Oh boy, my very first FULL Marathon! Yes folks if you’re reading this, I SURVIVED!!! Now I apologize for the tardiness of this post. I recently relocated and started a new job and dare I say it, I was stuck in crutches again (for a bit). Yes….. I know…… For those of you who are keeping track, I was just in crutches after my half-marathon in September, but I can happily say that I am back to walking (and running) again. So you need not worry!!
Now I was a tad bit worried for this race, especially having just run a half marathon that very same week, but I was ready. The big day had finally arrived. After the countless hours of training, hundreds of miles ran, and buckets of sweat shed, it was time for me to make this race my b*tch (do excuse my language). I was pretty confident in running this race, especially with the amount of work I put in to get ready for it. During my training, I ran 21.55 miles about 3 weeks prior to the race. That was the longest I had ever run at the time and it felt glorious. I felt pretty confident after that run. I felt like I was on top of the world and that I could accomplish anything. I knew I could do it (Thank you Running Euphoria!!). I added a few pictures from that run to show how heavenly Fall was. I was too stubborn to stop and take pictures because I was training so I apologize for the blurriness.
I left for Richmond straight after work on Friday to head to the expo at the Arthur Ashe Center. I was glad the expo stayed open late since I had a bit of a drive and traffic was horrendous as always.
The expo was another runner’s heaven. I bought some running shorts and shirts and I, of course, bought the 26.2 sticker to proudly slap on my car after finishing the race. I surprisingly only signed up for one half marathon while I was there. There was one shirt I saw that I thought was pretty funny so I got it to wear for my race. It was a shirt that said 26.2 and underneath it said “I go all the way”. I couldn’t think of a more fitting shirt to wear for my first full marathon.
When I got home I had spaghetti for dinner. I did my best to carb load that week and I constantly felt stuffed. I was eating double the portion of oatmeal in the morning and kind bars throughout the day. According to calculations I was still under the amount of carbs I should have been eating, but I did my best. I knew my body needed the energy.
I attempted to get some sleep that night. I already had my clothes out and ready to go so I tried to keep my mind at rest. I woke up early and had a different breakfast than usual. I added electrolytes to my water to try and stay hydrated and ate a bit more calories for the much needed energy.
I left pretty early to give myself ample time which I am so glad I did because having to find parking downtown was a nightmare! and then trying to find the starting line was a whole nother issue because the full marathon start was different from the half marathon and 8k start. The streets were SWARMING with people and I did my best to jog past everyone. I took off my extra layers, checked my bag and thankfully I brought toilet paper with me because the lines for the porta-potties were outrageous. I have no shame, so I luckily found an alley way nearby that I was able to go in without being noticed. I definitely would have missed my start time if I waited in line for the bathroom!
I was able to make it to my wave. I was starting in wave 3 and I stepped to the side for a bit to stretch and warm up my legs. This was definitely the biggest race I have run to date and I could not believe how big of a crowd that came out for it.
Behold, the entire marathon course! I literally ran ALL of Richmond. I kept picking out places I had been to and seeing those memories in my head that I had while I was there as I ran past. The weather was nice, the crowds were cheering, it was an absolutely beautiful day for a mid November race. The amount of support was tremendous! I was slapping everyone’s hands as I ran by and I can’t tell you the amount of people who cheered for me by my name. It was nice to hear people root for me, especially since I was doing this race by myself. Sometimes just the smallest bits of encouragement help, and that’s all we really need to keep going. I was making really great time for this race. I hit the half marathon mark at 1:58:49, so I was running a good 4 hour marathon pace which was my goal. I started experiencing terrible foot pain around mile 10. The same foot pain I experienced back in September during my Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. I tried my best not to get angry. I still had over 16 miles to run and I was not even half way done yet. One of my friend’s from my old running group surprised me at around mile 16, just after the Lee Bridge. The view across the bridge was absolutely beautiful. My friend ran with me for about a mile which was a nice encouragement to keep going. I tried running slower hoping my foot pain would subside, but it kept persisting. The pain kept getting excruciatingly worse and I knew I was screwed, but I could not give up just yet. This was the big race I had been working all year for and I was determined to finish. When I thought things could not get any worse, at around mile 22 I collapsed on the ground and started screaming in excruciating pain. My entire right calf muscle wanted to have the biggest Charlie horse in existence! Never have I ever had this happen to me before while running and never have they ever been so agonizingly painful to the point where I was crying like a baby! I overheard one person ask if they needed to call an ambulance and I was in so much pain I could barely tell him no. Thankfully a doctor just happen to be nearby and tried to help with my muscle pain. He put his hand on my calf and I just started screaming harder. I was surrounded with people and completely grateful for the amount of support I had, especially from people who had no idea who I was. Someone handed me some electrolyte water and I chugged it hoping it would help. I felt utterly and completely embarrassed and could not believe that this had happened to me. I layed there for a bit waiting for my calf pain to diminish and once it did I was thankful for everyone’s support and I was gone. I still had 4.2 miles to go and boy were those the hardest 4.2 miles in my entire life. As I kept running I could just feel my legs wanting to cramp up again. I felt like I could keep running, but my legs were screaming at me saying, “Ash we’ve had enough”. I drastically reduced my pace hoping to get by, but then I would feel a cramp coming and I would have to stop. I can’t tell you the amount of times I had to stop and just massage out my legs. People probably thought I was crazy because I kept talking to myself. I kept saying “come on, come on” “come on legs, don’t fail me now!”