My alarm went off at 4:25am Saturday morning with Willow Smith exclaiming she whips her hair back and forth. It is kind of the best song to wake up to on race morning because, while it can be startling, it’s upbeat tempo and catchiness makes you want to get moving and dance right there in bed. I would like to be able to say that I went to bed early the night before and had a great night sleep, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I attempted to finally fall asleep around 2:00am, but when Willow woke me up I opened my eyes and wondered to myself if I had been sleeping or if I had just been laying there with my eyes closed. I wasn’t sure.
I had everything laid out from the night before, so getting ready was easy. I made sure that I was well prepared because most of my anxiety was centered around being late or not making it to the start in time and with everything that I needed. I popped two pieces of bread in the toaster, made cinnamon toast, and pretty soon my ride was there to pick my girlfriend and me up!
One of the neatest things about the whole day was the fact that eight of my friends were running in the marathon relay (they had two teams of four), so they were all there with me at some point in the day, if not the entire day! We all met up, loaded up the cars, and carpooled out to the start of the race.
We made it there in plenty of time, so I had about thirty minutes for all my nervousness of being late to convert to nervousness that I was actually going to run an entire marathon. Now I just wanted to race to start…I was ready to run!
Because the it is late August in the midwest and the temperature was expected to get up to the mid to high eighties, each runner had to carry some sort of hydration with them for the entirety of the race. At first I thought this was going to be such a burden because I have never run carrying anything (or wearing some sort of hydration pack), but they gave out free NorthFace water bottles with a hand strap. It was kind of the coolest thing ever. I grabbed my water bottle (which was dark gray, black, and PINK…how meant to be since it matched my race outfit and nail polish?!), and soon enough Dean Karnazes was giving his motivational speech to send the runners off!
Right out of the gate, after only a few tenths of a mile, the hills started. They were only small rolling hills, so I told myself not to get scared. I practiced running all the hills of my little town so I was ready to conquer these rolling hills. Hills are my friend! (If you say that over and over it will come true, right?!) Also during the first few tenths of a mile a nice (very muscular) man commented on my headband and continued to tell me and another runner about a marathon in a different state that the last mile is sponsored my Mary Kay and they hand out red lipstick to all the runners. He said all the lady runners have beautiful finishing photos with perfect red lips. It sounded quite intriguing!
Little did I know I was talking to Dean Karnazes…the Dean Karnazes who was named one of the hundred most influential people in the world…the Dean Karnazes who ran fifty marathons in fifty states in fifty days. A.MAZ.ING.
Everyone told me not to go out too fast, and amazingly I followed that advice. I finished my first mile at nine minutes and fifty-two seconds. The hills were still trying to scare me a little bit, but the first few miles were flying by. After the first mile, I averaged between a 9:13 and 9:30 minute mile which I thought was great, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to maintain. At mile five I took my first delicious mocha Clif Shot, and between mile six and seven I passed the first relay transition and was cheered on by two of my friends!
I was seriously feeling great! A little bit after the transition area I fell into pace with another runner…an older man from Mississippi who was training for an ultramarathon. He had just got back from Australia where he had ran a marathon and was going to be running a marathon for the next three weekends in a row. He talked to me for quite some time and really helped the time fly by. Before I knew it, I realized I was running just under nine minute miles with him by my side! I am so sad that I never got his name, but I did find his picture in the race photos…
If you ever see this, 26.2 tattoo man, thank you for helping me so much in the beginning. Good luck with the rest of your races!
While running with him, we rounded a corner, and all of the sudden I hear this loud, high-pitched shrieking. “It’s her! THAT’S HER! AAAHHH! OH MY GOSH! THAT’S HER!” I turned my head to see what that familiar voice was and I saw my little sister jumping up and down yelling for me and cheering me on! It was seriously the best feeling in the world at that point, and I don’t think I stopped smiling for a few more miles. She drove along and cheered me on two more times before she had to go to work. Thank you sis.
Soon after I spotted my sister, I saw a pretty, hot pink sign up ahead. This time it was my mom and her hubby! As I waved and passed by them I saw tears in my moms eyes as she asked me if I was feeling okay. I told her I felt great, beamed, and continued on. Again…I probably wore a silly smile for the next few miles!
Now, do you remember those “rolling hills” I mentioned early on? Well, I failed to mention that they started getting bigger and bigger…around mile five or so. Pretty much the entire course was full of crazy, insane, mean, nasty hills (and that is putting it nicely). I lost my 26.2 tattoo guy on one of these hills, but I was still feeling great so I continued on at a pace that felt comfortable. I was definitely afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my pace, but I just thought as long as I felt good I would just keep going!
The whole course was very beautiful. In the beginning we ran through to Country Club Plaza in Kansas City and through some beautiful neighborhoods. Part of the time we were running through the tall buildings of downtown and by Crown Center. Around mile ten I passed a water station that was supplied with Gu, so I took one and continued on a cute, little bridge that ran up to the Missouri River. The river looked beautiful from the bridge, but as I looked ahead I noticed that the bridge did not go over the river. It just seemed to stop. That’s strange, I thought, how does this bridge go down then?
That’s right, stairs going down right smack in the middle of a marathon. Just what my legs needed, right?! Actually, it did feel somewhat nice going down…however, there were a few steps up again a few feet later. Interesting.
It was worth it though, because running along the Missouri River for quite some time was very beautiful, peaceful, and calming.
From studying the course elevations before race day, I knew that there would be a steady uphill from mile twelve through fifteen. So far I hadn’t noticed any uphill…in fact, as I was running alongside the river it felt like the most level, un-hilly part of the course so far.
