My Marathon Playlist: 26.2 Trigger Songs

It’s been almost two months since my last marathon. Believe it or not, all I can think about is running another dang marathon. I’ve been considering squeezing in the El Paso Marathon in my hometown between Disney and (hopefully) Boston. And thanks to twitter, I physically can’t avoid seeing everyone’s super inspring tweets about their races each weekend. (Oh and Spirit of the Marathon II literally made me want to go for a run right after the movie). Bahhh can’t Marine Corps come any faster?!? 129 days is way to far away. I’m in full-blown marathon withdrawal – it feels sort of like…taper crazies?

So with that said, here’s my not-mid-marathon-training-but-still-marathon-related post about what I call “26.2 trigger songs.” During a late-night convo with my roomie (check out her blog if you’re a fitness junkie – it’s awesome!), I realized that I have a song or two for each of my marathons that, whenever I hear it, reminds me of the race. For some, it’s a specific moment and I can picture it clearly. I’d bet I’ll forever associate those songs with each marathon. That’s why I call ’em trigger songs. Without further ado, here’s my playlist so far!

1. Steamtown Marathon, October 2012 – “Twist and Shout”


This came on around mile 24, and, despite the crazy amount of pain I was in, I began singing along, completely and entirely having a blast. Then I turned the corner away from the music and the hurt returned. Still, it carried me through some vital moments in that first, perfect marathon.

2. Walt Disney World Marathon, January 2013 – “Gangnam Style”


I will shamelessly admit that I LOVE this song. And yes, I’ll break into the dance whenever it comes on regardless of where I am. This race happened in the midst of the Gangnam craze, and it’s all Disney played all weekend long (except they bleeped out “sexy” in the chorus, so it was more like Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy…ladyyyyyyy – it was as awkward as it sounds). I danced to it in the pre-race tent, during the race, and even managed to eek out a few moves post-marathon despite my cramping legs. Way too much fun.

3. Boston Marathon, April 2013 – “YMCA” and “Thrift Shop”


This came on around mile 10 (maybe?), and I’ll never forget seeing the sea of runners in front of me throwing their arms up in the air doing the dance while running. It’s such a classic song, and it was so fun seeing everyone do it in unison.

My brother is a boss at finding songs before they become mainstream and popular. This is one of them. He’d been playing it for me when I was home for Christmas, and I always think of him when it comes on. It played a lot between Hopkinton and Boston, and I smiled to myself every time – carried me through some tough miles! Love you (big) little bro!

4. Big Sur Marathon, April 2013 “A Thousand Years”


Played by a tuxedoed man on a baby grand piano next to the Bixby Bridge, this echoed throughout the canyon at the halfway point of Big Sur. It’s by no means a “pump up” song, but given the breathtaking setting, it felt so right at that moment. And with all that happened at Boston and what this race signified because of that tragedy, this song brings me to tears without fail. I’ve heard the original Christina Perri version on the radio a couple times since then, and it instantly reminds me of how I felt in Boston and Big Sur. It’s an elegant, poignant song that makes those emotions bubble right back to the surface. Music has a way of doing that, huh?

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I’ll update this post as I do more marathons. No doubt each will have its own trigger song.

Tell me about your trigger song moments below!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” – Pre

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What a Whirlwind of a Year

photoA couple weeks ago was my alma mater’s graduation day, and a couple weeks before that was my one-year “run-iversary” (I consider mine May 4, the day of my last collegiate race, because I couldn’t tell you what day I started running!). And somewhere in there was my official one-year anniversary at Runner’s World. Seriously, say what? It’s been a whole year?!?

The last time I spoke with my Dad, he said, “Can you believe how much you’ve experienced in just one year?”

After falling right back in sync with my college teammates like nothing had changed, like the year had been shortened to maybe a month, I genuinely can’t believe how different a runner I am today. I’m thankful to report that I’m still just as in love with the sport as I was a year ago. I’d even venture to say that that passion has grown deeper. Career-wise, to say it’s been eye-opening is an understatement.

