Well, you guys, I did it.
Typing that out gives me a lot of joy. It makes tears come to my eyes, and a sense of accomplishment sweep over me like I’ve never felt before. I am truly so proud of myself for this marathon.
This was my fourth full marathon, but my first marathon where I stepped over that finish line and did not even slightly feel upset about my journey there, or more importantly, my time. Tears of pure happiness filled my eyes, as I slowed to a stop for the first time in 5 hours and 26 minutes.
But to tell you my marathon story I have to start at the beginning. To the night before when I called my mom and sister overwhelmed with fear for the next day. I was walking home to my hotel when I was standing at a traffic light, waiting to cross, and the realization of 26.2 miles (42.2km) in the morning hit me. Hard. Or more notably, the realization that I had no family or friends from home waiting for me at the finish line. I panicked, as felt tears stain my cheeks during my good, old, public cry. My poor mom & dad offered to catch a plane ASAP to Chicago, and although I desperately wanted to say yes, I knew how stupid I was being: worst case scenario? I have to walk a lot of the marathon, and force myself into a family of people after. Ha. But really.
I went to bed at 9:30pm the night before, which in hindsight, was actually too early. Once I turned the light out, I refused to look at the clock, but I do know I hardly slept - which is so unlike me. My mind was racing (PUN!) about the next day - I was so freaking scared.
My alarm went off at 6:45am, and I was out of bed at 6:46am - a full marathon will do that to you. I got dressed, took a tired photo, heated up my breakfast, and left the house around 7:15am.
It was a 20 minute walk to the marathon, and for reasons I don’t question, I was in a great mood as I slowly made my way there. I’m actually really pleased I cried all the tears the night before, because I felt like I woke up refreshed. Not emotional at all, but rather fresh - today was marathon day, I had done all my training, and I could, indeed, run this thing. Exciting - finally I believed this!
Amongst the thousands of other runners I made my way to corral G to wait for the marathon start.
I was feeling really good, feeling ready to finally run 26.2 miles (42.2km). Well, I kept thinking "just get to the 15 mile marker (24km). I can do do that! Just look at this run as a 15 mile run. That’s it. And that’s all." 15 miles (24km) didn’t sound as scary as the full distance, actually, it sounded easy. So I told myself to just make it to that 15 mile sign.
The crowd was fantastic, and I found myself getting more and more excited by the second. A girl, Nicole, amazingly recognized me from Pinterest (umm what?) so we kept each other company until suddenly we were running!
The first half of my marathon was fantastic! Absolutely perfect. My plan was to run “10 and 1s” (where I run for 10 minutes, and then walk for 1 minute), but I swear this was utterly impossible given the energy of the crowds, and still being within the heart of dense runners. This meant I ran straight for most of the first half!
And? every single moment I took in. Every single moment I enjoyed.
My splits for the first half marathon were also incredibly even…
I actually remember feeling like I could run a fair bit faster, but I learned from my Berlin Marathon the meaning of, "the marathon is a 32km/30m warm up run, for a 10km/6m race," so I found my groove, and ran on.
It was a little odd being surrounded by millions of spectators, but knowing I didn’t know know anyone in the crowd, but then around mile 4 I saw Emily! And oh-boy, oh-boy what a running-boost that was.
(photo obviously swiped from her Instagram)
It was amazing to get a hug, be told I’m doing great, and know somebody I knew had seen my run! I felt tears rush my eyes as I left her cheering squad, and it completely re-energized me. (Thank you so much Emily!!)
Also, having my name on my shirt was a very smart decision. I felt like people were yelling my name for the entire thing. I can’t even tell you how motivating it is to hear a stranger tell you, “you got this,” - after a certain number of people, you really start to believe it.
And, you guys, I had this. I hit my goal of 15 miles / 24 km and felt soooo good. I knew my time wasn’t going to be under my ultimate-ohmygod-unicorns-and-rainbows goal of 5 hours (but that was dumb thinking, as I hadn’t even trained that fast, and weighed 170ish (in Berlin I weighed 145ish)), but my goal of 5 hours and 15 minutes was within reach! YAY!
And so I ran on.
I don’t remember exactly when it was, but after the half way point I felt my left toes slowly start to go numb. Then disappear. I felt like I was running on a stump. I tried my best to wriggle my toes, but nothing helped, and so started a cycle of me running for about 2 miles (3kms), stopping, removing my shoe, bending and massaging my toes, and then running on. It sucked, but physically and mentally I still felt strong, so I really didn’t let this get me down.
Miles 15 - 21 suck. They’re out in the boonies of Chicago, spectators tend to drop off, by this time in the day the sun is high above, and, well, I remember from running this marathon in 2010, how much I hated it. But I suppose it was knowing this that made this year sooooooo much better. Don’t get me wrong, I was tired now. Tired, but moving. My Garmin had been pretty useless the entire thing (because of the bridges & buildings), so to pass the time I put my mental math to good use, and figured out I had slowed. By a lot. I had gone from about 11:40 minute miles, to 13:40 - a whole two minutes slower.
But still, this did not deter me! I was on a mission. I ran with my phone (obviously, hence the photos), but was so paranoid my phone would die, and I wouldn’t be able to call home afterwards, that I had everything dimmed and turned off, but then at the 20 mile mark I turned it on, and texted my sister.
I remember thinking how numb and sore my left toes were when I sent this, but I also remember thinking - ONLY 6.2 miles / 10km!!! I CAN DO THIS!
