My First Marathon: We Laughed, I Cried, I Bled {A Lot…}

Wow.  I’m just not even sure where to start.  I honestly don’t know what I was expecting, but my first marathon experience was different from anything I had imagined it would be.  Some good, some bad and a lot of it kind of surreal.  Keeping with tradition, my parents, brother and sister-in-law usually come down the night before and we stay in a hotel downtown before the Beyond Monumental Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K.Almost-to-the-start-line selfie with my Dad – he always comes down to watch us start (my mom and husband stayed back in the hotel with the sleeping kids!) Before the race, I was excited!  So Excited!  I mean, we’d been waiting to see this start line for months and it was finally right in front of us! We set off as three first time marathoners and two veterans.  Annette’s brother, Matt, and Geri had both run this course before. Our new friend Jennifer had been training with another friend but joined us on race day because our pace fit hers. We got to the mile 7 split where the half goes to the left and the full stays right … even though my legs sorta wanted to go left out of habit, we all managed to stay on the marathon course. {That’s the split below, but my phone was already so sweaty I was struggling to get it to turn on hence the picture while walking backwards!}First, I have to admit that after running this race’s half marathon 4 out of the past 5 years, being in unfamiliar territory at mile 7 was a little unnerving!  But the first 13.1 was pretty uneventful.  We all felt good about our pace, the rain had indeed held off and the sky’s were overcast – great running weather!

I hadn’t run over 8 miles since physical therapy and dry needling a few weeks ago and I was relieved at how well my calves were holding up.  My PT told me to stretch before it really started to hurt, make sure I took ibuprofen as needed, and increased muscle fatigue was likely in that area.  We started about 12 minutes behind the race clock, so at the halfway point we were still well within my goal of around a 5 hour finish time.  At about 13.5, we found a great surprise waiting for us around the corner …… my bestie Summer and her daughter Ella! Not long after that, I started falling apart.  Somewhere along mile 14, my legs started to tighten up and my calves (both of them) were on fire so I was slowing to stretch on our walk breaks and fell a bit behind.  During mile 15 a fellow female runner came up next to me and quietly informed me that my legs were bleeding.  A lot.  And I was wearing a white skirt.  Suddenly terrible flashbacks from middle school shot through my mind before I was brave enough to see what in the world was going on.

Chafing.  Both sides.  Everywhere.  I’ll spare you the picture, but it looked like a crime scene.  Turns out, it IS possible to have no idea you are chafing so bad you are bleeding.

No, it wasn’t a new skirt.  Yes, I had worn it for a half before.  In fact, I have a black running skirt that I usually wear for longer mileage and races, but chose the white one specifically because the spandex underneath are longer and I thought that would be a better choice for 26.2 miles.

And that’s when I started to cry.  Second guessing myself.  Mad that I had been so determined to do something that I was clearly not cut out to do. Wondering how I got myself into this mess and how I could keep from dragging my running buddies down with me.  I was prepared for it to get really tough at some point, but I expected that to be closer to the end.  Mile 20 maybe?  Not mile 15.I begged them to go on, mostly so I could sit down and have myself a big pity party.  But they wouldn’t let me.  We were about a mile and a half from the Butler campus where Geri’s daughter had set up our own personal aid station outside her sorority house.  Geri called Lauren, asked her if I could borrow a pair of pants and basically pulled me to the next aid station where I tried to clean myself up.  Post-wardrobe change, we set off again.  My thighs felt a lot better, but my spirit was still very fragile.  And the stop had caused my calves and hips to tighten up even more.  For a girl who was literally jumping up and down at the start line before the race with excitement, I was having a hard time pulling it together.

I had been smart enough to have some Advil waiting for me at our Butler stop, but with the skirt debacle and wardrobe change, I completely forgot to take any.  Cue the next round of tears.  Physically hurting and mad at myself for not grabbing my chance at some relief, we started looking for a medic tent to get some Advil but a mile felt like 10 at that point.

Then, around a corner just before mile 19 there were three women standing on the closed street cheering on the runners passing by.  Someone asked if they had any ibuprofen and one woman hands me a giant white pill that I promptly swallow, without water, before I stop to question if it was even an OTC medicine at all!  {Please note: taking unmarked pills from strangers in the street is highly discouraged 🙄 Clearly I was already delirious!}

As I’m waiting for my mystery medicine to kick in, we are running through the front of the IMA grounds where we had just had family pictures done the weekend prior.  An unexpected bonus boost that also brought with it the wise words of a dear friend who’s battled through her share of injuries and set-backs this year yet continues to find ways to enjoy her race days: Fast or slow, when it’s all said and done we still love it. Sometimes the goals have to change, but we all get the same medal! 😁
By mile 20 I had reevaluated.  I didn’t have a choice.  Que sera, sera right? Sort of fitting that I had stuck this Choose Joy tattoo to my arm that morning.  I was just trying to squeeze in a virtual race that I hadn’t had a chance to run with my injury.  Not really expecting to need the extra reminder {remember, I was jumping up and down excited just a few hours ago}And just minutes after I took this picture at mile 21, I saw my sweet family – my parents, my husband and one of my girls – waiting for me at the next corner!  I had no idea they would be along the course since it’s hard to get around downtown in a car once the race starts.  So happy to see them!  More Joy – my heart was full ❤️Miles 21 – 26.2 felt a lot like this!! I love it because I’m smiling, though it hardly tells the whole story of this race, but it shows how I felt at the finish.  But I think THIS is my absolute favorite picture of the entire weekend – and there are so so many – because we finished what we started.  TOGETHER.  Across that finish line as a marathoner for the first time with the two girls who made every second of it possible.  Through the months of training and hours on race day, I simply could not have done any of this without them.  {📷: my Mom!}
Post race celebrating with my husband❤️ Celebrating my awesome brother and sister-in-law with their half marathon medals!Thank you Queen City running club for the delicious post-race mimosa!  Because I love burgers.  And blue cheese.  And bacon. Finish Lines NOT Finish Times … I had been saying this for months, then I forgot it when I needed it most.  But my girls stuck by me!Race Swag!  Completed the 4-year medal series of Indy monuments and earned the red star medallion … and my first BLUE Monumental race hat!  {The half marathon ones are always red – I am super pumped to have a blue one!}

The second medal, on the right, is for completing both a race at Ft. Ben and one at Monumental.  My Indianapolis Half + Monumental Full earned me the INDYTHON Ultra charm! If you made it to the end of this marathon of a post, you deserve your own medal!   🙂