Friday, February 26, 2016

My First Marathon (2005)

My first marathon was kind of an accident. I didn't contemplate running one for months and then register with excitement. I didn't train for 20 weeks learning how to run long or fuel properly. 

I was in my final year of undergrad in the Spring of 2004 when I decided I wanted to try something new. I heard about Team in Training through a pamphlet in the mail and after attending an informational meeting I was signed up to raise money to fight blood cancers and participate in an olympic distance triathlon in 5 months.

I purchased a bike and with the help of my brother (a very talented cyclist) I learned how to ride and trained with my team on transitions, swimming in open water, and everything else that goes with triathlons. 

A few days before the race my team and I flew to Orlando to get situated and prepare for the race. I remember checking into my room at the hotel and literally as I turned around to walk to the room I saw 3 of my teammates with devastated looks on their faces. The triathlon was cancelled. Hurricane Jeanne was about to hit Florida and there was no way the officials would allow us to compete in the event. If you google that hurricane, the first sentence that appears is: Hurricane Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane in the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season.

As quickly as we landed, we were put back on a plane and evacuated from the state back to Pennsylvania. We were all so crushed. I worked HARD to raise money for an organization, and that was before the convenience of social media. I worked hard at training too. 

Back at school I was pretty grumpy. So many people knew about the race and I was afraid they thought I scammed them out of money with their donations because I promised an update after the event. Well TNT decided that we would get a chance to compete in an event and sent us a list of different races that year to choose from. The next triathlon was almost a year away and I couldn't wait that long. I had no desire to ride my bike 100 miles. So a marathon it was. The New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon in February 2005.

I registered through TNT and that was that. I had 5 months until the race and kind of pushed it to the back of my mind. I graduated in December and decided to take a semester off before grad school. When February rolled around I kind of remember running 5 miles a few mornings a week on my parent's treadmill in the basement. I never even met my new team until the day I boarded a plane to go to New Orleans. 

The 2 days leading up to the marathon I remember walking ALLLL over the city in some cute boots that were pretty uncomfortable. I tried shrimp, gumbo, jumbalaya. I remember the day of the race wearing a new pair of cotton shorts I had never worn running. I had some cute pink Nike shox to run in. And I had a single Powerbar for the entire race. Obviously I had never done this before.

The morning of the race my teammates handed out garbage bags claiming they would keep us warm at the starting line. I went along with it.

When the race started I got really excited. The streets were lined with spectators and the energy from the crowd got me pumped to run. I ended up running with one of the mentors for the first half of the race adopting his plan: run to the water stations, then walk through them for 2-3 minutes. The plan was working and I survived 13.1 miles. 

At the halfway point my knees started to ache and I ate my entire PowerBar at a water station. I told the guy I was running with to go ahead because I was slowing down. I kept up with the race plan but I was beginning to hurt. I was also hungry but sick to my stomach at the same time. I know I took handfuls of snacks from spectators along the course for temporary energy. 

Our team coach, Chris, found me somewhere around mile 20 and decided to run with me til the end. We stopped numerous times to stretch on the sidewalk and he basically saved me on that course. He talked me through every mile and told me I would be a marathoner that day.

The finish line was inside the Superdome (a few months later Hurricane Katrina came through). I can absolutely still picture what it looked like as we entered the Superdome. Crowds of people lined the stretch of pavement leading up to the finish line. Complete strangers cheering, music blasting and an announcer said my name right before crossing the finish line. And someone captured that exact moment, when I realized I just ran 26.2 miles! 

I didn't know I would get a medal when I finished and you better believe I wore it out on Bourbon Street that night! 

That race. The race that changed my entire existence on this earth and I didn't even know it at the time. In 11 years I have finished 19 marathons (soon to be 20!), 16 half marathons, and have run in 15 different states.

I have run on 2 Ragnar Relay teams...

And eventually trained with Team in Training again to complete a triathlon in D.C.

Through running I've raised $6,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and $600 for Team Red White and Blue. 

I had one DNF (did not finish) at a marathon in 2013...

And I started a blog and was selected as a Nuun Ambassador for 2015. I've met awesome people. Traveled to places in the USA that I would never have considered visiting before running. 

Running has changed my life. I feel good about myself when I run and when I accomplish things related to the sport. I enjoy reflecting every year on my running story. And I love adding to it.

My 50+ medals hang between 3 racks in our bedroom. I wake up and see them every morning. Each one a reminder of a race, a special story, and amazing people that I hold very dear to my heart. Pick out any medal and I can recall vivid details of that race. All because a hurricane canceled a triathlon back in 2004. 

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