On October 7th, 2018, I ran my first 26.2 miles, the Chicago Marathon. Before getting into the race itself, I want to share a little bit about the process building up to it (skip to race day if you want to read about the event itself)! Although I am an avid runner and love teaching/inspiring others to run, it took a long time to build up to the full marathon. After my first 5k, I was hooked, and have ran 5 half marathons since then. It wasn't until I went to cheer on some friends at the Boston Marathon this year that I had decided to make the leap. It was such an awe inspiring day, that my new goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A 3 hour minimum time is required for my age group, so I knew my work was cut out for me.
The day after the Boston Marathon began my training to qualify, and I really hit the ground "running" to get there. My weekly mileage ramped up and I began to run faster than usual during training runs. In theory, this is great, but in reality, this is what causes injuries. I ended up with shin splints, calf cramps, hip pain, and a tightening achilles tendon. I had to learn recovery and prevention skills ASAP and focus more on core strengthening.
The Diet and Time Commitment
I had always felt like I was eating healthy, but knew that something needed to change if I were to take it to the next level. Giving up sweets and processed foods in the US is borderline impossible, but it had to be done. The hard part was knowing that alcohol was preventing me from recovering faster and it was hindering my training runs, so that ultimately had to go as well. After many social events of not drinking, the world knew that I was seriously committed to this thing. I even had to warn my friends and family that I would be MIA until training was over, since all of my free time was either spent at work, training, cooking, or sleeping. I greatly enjoyed the 8 hours of sleep for ideal recovery, but missed out on A LOT of important parts of everyday life.
After the system and schedule was set in place, all I had to do was put in the leg work. After waking up early every single day and grinding it out, there was nothing that could stop me. I focused on my goal before ever stepping on the track to know how much energy I needed to exert to get there. Day after day, sprint after sprint, I was growing tougher both mentally and physically. I began to crush my average times week after week. During these training runs, I really learned the true power of grit and perseverance, and truly felt that I put in as much work as physically possible.
It was a a cold and rainy morning in Chicago. The alarm clock is set for 4 am to get carbs and a morning ritual in to prepare for battle. Luckily, if you registered for the Race Day Resort, it was across the street from the start line that allows you to warm up and check your gear inside. When it became time to head the start line, I surrounded myself around the 3 hour pace group and realized that these people have put in just as much work as I have to get here. I felt nervous, but not scared since all of the work and preparation had been done and there was nothing I could do but to implement the plan. Preparation is key. The gun fires, and we are off! The crowd is roaring, adrenaline is up, and the miles begin to tick by one at a time. Mile 1, mile 2, mile 3, mile 4… We are all feeling good, and I am enjoying the cheering crowd by smiling and high-fiving enthusiastically (which I later regret for not managing my adrenaline better). We end up right on pace at the half way point, and I realize that this goal is truly attainable!
As the miles go on, the crowd begins to lessen and the rain begins to pick up. The legs start to feel heavier, and the speed begins to slow. "NO, you have worked far too hard to give up with 10 miles to go!" So it now requires more energy to maintain the same pace. Taking in water and breathing properly is more of a nuisance than it feels like it is helping. When the pace group seemed to get farther and farther, you begin to calculate how fast you need to go during the next mile to catch up. There is no doubt in your mind when you have hit the wall, because it will have hit you like a ton of bricks. Your legs feel like they are water-logged, and just the thought of being at your normal pace feels like you might pass out. At mile 22, my favorite group of humans, The November Project, was there enjoying every moment and cheering on runners as they passed by. This lifted my spirits enough to get to mile 23.
At mile 23, there are a ton of signs that say "Only 5k left." A 5k seems easy compared to a marathon, but when you are fighting a wall, it seems like an eternity away. All you want is for this to be over and to be drinking that finishers beer at the end! The thought of drinking that hard earned beer actually carried me all the way to mile 25! When you see "ONE MILE LEFT" you instinctively start to sprint and then feel a smack from the marathon gods telling you that this is going to be far harder than you have ever imagined. Nonetheless, you persevere and keep going. My best friends are posted up at mile 25.5, cheering me on as they witness a battle of pain vs. will. The final curve is finally in sight, and my energy level rises as I realize that I'm almost there.. I make the turn, and see a 600m hill before me, and decide to charge at it with everything I have. After conquering the final hill, the finish line opened up in my peripherals, and was filled with a flood of emotions. It is almost as if time has stopped, and all of the pain has said its final goodbye. I crossed the finish line, and was awarded a finishers medal. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that I just finished what was undoubtedly one of the hardest things I have ever done. As much as I wanted to sprint towards the beer tent, my newly developed hip pain forced me to penguin waddle from point A to point B. "That was the best beer of my life" seems like an understatement..
After all of the photo's, the massage, and the recovery drink, I had opened up my phone to see a barrage of messages from family and friends who have supported me along the way. I felt like I should have been upset for not hitting my goal time, but all I could focus on was gratitude. I was so thankful for the opportunity to have crossed the finish line, to end with no injuries, for all of the lessons that I had learned over the past season, for all of the friends and family members that reached out in support, for the proud accolade of calling myself a true marathoner.
So what does it take to finish a marathon? I cannot bring myself to say that the answer is GRIT, DETERMINATION, or PASSION, although those traits are all very important. A trait that all REAL marathoners can share is the trait of GRATITUDE. Being thankful that you were able to step up to the plate, when so many others before you have not been able to, and conquer what is set out before you. Have you ever heard someone say that "life is like a marathon?" Gratefulness is the key to life.. and marathoning.
Renner's High is changing directions, and moving out of clothing sales and into a training based platform! Everything must go, and sale prices are as low as possible to reduce inventory!