If you haven’t already, read part one of my recap here.
So at mile 12 we split off from the half marathon group and I thought to myself “ok, oh boy, we’re really doing this”. As if we hadn’t already been running for almost two and a half hours at this point. Right after we split off we saw a women wearing the finisher’s jacket from the New Orleans Rock n Roll Marathon. I pointed out to Christina that we were going to get a jacket just like that one and we got really excited.
At this point, I had to pee really badly. I actually had been holding it since about mile 4 because we knew the porta potty lines would be so much less after the split, so we kept an eye out for a porta potty. In addition, I was having this chafing issue. I felt like such an idiot. I put aquaphor all over everything EXCEPT the part of my thighs that weren’t covered by shorts or compression sleeves. My KT tape on my leg was rubbing against my inner thigh and it was not a good situation. Also my knee was starting to get more painful. All around really starting to not feel great, which was discouraging since we were only halfway through. We found a bank of porta potties that only had a few runners in line so I jumped in. We only had to wait about 10 minutes, but at least we weren’t concerned about our time!
Have you ever pulled down wet compression shorts in a porta potty while trying to hover/not touch anything at the same time? And then tried to put them back on? All while wondering if the brown mush on the floor of the porta potty is mud or something else? After running 13 miles? Yeh, it sucks. I’ll just leave it at that.
Ok, so we were back off and running but I still had that chafing issue. Luckily we had given Christina’s mom the Aquaphor so I knew we’d see her soon and I could take care of it. Right before we hit the 14 mile marker we saw a medical tent with a giant tub of Vaseline on it. We made a beeline for it and I spread big globs of it all over my thigh (it looked disgusting but felt so much better), then we were off again.
As we’re running suddenly Christina says “Jessica!! Jessica, those are our faces!! That’s my family and those are our faces!!”. It took me a few seconds but then I saw what she was talking about (it was hard to miss).
I’m going to flashback for a second here because I had a feeling something like this would happen. About two weeks before the race, I get the following email from Christina’s sister, Angie:
“So don’t ask questions but just send me a picture of yourself where we can really see your face and make sure it was taken with a real camera and not a phone. No questions, just do it.”
Well if you have ever been to a race you know that there is really only one reason someone could have a request like that: fatheads. I was thinking it would be two giant fatheads, but I wasn’t prepared for all of them!!! Christina’s entire family, plus Brian, was there with fatheads of us, cheering and yelling.
Here we are when we see everyone!
Look to the right and you can see our cheer squad!!
This part was kind of a blur because all I remember are a ton of hugs and cheering and pictures. I saw Brian which was great and I was so happy to see he had a smile on his face because let’s be honest, spectating a race is not that fun, and doing it in the rain. I also remember that he had a big Starbucks coffee in his hand and having this sudden strong urge to take a few sips because hot coffee just seemed so lovely. If I had asked, he definitely would have given me some, but I thought “hm, better not do that…”
Brian, with a fathead of me and his coffee. MMM coffee.
Big supporter, even in the rain!
So remember how I globbed Vaseline on my leg? Well, Brian saw it and immediately asked me in a confused an appalled tone “WHAT is on your leg?!”. Haha.
I was so glad that we weren’t worried about time because it was nice to stop and chat, get hugs and lots of pictures with everyone. Then Christina’s sister, Angie announced that she was going to jump in for a few miles. She was originally planning to be around 22 so this was a nice surprise! She started running with us. A few blocks down we saw Brooke cheering for us as we ran by. We spent the next few minutes filling in Angie on our race so far, which took up quite a bit of time. The on course entertainment was good but my favorite had to be the drumline around mile 15. These ladies were the same ones that were at the Nike Women’s Half in DC in 2014, at the start and the finish. I love them so much, they’re really good and have AMAZING energy. This time, they were under an overpass so the drums were echoing which brought even more energy to that area!
My IT band was starting to get bad at this point and I was pretty worried. Angie has struggled a lot with IT band issues so I was chatting with her about it and she offered me her IT band brace. I told her I would take her up on it after her part of the run. I didn’t know how bad her issues were and I wanted her to be able to run a few miles with us. We got to mile 16ish and Angie asked us what we needed—she gave us some pretzels which was awesome and I thought she was dipping out, so I told her to give me her IT band brace. Turns out she was running another mile with us (oops) but the brace helped. Actually, to be honest, I’m not sure if it physically helped me at this point because I think a lot of damage had been done, but it mentally helped me and that is HUGE.
Mile 16 was this little out-and-back loop that was supposed to be the “music mile” but there was really only music at the beginning. It started to rain really hard at this part, and we were running into the wind/rain at one point which to be honest wasn’t that pleasant. I was really grateful to have Angie there with us. When it was time to fuel she helped open my shot bloks for me, and as I was putting the packet back in my pouch, I stopped in my tracks.
