Wow. I honestly thought taking a week to blog about my first 26.2 miles would allow me time to reflect and come up with a concise way to say all of the things that have been running through my head. Joke’s on me, because that totally did not happen.
Six days post-marathon and I have so many things to say, so many feelings I want to bottle up and store forever. I truly have no idea where to begin! So in true Happytales fashion, I’m just going to do my best and recap it all, starting from the very beginning: my 3:30AM wake-up call 🙂
As I said in my previous post, I was in bed, lights out by 11PM. I knew my alarm was going to go off at 3:30AM, but sadly my brain doesn’t have an “off” button, so my wheels were turning until the wee hours of the morning. I think I finally fell asleep sometime after 1AM. Even with only about 2 hours of sleep under my belt, I boundedout of bed when my alarm finally did go off!
First I downed a glass of water, along with some some dry cereal. Then I plopped myself down on the living room floor and started my stretching routine. Ryan, being the saint he is, headed outside to check on the new wheels and came back with the verdict of: no new flat tires! Win #1 of the day, things were off to a good start!
Of course, I looked up the hourly forecast to see just how poor the weather was going to be…
A little water never hurt anyone anyway…
I knew from Emily’s blog (DailyGarnish) that the Flying Pig Marathon is notorious for being a rainy race… so I wasn’t too horribly worried about it. I bought a water-proof running jacket at the Expo the day before, and felt confident that my race outfit was going to be well suited for the rain.
The thing I was most worried about was getting blisters. I have such sensitive skin on my feet (which is crazy considering how much I run!) and I blister very easily. Heck, even flipflops have been known to give me blisters.
Anywho, I spent my time stretching by reading Emily’s recaps from past Flying Pig’s…(and by painting my nails — I think the Pretty Pretty Princess party was still rubbing off on me!). Knowing that Emily and her hubby survived the race last year – the year when they had a torrential downpour– made me feel better and gave me the confidence to know I could get through “steady rain” just fine.
I made sure to prepare myself with all of the necessities: an extra pair of socks, my fuel belt filled with Gu chomps (so freaking good, btw!), salt & ibprofin… a trash bag to help myself stay dry before the race, and even an extra pair of contacts! Yes, you read that right—contacts. I am *super* blind (read: a prescription of –7.0 for contacts) so I knew that if one of my contacts fell out during the race, I’d be absolutely miserable!
Sure, you can call me crazy or OCD, but knowing I had all of this “stuff” on me made me feel prepared for anything. I blame it on my mom. She blames it on the fact that she was born on GirlScouts Founders Day (March 12th). I laugh every time she says that’s the reason why she’s “always prepared.” (Especially because I’m pretty sure my mom was never a girl scout, but that’s beside the point…). EDIT: My mom called my cell after reading this post and told me that she was, in fact, a girl scout…for two whole years (3rd and 4th grade). Way to be, mom.
4:45AM rolled around and I was all stretched out and ready to jump in the (properly inflated) car! I told Happy she could have the front seat (I was selfish and wanted the backseat all to myself so I could keep on stretchin’ out my legs, ha!) and Happy didn’t seem to mind one bit
We picked up Kathy in Mariemont around 5:15AM, and she helped get us downtown with out any trouble whatsoever. I never felt nervous during the drive downtown — I was just really excited and super ready to run!
While in the car, I drank more water and snacked on some more dry cereal, and was able to get an apple down, too. I had a good hour before the 6:30AM start time, so I knew I’d have plenty of time to digest this “second” breakfast.
The traffic wasn’t too bad, and Kathy and Ryan decided they wanted to park the car and see me off to the start line. I cannot express how excited this made me… I have never had anyone wait with me before a race! In the past, Ryan usually drives me to the race and drops me off and then heads out on the course to find a good spot for spectating. So the fact that he and Kathy were going to walk with me to the start meant the world to me! I’m so glad I got to share that experience with them…
Parking was super easy to find, and we didn’t have too far of a walk to the start-line. It wasn’t raining too much when we parked, but the rain began to become steadier and steadier on our walk.
Happy was super excited, too… and tried to weasel her way into racing alongside me.
There were SO many people there! In fact, this year’s Flying Pig was the biggest yet—over 30,o00 registered runners for all of the races (relay, half marathon, and marathon)!
The temperature was in the 50’s, so it didn’t feel that bad. I still wanted to keep my raincoat for the race, though…even though I knew I’d end up with it around my waist.
Once we got to the start area, I hit up the portapotties for one last pee-break (anyone who has been on a cartrip with me… or who has worked with me…or has had a class with me, knows how tiny my bladder is). As expected, the lines were crazy long– but I knew how to beat the system!!
