From Bench Warmer to Marathoner

marathoner

Once upon a time, there was a girl who refused to run. Mostly because of the hateful little buggers who attended school with me. Candidly, some were cruel and heartless when it came to their observations of my running style. (Think Phoebe from Friends). So my scared self buried any urge to jog, walk fast, slog—anything that even remotely similar looked like running. Becoming a marathoner was nowhere on my horizon at that time.

As the years passed, I found myself longing more and more to attempt to run, and in 2008 I began to train for a half marathon. (Yeah, I know, why not a 5k or something more reasonable for a beginner? I guess I like to push myself when I get an idea in my head). While training for that first race, I was introduced to Plantar Fasciitis and ended up walking the half marathon rather than running it. But as I became more and more determined on running,  I attempted multiple training plans and races. In all, I have completed 6 half marathons and so many other race distances, and for each one, I attempted to get a little bit faster.

Becoming a Marathoner at Disney

After so many years of on-and-off-running and run/walking, my friend, Courtney, and I chatted about how someday it would be cool to run a marathon (checking off the bucket list). With some investigation and many self-convincing conversations, we decided the Disney Marathon would be a tremendous first marathoning opportunity. Everyone knows Disney does everything, first-class! And so began nearly a year of training!

Because I trained on my own for so many other races but never realized my time goals, I decided this time I’d go all in and hire a coach, Megan Conner, to help. The first few months were all about getting miles under my belt and gaining some speed. Those months were not without issues. Quickly I learned that I needed to strengthen my hips to alleviate fairly significant knee pain. So, on top of the running, I had to stick to a pretty in-depth PT and strengthening schedule.

The Physical & Life Challenges of Running

Those unexpected aspects of marathoning was another reason why Megan’s expertise came in handy. For instance, she pointed me in the right direction to find a running physical therapist as well as someone to help with nutrition. She was basically my go-to if any running question arose. By the way, my knees weren’t the only problem. There were also little (and big) pains that popped up regularly and just had to get managed as they came.

So as the miles piled on, creative time management became my second job. Because my pace is not lightening-fast, I spent lots of hours running, eventually working up to running (or run/walking) 4-5 days a week, 40 miles a week. It is difficult to maintain friendships, housework, and all the small details of life when you spend that much time running. However, I am fortunate to have wonderful, supportive friends who understood the disconnect and even more lucky that Brian (my husband) was also training for the marathon (and 3 other races in the days before the marathon—aka the Dopey Challenge).

I am SUPER grateful to have understanding clients too, who gave me grace when I might not have been AS available during my training and marathoner challenges.

There Can Be No Deal-Breakers for a Marathoner (To Be)

As time drew closer and the pre-race taper began, paranoia set in about every flu, germs, cracks in the sidewalk—you name it. It became a complete avoidance of all potential marathoning deal-breakers. Hand sanitizers, Lysol, hand washing, happened continuously, but despite my germophobia, I was the one who got the flu nine days before the marathon. Nevertheless, there was no stopping me, and I took everything anyone told me would help me get better. After about three days, my fever finally broke, and I started to recover.

Before we knew it, it was time to head down for the race. For these races, we saved for months (we stocked $5 for most every training run) so that we could have the freedom to have a great time at Disney. Packet pick-up was a day-long process (you gotta get all the merch too!), and the next morning was the first race. (We decided to do the 5k just for a shakeout run before the marathon).

The Pace of the Disney Marathon Day

Race day starts early at 2:30 am with a race start time of 5 am. We had spent days trying to prepare for the rough weather predicted. If you don’t know, running in 87-degree heat and 95% humidity is no joke. It is the worst condition to run in, so we knew it was going to be a rough, long day. However, looking back, the day seems to have flown by, and it was over in what seemed a heartbeat. The race also happened quickly.

The quick passing of the day despite my hip hurting by mile 3 and my foot hurt since March (lol). And the day breezed by, even though by mile 22, I was very dehydrated (despite all my best hydration plans correctly followed). I was struggling to run, but managing to walk. Nevertheless, the race flew by despite the baking sun and lukewarm water to drink. And before we knew it, the marathon finish line was in sight. Somewhere, somehow, I managed to dig deep to run through the finish.

Everything I had done for the entire year before, every bit of pain, suffering, and sacrifice all boiled down to that moment when I passed the finish line.

The Impact of the Disney Marathon

They say becoming a marathoner changes you, and it does. The things I never thought possible are now within the realm of possibility. I feel strong and powerful, with more confidence in my physical abilities than I ever dreamed. I also have so many lessons learned about strength, capability, life, faith, and the power of positivity. And I also learned that you can truly do ANYTHING your set your mind to do.

Was my time great? No. Did I get pretty darn close to not finishing the race at all? Yes. But I did finish, and it’s genuinely one of the most profound accomplishments in my life.

Yes, I am a marathoner. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self, just what is possible when you set your mind to it.