February 24, 2019. My seventh full marathon.
It’s honestly hard to believe that I’ve run that many. My first full was January 2015, in Walt Disney World, to raise money for Show Hope, and organization dear to my family.
In April 2016, I felt like I needed another shot at it, since my first one I ran injured and finished in a lot of pain in 6:35. So, I chose a small race in Ohio because three days later, my husband and I were flying to China to adopt our daughter. Xenia Marathon was a HUGE PR at 4:35. Two hours faster.
My third marathon was in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA in May 2017. I wanted to get under 4:30 and beat Oprah (of course), and it was a bucket-list goal to run the full there. I was training for my first 50K, and had a good game plan. Finished in 4:22. It hurt, but that PR made it worth it.
My fourth marathon was the coveted Chicago in October 2017. This World Marathon was also a bucket list race, but I didn’t train near as well. Only 8 weeks of solid running, stomach gave out, and with the unexpected 80-degree day, I struggled to a 5:00 finish. Since I felt I needed redemption, I signed up for another one.
What I didn’t know was that marathon number six would be challenging for other reasons. My husband got a job halfway across the country and had to start working in Texas right at the beginning of training. I bought myself a treadmill so I could run while single-parenting three kids back in Kentucky. I also participated in grueling hour-long cross training workouts for that cycle. May 2018 I ran Silo District Marathon in Waco, TX and earned a 4:37 finish. Because of the challenges of that cycle, I was proud that I had accomplished that much, but I was hungry for a new PR.
December 2018, I got that big PR with a 4:12 at the BMW Dallas Marathon. I had hired a run coach and followed specific strength workouts four days per week. It was an incredible four months of training. The only reason I signed up for Cowtown, which was only two month later, was because I wanted to cut training time in half and rest on the distance I had built in the fall. I doubted that decision many times throughout training, but went for it anyway.
When I moved to Texas, my wonderful new MRTT friends jokingly said, “You aren’t a REAL Texan until you run Cowtown.” Okay, there must be something to this race. The good part was that most of the training was done in the nice cold weather versus Texas heat. I also heard there was good food at the end. Sold.
During training, I realized that running another full only two months after Dallas was harder than I expected. I honestly needed more time off than I took to recover, and I was struggling with some tendonitis in my knees again (an old injury that hadn’t plagued me in a while). I bought new shoes and stretched and iced and did all the things. Eventually, it was manageable and became a non-issue. During the fall training, I ran 16 miles several times, but my longest run was only 19, and I only did it once. In retrospect, I felt like I needed more endurance training. So, this time I ran a 20-miler in January, and in 26mph winds. It was incredibly defeating. Just a really hard run. A few weeks later, I asked my coach if I could try it again. The second 20-miler was MUCH better, and I felt ready to go.
One of my running buddies, Catherine, and I were both planning to do Cowtown full. We had several training runs together, with her pace just a bit faster than mine. I didn’t figure we would run the race together because her training was going so well and I didn’t want to hold her back. After that first 20-miler, her achilles was bothering her and she had to take two weeks off. I hated that for her. As we got closer to race day, we just agreed to see what would happen. We thought it would be fun to have each other and not have to run alone, but kept everything open, agreeing we wouldn’t hold the other back.
Race day came and I went into it as “let’s just see how this goes.” A PR would be excellent, but more than that, I wanted to have a stronger 10K at the end (Miles 20-26.2), and just FEEL better than I felt after Dallas. When I finished Dallas, I bawled my eyes out. I hurt so bad, and I was also just overwhelmed after struggling those last six miles. For Cowtown, I wanted to feel good and finish upright!
As Catherine and I ran the course, the miles flew by. We were at Mile 5 before we knew it. The sun was shining, and we both just kept commenting about what a great day it was. At Dallas, I ran the first half WAY too fast, and lost steam. At Cowtown, we kept conservative paces and hit 13.1 at 2:00:00. It felt good. We felt strong. By Mile 15, each mile felt a little longer than the last. We had a system of running slowly through water stops and finding each other again. Even around Mile 17, we were able to just declare what a great God we serve! The weather was perfect, we have bodies able to do this… it’s just so awesome! At that moment, I realized how blessed I was to have her as a partner. We never complained. We thanked every police officer at the intersections. We thanked volunteers. Just such a spirit of encouragement.