It’s a little-known fact that the portapotties at the tailend of the row have a shorter wait. So I just weaved my way back there and found myself in a line with only 3 people ahead of me! Win #2 of the day. I made it back to Ryan and Kathy and they were pretty surprised with how fast I got back to them. I guess that helped ease the pain of how long they’d end up waiting for me to finish the marathon (haaaa!).
And yes, I am totally wearing a trash bag over my shoulders in that picture…trying to stay warm from the rain and wind!
After a kiss and a hug goodbye, I was off to the start line! I seriously cannot put into words how excited and ready I felt. I was never nervous… I felt so confident and ready, and I knew that as long as I stayed true to my marathon mantra of “when in doubt, stretch it out!” , I would have a great race!
As I was making my way towards the corrals, I ended up running into these this lady wearing an amazing pink tutu costume. I struck up a conversation with her and her friend (seriously, it’s hard for me to meet a stranger…) and soon found out that they were running this race (albeit, the half) for fun and had no time in mind. That made me *so* excited, because obviously, that was my plan, too!
We ended up chatting more and entered the corrals together, and I learned that they had run the full marathon in years previous. Even better, they knew what to expect on the course! I knew I wanted to stick with them for at least the start of the race, just for the sole fact that they were so freaking hilarious and fun! Oh, and somewhere in there, I learned their names—Shelley and Emily (and what’s even crazier is the fact that Emily has a blog of her own!). Their positive energy and attitudes were right in line with mine, and from the very get-go, I had a smile plastered on my face.
The start-gun went off just as scheduled at 6:30AM, and because we were back a bit, we ended up crossing the start line about 8 minutes after the clock started.
My legs felt SO good to be running again… that tapering businesses is some hard stuff to mentally get through! I think cutting back my mileage during the taper was the hardest part of training for me, in all honesty.
The first few miles were pretty packed with people, but I didn’t have trouble getting around anyone (ie. walkers). We were all moving at a pretty steady pace. One thing I did notice, however, was the huge number of trash bags people shed and left on the ground! My oh my, those bags lying on the wet ground equated to quite the safety hazard, in my eyes. Luckily, I didn’t see anyone trip (or slip!) and fall.
Around the second mile, I decided I no longer needed to wear my rain coat any more (so much for deciding to bring it along, I should’ve just left it with Ryan at the start! Oh well, lesson learned ). After some sweet arm-maneuvering skills, I was able to get the rain coat securely tied around my waist (all while running!) and I was on my way to completely enjoying myself and taking in the atmosphere of the race.
The rain kept coming down, but it honestly didn’t bother me. Even though it was in the 50s and raining pretty steadily, I felt super comfortable in my wicking tank top and never felt chilled, even with the wind. In fact, I can hardly even recall the rain aspect of the race! I guess that just goes to show how much I was enjoying myself
Anywho, the first few miles of the race weaved through downtown Cincinnati and then over one of the bridges and into Kentucky.
Everyone kept talking about the hills surrounding the bridges, but I hardly noticed them. We crossed another bridge and ran threw another part of Kentucky, and finally crossed a final, third bridge that took us back into downtown Cincinnati. Around mile 4 I decided to head off of the side to stretch. Sadly, this meant that I had to say goodbye to my new buddies, but I knew I wanted to stick to my plan of stretching! Thank goodness for the internet, though, because I’ve already reconnected with my new running friends via Facebook, and they ended up finishing their half-marathon just fine!
By the time the course made itself back downtown at mile 5, I was feeling like we had just started! That’s a good thing, too, because everyone had kept talking about how hard the course got at mile 6. I’d been aware of this 2-mile long climb from Emily’s blog, and of course from my new friends –Shelly and Emily– so I was definitely expecting it. I didn’t’ find it that difficult, though, and found myself easily making my way up the hills.
One of the things I absolutely adored about the Flying Pig was the crowd support. I literally could not stop people-watching! The event coordinators did a fantastic job at getting folks to come out and volunteer (and seeing as I’ve put on two-half marathons and a sprint triathlon myself, I know how hard it is to recruit volunteers!). In fact, the coordinators of the Flying Pig hold a contest every year to see which water-station the runners think are the most enthusiastic and supportive. Thus, the groups manning the water-stations come up with super creative and fun ways to win the title of “Favorite Fluid Station.” I seriously love this idea…I’m going to have to introduce it to our YMCA half-marathon and triathlon events!
Anywho, one of the water-stations that stood out to me was the station with the rappers at Mile 6 – the Avondale Running Club. They seriously had me bursting out with laughter as they rapped “The Gatorade is in the Green Cup! The Gatorade is in the Green Cup!” In fact, the people handing out water and Gatorade at this station were having their own little dance party, and I soooo wanted to join in on one of the girls who was doing the running man.
