mike!) Sure enough, around 12.4, there he was. I started waving frantically. I could see my brother and his fiance on their porch. They ran out to the street and cheered and jumped up and down. It was just the boost that I needed! I decided that since I was about halfway through, I was going to give myself permission to pick up the pace. I took off!
- Mile fourteen: 9:40
- Mile fifteen: 10:00
- Mile sixteen: 9:35 (<–Gu)
- Mile seventeen: 10:04
- Mile eighteen: 9:44
- Mile nineteen: 9:43
- Mile twenty: 10:17
One of my biggest fears pre-race was that during these miles I’d be all alone and hurting. That didn’t happen. Fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen I actually felt great. There were small pockets of crowds cheering, and even though there weren’t many of them, they were enthusiastic. I made an effort to thank every police officer and all the volunteers that I saw. I even got in a few high-fives (per my pre-race goals.) During Mile 17 I stopped at a water fountain to refill my handheld. I noticed that my feet felt heavy. It had rained on and off for more than hour, and my feet were soaked. I could feel some blisters forming, but they thankfully weren’t painful. By mile twenty, I’d already run back along the lake and found myself heading through Dallas toward Fair Park.
- Mile twenty-one: 10:07 (<–Gu)
- Mile twenty-two: 9:55
- Mile twenty-three: 10:26
- Mile twenty-four: 10:28
These were some of those hardest miles (mentally) that I have ever run in a race. Although I was tired, I never felt like I hit the wall physically; it was just a mental battle. I didn’t know if I could keep going, but I knew I couldn’t stop. There were very few spectators during most of these miles, and the nearest runners were often 100 yards ahead or behind me. I started to try to encourage myself by saying things out loud. “I can do this. I can. Keep going.” “Come on legs!” was another one. There were a few grunts and groans and a lot of “Ughs!” (At one point, I heard another runner say, “This was a stupid idea.” Ha! Tell it, sister!) I wanted so desperately to finish. I didn’t even care about my time. I just wanted to run the miles. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, so I’m surprised to see that my pace was pretty decent.
- Mile twenty-five: 10:16
- Mile twenty-six: 9:44
- Final .60: 9:30
Around mile 25, I started to feel good mentally, but my body was tiring. (“Come on, legs!”) I was finally no longer in no man’s land and took comfort in the fact that there were other runners around. I was able to pass a few people. (Granted, they were people walking the half but still!) I also started to really push. I love finishing fast, so I went for it. Before the last .2 I saw Teal and Beth of Life is a Run. I heard one of them shout, “You’re Army Amy!” It made me feel like a rock star! As we took the final turn, there was a bit of a crowd. Their cheering seemed so loud compared to the non-existent cheering for the majority of the race. It felt great taking those final strides across the finish line.
- 26.60 mile finish time: 4:24:54 (officially)
- Average pace: 9:57 per mile
My mom and I were able to link up right there at the finish line. (Ah, the beauty of a small race!) She had a great race, too. (A new PR! Way to go, Mom!) I found a banana and some water, and then we met her boyfriend and my brother for lunch at Chuy’s. (Can’t go wrong with Tex-Mex after a long run.)
I’m really proud of myself. I really honestly didn’t ever think I’d finish a full marathon in under 4:30. I respect the distance, so I went in with low expectations. I think the full impact of my accomplishment still hasn’t hit me. I spent the entire race trying not to think about how far it was, and now that it’s over, it doesn’t seem like I ran that far! Plus, training has been a distraction, a way to mark time while Stephen’s been deployed. Now it’s over, and he’s still not home. Instead of feeling a runner’s high, I feel a little bit of post-run blues. Womp womp.
Even so, it was an incredible experience. I’m so glad that I gave the marathon another attempt. I know I said it the other day, but I can’t say it enough: Thank you! Thank you for reading my blog, for following me throughout my training, for leaving encouraging comments and sending me good vibes. Thank you!*