“Oh my god. OH MY GOD. I DROPPED A PACK OF SHOT BLOKS!!!”
Except I’m not sure what actually came out of my mouth because Christina and Angie seemed very confused and it took a few moments to explain to them that I had three packs, and then I ate one pack, and now I only had one pack, so I’m missing one and I dropped it. Angie volunteered to run back and try to find it. We were at a part of the course that was a little out-and-back loop so we knew we’d run into her again on the way back. We did, and she was empty handed. Christina quickly told me that it was okay because she had an “extra” but I was still freaking out. What if it wasn’t enough, if she had miscalculated and she didn’t really have extra? What was I going to do? Was I going to hit the wall???!! (Imagine me asking myself these questions except they are screaming in my head.)
I said something like “I can’t believe I lost a whole pack of shot bloks!” and Angie says “wait, a whole pack? I thought I was looking for one measly shot blok, maybe they’re here somewhere. I wasn’t looking for a whole pack”. So we kept running back up and the little voice in my head was still screaming and then…..in a deep span of gloomy grey, I see a bright blue pack of shot bloks. I pointed them out to Angie and Chrissy and Angie ran over and grabbed them. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to have them safely back in my little pouch!! Crisis averted.
So then we’re finishing up that mile and it really was time for Angie to dip out. We saw Brooke and their friend Jessie with the most amazing sign of a Kool Aid man, and it says “Bust through that wall!” which had to be my favorite sign she made. We stopped to chat with her and then got a few photos taken by the photographer. They gave us hugs and told us they would see us at the finish line….and we were off again. Nine miles to go.
I was familiar with the next part of the course because I had actually run it with my dad a couple of months before. We went over the Anacostia river right by Nationals park, and the bridge had this weird grating that made me feel dizzy. At first I was scared that I was just over exerting myself (basically, every time anything felt somewhat weird I questioned if I was “hitting the wall”) and then I realized it was the grating. I mentioned it to Christina and she agreed it was weird so we just walked.
We went around the river and started approaching a pretty big hill. I told Christina that we could walk it and she agreed. I was relieved to see all the other runners around us doing the same thing, so we didn’t feel peer-pressured into running the hill. In fact, it helped me feel like we made the right decision! We ran through Anacostia park and I started to get excited because my parents would be at mile 20. Close to mile 19, Chrissy mentioned several times that she was struggling a little bit. I tried to stay positive (that’s my role in our running partnership) and told her that we’d see my parents soon and to just push through until we saw them. The truth is I was struggling a bit too, my knee was still bothering me. As we’re running, we approached mile 19, and I saw someone holding a hot pink poster under the overpass. I knew my mom’s sign was hot pink, so I looked a little closer and realized it was my parents, a mile earlier than expected!! It was perfect timing because Christina and I really needed a little boost.
We stopped and said hello to my parents and I got hugs from both of them. My mom’s poster was perfect because part of Christina and I’s Thanksgiving tradition is running a half marathon and then going to see the new Hunger Games movie. My mom got a picture of Chrissy and I and then my dad jumped in to run a bit with us. I wish I had gotten a picture with the both of them!
The sign my mom made!
Still smiling at Mile 19!
This part of the course was also an out-and-back loop so we just trudged along. The nice part is that this area was really flat, so we didn’t have to worry about my knee as much. There were parts of the path that were flooded out so runners were having to get creative to keep going. At one point we had to walk through deep mud to avoid the ankle-deep water which was not fun. This was a great part of the course to have my dad along because we were starting to struggle, but also, we were venturing into unknown territory after mile 20. When we hit mile 20 I said to Christina “Hey, this is the furthest we’ve ever run! Now THIS is the furthest we’ve ever run!”. We chatted with my dad about all the things we had seen on the course, the near disasters we had faced, and how we were feeling now. My dad and I have only ever run together one other time (since I started running as an adult) so it was really special to have him run part of my first marathon with me. After a couple of miles, I realized water wasn’t falling from the sky anymore. Yes…..it stopped raining! Just as we got into the hard part of the course, the rain finally stopped! Things were looking up!
The ambulance isn’t for us, don’t worry.
During this part since we were talking so much I turned off the music on my phone to conserve battery. Unfortunately, I was down to about 15% with still a few miles to go. Chrissy and I decided that if my battery died and I needed music, she could play her music through her speaker. I was still nervous though!
Dad stuck with us until around 22 and I told him we were good, the park was coming up and we were ready for it. We got a quick hug from him, and as he was turning around to go back to the car we noticed our fatheads again. Brian was at the corner with my best friend in college, Jessica, and her husband, John. I yelled back to my dad and he went and joined them.
