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Marathon Finisher!
"There will be days when you don't think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing that you have." ~ Unknown

You know those stories you write after you've had your child(ren)? You detail how you felt leaving the house, how the hospital room looked, the first time you heard the sweet cry from your baby and the days that followed. And of course the pain, oh the PAIN!

I was blessed to be able to write 2 of those stories after my son and daughter were born. Thinking about how I would write and describe my marathon experience brought back those stories. Now of course this is all metaphorical so please do not judge me for comparing the birth of my 2 kids as being remotely close to running a marathon. Just humor me, I'm jet-lagged!

The morning of the race was a bit hectic. I had to meet my team in the lobby of our hotel at 4am (yikes!). I felt pretty awake and made sure to do my normal routine. I covered myself in Body Glide, pulled on all of my gear, made my instant oatmeal and hot tea and set off. The rest of the team was bright-eyed and in great moods. We took a team picture and got a great pep talk from our coaches. We trained for this, we were ready!

We headed to the start line at Balboa Park and joined the other participants in lines at the port-o-pots (I'm givin' it to you straight!). I only wish I could describe what it felt like to be in a crowd of 32 thousand runners: the excitement, the pre-race jitters, the camaraderie. It was overwhelming. As the sun was rising it was time to get into our corrals. I was in corral number 22, which was the 4:30 pace time. The race started at 6:05 and slowly the crowd was moved up to the start line with each corral being dismissed every 2 minutes. I waited for my nerves to kick in and for the jitters to hit me but they never came. I felt so calm and couldn't wait to cross the starting line. I kept telling myself, "It's just a run." 

My foot hit the pad at the start line at 6:44am and instantly I was smiling. The roar of the spectators and everyone in my corral was amazing. My only plan for the race was to start out slow, about a minute under my normal pace. I let people pass me and stayed patient for the first 5k. The crowd thinned out at mile 4 when the 1/2 marathoners split off and I picked up the pace a little bit. I saw my husband just after I finished 10k of the race and I felt great. I walked through water stops as my coaches advised and planned my Gu's perfectly. I sailed through the first half of the marathon in 2:08:05. That part was easy, now it was time to push.

I slammed into "the wall" around mile 15; I never saw it coming. Thankfully one of my coaches was covering miles 16 through 18 so I told myself I just had to find her and she would get me back on track. When I reached Coach Barb, I wasn't in great shape. I was shivering and I had stopped sweating. She ran with me for about a mile and worked with me on visualizing and taking the focus off of how I was feeling. This part of the course was a brutal out and back. There were no spectators and very little scenery. It was hard to focus on anything but my melting feet and cramping legs. After getting some much needed fluids in me and turning the corner to mile 19 I felt a lot better. Only 7.2 more miles to go!

The last part of the course had a lot of highs and lows. There were times I wanted to sit down on a bench and quit, and times I was encouraging people in front of me to keep going. I concentrated on getting myself from water stop to water stop and accepted everything from oranges to Otter pops along the way. The final 5k of the race was out on an island. It sounds good on paper to get to finish a race out by the water, looking at palm trees swaying, but in reality that island was BRUTAL. Everywhere you looked people were walking with their heads down. It was so hard to run past people who looked so defeated. I did my share of running and walking during this part of the race. I made a deal with myself that when my Garmin read 25.2 I would take off running and not stop again.

The last mile of the race was spectacular. Somehow my legs started working again and my brain went along with it. Having strangers screaming your name as you come up to the finish line will give you an adrenaline rush that is hard to duplicate. My coaches urged us to put our arms in the air and SMILE as we crossed the finish line, they even made us practice. It turned out I never needed to practice. My arms shot up about a 100 feet away from the finish and they didn't come back down until I crossed. It was over, I had made it!

The race itself took me 4 hours 34 minutes and 35 seconds for me to complete, but the journey through the run took me back through the 18 weeks of training. Training taught me how to prepare. It taught me how to pace myself, hydrate properly, visualize so I would mentally succeed and most importantly finish strong.

This wouldn't be a proper "birth story" if I didn't put in the parts about the pain. I won't lie, it hurt. My legs turned to sand around mile 20 and I might as well have thrown my shoes away because my feet were burning so badly I thought I was running on hot coals. My sides hurt from breathing and my neck hurt from the times when I was tense. When I finally stopped moving I didn't think I would ever move again. The best advice I was given was to keep moving. I crossed the finish line and didn't stop. I walked and walked and walked. When I finally did stop I was sore but it was manageable.

I've already been asked if I will do another one and to answer simply, yes. Much like with child birth, the pain and exhaustion dissolve quickly when you're handed your brand new baby and become a mom. Or in this case, a bright, shiny medal when I became a MARATHON RUNNER!

Run Hard,
Run Strong,
Run for You,

Holly

Cristin
6/9/2011

I know you are probably sick of hearing this, but I really think you are such an inspiration. I'm so proud of you for rocking that marathon! You're newest "baby" is adorable ;)

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Jamie
6/9/2011

I used to cry when watching all those birthing baby shows. Now I cry when I read about people running marathons. Great job Holly! I can't wait to join your rank in becoming a marathon runner.

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Liz
6/9/2011

Congratulations! You are awesome!

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Carrie
6/9/2011

SO proud! That is all.

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Chrissie
6/9/2011

I cried at your story. So very proud of you!

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ashley copenhaver
6/9/2011

holly....WOW that is so awesome!!!!! i never realized what actually happens in a marathon...the water stops ect. i cant imagine doing it!!

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Jimmy
6/9/2011

Great job Holly! You should be really proud of yourself!

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Heidi
6/9/2011

Holly- I know we don't know eachother. I am new with this "club", but already feel a connection to so many of the people who run and post their stories. We all have something in common, we love running! I have done several 5K's and I am ready to start training for half and full marathons. How do I get plugged in to training and trainers?

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Cori
6/9/2011

All I can say is YOU ARE AMAZING!! Congrats!!

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Mom C.
6/9/2011

Hol, you are truly amazing! You followed your dream and succeeded. We are all so proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.

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Holly
6/10/2011

@Heidi - I joined Team in Training and that provided all of the training, coaches, etc. If you are interested in having someone help you, TNT is a GREAT program and you raise money that goes towards finding a cure for blood cancers. It's a win win. Being a member of TNT has changed me in so many ways. Of course, you can always train on your own, or with a group. It's MUCH more fun to do it with a group!

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Jenn
6/10/2011

Congratulations Holly! I know we have never met, but I have followed your story through T2M2R and I think meeting your goals and making your dreams come true is amazing and inspiring! Fantastic job keeping those feet moving and "pushing through the pain" (as my labor and delivery nurses always said! :) )

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Stephanie
6/10/2011

I felt soooo very similar after my first (and only so far) marathon. Thank you for putting my thoughts onto paper. See, this is a tribe, a sisterhood, a common thread even if we all have never met. CONGRATULATIONS, celebrate, be unbelievably proud-YOU EARNED EVERY BIT OF IT!

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