Hey everyone! Guess what? I ran a marathon yesterday and beat my previous time by more than 30 minutes! How awesome am I?! I really enjoyed myself–much more than my last marathon–and I am excited to share my experience! Apologies in advance if this is a long post 😉
Before the Race
We drove down to Cincinnati late morning on Saturday to get lunch and to pick up our race bibs and things from the expo. Our original plan was to eat at this delicious sounding taco place, but it turns out it doesn’t open for another couple of weeks! Fail. So instead, we ate at Taste of Belgium. Usually when we eat there we get beer, but this time we stuck to iced tea! I had an omelette and fries, and Ben had the McWaffle, which is a waffle sandwich with egg, bacon, and cheese. It was delicious.
After we’d eaten, we walked the few blocks to the expo. I needed to move up corrals since I expected my finish time to be faster than projected when I signed up. It was really easy–I picked up my bib and then went to the corral assignment booth, and they just stuck a sticker with my new corral over my old one. Done! We headed into the expo, which was super awesome as usual. There was a long line at the entrance of people waiting to get an autograph from Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall, who won the 10K in 30 minutes Saturday morning! Super impressive!
At the expo we grabbed as much free stuff as we could (and ended up waiting in line for free swag that ended up being tampons! Big disappointment). At the end of the expo, we got our t-shirts, posters, and bags, and headed out. The swag was awesome this year, as always! Love me some marathon swag.
We then headed across the river to our hotel in Covington, KY, and checked in. We hung out in the hotel room for a while, then headed to Dewey’s Pizza in Newport where we met my friend Steff and her dad for dinner. Pizza is the best. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and went to bed. It took a while to get to sleep because of the nerves and things, and I woke up a bunch of times during the night. Why is it that it’s always so difficult to sleep when you need it the most?
The day of the race, we were up at 4:45. Ick! We had a PB&J and a banana each at the hotel, and I downed some coconut water. Then we walked across the bridge to the start line, which was about a mile away. It was much warmer than anticipated, so I ended up checking my long-sleeved shirt and just going with short sleeves from the beginning. I was so glad I made that decision!
I said goodbye to Ben, who was up in corral B, and made my way to corral E. Once there, I found the 4:20 pace group and introduced myself to my new best friends. I had made the decision a while back to at least start with a pace group, mainly because there are some crazy hills between miles 5 and 9 on the course, and I didn’t want to go out too fast and burn out because of that. My long training runs had been around a 9:30 pace, so I knew I could do 9:55 and survive–and this race was more about finishing and not feeling like crap than it was about aiming for a specific time. The pace groups were organized by Bob Roncker’s Running Spot–a local chain of specialty running stores.
We set off at what felt like a pretty slow pace to me. I ran the first few miles with my new friends Josh and Cindy, who were also running with the pace group. It was Cindy’s first marathon, and Josh’s 19th. We chatted our way through Kentucky, then back over into Ohio and up the hills. We stayed close to the pace group but essentially ran together. Once we got the worst of the hills out of the way, the pace group was quite far ahead, and Josh had kept up with them, so Cindy and I raced to catch up with them. I stayed with the group from then on; Cindy fell back at one point and I didn’t see her again. I wish I knew her last name so I could check her time and make sure she was okay.
The course from mile 12 or so onward was up and down. I stuck with the pace group and chatted with the two leaders a little. One of them was a Flying Pig streaker, which means he has run every single Flying Pig marathon since its inception 16 years ago! They were so helpful and motivating–they would tell us what was coming up on the course, when we were approaching a mile marker, and would give us advice on how to keep going when we got tired. People came and went from the group, but myself and one other girl whose name I forget stuck with them the entire way.
The last six miles were probably the hardest, but running with the pacers really got me through. The unnamed girl and I sped up (very slightly) for the last mile, and finished just ahead of the pacers, who were right on target. My official time was 4:18:49! I beat last year’s time by about 24 minutes, and felt infinitely better crossing the finish line!
As I crossed the line and got my medal, I felt incredible. To compare, last year I crossed the line, burst into tears, and felt like a turd the rest of the day. I also swore I would never run a marathon again. This year, I crossed the line, gave high fives to everyone who had got me to that finish line, and had my picture taken with Bob the streaker/pacer. I texted friends and called Ben, then we met up and found some of our running group for a bit of a chat. Ben’s time was 3:27:47–he is a rockstar!
We decided to walk the mile back to the hotel to keep our legs moving, then had the best shower ever. We felt exhausted but happy, and headed back into town (driving this time!) to find some food. We ate at Lavomatic–I had French toast with apple butter, and Ben had a burger. After I finished eating I felt kind of blah, so we decided to head home (via Holtman’s Donut Shop where we got a doughnut each to go). I called my mum and we spoke for a bit, but then I started feeling like I was either going to throw up or pass out. Luckily, I did neither, but I did head straight to bed as soon as we got home and took a 1.5 hour nap. When I woke up I felt much better! I ended up eating oatmeal for dinner, followed by the doughnut (Ben go one with chocolate icing and rainbow sprinkles, and mine was with maple frosting). I was in bed by 8:30, and slept until 7 this morning!
Overall, I absolutely loved running the Flying Pig this year! The difference between how I feel this year and how I felt last year is incredible. I really think that my decision to run with a pace group was the best one I could have made. And training with my running group helped me improve my speed and learn to enjoy the run more. Training with a group broke me of my dependence on music while running, and I was thankful for that yesterday. Deciding to run without music helped me appreciate and enjoy all the spectators who came out to support us runners, and I enjoyed the entire course. I ran it to enjoy myself, rather than to meet a goal. And the support along the course was incredible! Even though I was exhausted beyond belief, there was never a moment where I thought I wouldn’t make it. So yay!
Sorry for the super lengthy post! I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience. I always enjoy reading race recaps, so I’m excited to be writing one myself this time! 🙂 Also, here is a picture of my dogs after I picked them up from boarding at the vets. Love my pups 🙂