Oh man….Where do I begin? Well for starters – I’m alive, I finished, and I didn’t hate it! I’m also tired enough it took several days of writing to finish this post 🙂
I’m aware in the two weeks leading up to the race (as compared to the five months prior) I’ve been relatively quiet on social media and the blog. It’s not for lack of talking about running – ask literally anyone that knows me. However I’m a naturally anxious person, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to curb that anxiety and replace it with positive vibes. Subtext: This is going to be a long post.
My final run was the Wednesday before the race. I went out for 3 miles with my training buddy Becca and we reflected on all our training and how I bet when she met me, she had no idea she would end up running a marathon eight months later (of course neither did I at the time). I spent the rest of the week making posters , picking out the ever important race -day outfit, fine tuning my playlist, making pace bands, guzzling water, and refreshing the weather app on my phone every hour.
Sunday morning was an early one. I didn’t sleep as well as I’d hoped the night before (see: ANXIETY) so my 4:30 alarm was a little unwelcome. My brothers were running the 5K race that morning, so we drove down together, while my friends rode in another car and parked separately. My anxiety spiked when we didn’t find a parking spot right away (we got one like 5 minutes later) and it continued to build as the minutes ticked by. I just wanted to meet up with my group one last time. As soon as we finally met up a huge relief washed over me. We snapped some photos, shared some hugs and split back up to our respective pace groups. My brothers escorted Jessie and I near(ish) our starting positions before they walked to watch the gun go off. Although I missed the company of our big group, it felt right that 1 year after our first time racing together, my best friend and I were back in downtown Austin at start line for our first marathon.
I checked my phone one last time before turning it off and saw an a text from a friend “…You are so strong, don’t let 26.2 miles get you down. You got this!” (followed of course by a little line of comedic relief). It was the perfect combination of exactly what I needed at that moment to shake off the last of my anxiety and start strong.
On the Congress bridge, not even a 1/2 mile from the start line, I saw a woman holding the first poster of the race. It read:
There will be a day when you can no longer do this. TODAY is not that day.
I immediately started tearing up then quickly stopped myself. It was way too early to start being so emotional (not to mention it made it really hard to breathe). Still the words really stuck with me the rest of the race — what a gift to be able to run, let alone run 26.2 miles! (Spoiler: I end up crying a lot anyway, but you know – the good kind of tears).
I’ll be frank — the first 6-7 miles of the race were not fun for me. I think I was a little tired, already hungry again, and the weather was not great (very humid, warm, and fairly strong wind gusts at times). The bright spots of course, were seeing my parents on the way out and back. I asked them to go there because I knew I’d make it at least that far in the race, and I would be happy and smiley with fresh legs. I could make no promises as to what I’d look like at mile 25. Other highlights included:
- The girl at mile 4 in a Tigger suit, dancing around to “Eye of the Tiger”
- The poster that read “Run real good, then take your ass to Red Lobster” (Beyonce reference here)
- The huge crowd that lined the corner after mile 6
Somewhere between miles 7 and 10, my pace started to slip for the first time. I wasn’t terribly worried at this point though, mostly just focused on getting into a good stride. As I neared the 10 mile mark, I focused on two things – 1. Getting over that bastard little hill on the corner (where people tend to stop and walk therefore killing my stride) and 2. Turning north toward the rest of the course while the half marathoners finished their 3 mile jaunt to the finish.
I mentioned in an a previous Instagram post that last year, when I looked at where the marathon course broke off, I was seriously intimidated. So while I still had several miles uphill to go, and the crowd of 12,000 people was about to dwindle to 3,000, I was still excited. I had run these streets before, I was ready. Miles 11-15 provide plenty of great spectators, including a gospel choir and a military band (and yes both nearly made me cry). The stretch ended with the very welcome sight of Jessie’s boyfriend and family cheering us on. Her uncle was smiling and waving like crazy and I left the area feeling a little more prepared to handle the next 6 mile stretch.
A few weeks ago, I started to realize in my training that miles 15-18 always suck for me. That was confirmed on race day. I’d hit the end of my feel good stride, and wasn’t close enough to the end to get an adrenaline boost. These were the miles I had to really to commit mental resources. So I thought about my friends running the race and sent positive vibes their way. I thought about my virtual sole-sister Paria, who by this time had probably started HER very first marathon in L.A. I thought about a friend, younger than me, who probably doesn’t know it, but inspired me to start running through her Instagram posts. It broke my heart when I recently found out she had been diagnosed with MS, and I ran a couple miles for her. And I thought about my fellow Motiv8ers that I knew were waiting with cheers and encouraging words at mile 21.
