When Liz asked me to write this I was really excited to share my experience (I mean, what runner DOESN’T love to talk about running lol). But sitting here now all I can think is crap – where do I start? So I guess I’ll give you a little background. I’m a 40 year old, divorced, remarried, no human kids but one awesome dog child mom, equine surgeon, nonrunner until 5 years ago woman. That about sums it up haha. I come from a long line of “real “ runners, but I never ran more than a mile or 2 on the treadmill (begrudgingly) until I went through my divorce. I started running then, & a bunch of ½ marathons & 5 marathons later here we are.
The plot is probably familiar-ish to many of you: “I’m just going to do one ½ then I’ll go back to 5/10ks” followed by “I’m going to do one more ½ because I think I can go a little faster”; “I’ll NEVER run a marathon, the ½ is plenty for me”; “I’m going to do one full, just as a bucket list thing, but ONLY one”; “that was terrible, I am never doing that again” (fast forward 3 more marathons…) “I think I want to TRY to qualify for Boston?”. Turns out running is fairly addictive haha. But I love that it is also a sport that you can improve in and make gains if you put in the work.
As for qualifying for Boston, a few things to note: 1-I am not particularly fast. I’m also not particularly slow, but I do not consider myself a naturally gifted runner. In fact, I’m pretty darn average as far as my “speed” goes. So I knew IF I wanted to BQ I’d have to work pretty hard; 2-I absolutely needed the experience of my 1st 4 marathons to hit my standard of 3:45; 3-It takes a village, literally. I cannot name everyone who helped me, but here are a few: Ryan, my husband, who put up with all of the early mornings, the Saturday nights I didn’t want to do something so I could run long on Sunday, & (probably the worst) the constant talking about the running; Liz, my AWESOME track coach & friend who gave me such solid running advice & inspiration on a weekly basis and while training for & finishing her own 100 mile (ONE HUNDRED FREAKING MILES!) race; Kara & Christine for being great cheerleaders/running buddies/therapists; Travis my brother for always pushing me to be a better version of myself in a mostly good natured way; Nashville on the Run for being such a welcoming & supportive running group; and last but definitely not least my co-coach & constant running companion Nike (my blue heeler), who made sure at least 1 of us was excited for EVERY training run. See-an actual village! That would be a cool village to live in. But I digress…
- I used the Hal Higdon “Personal Best” plan & tweaked it a bit based on my last few marathons. I did an 18, 20, & 22 mile run for my last 3 “long” runs with a 12-13 mile run in the weeks between them.
- I typically ran 4 days per week (track, medium run, short run, & long run). 5 days on a few of my peak weeks.
- Yoga 1x per week (day after my long run)
- Weight training 1x per week (usually the day before my long run)
- Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – I picked this race because it’s relatively flat, the weather is typically ideal, it was drivable for me, & historically it has a high number of people that BQ (yes, I’m a huge dork & research the crap out of everything. Because – science.)
- What I wore:
- Race start was 39 degrees, predicted to be 55 by race end. So I wore Nike spandex shorts, “Embrace the Suck” tank top (this was an important mantra for me-I said it repeatedly during the race) with a tech T shirt from a previous race over it, arm warmers made out of lucky 4 – leaf clover long socks (did I mention I’m superstitious?), a buff (from a past Ragnar trail team = more superstition) & compression socks.
- I ditched the buff around mile 5, the tech T around 10, & the arm warmers around 15. I felt perfect (temperature wise) the entire time – I love running a little cold!
- What I ate:
- Week of: I tried to just add more carbs to my typically carb – low diet; so lots of sweet potatoes, white rice, & spaghetti a few nights out thanks to my cousin Marissa (2 time BQer) who was in town. I felt her making me a pre race dinners was a good omen (…superstitioius…)
- I drank so much water the week before. So. Water…
- Night before: Ryan & I ate an early (6pm) dinner in our hotel. I had roasted chicken & mashed potatoes. I’ve learned that for me, I need to eat early the night before & not too much. I figure most of my “carb loading” has/should have occurred in the 5-6 days leading up to this, and a very big meal the night before just gives me GI issues on race day.
- Moring of: ALWAYS = whole wheat bagel thin, almond butter, small redbull ~ 2 hours out.
- During: Gu every 5 miles; by the 4th one I did NOT want it, but I know from past experience I NEED to eat them or it does not end well.