While I had never had a running partner for an entire full marathon before, I have had the privilege of helping friends with their first half marathons. I love that role. I love encouraging others because it makes you focus on the good vs the pain. I have more fun when I run to encourage. I explained to Catherine during the race that it’s really difficult for me to “have fun” when racing solo. I get all caught up in numbers and paces, and my completely logical side takes over. I don’t remember smiling much at PR races. I didn’t take the time to high five the crowd. I didn’t even take the time to thank people. Too much focus. Not much joy. Even when I’ve hit PRs, they have just been so draining because of that focus. For our race, I worked to bring out that “fun” side of myself. And yes, I said “worked.” It’s just not something that comes naturally for me. But man, it was SO rewarding!!
At Mile 17, I just told myself to get to 18. At 18, I just said, get to 20. We saw some friends along the course at a few different places, and that upped our energy each time. At one of those miles, I saw people with oranges and I totally grabbed one. (I typically don’t like oranges, but I CRAVE them during marathons). I ate that thing like a ravenous animal and I didn’t care what I looked like! It was DELICIOUS.
Because of the sun, we were very careful to use the water stops. They were every 1.5 miles and it was just PERFECT. That gave us a mental break each time, and a slight pause in the cadence. I have had friends get seriously dehydrated in marathons, and I keep that in mind, even though every porta-potty looked inviting after Mile 16 because of all the water!
At Mile 20, I told myself to get to 22. Somewhere around there, we entered Trinity River Trail. This is a section I have raced before, and it’s not my favorite, but it was better than I expected it to be. More people, less ups and downs than I remembered, and I just kept running. At the Mile 24ish water stop, I looked back and thought Catherine was right behind me. When I saw her, she was motioning for me to go ahead without her. I said, “NO WAY.” There wasn’t a chance I was leaving her. We got back together and I told her I was struggling, too, and then we ran in silence. It was okay. No one needed to say anything. We had declared early on that we were better together. We were too close now to separate.
Mile 25.5, I had this picture of us crossing the finish line together in my mind. At Mile 26, she sped up. That worried me a bit, because I didn’t think my legs could go any faster! Even still, I kept up, visualizing us crossing the line at the same time. I didn’t want to slow down at that point. We had come too far. But, how was she speeding up? I laugh now, but I really didn’t think my legs could do any more! We heard our names announced, crossed that finish line, stopped our watches and immediately collapsed in a hugging slow walk through the shoot. I didn’t think Catherine would ever let go. She did it! A HUGE PR for her! And I couldn’t have been more happy!
This race was incredible. The Cowtown Marathon really lived up to the hype. The course, the crowd, the food… all of it was just great! Everyone was warning me about Mile 4 incline, the “big” Mile 9 hill, and a hilly second half. Honestly, I didn’t think any of it was that bad, and I would certainly do the course again. (The giant hill at mile 20 of Dallas in December may keep me from doing that one again.) Going through the neighborhoods kept it interesting, and the only really hard part was the brick roads through the Fort Worth Stockyards section. And even that had so many things to distract us, so it wasn’t unbearable. The ice cream at the finish was so good, and the chicken noodle soup was just the salt my body needed. My only complaint was that the shirts were far too big, and because I registered with a group, my packet was given to the team captain, instead of encouraging us go to the race expo. That means, I didn’t go to the expo and couldn’t exchange my shirt, but if I had known about exchanges, I would have. The medal was a nice size, and the third in a series, though it is nice on its own as well.
The experience of this race was well worth it. I’m very glad I ran the Cowtown Marathon. And with the training I had, and how I felt during the race, I am very certain to say it won’t be my last full. There’s definitely more to come!
Wife. Mother. Runner. Coach. Adoption Advocate. I strive to share HOPE through my journey and help others reach their goals.