I’m really writing this blog so that I can remember this day. I know it will soon fade into a collection of memories and I want to remember as much as I can. So when I left off we were about to hit the half marathon split. The half marathon runners were sprinting towards the finish with people yelling that they were almost there. We spilt at the 12 mile mark and I remember changing lanes and choosing the Marathon lane and Jess and I looked at each other sand said “there’s no turning back now!”
We saw a lady with a Marathon Finisher jacket running a bit ahead of us. She must have earned it earlier this year but it was pretty great to see the jacket that we were running towards. We thanked her – though I’m not sure she understood us. We kept running and eventually passed the 13 and then the half marathon mark. We congratulated ourselves for running the farthest we’ve run in a race. We stopped at a bank of porta potties because Jess needed to go and I stretched. It felt so good to touch my toes and I was pretty grateful for the chance to stretch out a bit. Lots of other runners were stopping – I think everyone else wanted to wait until the half split like we did. We continued running and I knew we were going to see my family soon. They were planned to be around mile 14 and I was really excited to see everyone.
As we ran up the street I saw a large crowd of spectators holding fathead signs and I realized it was us. Those were our faces. That was my family and they were waving around fatheads of our faces. I was totally excited. See?
So, apparently, when I see people I love i throw up hands up in the air like I just don’t care. I was so stinking excited to see them all. My parents, my sister Amy and her girls Mara and Ellie, my sister Angie and her daughter Carley, and Jess’s boyfriend Brian. Seeing my family was part of the marathon that I visualized on training runs. I would think about seeing them on the side of the course and it would push me to run faster. Seeing them standing there cheering for me on race day – in the rain – was everything I had envisioned. It gave me strength and made me feel so incredibly loved and supported.
When we stopped at mile 14 my sister Angie jumped in to run with us for a few miles. She had originally planned to jump in later in the course but I’m SO thankful she ran with us when she did. We grabbed a few pretzels that Angie stored in her jacket and kept going. Just a few blocks later we saw Brooke and Jessie and baby Thomas. I know I gave them high fives and there was a fantastic sign but all I can remember is that it had our names on it in shiny letters. At least I’m pretty sure. We kept going and saw the drummers that we remembered from the start line of the Nike Women’s half under the bridge at about mile 15. They were awesome. There’s nothing quite as women empowering as a huge group of women kicking ass on the drums.
A few miles back Jess had mentioned that her IT band was acting up. She said it quickly and we agreed not to discuss it. My previously injured ankle wasn’t feeling too great either. Since I don’t have the same IT band issues that Jess does I honestly have no idea what that feels like – but she was concerned. Since Angie was running with us at this point and she’s had the same issues Jess mentioned it to Angie. Angie was wearing her brace and quickly – cause she’s awesome – offered it Jess. Jess sad no and we kept running. We passed mile 15.5 or so and saw Brooke and Jessie (who got there amazingly fast) holding the most awesome sign ever. Seriously, best marathon sign ever. So awesome that our picture made it onto the Rock and Roll DC photo gallery. Around this time Jess asked Angie for the IT band brace and I just hoped that it would help. I really had no idea what she was feeling at this point but I knew she probably wouldn’t tell me unless she thought I needed to know. She ran the “music mile” which was really just the most boring loop in the world. There was supposed to be music blasting the whole time but I’m assuming the rain ruined that. So we ran and chatted. And then we fueled. And then Jess dropped her shot bloks. Angie turned around and tried to find them but wasn’t successful. We kept running and looked as we passed that section of the course again after the turn around. Luckily we spotted the unopened package in the road and Angie grabbed it. Once again, saving the marathon. Angie joining us on this section of the race totally changed the marathon.
We took the most epic picture ever and kept running over the bridge over the Anacostia river. The bridge was scary and the grates were making us dizzy so we walked a bit. We’ve run those grates in Chicago but these were different somehow. Anyway, we ran and ran. Things were getting kind of hard. We walked up a hill that I’m fairly sure was an off ramp and ran into the park.
As we were running I told Jess that I was struggling. I was entering Strugglesvillle and asked when we might walk again. Running was starting to get hard.
She kept positive and we knew that we would be seeing her parents soon. Thank goodness they were standing where they were. Once again, we found our support team exactly when we needed then. Sara had made a fabulous Hunger Games themed sign and we picked up Greg to run with us. I can’t explain how thankful I am that he ran with us during that segment. I desperately needed the distraction. We ran miles 19-22 together and made it over the – woah this is past 20 miles marker together. During this time we met a guy that we had been following for a while. His shirt said Marathon Maniac and I had been wondering what it meant. Jess chatted with him and we found out the man has run something like 80 marathons. This was a training run for an ultra he had coming up. He was so kind and friendly and supportive.
Greg left us around mile 22 and we saw Brian and Jess’s friends Jessica and John. They had our fatheads and were screaming for us. Another boost of love and support! There was a loop and we passed another runner that was struggling. He was clearly hurting and we yelled encouragement about pie and the awesome jackets that were waiting for us at the finish. I checked race pictures and saw that he did finish which makes me happy. It was his first marathon too and I hope we helped him a little bit.
And there we were – entering in park. With the hill. Which turned out to be a series of hills I think. That sucked. We walked a lot and I just felt tired. My calves started spasming and that scared me a little bit. They weren’t sharp pains but I was worried they would turn into them – the way they had in Atlanta 2013. So we walked and made friends with other runners and I worried I was holding Jess back. That’s normal and an emotion that always sits with us when you’re running with a partner. There’s no getting around it and you just have to push it aside. I knew she wouldn’t leave me and I knew I didn’t really want her to so it wasn’t worth discussing. I do need to work on more calf strengthening though.
We kept going and had some nice downhills and then a few more inclines. We were getting close. Around mile 24 Jess decided to use the porta potty one last time – knowing that once we got into the finishers area it would be chaos. We run under a bridge and I saw my sisters standing on the cement walls on the side of the bridge. It was so amazing to see them and get a boost of encouragement and a big handful of pretzels. We handed off our water bottles (great decision!) and I asked Jess if we could please finish this marathon.
We saw the stadium and I knew we were close. Jess said – hey you know our families and friends are all freaking out because we’re almost there!. We climbed the last hill and saw Jessie, Brooke, and my friend Kelsey from high school – who I was so thrilled to see! – and they were screaming and holding signs. Brooke’s sign was of me on a wrecking ball.
We kept going and turned the corner and saw the finishers chute. We had done it. We were marathoners. I really thought I’d be overcome with emotion and I would cry the whole way down the chute. But I was just so happy. So amazingly happy. Tired and wet and cold – yes. But so amazingly happy and proud of myself and of Jess.
We’d done it. We’d pushed through a winter of training. We’d run hundreds and hundreds of miles in preparation of this day. We’d run in the snow and the wind and the rain. We’d missed out on time with our family and friends. We’d gotten up early and gone to sleep early. We’d eaten constantly. We’d motivated each other. We’d talked endlessly about this day. We’d done it together and on our own. We couldn’t run the race for each other – we had to run it ourselves. We are marathoners.
And so ends my First Marathon story. I’ll be continuing to blog over at my new home www.RunningIsHard.com – so come over and follow me there. You can also catch me on Instagram at runningishard262. Thanks for following along and see you at the next race!