So here’s what happened this year and a bit of what I learned along the way:

  • I helped cover two major marathons that (unexpectedly) turned into major nationwide events: At the New York City Marathon press conference, I sat beside one of my professional and running idols Amby Burfoot as NYRR CEO Mary Wittenburg announced the cancellation of one of the world’s most famous marathons. After the Boston Marathon, my post was published on runnersworld.com, and the positive feedback I received played an essential role in the healing process. Interviewing witnesses of the tragedy further helped me process all that had happened. After both events, I watched the stellar RW staff pull together two of the most powerful issues I’ll likely ever be a part of in my career. They are the very definition of professionals. I can only aspire to be even a little bit like them in the future. And in both instances, I witnessed the running community unite to support each other and complete strangers. All around, very powerful experiences.      
  • I ran FOUR marathons! I still remember the spring of last year when I registered for my first marathon. I spent the rest of the day in sheer disbelief that I’d just paid $80 to run 26.2 miles…voluntarily. Turns out, it became one of my all-time favorite experiences so far in life. 104.8 miles later, I can say I learned: that following my veteran colleagues’ advice will more than pay off, to respect the distance (feeling like crap at mile 10 sucks) but then discover that mystical “marathon magic,” that the running community is far greater and more awe-inspiring that I ever imagined, and that runners can endure far more than the 26.2 miles in front of them.
  • I started this blog! Beyond helping me grow as a writer, this digital diary has introduced me to SO many incredible runners. Having a platform to share experiences with others and compare notes on all things running has been way too much fun. (I now understand why y’all do it! =) ) I get totally engrossed reading blogs, virtually taking part in your running world. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve grown as a runner and person. I really can’t thank y’all enough for the words of support and encouragement. I hope you know that you have inspired me, too!   
  • I took up running naked (meaning sans watch, not actually naked, hah) most days and adopted what my boss calls “secondhand training.” It’s been a pretty drastic, but freeing change that’s helped me enjoy running for what it is, plain and simple. Rather that worrying over my paces or what workout is coming up on the calendar, I’ve embraced the spontaneity and learned how to love racing again. Let me put it this way: I PR’d after a day (and night’s) worth of St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans, just four hours of sleep, and arriving to the race maybe five minutes before the gun. Compare that to my college self who would hyper-worry over every pre-race meal and warmup drill. Personally, I like modern-day, let’s-just-have-fun-and-see-what-the-day-brings Megan.

And for some not-nearly-as-life-changing, but still pretty sweet highlights:

  • I ran up the Empire State Building and got my butt whooped by Kelly Ripa along the way.
  • I ran my first long-distance, over-night road relay and learned what it’s like not to shower or sleep for 30 hours straight.
  • I met the U.S. women’s marathoning trifecta: I ate Dunkin’ doughnut-holes with Shalane Flanagan, told Colt that his mommy Kara Goucher is one of my running heroes, and ran into (and probably scared the s*** out of) Desi Davila at our hotel at the Walt Disney World Marathon.
  • My current track record for throwing up after a marathon is 50/50. So there’s that.
  • I won the media heat of the 5th Avenue Mile. (It’s not as impressive at it sounds, honestly).
  • I got Nick Symmonds’ sweat on my jacket when he hugged me at the Millrose Games. He’s an incredibly nice guy, and it was very cool getting to meet him in person. (And seriously, where can I sign up to be a contestant on The Bachelor if he ends up being on the show?)
  • I lost whatever upper-body strength that I once had (and likely–hopefully?–channeled that “strength” toward those absurdly long marathon training runs).
  • I ran over the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight and through a closed-down Times Square.
  • I learned how to snot-rocket in motion.
  • I freaked out my 10-year-old self when I met “Figure it Out” (from Nickelodeon, remember that 90s kids?) host Summer Sanders and was meters away N’SYNC member Joey Fatone.
  • I’ve held an Olympic gold medal. Literally made my heart race.
  • I can now run or race at all hours of the day or night, thanks to Disney’s 5:30 a.m. race starts and the midnight relay legs.
  • I’ve done a lunch run in a tutu and did a (totally legit) stair-climb race at RW HQ.
  • I began blogging for–and therefore became friends with–Lauren Fleshman. Love this girl and everything she represents. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’ve almost gotten over being star-struck around elites. This past year, I’ve met or been in the presence of: Bernard Lagat, Meb Keflezighi, Evan Jager, Kim Smith, Alysia Montaño, Hannah England, Anna Pierce, Matt Centrowitz, Leo Manzano, Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, Jenny Simpson, Brenda Martinez, Mary Cain, Jordan Hasay, Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, Derrick Adkins, Dean Karnazes, (…and I’m sure a few more) and the legends Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Katherine Switzer. Crazy.