. I had a few people ask me if I was okay, and I told them I was just cramping really bad and needed a second. I walked at every single water stop here on out. I drank Gatorade at every opportunity I could and kept taking snacks and bananas from people who were handing them out. My body was failing me and I knew I needed the energy. I kept saying to myself, “you can do this Ash, you’re almost there”. At about mile 24 I ended up collapsing again in the streets screaming in pain. My left calf muscle wanted to give out on me. Like seriously!? As if one excruciatingly painful charlie horse wasn’t enough!? As I layed there on the ground feeling embarrassed, yet again, a few people swarmed over me to make sure I was okay. One lady gave me some salt packets to take, and people were graciously sharing their snacks and water with me. I was extremely grateful for everyone’s help. After my pain went away, I got up again and continued running. I had just 2 miles to go, but my legs kept failing me so it felt like an eternity. “Positive thoughts Ash! You’re almost there, you got this! Look how far you’ve come!” I started to get excited as I was nearing the end. Just seeing and hearing the crowds roar made me increase my pace a bit, but I did not want to collapse again. The crowds and cheers continued to grow bigger as I continued to press on to the finish. When I saw that it was a downhill finish I dashed for the finish line. I sprinted down that hill hoping to make up for lost time and to finish this marathon with a bang. As I crossed the finish line, I threw my hands up in the air as I had finally conquered my first full marathon at the age of 23. According to my GPS I had just run 26.35 miles. The most I have ever run in my entire life. I finished the race in 4:17:37 which is a 9:49 mile pace. Despite the amount of problems I had, I may not have finished this race as fast as I had wanted to, but I can finally say I ran a full marathon and finished strong at that! I was able to finish within the top 35% of females!
My mental game was the strongest it had ever been throughout this race. Especially towards the end of it. and I can’t even begin to describe the amount of emotions I was feeling. For the rest of the day I took it pretty easy (as I should!). I walked around after the race a bit, and just before I left I was able to ask someone to take a picture of me. I was overwhelmed with emotions throughout the rest of the day. I just wanted to cry with the amount of support I received. I just had to thank those who helped me so I posted in the local RVA Runners group page on Facebook hoping that maybe the right person would see it and here is what happened:
I cannot believe I was able to reach out to 2 different people at both times I collapsed!! Especially with how big Richmond is and the amount of people that came in from out of town! I could not believe my eyes when I saw their responses. I started crying the second I started reading them! I was so emotional! Running a marathon sure does take a lot of you, but made me so appreciative of every single person. Everyone in the running community came together like family and it was a warm feeling I had never felt before. For the first time in a long time, I had actually felt like I belonged. I had finally found a community that was able to make me feel loved and supported despite running these races alone. That kind of support is not easy to find and I am hoping this inspires others to not be set back by doing anything alone. There are good people out there in the world and sometimes we just need to break out of our comfort zone to find them. I can attest to that.
I even got to be featured on a local Running Page:
And here is my poor foot the morning after the race. All swollen and discolored.
I went to patient first that morning and had my foot x-rayed. Thankfully it was not broken, but I was told I may have a possible stress fracture. I was told to keep off of it so I did and made an appointment with an orthopedic. My doctor was not positive what was wrong either so I had to get an MRI done to fully see the extent of the damage. I was put in a walking boot, but still had to use my crutches because it was too painful to even walk on. I was stuck in a big waiting game constantly worrying that I would not be able to run for a while. I knew I had no one else to blame, but myself. I am pretty stubborn after all. Thankfully the MRI results did not show any stress fractures and I had peroneal tendonitis! I thought this was funny because I had just had peroneal tendonitis in my right foot back in March. My doctor gave me a steroid shot in my foot, which was a little uncomfortable, but after just a day my pain had completely gone away. I was stuck in a walking boot for 2 weeks and after that shot my foot healed up miraculously. It definitely could have been much worse and I am very thankful that it wasn’t. Exactly 2 weeks after my marathon, on November 28th, I did my first 3.27 mile easy jog around the park. I was actually getting my oil changed and conveniently located just down the street was a park I use to run cross country in back in high school. I took it pretty easy and gradually increased my speed. I felt like I could have kept going, but I did not want to risk over doing anything so I forced myself to stop. After 2 weeks of not being able to run, I was glad to be back in business! I had an 8k Christmas Town Dash race coming up December 6th, but I told myself it was supposed to be for fun. (I am too competitive for my own good!) I was even surprised that my doctor said it was okay for me to run the race!
Here are my GPS stats from my marathon for those who enjoy graphs. If you look closely, you can actually see the 2 different times I collapsed.
You can’t forget about the beautiful medal!