Well. I did it. I’m a marathoner.
I have a Runner of Steel Pittsburgh Marathon medal to prove it. And some sore legs.
On Thursday I got to meet the other #RunHomePGH Bloggers, the Panera bloggers, and some elite runners—including the woman who would go on to win the marathon, Clara Mae Santucci. (She’s so super nice, you guys.) It was a great event at Tender Bar & Restaurant, which you should totally check out some time. Good food (even tasty vegan options, yo!).
It was opening day of Little League on Saturday morning, so we stayed at home and watched our boys play baseball until 12:30pm. Then we drove two hours to drop the dog at The Farm and headed into the city. We waited in a small bit of traffic for the garage at the Convention Center but otherwise had no problems.
The expo was great. I always hate coming into the expo later on Saturday because things are often picked over, but I got what I came for: a 26.2 sticker with a bonus “Run Ohio” sticker and a “Yinz Run Like Jagoffs” t-shirt from Fresh Factory.
We then checked into our hotel of choice, the Omni William Penn. We received excellent service, as always. We then went to the Tap Room for dinner. They offered a marathon special carb-loading dinner. I chose the whole wheat pasta with a buttery sauce, spinach, and portabella mushrooms. It came with a salad and grilled bread, and it was so delicious.
A few bites into it. Just the right amount. Carb-loading doesn’t mean carb-stuffing-until-you-can’t-move. Also: The pickles were from my husband’s meal. He doesn’t eat them, so I always get to!
Then we went back to our room where my husband made signs, I tried on my new shirt…
…and I had Zzzquil at 8:30, took a hot shower, and was asleep before 9:30.
I woke up at 4:45 to stretch a bit and get moving. Our complimentary coffee (we’re Select Guest members) was delivered at 5:00 with bananas! I ate a bagel (that I brought from home) and a banana while drinking my one cup of coffee. I drank some more water while I got dressed. Then we were off to walk to the VIP area to drop off my stuff and wait in a warm, dry area until it was time to get to our corral. I found Missie, The Wheezy Runner, who was one of the Panera bloggers for the Marathon. We were in the same corral so we decided to stick together.
Me and Missie, pre-run, and me with my Husband. The VIP waiting area was very warm, very awesome.
Getting to the corral was a test in patience as so many streets and areas were blocked off. I understand this is a trickle down effect from what happened in 2013, but it makes it a bit nerve-wracking when you can see your corral but cannot get to it and time is ticking down. Of note, there was no “shutting” of the corrals as originally stated as not everyone could even FIT in the areas they had marked off for the corrals. So the panic was really for nothing.
It started to sprinkle as we waited. I cried (this will become a theme) during the National Anthem and as we moved toward the start.
And then we were off!
Mile 1: It became evident I was going to have to stop to use a porta-potty pretty early in. I’m kind of upset about this, and you’ll see why shortly. I wish I had hit one of the last porta-potties prior to the corrals after we used the one inside the VIP waiting area, but the lines were insane prior to the start. I’d had a nightmare that I used a porta-potty at the last minute and when I came out, everyone was gone. I just wanted to get to the corral. Also, it rained lightly during this mile. I didn’t mind because Natasha Bedingfield reminded me to “feel the rain on my skin.” And so I did. I smiled big.
Mile 2: We stopped at 1.7 to wait in the porta-potty line. Only about 4-5 deep in each line, so we figured no big deal. This is where everything went wrong. A very tall man in front of me looked woozy. He put his hands on his knees. He was paler than a ghost. I knew he was going down before he went down… and he went down HARD. He had abrasions on his face from the sidewalk. At one point, we were concerned he was going to seize. We called for a medic, and other runners attended to him by lifting his feet and keeping him alert. They closed that porta-potty line, so I hopped back in with Missie and we waited together while EMTs were on their way. We stood still for 10 minutes. I chose not to pause my RunKeeper because I wanted an accurate recording of time and pace and events, as they happened. I said goodbye to any hopes of a decent pace or time finish and off we went. I wasn’t all that upset though as it was a very sobering reminder to listen to my body and take breaks when necessary.