Actually, I have a funny story about this mile 6 water-stop. While I was getting my “Gatorade from the green cup” I heard this voice call out my name… “Are you Allison?” I turned around, and a girl who looked about my age continued… “Not to sound like a stalker, but… do you have a blog?”
No freaking way.
I laughed, completely dumbfounded by the fact that anyone would recognize little ‘ole me out in the real world, let alone at a water-stop during a marathon… and then realized I had to respond to her very simple question, and said “Why yes, yes, I do actually have a blog!”
We continued along running together, and I learned that her name was Melissa, she was from Nashville and she had googled something about the Flying Pig the day before and had landed on the Marathon Mantra post on my blog. She said reading it really helped ease her nerves. It was her first marathon, too, and all she wanted to do was finish and have fun.
*Ding ding ding!*
Looks like I found myself another buddy to run with! And so for a good part of the race (as in, miles 6-21), we ran together.
Not too far after meeting Melissa, the dreaded Gilbert Hill I’ve heard so much about was upon us. I knew from Emily’s blog that this hill was a beast and that after I conquered it, everything following was downhill (well, relatveily speaking). To tell you the truth, I didn’t find this hill to be that bad. I guess all of the hills in Charlotte have trained me super well (especially the hills by my house that I run up on every run), and when we got to what seemed to be a break in the hill, I asked someone next to me where the rest of it was. Apparently, there was no more hill. That was it. Oh, alright the, sounds good to me! Another thing that made this hill go by super quickly was the entertainment. There was this super talented Elvis impersonator, and I could not get over how in character he was! The music wasn’t too shabby, either. In fact, they were multiple music acts along this hill, and they all made the climb go by so fast!
It was great to have Melissa as a buddy to run with. Along with the already amazing side-line entertainment, she made the miles absolutely fly by!
She was even down with me stopping to take stretch breaks (and pee-breaks, because I totally stopped to use the portapotties 3 times), and utilized that time to stretch out herself.
I really enjoyed pointing things out to Melissa as we passed by them, such as Hyde Park Square (one of my favorite places!) and the country club were some of my friends worked. I felt like a tour-guide, in a way.
Knowing the area (and therefore knowing the course) was a big plus, in my eyes. I always like to know what’s coming up, as it allows me to gauge how much further I have to go. I think that’s why I preferred out-and-backs so much on my training runs.
I felt strong pretty much throughout the entire race. When Melissa and I hit the point where the half-marathoners split from the marathoners, I was actually excited to be taking the full marathon turn. That was a big step for me, because in all of the Charlotte races I’ve done, I’ve always looked on at the full-marathoners at the half-marathon split and thought “wow, y’all have a looong way to go before you’re finished!” I’d say my frame of mind throughout the entire race was positive. I never felt any pain while running, either. As the miles ticked by and we were in the mid-teens, we started to stop and stretch more frequently. I truly think this helped my “messy hips” stay loose for a good portion of the race.
Mile 16 passed through Mariemont, the town where I went to high school. A lot of people said they started to loose motivation during these mid-teen miles, but cruising through my old stomping grounds gave me a ton of adrenalin to push through.
In fact, I even called my mom when I passed the tennis courts where I played in high school – she was at church at the time, and had to step out to take my call. It felt sooo good to talk to her, and to hear her excited voice and encouragement. I could tell she was one my biggest cheerleaders, even through the phone.
Even though my mom wasn’t physically there at the race, I knew she was supporting me 100%. She called Ryan and Kathy multiple times to get updates on me, and she was beaming when I talked to her on the phone at mile 16. My mom was with me during the race in more than one way. Before I headed out the door that morning, I spritzed myself with her perfume. I always find comfort in this particular Lilly fragrance she wears, and I knew that it would help me power through any hard miles. I have a very strong sense of smell, and wearing her perfume made me feel like she was with me during the race, even though she was hundreds of miles away in Florida.
Anywho, Ryan, Kathy, Sarah (Kathy’s daughter) and her two baby boys were waiting at mile 17.5, and I was soooo excited to see them!
I took a little stretch break, and used my beloved stick! Even though I was in good spirits already, it was so great to see them. I knew that I had less than 10 miles left, and that was such an amazing feeling… “In less than 10 miles, I will be an official marathoner!” Melissa and I kept gabbing about that little fact for miles on end, it served as such great motivation! I never once felt like I couldn’t finish.
Melissa and I ended up splitting ways around mile 20. She had been having issues with her hips, and needed to stretch at different intervals than me. It was so great to have a running buddy for such a large portion of the race, though!