Since it was such a whirlwind of a first year in the “real world,” I wanted to take the time to collect all that happened in one place so future me can go back and remember it. Looking back on this year, all I can say is that I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities my work has given me and the people who I work with who have made me a better, happier runner. It’s opened my eyes to how truly unique the running community is, and I’m reminded every day of how lucky I am to be a part of it. Runners are a different, but brilliant breed. This year–maybe more than any in at least my life time–this fact was all the more apparent. And I got a front-row seat. What a whirlwind.

Here’s to another incredible year!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Keep your head up, keep your heart strong.” – Shalane Flanagan

Rediscovering Steve PREfontaine

photo-1Recently I’ve been inundated with all things Steve Prefontaine. It all started with this seriously epic Pre stop sign that our art director created for a feature in the April 2013 issue of RW (pick up a copy and read it because it’s really, really good). My coworker then interofficed me his copy of Pre with instructions to finish it before the Boston Marathon. After getting over a (teeny tiny) obsession with the TV show Friday Night Lights, I dove right in.

The book satisfied every fiber of my inner #runnerd. It covered details from his entire career, clarifying the scope of his impressive and inspirational dominance in the sport. Because I was born nearly 20 years after his death, Pre has always been quite literally the stuff of legends. Like any other runner, I know his most famous quotes by heart. And yes, I was one of those geeks that had a poster of him in my dorm room at college. (Click here to see proof. It’s above the TV.) He’s one of the most enduring running idols ever, but I never really knew why.

I learned A LOT about Pre from reading the book. But what struck me was how genuinely normal he was. Here are my three passages that struck me the most:

  • “Before any race, Pre would always say how he didn’t feel good and didn’t want to run,” teammate Steve Bence recollects. “No matter where the race was or how important it was, he was saying, ‘Aw, I wish I wasn’t running; I don’t think I’m going to run well…’ Then he’d go out and run like heck.” The self-doubt that plagues most runners–even Steve Prefontaine–quickly disappeared after the challenge had been met and conquered. – Even Pre, who won 78 percent of his outdoor track races, got pre-race anxiety. That’s something to remember when I’m freaking out before a race.
  • …it hadn’t been all that long since the time Prefontaine was out on an easy-day road run with the then-freshmen Terry Williams, Dave Taylor, and several others. It was supposed to be a relaxed 10-miler, but one runner took off and disappeared, which nettled Pre to no small degree. So near the end of the run, when Taylor and Williams started to pick it up, it was too much for Pre. He caught up with the two of them, grabbed each by the shoulder and started screaming that there was no way they would ever make it, that they were both going to burn out so fast. – He might’ve gotten up every morning at 6 a.m. for a run (often his first of two for the day), but he knew how to train in moderation. Take your easy days easy, and leave the hard efforts for workout days.    
  • Training was not always all that much fun, as Pre himself admitted. “It really gets grim until the competition begins,” he once said. “You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to the self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Like Pre, figure out why you love to run, write it down or post it where you can see it often, and remind yourself of those reasons when you’re struggling to pull yourself out of bed for a run or hurting in the middle of a workout.
photo

Thanks Bart Yasso for introducing me!

What capped off the book were the parts about Pre’s relationship with Frank Shorter. [Fair warning: This will likely sound very silly/obvious/cliche/dumb, but I get pretty intrigued by weird connections like this.] I met Frank and Bill Rodgers at the Falmouth Road Race last year and watched them speak on a panel. I also ran into both of them at the hotel at the Walt Disney World Marathon. But I didn’t realize then was that Frank was Pre’s close friend and training partner. He was also the last person to see Pre alive. (Pre dropped him off right before the accident). When I finished the book, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that I’d met (and spoken to, and shaken hands with) someone who knew Pre. [Cue the obvious!] Pre was very much a real person. That’s what I call crazy bonkers.