As I’ve pointed out a million times this was my fourth full marathon, and my best. And no, not because I got my best time (in Berlin I ran a 5:10 marathon), but because of my attitude. I was so positive during the whole race. I was my number one fan. I wanted myself to succeed more than anything, and I encouraged, and cheered my way through it.
I don’t know if this is simply because I’ve got older or wiser, but not a single negative thought about myself went through my head during this marathon. I was really, really just proud of myself. Proud I was out there. Proud I was running a freaking marathon. Proud I had worked myself up from barely being able to run 5km in April.
I didn’t think about my weight, or how “slow” I was. Or that people may be looking up my time and thinking I’m “is she even moving?” (that was always my thought on previous marathons), but rather I was just happy with who I was. And I think it was this difference that made this race so enjoyable.
Just before mile 23 I saw my new friend Lindsay. I had met Lindsay the day before at the meetup, and knew she would be out there cheering… cheering for me, and when I saw her, I pretty much sprinted up to her, and hugged, her and tears of happiness filled my eyes. She even had a sign for me! Oh wow! I was so, so thankful. I saw her at a perfect moment. At a really challenging point in the race, and was so grateful for this
stranger’s friend’s kindness.
At the half way point I should mention that I had picked up my “10 and 1s” (where I run for 10 minutes, walk for 1) and religiously stuck to them, but around mile 22 my “1 minute of walking” certainly extended, and extended. I would make little promises and goals for myself. “Run until the 23 mile marker sign, then you can walk the distance of two trees.” It actually worked really well, and kept my body moving.
Here my splits for the second half of the marathon:
As you can see, the last few 5kms each took me 43:35, then 42:35, then 43:10 - slower than my steady 36 minute 5kms in the first half, but still, I was quite happy for this.
At the mile 24 (km 38) mark, the course is pretty glorious as you make a turn, and then can see the city, see the end! Well, not quite, but you know it’s down there, down there where all those big sky-rise buildings are, which is all sorts of motivating.
I had 2 miles (3.2km) to go, and just wanted to walk. But I didn’t. I ran. And ran. And pushed myself to a place I had never gone before. It was pretty awesome. I was so tired, I just wanted to stop fighting evil gravity, and lay down, but I ran as hard as I could, knowing the end was near.
I saw Lindsay again around mile 25, and she snapped some photos of me, which nicely show the fire in my pants, which kept me zooming along. I was now surrounded by a lot of walkers, but I made it a game for myself - a game where I tried to knock off walkers one by one. This strategy worked really well.
Now. Now I have to note, that at the 25 mile / 40km sign I felt a very strong need to use the, ummm, ladies room. I debated holding it (2km to go, c’mon Liz!), but nope, it was simply not going to happen, and so I bolted for a port-a-porty, where I had to sadly wait in line. It took my 6 minutes from leaving the course, to getting back on it, but I felt lighter (ha), and better, and ready to finish this thing!
And so I ran strong.
I naturally seemed to stay on the left hand side, which I swear encouraged nearly everyone to yell “Go Liz” - it was so motivating! I can’t say for sure, but I felt like I ran about 90% of the last two miles - which, let’s just say it, is unheard of for me!
And then…. I FINISHED!!
I was simply overjoyed as I slowed to a walk. OVERJOYED. I had no idea what my time was, because my Garmin had died on the last few hundred meters, but I didn’t care - for the person I had woken up as that morning, for the training I did, for the extra weight I carried, I had run the best marathon I could have.
And… I was super, duper proud of myself. For reals - look at how big my post-marathon smile was!
I was seriously beaming! Hot damn, even looking at this photo now makes me so proud of myself.
After calling home, and laying on the grass for a bit, I stretched, and went to find Lindsay.
(Fun fact: I used safety pins and ribbon this year to put my name on my shirt - because last time I used electrical tape, and it ruined my shirt. Also, at one point I looked down at my shirt and the Zed was flapping around, so I repinned it while running - thus the mess)
My muscles were really, really sore for the next two days, but I loved this! To me it meant I had pushed myself, pushed myself to my limit, and not got lazy and just walked (like I had done on other marathons). Lindsay and I then headed out to a delicious brunch, where I got to say “THANK YOU SO MUCH LINDSAY” a million times, because wow. I don’t even know what I would have done without her. Talk about one person’s kindness changing somebody else’s life. I was so grateful for her company, and so grateful for my post-race full belly. Lindsay, thank you from the bottom of my heart. xo
Lindsay and me!
So yup. I fear this has got so long only a few people will be left reading these words, but I learned more this marathon season than the others combined. Finally, this season, I stopped comparing myself to other people. To other runners. To people who were skinnier than me. To other bloggers’ times. To everyone. I was in this for me. In this to prove to myself I could do it after practically two years off running. Prove to myself life isn’t about my weight, or how I look, but rather whether I like the person I am, and believe in the things I’m doing.
I believed in this marathon. It changed my life for the better. It pulled me out of the rut I headed into from the adjustment of moving back home, from the constant rejection I felt from being unemployed, from the holy sh*t do I really live with my parents?, and it helped me get over my breakup with Matt (who, congrats to him, ran the Melbourne marathon in 4:03 on the same day!). Simply put? it gave me a purpose, and stopped me from feeling so lost in life. This marathon took me from a dark spot, and lead me to my happy place. It taught me to actively create the life I wanted, not just give in to crappy surroundings, but rather put in the work and time for it to be better.. And. And I am so, so thankful for that.
^ Me, saying thank you so much to you. Thank you for reading, and for the support. Damn, I love the Internet.