Mile 21 was the only rough mile I had. At this point, my right hip was starting to get stiff. It wasn’t an actual pain in my joint though… it was just more of a soreness that I couldn’t stretch out fully during my stretch-breaks. Eventually I realized that the soreness was not going to go away, so I might as well just suck it up and push through. Yes, it hurt to run on, but I made sure to listen to my body and stop and stretch when needed (and yes, stretch breaks became even more frequent during miles 22, 23, and 24). But I gotta say, I kept on running, and I felt strong.
In fact, sooo many of spectators commented on how strong I looked! I was passing so many people, and I think it’s because at that point, the hills had taken their toll on everyone.
When I got to mile 25, I started to choke up a little bit with emotion (in fact, just thinking about it right now and what I accomplished is making me choke up!). Like I’ve said in earlier posts, I never thought I’d ever actually run a marathon. That kind of distance was for actual, legit athletes. And there I was, 25 miles in. Still running strong (with sporadic stops for stretching, of course!).
I thought about calling my mom again…so I could share that final mile with her, but I soon realized that even the simple thought of talking with her, and wishing she could be there at the finish line waiting for me… was making me choke up even more. So I decided against making that phone call, you know, for the sake of breathing, and all .
Once I approached mile 26 and I saw the “Finish Swine” in sight, I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I was overjoyed, and just so happy… and so pleased that I was able to finish the race with such stamina and strength.
I kicked it up a notch and picked up the pace, and entered the final finishers tunnel with the biggest smile on my face.
The spectators on each side of the fence were still screaming and cheering everyone on, and the feeling that came over me is one that is still with me, six days later.
It’s something that I can’t describe in words, but it makes me choke up anyway. I crossed the finish line with both a smile on my face, and tears in my eyes. I know I will never get that feeling again… the feeling that goes along with accomplishing my first marathon, but I know that I have finally met my match, and that this distance of 26.2 miles is the challenge I have been searching for.
I finished with a chip-time of 5:59 and a clock time of 6:08. My Garmin, however, clocked in my actual net “running” time as 5:12. So overall, I did just about 50 minutes of stretching (and potty breaks!) throughout the entire race, and oh.my.gosh…it was worth it!
It’s crazy, but I wasn’t too terribly sore after the marathon. Yes, Monday (the day after the race) my quads were sore, and I’m sure the 8-hour drive back to Charlotte didn’t help that any. But you know what? I felt pretty dang good on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, my legs felt 95% back to normal (not even kidding!). I had an easy workout at the gym on Tuesday, and I went back to my normal routine on Wednesday.
Like I said in a previous post, my goal for this marathon was to finish without injury. And I sure as hell achieved that goal! My body is capable of amazing things, and now that I’ve finished my first marathon, I’m excited to see what else it can do.
Knowing that I actually accomplished something I never imagined myself capable of is just incredible. Simply… incredible. I feel so proud of myself. I feel so proud of my training. And I know that I am capable of running another marathon. Heck, maybe an ultra is in my future at some point. I really think I’m made for this stuff, and I cannot wait to do it again. In fact, I’m already eyeing another marathon in November…(the Savannah Rock N Roll Marathon).
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, bless you’re heart, you have a lot of patience! I mostly wrote this recap for myself so I can reflect back on it, and for my mom…since she was not able to be there at the race.
And just because you can never post too many pictures of yourself after finishing a marathon…
My support team! Ryan and Kathy
Close up of the Piggy front…
…Annnnnd the Piggy BUTT!!!!
Oh, and in the case you are interested, here are some fun facts about this years Flying Pig race!
-A blind woman from South Carolina won the women’s marathon.
-A naked man jumped into the race at mile 6 and was asked to leave the course, but because he refused, the police ended up tasing and arresting him. I was not one of the lucky ones to witness this crazy event .
-Five (5) people ran the entire full marathon completely barefoot. Yes, barefoot.
-Two proposals took place at the finish line. (Um, hello, talk about a dream come true!).
-The crowd support was the best I’ve ever seen, EVER! – even in the rain!
-Overall, the full Flying Pig marathon covered an elevation of 1,500 feet. Oh, and of course 26.2 miles… that’s a lot of elevation. And a lot of miles.
-The Flying Pig is the third largest marathon for first timers in the country. And I would recommend this race to anyone one thousand times over. (I will most definitely be back to run it again!)
-Runner’s World named the Flying Pig one of the top ten most fun marathons in the country.
-Everyone takes great pride in the pig theme…from the tag line of “Getting your oink on,” to crossing the “Finish Swine” instead of the “Finish Line.”
Have you ever run a marathon before? If not, do you want to run one? If you have, what was the hardest part for you? How long were you sore afterwards? What is your favorite part about a marathon (or spectating a marathon!)? Any interest in running the Savannan RNR Marathon (or half marathon?!)?!