Immersing myself in the seven-time American record holder’s life added color to my previously hazy perception of Pre. I now appreciate his words that have been plastered on runners’ walls for years; they no longer seem cliche, which makes them all the more inspirational and moving.

If you’re in need of a little motivation, I’d highly recommend geeking out a bit with Pre. It’s worth it. (And yep, I’ll be watching Without Limits this weekend, and I’d bet money that I’ll be in tears at the end!)

P.S. Here’s the opening spread of the Runner’s World article. Pretty sweet, huh?

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QUOTE OF THE POST: “Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” – Pre

Sisters in Sport | On the Starting Line!

Nearly nine months ago, the running rut that had been dangerously brewing during the final few months of my collegiate career had reached its boiling point. Over ten years of competitive running had taken its toll on me mentally and physically, so I was eager for the fresh start and squeaky clean slate that graduation would bring. I knew I hadn’t fallen out of love with the sport, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to shake off the negative mojo and redefine who I am as a runner.

Come summer, I dove head-first into the uncharted territory of running just for me. I hit the refresh button by shedding structure and embracing spontaneity with my training and tried my hand at a new racing distance…the marathon. Though the build-up was far from perfect, the race itself was absolute perfection. Talk about a tidal wave’s worth of positive energy!

I’ve been riding that wave since that day last October. In (lucky!) 2013, I want to take full advantage of this empowering feeling and run with it!

photo 1-1Enter… the Sisters In Sport bloggers and the Believe I Am training journal, both created by Lauren Fleshman and Ro McGettigan.

One inspiring and compelling discovery I’ve made post-college is the online running community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been drawn in by a runner’s post or motivated to hit the road myself because of Sunday morning’s inevitable stream of long run-related tweets. I started this blog as a means to join in on the conversation, and you can imagine my surprise (and excitement!) when I was asked to be part of a group of female bloggers dubbed the Sisters in Sport. (Check out the link above to find out what these lovely ladies are all about!) Using Lo and Ro’s Believe I Am training journal as a guide, I want to home in on what truly makes me a happy, healthy runner, and my hope is that some part of my journey will resonate with you, too!

photo 2-1Because this is my inaugural #SistersInSport/@BelieveIAm post, I want to share with you my goals for this year:

  • Keep up this streak of positivity: Whether it be a good or bad run or race, find something that went well and focus on that! (Exhibit A: The super-slow, but incredibly enlightening Walt Disney World Marathon.) 
  • Reintroduce some structure to my training: I want to find a way to love doing workouts again because I flat-out need to get faster. The key? Sticking to a schedule that’ll help me get there. Since college, I’ve rejected any sort of pre-determined plan, so I know I’ll need to up my commitment level and make sure I get in some proper training. (Creating a training plan for April’s Boston Marathon is actually my January goal of the month!)
  • Get fitter from head to toe: That means lots of core (I seriously need to improve my pitiful plank PR), lifting sessions and yoga. I plan to keep track of how often I hit the gym/studio each month to I make sure I actually do it.
  • Break into the 3:1X’s in the marathon: I don’t care if this happens at Boston or Marine Corps this year, but I would be SO stoked to be able to run an entire marathon around 7:30 pace. I know and believe I can do it!
  • Eat healthier in general: This translates into actually cooking more often. I won’t lie, my workplace’s super duper organic environment is starting to rub off on me!    

Between actually writing down these goals down in my journal and having y’all keep me accountable via this blog (the game plan is to write a post per month that’ll recap the previous month and discuss my goals for the upcoming month), I have a feeling I’ll be able to tackle most (if not all) of these goals. I know it won’t be easy, but that’s what keeps things interesting, right? =) Now, let’s get this year-long race underway!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting.” – Doris Brown Heritage

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If you’re interested, here are the other super-sweet Sister in Sport bloggers! Check ’em out:

Sarah
Laura
Larissa
Jessica
Jen
Laura
Jocelyn
Jennifer
Nicole
Morgan
Mollie
Jennifer
Sarah
Meggie
Bethany
Lisa
Dorothy
Kaitlin
Jane
Shannyn

Read my other Sisters in Sport posts here

(My First) Friday Faves | This Might’ve Been A Rest Week, But…

…it was still full of running awesomeness.