I’m pretty sure Runner’s Brain is a real thing. I kind of lose some cognitive ability after running for a while. On race day, with my music on, my thoughts focused elsewhere, I can’t do math anymore, and I wasn’t noticing obvious things anymore. I came around a corner after the mile 17 marker and in the distance saw a pink poster with “TERESA” on it. I kind of blinked my eyes a bit and remembered YES that was my name, and thought hey who is holding that? It was my best friend of 10 years! My heart exploded, and I immediately burst into tears. I ran over to her and gave her a super sweaty hug. I honestly don’t remember what the poster said, or what words we exchanged, I was just so surprised and so happy to see her there. I don’t think I’ve ever told this friend where my bad spots are on long runs, so to see her at 17 when I was struggling the most, was more than coincidence. That’s best friends for you. Oh and she also gave me gummy snacks. Those were amazing.
Now I only had THREE miles till my Motiv8 friends! I could always run 3 miles! When I got to the part of the street where I could see our orange flag I started crying again (see a recurring theme?). I pulled myself together in time to see SOOO many smiling faces and I asked a classmate for a hug (thanks for the impromptu sweaty hug E!). Now just FOUR more miles till I could see my parents. By this point, my pace had slipped too much for too long, and I knew that making my secondary goal time was quickly fading. The way I figured it, I could either push really hard, and maybe hit my goal time but also maybe hit a wall. Or. I could continue on at my pace, and finish happy. I decided on the latter.
Miles 21-24 flipped between the good and bad moments. I can’t even remember the bad ones that well now, most likely they were various pain points. And while I don’t take a lot of delight in competing against other people while on a run, I did pass the running store clerk we saw on Friday, so that felt a little good. The second to last water station was on a small stretch of road with a bit of an uphill at the end. I got my 17 millionth Gatorade and as I took off running, I looked around realized I was the only one still running. That felt good too.
Mile 24 brought another unexpected sight. A came upon a sign that read “Beer and Tacos, 2 Miles ahead” and vaguely recalled I had seen it before when my brother showed it to me at the Exxpo. My brothers were here! It was so unexpected (I figured they would be with my parents) and I was so excited I sprinted (ok shuffled) to them and gave them the biggest hugs. In that moment I felt so revived and strong. Looking back at the video my brother took I was definitely shuffling, definitely struggling and definitely in need of their presence. Looking back I realized that for me, as the big sister, I had always hold myself up as the more responsible, pillar of strength type role. But in that moment, roles were reversed, and they gave me strength. Of course in true big sister form, I also realized that even if something awful happened in the next 2 miles, I had to finish, because my brothers were watching and looking up to me. The next two miles were kind of a happy blur. I knew exactly where I was on the course = I could see downtown! I ticked off the blocks as I ran and before I knew it I was there in front of my parents. Their cheers only helped me along and I continued on feeling strong (which again, by proof of pictures sent to me later, I was not looking strong in form at all haha).
I saw the last tiny hill at mile 26 (rude right?), I silently said “OK hill, I’m going to make you my bitch” and ran right up it, around a corner and found my husband near the finish. He was kind of hunched over taking pictures with his phone and he had the biggest grin on his face. I smiled and waved and came around the last corner and saw the finish line. Cue tears immediately. As soon as I crossed the finish I took a few steps and immediately felt ALL the pain that had been numbed the last two miles. Hands on my knees, I bent over and muttered “Why do people do this?” The finisher’s corral is several blocks long and I felt like I was wandering aimlessly to whichever person had more water or gatorade in their hands. When I saw a volunteer walk toward me, arms full of medals, I AGAIN started to cry, but this time I didn’t even try to stop the tears. I told him thank you and I think even asked for a hug (RUNNERS BRAIN). The girls at the end stopped me to take a photo and AGAIN, tears. The girl that took my photo was so sweet – I don’t remember the exact words she said – I just remember thinking she was being so much sweeter than she had to be to a sweaty, sobbing hot mess. Finally snacks, then the end of the corral. I saw my husband waiting and shuffled over and just cried into his hoodie for a couple minutes. Then we VERY SLOWLY walked back to the finish line to wait for Jessie.
Words can’t express how grateful I am for everyone that supported me through this marathon. I’m grateful for my coach for all her words of wisdom, running routes planned and Gatorades stashed; for all my training partners – the ones running fast and giving me something to chase, and the ones that finished early then ran back to check on my last mile or two; to ANYONE that has listened to me ramble and obsess for MONTHS about running; for those who sent good luck texts and messages as the race approached; for all the strangers along the race course there to give an encouraging word to someone they don’t know, and especially for the ones who stood outside on race day for probably hours just to watch me run by for a few seconds. None of my first marathon experience would have been the same without you.