Sunday was the day I’d been waiting for since Christmas, the Big D Marathon! 16 weeks of training and the day had finally arrived!
This weekend was special to me in so many ways. Not only did I accomplish something I wanted to do for a long time but I got to share it with my family. Having them there made the experience incredibly special and, though it would have already been memorable, their support made it unforgetable.
Before race day even arrived we questioned if I’d even get to run thanks to severe thunderstorms predicted for the exact time of the race. Though the race organizers would send us off in the rain, they wouldn’t send us off in a thunderstorm. As race day approached and the weather prediction got more accurate, it became clear that this would be a very wet marathon, if there was a marathon at all.
Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30 and just couldn’t go back to sleep. Nervous and worried about the weather, I laid in bed thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong.
At 6 a.m. we all met in the lobby of the hotel and by 6:20 we arrived at the start/finish area – just as it was starting to sprinkle. At 7 the race organizers announced that the thunderstorms had weakened to just rain and the race would kick off at 7:30 as planned.
At 7:15 we lined up at the start line and at 7:30 the horn sounded! We were off!
The first three miles were brutal. My heart rate was high because of nerves and I could do nothing to control it. I tried slowing my pace. Nothing. I tried to control my breathing. Nothing. A bit of doubt creeped into my head, can I really do this??? Around mile four I shoved my ear buds in my ears and turned on my marathon playlist. The music helped relax me, my heart rate slowed and I finally settled into a rhythm.
Meanwhile, my family grabbed breakfast tacos and raced me to their first observation point. Jason had spent an hour the night before looking at the route and mapping out locations where they would try to catch me as I ran. His planning paid off, so well in fact that I lost track of the number of times they just showed up as I was running. I’d turn a corner and there they’d be, cameras in hand! It was such a treat to have them watching me and cheering me on!
My super creative and forever awesome sis-in-law even made everyone “Run Joni Run!” t-shirts and me a hat, which I wore for the entire race. She also made about a half dozen signs!
The beginning of the race was dry. The rain at the start dissipated and I thought for a while that it would stay that way. Then at mile 7, I turned a corner and saw a big, black rain cloud coming right at us. At mile 11 the bottom fell out. By mile 12 my shoes were squishy.
At the halfway point I felt great. My legs felt nice and loose and I was enjoying my Sunday morning run. When I looked down at my watch I was slightly surprised 2:14! I figured I couldn’t keep that pace up. No way. No how. I’d hit the wall and then slow to a crawl, right?
At mile 18, my brother, Andrew, decided to get his Sunday exercise by running a bit with me. As I ran by he pulled in right beside me.
“I’ll run with you ’til you get to Swiss Avenue.”
At this point I think it’s important to note that my brother had never run further than 3 miles at a time, ever. Swiss Avenue was 5 miles away.
By mile 22 (my longest training run) I felt a little fatigued and my legs felt like spaghetti. Meanwhile, Andrew was developing a blister.
He was a great coach and motivator. Despite his own pain and fatigue he was there for me, reminding me to check my heart rate and telling me how awesome I was. Both of those things I desperately needed.
At mile 23, he found the rest of my cheering squad and left. 30 seconds later, he was back!
“I’m gonna run the rest with you.”
“That’s three more miles! You’re gonna run 8 miles?”
Have I mentioned that my brother rocks??? I’m still not sure why he decided to push himself that hard. Because I told him I needed him at the end? Maybe. Because he was worried I’d keel over and die? That’s also possible. Either way, I sure am glad he was with me. He kept my mind off my wobbling legs and the raw spot on my right ankle. He reminded me not to push too hard, too early and to keep an eye on my heart rate.
At mile 24, I realized I was actually going to finish and when I saw the mile 25 sign I fought back tears of joy.
“Hold it together for one more mile. Crying won’t help you finish any faster,” my coach said.
So I did.
As I rounded the last corner, I stretched out my legs and ran like I’d never run before. I felt light, quick and nimble. I didn’t feel like I’d just run 26 miles…I felt invincible.
Just before the finish chute Andrew peeled off. I crossed the finish line alone…and then immediately burst into tears. I had done it!
All those years of wondering…
Can I complete the training?
Can I get through the race?
How fast can I run it?
…all suddenly had answers.
Yes, I can! 4 hours, 35 minutes!