Mile 3: Hey! Let’s run a bridge!
Mile 4: I started to have memories of running this exact route, but backward, when I ran the EQT 10 Miler in November. I tried not to think about how I hurt my foot during that race. I failed.
Mile 5: More bridges! At this point, I wondered where my husband was as he said he was going to be tracking me via the app and hit me at certain mile markers during the first half of the race. I didn’t see him at all, so I wondered if I was just in the zone and missing him or if something was up. (Something was up.)
Mile 6: Oh hey! 10K! SO HAPPY!
Mile 7: We crossed another bridge. I remembered my friend Jess told me her husband’s band was set up shortly after the 7-mile marker, and sure enough I saw her as we came under an overpass. I yelled for her and she saw me. Totally awesome.
Mile 8: West End Loop is actually one of my favorites to run. I don’t know why. The crowd was really great at the bottom of the hill in this section too.
Mile 9: Let’s run past Station Square and into the South Side! I laughed at all the times I came down to the South Side to drink as an early-20’s, non-health-caring, non-running person. Now I was running a marathon through the streets of my old partying grounds. So weird.
Mile 10: More South Side!
Mile 11: In the middle of mile 11, the half marathoners split off. The race route opened up and we faced no more crowding. It was really weird to watch them all make the turn to cross the bridge while we headed toward a little loop around to add more mileage. I was used to being the people who broke off, not the people who kept on keeping on. I choked up a little bit. Also: Let’s run across another bridge!
Mile 12: THE HILL. I had been dreading the run up the hill into Oakland absolutely every day of my training. And honestly? It wasn’t that bad. I ran when I could, walked a little, ran more, walked a little, and then ducked and shuffled up to the top. I didn’t hate it. I don’t want to do it again today, but I could run it again.
Mile 13: OMG! HALFWAY! FEEL ALL OF THE HAPPY! Then realize you have another 13.1 to go. Sigh and keep on trudging.
Mile 14: Nope. I got nothing.
Mile 15: Nada.
Mile 16: I remember thinking, “Well, this is the farthest I’ve run.” I choked up.
Mile 17: Rounded the corner after 16 and heard, “RUN JENNA RUN.” I cried when I saw Burgh Baby standing there with her daughter. I gently tackle hugged her because pregnant. The group of men in front of us yelled back, “BEST FEELING EVER, RIGHT?” And it was. And it was right when I needed it. I felt revived and started telling Missie all about my friend when I noticed Alexis tagging along on the sidewalk. I asked her if she wanted a hug too. “Yes! That’s what I’ve been waiting for.” I DIED. I hugged her. And cried more as I ran on.
Best part about this photo: Alexis took it.
Mile 18: Shortly after the 17 mile marker, I saw a sign that I *thought* said Run Jenna Run. IT DID. It was Jennifer and two of her awesome kids. Jennifer got a sweaty tackle hug before I ran off again, with a huge smile on my face.
I had a big, stupid smile on my face a lot of the race. Until I didn’t.
Mile 19: The sun started to come out from behind the clouds, and I started to fade. Missie made me promise to tell her if I was overheating. I nodded. I started to feel extra pain in my right hip and acknowledged that, yes, my feet felt awful. We discussed how we should have switched to new(er) shoes. The worst is that I had a pair of broken in Mizunos waiting (25 miles, all treadmill) but wasn’t sure if I should have switched or not. Answer: Always switch.
Mile 20: OMG! 20 MILES! I cried.
Mile 21: More oranges in this mile (which I forgot to mention in previous miles). Anyone with orange slices became my favorite. I would have made out with anyone giving me a cold orange slice. No lie. They all missed out.
Mile 22: I cried.
