My First Marathon: Race Day

Rob and I got to the airport and headed to the first place I go when I’m going on vacation…Starbucks.  There is just something about going to the airport and having a coffee while you wait to board the plane.  Clearly, I don’t get out much.  My life is amazing but I’m just not in a season where I travel a lot or see a lot of the world for myself.  So, when I get to go somewhere new with my husband I have to do all the typical “travely” things and one of those is of course…a massively giant Starbucks.

Anyway, I had purchased a book called Restless by Jennie Allen to read while on the plane since it’s a decent flight to San Francisco.  Our flight took off and I’m a little bit of a nervous flyer.  In my ripe old 30’s I have found myself claustrophobic, scared of flying and deathly afraid of cruises.  What is wrong with me?  I digress.  Anyway once we got up in the air and my hands stopped sweating, I decided to pick up my book and start reading.  I’m a journal girl.  I rarely read a book without my journal and a pen in hand.  Hence this blog.  You could say it was one of those books that slaps you right in the face.

It was where I was…exactly.  Over and over, Jennie Allen used running as her example.  She is not a marathoner or distance runner, and yet this is the analogy she uses throughout the book.  Timely?  I would say so.  It got so ridiculous that I actually started crying!!  She was talking about finding purpose in our every day lives.  Whatever we are doing whether it’s laundry, cleaning bathrooms, bandaging boo boo’s, making your daily commute, serving on the PTA…whatever your daily life looks like her point was to find your purpose, your niche, and be used there.  So, her analogy was of course, running a race with purpose.  Hmmm.

One example after the other and it was all running.  Needless to say, this book spoke to me.  I spent 3 hours reading, underlining, surrendering and praying.  No one interrupted me or asked me for milk.  No one needed a snack or to be taken to practice.  It was me and God.  And we had some talks.  I knew I needed to let some things go that I had been wrestling with.  I saw this marathon as a big giant metaphor for my life at the moment.   I decided to pursue becoming a personal trainer, decided to run my upcoming race with endurance and courage.  I decided to invest in other mom’s and women in more intentional ways, having no idea that several months later that would come in the form of this blog.  I decided to have my yes on the table so to speak.  To be obedient to some things I knew God was calling me, and our family to.  To say this was a life changing trip is a drastic understatement, and the plane hadn’t even landed in San Francisco.  So, as we were flying in I looked out my window and saw a rainbow.  God’s promise.  So fitting.

We spent the day exploring San Francisco and it was amazing.  I’d never been so it was fun to see the bridge and eat at a fun little cafe overlooking the water.

I saw Alcatraz from a distance and shot some pictures.  Although my stomach was already doing flips from the nerves, we had a great day.  We headed to Napa and to the expo.  I was so nervous!  We listened to the pre race shpeel and got our swag.  We headed to our hotel to change and then out to dinner.  We were both kinda quiet…in race mode I guess.  I was in more of a scared for my life mode but whatever.  We went back to the hotel and layed out all our stuff and went to bed early.  We were ready.  Or so I thought.

All night I was awake sick to my stomach.  Great.  I get nervous before races but never that nervous.  I had nightmares about the race and getting stuck out on the course.  I dreamed of not finishing and of never being able to walk again.  Irrational.   I thought for sure I was coming down with the stomach flu.  I finally fell asleep around 2 and our alarm went off at 4am.  I got up and in tears told my husband I couldn’t do it.  Not only did my knee hurt just laying down, I was up all night sick.  No way this was happening.  He told me what he always does.  Just get up and get ready and see how you feel.  The next thing I knew, I was on a bus carting me 26.2 mile from the finish line up winding roads through the Napa Valley.  The only way down was on foot.  Or by bus if you have to DNF, but that just didn’t seem like a good option.

I got to the starting line and looked around.  KT tape, knee braces, patellar bands…you name it.  I had a family for the next few hours full of like minded idiots.  Why were we about to do this to ourselves again?  My husband gave me a kiss and a high five.  We parted ways and there I was…alone.  I didn’t know anyone or have anyone in my camp to run this thing with.  It was just me.  They counted us down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  Go.

I crossed the mat and started my watch, having no idea just how long it would be until I could stop it again.  The first .25 mile I didn’t feel any pain.  I felt elated and for that short couple minutes I thought maybe God took the pain away, because that had been my prayer for weeks.  He didn’t.  It came back.  At .25 my leg stiffened and the pain was there, but it was manageable.  I just decided to run as slow as I could.  This is somewhat anti-race mode.  But, I knew it was the only way I’d survive.  Since I couldn’t really reach with my leg I didn’t have my normal gate or cadence.  I was just sort of hobbling but I found myself making it work.  Cardio wise I felt awesome.  I stopped at mile 8 to use the bathroom and kept trucking.  I got to the 13 mile point and felt relieved.  Half way there.  The pain wasn’t necessarily getting worse, my leg was just getting more and more stiff.  I found that even though I was moving like a snail, I was still moving.  The closer I got to mile 20, the more everything started to compensate for the fact that I couldn’t fully bend my leg.