Pretty soon I passed the second marathon relay transition area at the halfway point and saw two more of my girlfriends waiting for their leg of the race and cheering me on! I truly felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have so much support!
I could feel more of the steady uphill now and my pace had fallen slightly, but I still felt amazing and like nothing could stop me. Around mile fifteen I saw my little worried mom and her hubby again with their “Go Angela!” sign in hand. I had told my mom before the race that I was scared of this particular portion of the course because of the elevation, and it was huge to see her waiting there for me near the top. I smiled and tried to reassure her that I was doing just fine!
Miles fifteen through nineteen went through a very shady (thank goodness) and tree-filled place. There was also a pretty little waterfall that sprayed a little mist at me! The truth is I had no idea where I was, and there were a few times I felt alone and a little bit afraid. I didn’t see anyone ahead of me and the road was so curvy that I didn’t notice anyone behind me either. The road was sprayed painted with arrows every so often and at every turn, but I was afraid I would miss one and get lost! I remember praying to God one time just to keep showing me the arrows!
I remember being so excited when I knew my mileage was in single digits to the finish. Nine miles? Nine miles is easy! I took another mediocrely delicious mocha Clif Shot, and I finally felt for the first time I was certain I would be able to finish the race. I definitely didn’t expect to feel this wonderful this far into it! There was no way that I would let anything come between me and the finish line now that I’d made it so far! I kept telling myself just keep going.
I emerged from the woodsy area around mile eighteen or nineteen still feeling ridiculously okay. At one point I had convinced myself that my hot pink nail polish had special super powers that gave me energy. It might have been true. The shade was becoming less and less as the sun was getting higher, and at one point there was a voice behind me encouraged me to head toward the side of the road that provided a little bit of shade. I turned my head to see the 4:15 pacer trying to help me out by giving me tips. He caught up to me and tried to give me some motivation. He said he’d be maintaining a 9.30 pace and that I could try to stay with him if I wanted to. He provided little tidbits of advice: relax your arms, take it easy up the hills, we’ll make in up on the downhills, loosen up your legs. He offered his extra Gu to me and ultimately he kept me from slowing way down once I was beginning to reach my limit. Again, I wish I had known his name and told him thank you again because he helped me so much for those few miles around twenty…
Thank you so much 4:15 pacer man!
Right before the water station at mile twenty my hope was again reignited when I saw the most handsome six foot eight inches topped with sweet curly hair standing at the top of a hill! The hubby’s proud smiling face put another goofy smile on my own face. He came prepared with more mocha gu (which I dreaded the thought of consuming at that point) and some raspberry Clif Bites. I was so grateful to chew on the little gummies instead of forcing down anymore weird gooey stuff! I was so happy that he was there, and that moment became even more magnificent as I passed through the third and last relay transition area, saw two more of my girlfriends cheering me on, then turned the corner to see my mom and her hubby one last time before the finish!
Did I mention that I am the luckiest girl in the world to have had so much support?!
I remained with my 4:15 pacer man for about another mile, but as awesome as I was feeling, I was beginning to feel the fatigue set in. He assured me that he was running with a four to five minute cushion, but pretty soon I couldn’t keep up a 9.30 pace anymore. I just kept reminding myself how close I was to the finish and to just keep going. I would be happy with simply finishing…I never expected to finish in 4:15 anyway! I was still feeling on top of the world!
Then mile twenty-three happened.
Remember those hills? Let me prove it to you!
Mile twenty-three was sometime 3:30 and 3:50. Do you see those elevation lines that go straight up? I mean straight up!
As I was already feeling quite a bit tired, I faced the biggest hill of the entire course…and it was big…never ending…ginormous…horrendous…and it was about three quarters of a mile…straight up! As I approached it I told myself out loud, “Angela, you can do this. Just keep going. You can do this. You can do this.”
The hill curved around and then I saw another Heaven sent gift standing with bad knees and a hawaiian shirt. It was the first time I had seen my dad on the course and he started running with my as soon as I reached him (for his knees’ sake it was a good thing that hill completely slaughtered my pace). I honestly don’t know that I could have made it up that hill without stopping to walk without him by my side.
I was finally to the point where I just wanted to finish. I was completely proud of myself and completely ready for the marathon to be over. I kept counting down in my head…thirty more minutes, you can do it…twenty more minutes, you can do it!
My sweet hubs was there every mile to the finish. He would refill my water bottle and tell me how much further I had to go. He was amazing there helping me get to the finish. He was carrying my phone for me, and I found out later that he did this…
Seriously. Can I get any luckier?
There were so many lovely police officers and volunteers along the entire course directing and stopping traffic to help all the runners. Near the end there was a lady cop who told me I was near the finish. She also said, “Your sister is going to be so proud!” She had seen my sister at the beginning of the race cheering for me, and that pushed me even more to just get to that finish!
Ten more minutes…seven more minutes…five more minutes…four more minutes…
I finally saw the street to turn on to get to the finish line and I was filled with so much excitement. I started to choke up but immediately made myself stop because I couldn’t breathe and I still had a few tenths to go. I saw my dad and he ran with me right up until the finish chute.
I finally left the knot in my throat take over and started crying as heard my mom and dad and Matt and girlfriends’ voices as I crossed the finish line after four hours, fourteen minutes, and thirty-one seconds.
I have never felt more proud of myself in my entire life. You really can do anything you set your mind to.
The icing on the cake? I finished 4th out of 13 in my age group, 8th out of 33 women, and 34th out of 92 marathon runners.
The giant pink frosting flowers on the cake? I had so many people who love me that supported me in so many ways throughout this entire process and through the entire race. I couldn’t have done it…any of it…without all this love in my life.
Thank you to everyone.