  • It still makes me giddy thinking about how amazing last weekend at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend was, and I loved reliving every magical moment as I read everyone’s race reports: Cait’s clever-as-ever account captured the RW staff’s experience to a T, Robert’s Mickey Mouse wizard hat-wearing Goofy Challenge recap, Hannah’s post about her epically HUGE PR, Meghan’s enchanting entrance into the double-digits (she’s run TEN marathons!), and the @TwinsRun blog about their first (and hopefully not last) RW Challenge race.    
  • Speaking of Meghan, veteran and especially newbie marathoners alike NEED to read her post about all that she’s learned from each of her 10 marathons. Who knew we had a very similar start in the world of marathoning!?!
  • Bart Yasso, the Mayor of Running, shared my Goofy Challenge race report on his twitter and Facebook page, spurring tons of inspiring conversations with fellow Goofy finishers!
  • Runner’s World new Facebook photo album celebrating race bling.
  • Lauren Fleshman’s ballsy but powerful letter to Lance Armstrong so eloquently voiced the feelings of elite athletes angry with the cheating cyclist. An excerpt: “I do not wish for you to go to hell, or live a miserable life…I simply want you, along with all the other cheaters, to find a new profession so that mine continues to mean something.”   
  • Applying for media credentials with Hannah for the Millrose Games at the Armory in NYC on February 16. The field is absolutely stacked, and we’re excited to see some speedy elites (*ahem* Nick Symmonds) compete up close!
  • Heading over to Lehigh to watch my old track team compete. Boy do I miss my girls, but I’m so glad that I live close enough that I can come watch them race often! We’re hoping to meet up for some Sunday long runs soon, and I might dig out my spikes and test out the shiny new track in a couple weeks!

    photo

    Look how pretty the brown and gold mondo surface is!

QUOTE OF THE POST: Finishing isn’t given; it is earned.

Read my other Friday Faves posts here

Race Report | Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

goofyback

The back of my Goofy Challenge medal.

1 Marathon

1 Half-Marathon

2 Days, 4 Theme Parks

39.3 Miles

Can’t really believe that I completed that this past weekend at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend as a Goofy Challenger. What that medal doesn’t include is: two back-to-back 2:15 a.m. wake-up calls, three days of standing at the Runner’s World Challenge booth checking in runners, a late night of bowling with RW coworkers (bowling + runners’ glaring lack of coordination = many, many hysterical gutter balls!), and one epic afternoon appeasing my inner eight-year-old riding Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom. Busy, busy, busy!

desi

The RW ladies and Desi Davila. See, I told you she’s so small! I’m a giant compared to her! Ha!

We also stayed at the Yacht Club Resort a.k.a. runner nerd heaven. The place was literally jam-packed with running elites and legends. While I was checking in, 2012 U.S. Olympic marathoner Desi Davila was waiting behind me (!) and yes, I had a small heart attack. What’s new? I saw her again the next day leaving an elevator, and I completely geeked-out at her with word-vomiting excitement. You’d think that I’d be better at handling these brushes with fame, but man, I’m pretty sure I scared her a little. Ooops, sorry Desi! (Thankfully, I ran into her again later that day, and I got the chance to redeem myself and prove that I’m not actually a crazy person.) I have to say, she’s an absolutely awesome (and tiny!) person, and it was incredible getting to hear about her comeback post-Olympic injury. She’s going to dominate once she’s healthy again, I’m sure of it! (Side note: I’ve now officially met the U.S. Olympic Marathon team trio: Desi Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Kara Goucher. Ahh! I can tell you that they are all such amazing and inspiring women, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities to get to meet them!) I also ran into and spoke with Bill Rodgers for a bit, and I spotted Frank Shorter, too. All in all, it was pretty surreal sharing a roof with these people.