My hips, my other knee and other hip, my upper body was stiff because I couldn’t seem to relax.  The course was full or rolling hills through the Valley.  It was amazing and beautiful.  It was a headphone illegal race so you really had no choice but to just enjoy the scenery.  I did.  I took some pictures and stopped when I wanted to or needed to.  My time was out the window so why not enjoy it.  We passed vineyards and stables and miles of rolling hills with nothing else in sight.  The hills were fun.  But not really.  Going up was fine.  In fact I was passing people going up.  It was the coming down that hurt the most.  I was getting passed on the downhill which was so frustrating.  Also, the roads were banked.  Since they were winding through the hillside they weren’t flat, they were on a very steep sideways slope.  I developed a blister on my outside pinky toe from running on a banked road.

Around mile 19 we hit it.   The dreaded 1 mile hill that we had heard about.  It wasn’t so much that it was steep, it was just long.  A whole freaking mile uphill after you’d already run 18.  I ended up walking a lot from that point on.  I’d run a little(if you’d call it that at that point) and then walk a little.  My knee was swollen and I just kept praying.  I knew I was so close that not making it wasn’t an option.  So, I kept going.  I fueled and managed my nutrition really well.  I never really hit “the wall” in spite of my injury.  I just kept thinking if my knee was ok I’d be in really good shape.  The last 6.2 miles were hard.  I talked to several struggling runner’s with injuries or issues that seemed worse than mine.  I spoke to a couple who had never raced beyond a 5k.  They missed most of their training for this race and were just “winging it.”

The thing about a marathon is that you are all in it together.  For just a few hours you are suffering and experiencing the greatest thing ever all at the same time…together.  I thought I was alone, I wasn’t.  It’s an experience you are all having so for just a few short hours, you are family.  You’re a team.  I was about 2 miles out when Rob texted me.  I’d been wearing my phone so I could take pictures.  I had prayed that he would finish strong and he did.  His text was a breath of fresh air.  He did it.  I was so proud of him.  It started raining at about the 15 mile mark so at this point my phone was soaked along with the rest of me.  I knew I was so close and as I rounded that final corner I heard Rob cheering for me.  I did it.  He did it.  

These are our watches on the hotel bed after the race.  At the time, I cut off mine so you couldn’t see the time on it.  So ridiculous.  I should have been more proud.  So it took me over 5 hours, big deal.  I ran a marathon.  Period.  People do it all the time and are so happy to finish, regardless of how long it takes them.  Looking back on it I have more respect for this distance.  It has tested me twice this year.  As I find myself now 2 weeks away from my second marathon this year, I’m in such a different spot.  A few aches and pains here and there and a tired body, but no real injuries to speak of.  I have found a new respect for this thing called the marathon.  It doesn’t matter how long it takes you or how ugly it might look, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles.  Period.  
This marathon was more than a race for me, it was life changing.  I prayed for weeks that God would take away the pain in my knee.  He didn’t.  He chose to let me run with the pain.  I got more of Jesus in that 26.2 miles than I would have running fresh and fast.  I was reminded that He doesn’t always take our pain away.  He lets it remain so we get more of Him and He gets more glory.  He cares about our desires and passions…He put them there.  We just need to use them to His purpose, to His glory and not our own.  That’s what this marathon taught me.  I’m thankful for all I learned.  I’m thankful to run, even on the hard days.  I’m thankful for hard stuff, because this is really nothing compared to the things in life that matter most.  It’s more than just running.  It’s life.  And I choose to be thankful for it.

Have you had a hard first marathon or race at any distance?

How do you handle injury and training or racing?  Do you race with an injury?

To see the first part of my marathon story, click here

6 comments on “My First Marathon: Race Day

  1. I finally got to read the rest of the story! I’m so sorry there was so much pain, but you worked through it. That’s where so many people give up and you didn’t. Be proud! What an accomplishment!!! You’ve encouraged me a ton over these last several months and I appreciate it so very much. Love your blog Kel!!

  2. Congrats Kelly! Like you said be proud you ran a MARATHON. Not many people can say that. And in San Fran! I went there for the first time two months ago and it was gorgeous – but those hills. I can’t imagine running a marathon there. I ran the golden gate bridge and it was one of the coolest runs. I am planning on running the SF half in March. Congrats again on your accomplishment. It is awesome!

  3. Love reading your marathon story! I can completely relate to so many of those feelings you had leading up to and during your race. I love this quote, and play it in my head when the nerves get the best of me come race time: ‘I run because others can’t, When I get tired I think of those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me’.

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