Mile 23: Three miles left, and we all broke down. By we all, I mean me and Missie and a group of about six other people around us. We grumbled about how bad our bodies felt and how awful running a marathon was and how we were never, ever doing this again, and this was the worst, and screw it, where’s the Sweep Bus, and OMG WHY IS THERE STILL A HALF HOUR LEFT TO RUN OF THIS STUPID RACE. Also, the sun was out and I was angry. And hungry. So probably hangry.
Mile 24: After jamming seven pretzels in my mouth and gulping some more water at a fluid station, I saw Amanda and practically knocked her over with my sweaty hug. I cried.
No, really. I totally crashed right into her for a giant hug.
Mile 25: I decided I should get a Gatorade over a water at the 25.2 fluid station because I was feeling weak. I needed calories. And then I saw him: My husband. Finally. I pointed at him ala Babe Ruth but without a bat, gulped my Gatorade, threw my cup, and plowed into his chest. He said he never had a chance to get the signs up because I ran so quickly at him. I was so, so glad to see him. I cried into his chest. He pointed at the “1/2 mile left” sign and told me to go get it.
HERE I GO!
Mile 26: OF NOTE: THE 1/2 MILE SIGN WAS A LIE. #CAPSLOCKJENNA was not amused.
Mile 26.2: I cried. I cried the whole last stretch to the finish line. I cried when I crossed. I don’t know how I had water left to cry. But I cried. I cried when they put the medal over my head. I stopped crying for pictures. I cried when I took a banana and a Smiley Cookie. I stopped crying to take a selfie with Missie.
I hope Missie wants me as a friend, because she’s got me now!
And then I found my husband. And cried more.
We went to the VIP lounge so I could eat, drink a beer…
…and get changed into non-sweaty clothes. We walked back to the garage outside the Omni, turned right on Grant, and got out of the city with absolutely no wait, no problem. We drove to my parents’ Farm, where I showered, took a short nap, and was treated to an awesome steak dinner. Then we drove home two hours, which made my hips angry. I cried at random points throughout the rest of the evening.
Today I’m feeling “it,” but “it” is less than I thought it might be—which is also what I thought yesterday. I didn’t experience leg cramps like I did after one 11 mile run and my 16-miler. My thighs do feel like dead weight and, oh my, my feet are so sore. I look back at my reaction in Mile 23 and sit here now and realize why people run more than one. I do believe that 13.1 is “my race,” especially with my desire to achieve work-life balance (which is impossible).
I am thankful—so thankful—for the love and support I had leading up to race day and while I was busy running all of the miles. As I read through the tweets while my husband drove us home, I cried. (I know, I know. It’s a theme.) I was shocked that so many of my friends, both in real life and in my computer, paid to track me. (RaceJoy will be refunding your purchase, by the way. Their system couldn’t handle the size of Pittsburgh’s marathon. This is the problem my husband had as referenced above.) I felt so loved and so cared for as I finished up the race and saw my Twitter had exploded, that I had 25 text messages waiting, that people were commenting on the auto-updates on Facebook, that calls had already started to come in. I am thankful that Missie and I chose to stick together, come sunshine or inhaler or sore feet or runners passing out in front of us; I’m not sure I could have kept going at that 23-mile point without knowing someone else was relying on me to keep pushing forward. I am so thankful for those friends of mine that came and cheered me on in the places I needed to be cheered on. I am most thankful for a husband who put up with my months of training, my early bedtimes, my whining, my general state of tired and sore; the man who tagged me with #myhero on Instagram when he shared the pic of me at mile 25. I couldn’t have done any of this without his love and support.
Would I do it again? Maybe. I definitely want to run the half in Pittsburgh, that I know—and quite possibly next year. And if I ever run another full marathon, years from now? It will be Pittsburgh. No other city is worth the amount of grueling training. My home will always be Pittsburgh and I will always want to #RunHomePGH. If I’m going to have to hobble around for days after a full marathon, I want to achieve it on the streets of my beloved city.