Now, on to the races:

Above all else, the goal for the weekend was have fun and embrace the experience. I wanted to earn all three medals, and it didn’t matter how fast I did it. If I had to give you a time goal, it would be to break two hours in the half and four hours in the full, but that was by no means a serious goal. I’m just a very Type A kind of person, and deep down, I have no ability to just run. I need to work on that – not every race needs to be run for time! Anywho…

The Half-Marathon:

[Pump-up song of the day: “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” from Mulan]

pre-race

The guys wore those hats for the ENTIRE half-marathon.

Despite absolutely dreading waking up at the butt-crack of earliness, thank God I’m the type of person where once I’m up, I’m up. Cait and I (she was doing the Goofy, too) snapped a pre-Goofy photo (left – with coworkers Robert and Jeff), and then we and the other RW Challengers loaded the bus to the start at 3 a.m. I was quickly designated the group’s cheerleader. I blasted Disney songs (and sang along with them!), while I attempted to make my energy infectious and pump everyone up for the race. Heck, we were at Disney World about to run an incredible race, how could you not be ridiculously stoked!?!

Prerace

Cait, Hannah and I trying to look tough before the half-marathon. This was at 4 a.m.

Once we got to the corral, I was flat out giddy with excitement. We got to start within feet of the actual line, and we were spitting distance away from NSYNC’s Joey Fatone and Drew Carey! How cool is that?!? Had I told my 12-year-old self that I’d be this close to a member of NSYNC, I wouldn’t have believed it! Then Mickey Mouse gave us the countdown, a burst of fireworks lit up the sky, and we were off! I ran most of the race with my coworkers Cait and Hannah (who ran a HUGE PR!). (right) Cait and I decided to take it easy and conserve our energy for Sunday’s marathon, running around 8:30 – 8:50 pace the whole way. We made our way toward the Magic Kingdom, passing by loads of costumed characters (my favorite was the Pirates of the Caribbean ship that played music from the movie). Then we turned onto Main Street, and holy wow was it awe-inspiring. The road was packed with screaming spectators as we ran up to Cinderella’s stunning castle. That moment alone made the lonely highways to and from the castle worth it. Hands down. We pushed it to the finish (after nearly running over a crossing armadillo – seriously!), and just like that, we were a third of the way done with the Goofy Challenge. We ran it in 1:54:13. To quote The Big Bang Theory – Bazinga!

The only glitch in the road was that my achilles and heels were totally feeling the last three days of standing. I iced them that afternoon to get ’em ready for day two!

The Marathon:

[Pump-up song of the day: “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King]

I’ll be honest here – when my alarm went off at 2:15 a.m. again on Sunday morning, the immediate realization that I had to run a marathon (a whole 26.2 miles!) in a couple hours was horrifying. What the heck was I thinking getting myself into this? I turned up the Disney music to shake that feeling away because I’d promised my RW Challengers that I’d be as upbeat and happy on Sunday as I was on Saturday. Oh I just can’t waaaaait….to be kinggggg!

Then come race time, talk about déjà vu. The first eight-ish miles of the race were exactly the same as the half-marathon course, and it was somewhat eery covering the same ground at the same time two mornings in a row. Again, the Magic Kingdom’s stunning views took my breath away, and then… it all came crumbling down…

Around mile 10 (yeah, just 10! 16.2 miles left!), everything below my knees began to ache. My shins, my ankles, my achilles, the bottom of my feet, everything. SO not fun. (My coworkers and I later agreed that this pain might have been caused by the course’s pancake-flatness and subsequently repetitive stride pattern.) It was pretty unsettling to feel that yucky that early in the race, and I wondered, How did I feel so good for the first 18 miles of Steamtown? This was already shaping up to be a very different experience from my first marathon.

As I made my way through the course (it was mostly on highways, punctuated by jaunts through the Magic Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot, all of which were pretty neat to run through), my thoughts shifted toward tweaking my stride to make my legs hurt as little as possible. I also tried so hard to just keep running because I really didn’t want to walk. Let’s just say those middle miles were consumed with thoughts like Why the heck am I doing this? This sucks. Please get me to the next park so I can distract myself. Stop hurting legs! Think positively. There is still soooo much left to go. Can I be done, please? Pretty please? With a cherry on top? Don’t walk, just keep running. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Hey look, there’s Buzz Lightyear! Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Once I reached the Wide World of Sports Complex, I decided I’d walk the water stops from then on. Looking back, I think this was the best decision I could have made, and it was definitely a turning point in my race – not only did it give my legs a break, but the idea of rewarding myself with a walk break and water kept me motivated and moving between stations. I learned that walking is definitely NOT a bad thing in marathons.

finishline

Could not have been happier to finish!

