Updated: Dec 3, 2022
I was not planning to do another marathon this year. The Akron Half Marathon was my goal race for Fall 2022. I was on a run with a friend, and she complimented my recent long runs. My peak week long runs of 14 and 15 miles went exceptionally well, and gave me major confidence of what I could do in the half marathon. When she told me she was impressed, I responded with something along the lines of “thank you, I feel pretty fit - too bad I’m not training for a marathon right now!” And she looked at me and said “why not do one after Akron?” I honestly had never even thought about running a marathon this fall, especially since I was only doing half marathon training. However, once it was mentioned, I could not stop thinking about it. I felt that even though my training had been half marathon focused, I was still in a good place. I mentioned it to my coach to get her thoughts, and figured it would be contingent on how Akron went. Well, Akron went great! I gave it a few days post race to make sure I still wanted to do this, and then I registered. After registering, Columbus Marathon sent out communications that the race was sold out, so I very well could have taken the last spot in the race. It felt like it was meant to be!
Fast forward to race weekend. I was excited to see what I could do. My race plan had me set to run a huge PR, so it was risky, but it was attainable. I am a very routine runner, so I did all the same carb loading that I have done for my past marathons, to the extent that I even brought my own food down to Columbus so I didn’t have to eat out for dinner. I wanted to make sure nothing abnormal could affect me, so for the things I could control, I did.
Race morning, I wake up, do the same pre-run fueling and hydration I’m used to, and I warm up and get to the start line. I’m feeling great! Nervous, but more excited to get going than anything. The race started, and I found a groove and I rolled. I took my first Spring Energy gel at 30 minutes, and was taking water or Gatorade at each water stop. Around mile 12, I was supposed to take my 3rd Spring Energy gel, but I started to feel some indigestion happening, and I honestly felt more full than normal, so I held off. I believe I took it around mile 14-15 instead. I came through the half marathon right at the time I was supposed to and was excited to tackle the back half of the course!!
Shortly after taking my 3rd gel, I slowly started to notice that my stomach was not feeling good. I tried to do everything to take my mind off of it, but at this point it had caused me to slow my pace. I remember thinking “It’s ok, treat it as easy miles/cool down at this point! I can still PR and get my B goal if I just hold steady here.”
Unfortunately, my stomach got more upset, and my pace slowed more. I passed the 20 mile mark and thought “10k to go. I can do this, even if it’s hard. You’ve trained for these moments” As I was approaching mile 21, it got to the point that I thought I might need to get sick. I have never gotten sick during or after a race or from a hard workout, so this was surprising to me. I stopped and got sick, and really didn’t know what was going to happen at that moment. Was I going to be able to keep running? What was happening? I sat there for a second and then I thought “I’ve got to keep moving so I can get to the finish line and accomplish my goals.”
I walked for a bit to make sure I was ok, and then started running again. I surprisingly felt great - it reminded me of when you have to go to the bathroom on a run (you know you’ve been there), and after getting it out of your system you feel way better. It was a relief. I picked it back up to a decent pace, but knew in the back of my mind that my body was now depleted of all energy and I didn’t know if I could stomach another gel or Gatorade. I ran at that pace for as long as I could, taking advantage of feeling good at that moment. I never felt hungry, but wow did the fatigue set in. Miles 24-25 were pretty rough and took some serious self-talk to get myself to the finish line. I walked through water stops at that point, getting down as much Gatorade as I could stand. I was able to get it together for the last mile and enjoy it and run at a decent pace to finish. I’ve never been so happy to make it across a finish line.
What kept me moving? I thought of my goals, my why, my purpose, my athletes. I know that marathons are HARD. I have been in this mental place before in many different races, for different reasons. I have been here in training. I prepped for it to be hard. I also mentally prepared myself for what I would do when it got hard. How would I respond? Something that I use are Cue Words. I repeat them to myself when things get tough. I repeat them quite often in the race - early on, middle and the end. Beyond anything else, I reminded myself that the pain was temporary, but I remember not finishing forever.
Take-aways from this race:
There is always room for error - be prepared for multiple scenarios to happen!
Setting A, B & C goals is extremely important.
There is ALWAYS something to be proud of. You did something that many people cannot. You owe it to yourself to be proud of your hard work.
It’s about the process, not just the end result!
The best part of the day was getting to cheer on my athlete Jeneane as she finished her first marathon! She finished under her goal and I am so proud of her!! Thank you to my athletes, who inspire me by their hard work and push me to be better every day!
Thank you for your support! Whether you were at the race, or sent me a message pre/post race, it means so very much to me. I appreciate you being here and reading this post.
– Coach Jillian