It was so great to see the three of them at that very spot, and so positive and happy. I gave them all big hugs and nearly cried I was so excited that they came. I knew they were running a bit late that morning so I wasn’t expecting to see them until after the race, and it was a nice pick-me up. This part of the course was another little loop so we saw them after the loop, too. We shouted to them that we would see them at the finish line!! Later, Jess would tell me that she was shocked at how good we looked for having just run 22 miles…I told her it got real about a mile later!
Now we were in a part of DC that wasn’t so great and there was basically no crowd support. Honestly, I was expecting this earlier in the race, so I was glad that we made it this far with such great support. As we’re running toward the park Christina says to me: “Hey, remember that thing that happened to my calves in Atlanta?”, to which I immediately replied “we’re not talking about it, just let me know what you need”. I was nervous for her at this point. What happened during the 2013 Atlanta Half marathon was NOT a good situation. And we still had several miles to go. She wasn’t making those awful little squealing sounds so I knew it couldn’t be too bad….yet. She asked that we walk the uphills and I decided that was a good idea.
Unfortunately, anyone with IT band issues knows that walking makes your knee tighten up more. I honestly don’t know if it would have been worse or the same to run the uphill (because hills also irritate the IT band) but man, every time we stopped, my knee locked up a little more. I just concentrated on walking as briskly as I could to try to keep it loose. But then I felt bad because Chrissy was falling behind. Basically, we were having issues that had solutions that were opposite – Chrissy needed to run less, I needed to walk less. I decided to tough it out, and if it came to a point where I couldn’t anymore, we would figure something out.
Christina and I had talked before the race about our strategy. We decided that unless something really serious happened to one of us (Chrissy actually said “like what happened to me in Atlanta where I couldn’t hardly walk”) that we really wanted to stay together. Until the end. And cross the finish line together. I knew that we were both stubborn enough to make that happen, and I also knew that we were coming up on the mile long hill….so the next few miles were going to be really long.
We got into the park with the hill, which actually turned out to be a series of like 5 hills. As we were walking up one of the 5 hills, we heard from behind us “you guys are awesome!! I’m talking to you, Christina and Jessica!”. We turned around and two other runners (who were also currently walking) were totally cheering us on! We started chatting with them and proceeded to take turns passing each other over the next mile or so. It was fun and really helped break up the time. Somewhere around this time I got a little of a second wind (I think it was all the walking) and I had turned on my playlist I made for the last 10k of the race. I started dancing and singing aloud, and Christina didn’t tell me to shutup (she was actually laughing at me) so I knew she wasn’t too bad off.
We finally got done with the hill close to the mile 24 marker, and I had to pee again. BAD. The hills were basically over so we were running again and I was considering holding it to the finish line, mostly because I was afraid to stop running because of my IT band. But as we were running I knew I really needed to go. So we started looking for a porta potty….and I didn’t see one. I got really nervous for a few minutes that maybe we were too close to the finish line, and there wouldn’t be one! Then we spotted a couple with no lines. As we were running toward them the course marshall told us that we just had a little downhill and around the corner, then it was a straight stretch to the finish. THE FINISH!!
So we stopped at the porta potty and I was right, it was AWFUL for my knee. I was having a hard time even bending my leg at all. So I told Christina we just needed to walk and I would try to loosen it up. Also, I would like to point out that I had about 3% battery life left on my phone at this point. We were around mile 25, and we were walking up the hill. We could see RFK stadium as we crested the hill and we both got really excited–that was the finish line!! Then, Christina spots a hot pink visor and realizes her sisters were at the top of the hill! I really wanted to run to them when we saw them but neither Chrissy nor I had it in us, we just couldn’t on the uphills. We got to them and they were great…really supportive! I got some pretzels from Angie and Amy jogged alongside us for a minute. We dumped our handheld water bottles with them so we wouldn’t have them in our finish line pictures. And then Christina says “Jessica? DO YOU WANT TO GO FINISH THIS MARATHON?!” Which was weird because that was the type of thing I normally say! So we started running to the finish.
We were in the final stretch and I had this vision of all our friends and family who were live tracking us cheering us on. I pictured Ariana on her couch at home saying “Yeh!! Jess! You’re almost there!!” and Brian at the finish line looking at his phone and knowing that we were just around the corner. I told Chrissy I had to share the vision in my head with her because it was amazing, and I had a hard time getting the words out because I got so choked up. As we came to the final stretch, I realized it was going to be downhill and we wouldn’t have to walk again! We rounded the corner (it was an offramp leading down to the stadium) and passed a guy walking. We gave him some cheers (“C’mon!! We’re almost there! We can see the finish line!!”) and he smiled and started running behind us. At this point, I didn’t feel any more pain, just total exhilaration that we were about the cross the finish line. As we got into the finisher’s chute, we heard the cheers and saw lots of cameras. I spotted Jess, John, and Brian cheering for us on the side. As we approached I kept thinking “This is it!! This is the moment we become marathoners!!” and we crossed the finish line together, holding hands – bonded forever by a moment neither of us will ever forget.