I realized – to my utter relief – that the end was near when I got to Hollywood Studios around mile 23. The crowd support was through the roof, and even though I was still in an epic amount of pain, I started to sense a bit of that “marathon magic.” Pretty fitting that I truly felt that at “the most magical place on Earth,” right? I was overcome with joy at the realization that I and everyone around me were going to finish this thing. I’d compare this feeling to the “runner’s high” – it’s elusive, but it’ll show up just when you need it to! Ahhh it was totally awesome. With renewed energy, I shifted gears and tried to finish as strong as I could. I crossed the line in 3:55:28, and then Bart Yasso snapped this photo of me (right). Despite having a mostly awful race, I don’t think I could’ve been more genuinely happy.

Now that it’s over, I wouldn’t consider this race a bad race at all. First and foremost, I learned to respect the distance. Marathons are not easy. Period. I needed to experience this, and was glad I did. I also learned that you can feel that “marathon magic” even in crappy races, that pace and finishing times are not always the most important thing, and that finishing alone is a huge accomplishment. Lessons (thankfully) learned. Side note #2: How cool is this bling?!? (I spent the rest of the day with these clanging around my neck!)

medals

The bling – well worth the 39.3-mile effort.

kilt

Now that’s MY kind of racing skirt!

Post-race, I got to celebrate with some of the most incredible runners ever: the Runner’s World Challengers! I mingled with the @TwinsRun twins, Malinda and Leah, who are so passionate about running and Disney it’s contagious. They even raced both days in super-cute costumes! Their outfits rivaled one Challenger’s kilt! (left) I also witnessed a mother and her daughter complete their first marathon together, which was beyond neat as well.

Robert

This guy was responsible for many happy tears from me after the race!

But what managed to bring me to tears was Robert’s race. Robert (right) battled throat cancer last year and came back to break four hours and QUALIFY FOR BOSTON! He was visibly euphoric, and I can tell you that that moment will stick with me forever. We had waited together in the corral before the race, and I can say that words really don’t do justice to describe how kind and wonderful and inspiring this man is. He told us how after treatments last year, he literally started from square one (think only being able to run the length of one side of a block), and then worked his way toward this goal of a Boston qualification. Stories like his remind me of why running is just plain awesome.

Overall, the weekend was an exhausting but exhilarating experience, and I’m pumped to say that marathon numero dos is in the books! Now, time for some rest and then let the Boston training commence!

bib

My bib with our staff trip hashtag #RWGoofTroop. Awesome.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “There are times when you run a marathon and you wonder, Why am I doing this? But you take a drink of water, and around the next bend, you get your wind back, remember the finish line, and keep going.” – Steve Jobs

Disney runners: What was your favorite part of the race?

Read my other Race Reports here

Committing to the #RWRunStreak – Here Goes Nothing!

As a part of “Operation: Get My Butt In Gear”/start training for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January (I might not be “racing” it per se, but I need to at least get through the darn thing), I’ve decided to commit to the #RWRunStreak. This means I have to run at least one mile every single day until January 1. I think my longest “streak” capped off at around 10 days, so running for 35 days straight sounds downright crazy. I’ve considered trying a streak before, but I cherish my off days for the mental and physical downtime too much (and I like getting to stay clean all day!). I like my off days so much so that I got into the habit of taking a few too many of them post Steamtown. The race sucked the life out of me more than I anticipated–I felt like I was out of shape for an entire month–and although I needed the rest, I got into a slump. If I’m ever in a bad running mood, it’s when I’m out of shape. Not fun. After running once (once! gah!) while I was at home for Thanksgiving, I realized I needed a serious kick in the butt.