- I drank a little water every mile; not sure how much total – 16oz through 13 miles, then used water from water stops after that.
- The race!
- My plan – my qualifying standard is 3:45 (~8:35 pace), but the last 2 years you’ve had to do at least 2 minutes faster than this to actually get into the race. So I was aiming for 3:42. No biggie right? WRONG! Turns out there’s a big (mental) difference in doing 8:35 for 26.2 vs. 8:25. That freaked me out, and honestly I was scared I couldn’t do it.
- Decided to start w the 3:40 pacer & stay with him for as long as I could; if I could stay w him through 13 but not let the 3:45 pacer catch me after that I thought I’d be ok.
- The 1st 5 miles were rough – I tend to start slow & get progressively faster, so this was REALLY fast for me to start. I started to get a little worried I couldn’t keep this pace up, but I quickly made myself stop thinking that. NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!
- From 5-10 the pacer was a bit erratic. Not his fault; we got behind a bit in the 1st 7 because it was crowded, turns, etc. & he slowed down at the water stops. So he was trying to make up time (~8:00ish pace – eek!) but would continue to slow through the water stops. I wasn’t digging this fast/slow/fast thing, so I went out a bit in front of him. Girl who came with me: “we are going too fast”. She was probably right, but I felt good! So my new plan was to do my own thing/hold this pace for as long as I could. “Just get to 10”…”Just get to 13”…”Just get to 15”…
- Before I knew it I was 18 & still in front of him – REALLY??? Ok, this is good, but just keep this pace, you know you hit the wall between 18-22…
- Mile 19: I felt so good (relative term for sure – every cell in my body hurt but not like a dying hurt haha? [yet] – not like the “hurt” that I knew was to come at some point) that I texted Ryan a pic of the 19 mile marker & time. Then I thought about the time – Holy crap I think I’m gonna do this!
- Mile 20: Eminem’s “Phenomenal” came on. HOLY. CRAP. YES! It was like he was literally giving me a pep talk. & I was starting to need it. It worked. Embrace the suck…
- Mile 21: This isn’t great. It isn’t terrible, but it really isn’t great. Wait – 5 miles left – Liz ran 100 FREAKING MILES! I’ll bet when she was at 95 she was so stoked! 95-man – get it together Liberty you can do 5 freakin miles. Embrace the suck…
- Mile 22: Ah-there it is-the dying hurt. But still not as bad as I remembered? “You ARE doing this! You CAN do this! Remember how disappointed you are in yourself when you stop…”
- Mile 23: Ok yah this is actually pretty bad. But…you are on pace to kill this race! Think of all of the 4am days – you DID NOT do those to give up on this pace! You ARE NOT dialing this in!
- Mile 24: Oh so there’s a hurt worst than the dying hurt? Awesome. Needed more motivation – put on “Beast” off of the Southpaw soundtrack –it’s my go-to when I’m struggling. (I also have a playlist called “struggle bus” of songs that always get me pumped – I’d had it on since about 22).
- Mile 25: This hurts SO BAD. BUT I AM DOING THIS! Just keep running. Just keep running. Keep. Running.
- 2: You guys, I CANNOT even describe how I felt. I was stumbling towards the finish, legs weak, afraid I’d trip over the timing mat. Couldn’t really see straight/a little blurry? I was looking for Ryan but couldn’t see much outside of what was directly in front of me. I heard them call my name. I managed to give a thumbs up going across the finish line, and then I literally collapsed in a heap against the fence separating the competitors from spectators. It is honestly the weirdest combination of sheer exhaustion + complete happiness that I have ever felt (also probably a bit of the hypoxia – after I collapsed I immediately had an asthma attack – I have cold induced asthma but I’ve never had it be an issue at the end of a long run before, and this one was pretty bad but went away quickly). The medics rushed over & tried to take me to the medic tent, but I waved them off & insisted Ryan was coming to get me & I was fine. And then once I caught my breath I started crying….it was good crying though. The poor people hovering over my head from the other side of the barricade must have though I was dying or insane. Ryan found me & we hugged over the fence & we both started crying…an even better cry
- I finished in 3:39:35. I never saw the 3:40 pacer again after mile 10 until after the race. This is 6 minutes faster than my Boston qualifying standard, and an11 minute PR for me.