Enter… the #RWRunStreak. I hope that by making my commitment public via this blog and Twitter, I’m going to stick to it! (I even wrote it in pen in my training log–I just started my fourth consecutive book!–and I can’t back out on that!) I’m also going to start strengthening my core so that come Boston, I’ll be primed for a PR. I’ll be updating this post throughout the streak every week or so with my progress, so check back often!

Update on December 2 (Day 7): Before I say anything else…it’s absolutely amazing what a little kick in the butt can do! I was able to string together seven incredible runs – between a stunning eight-mile trail trek up a (small) mountain and an epic solo 15-miler today, I feel like I can really say I’m out of my slump. =) Let me put it this way, my 15-miler felt easier than my six-mile run I did over Thanksgiving break. Seriously. I ran a couple loops on my old Lehigh XC “stomping grounds,” which was refreshing in and of itself, AND I hit a few 7:30s-7:40s mid-run. Mental note for next time I’m in a rut – get back on my favorite roads, blast some music, and go. Shaking things up is a good thing every once in a while!

photoUpdate on December 10 (Day 15): Whoa – I can’t believe it’s been FIFTEEN days so far! I think that’s my all-time longest run streak! (Talk about Monday Motivation!) The highlight of this week of streaking was running in NYC all weekend. I ran in the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog with a few Lehigh cross country alums. And yes, we ran with bells on our shoes – it was definitely a neat way to get in the Christmas spirit! I also completed my first real run in Central Park on Sunday, logging about 13 miles total. I ran one big, six-mile loop and a couple laps around the reservoir. I ran alone and without music, and I loved it. I spent half the time chasing down other runners, which turned my run into a mini fartlek, and I enjoyed pretending I was a New Yorker for the morning as I wove through the park with hundreds of other runners. Yeah, I seriously need to do that again sometime.

Update on December 16 (Day 21): Yesterday I ran 20 miles (20 miles on Day 20! – heck yes!) on my own, just me, my music, and the roads. After doing all but one long run with coworkers in my training build-up for Steamtown, it’s been an eye-opening experience knocking out those runs solo in my abbreviated build-up for Disney next month. I tweeted post-run about how I realized that the hardest part about getting out for those runs (especially alone) really is the hardest part. Once I got into my rhythm a few miles in, I was golden, especially when “Sail” came on! =) For newbie marathoners, I would definitely recommend finding a buddy to get you through those long runs. But I have to admit that once I finished that run yesterday, I’ve never felt stronger or more confident in myself and my running. There is something truly empowering about voluntarily going out for a nearly three-hour run. Try it–it’s worth it.

Today I rewarded myself with an easy, one-mile recovery run, some core, and this post-run yoga session from my girl OmGal:

Keepin’ the #RWRunStreak alive! Over halfway to the finish line!

** Final update on December 26: So…due to a holiday travel debacle that left me suitcase-less (and running gear-less) in Chicago for a full day, my #RWRunStreak came to an unexpected conclusion on December 22. =( I made it a full 26 days–which is ages longer than my longest streak on record–so to be honest, I’m thrilled! The streak got me back on track for Disney (which is just a couple weeks away now!) and I strung together a few surprisingly solid long runs that left me confident in my fitness level. Even though I’m a bit bummed I didn’t make it all the way to January 1, all in all it served its purpose. I took four days off (learn why “none” miles every once in a while can be a good thing here) and had my first run at home today. It wasn’t pretty–the higher elevation kicks my butt–BUT I got to break in my shiny new pink Garmin Forerunner 10, which is freakin’ awesome! It  works exactly how I hoped it would – it’s super easy to navigate, and it tells me only what I want to know (i.e. pace, time, and distance) sans bells and whistles. I have a feeling we’re going to log many, many happy miles together!

Anywho, kudos to those streakers still streakin’! It’s certainly not easy yanking on those kicks when it’s dark, drizzly, and cold outside. But fighting past those moments of weakness to come out on the other side mentally and physically stronger is worth the extra loads of laundry (I almost broke my washer mid-streak!) and lost sleep. Committing to the streak was one of the best decisions I’ve made all year, and I think it’s a training tool I’ll pull out of my back pocket the next time I need a shot of motivation. I’ll close this post with a motivational poster that I thought complimented the streak that read, “Summer body earned in winter.” True that.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” – Unknown