When J and I completed our first half marathon in May 2013, I knew that a full was in our future. I didn’t know when it would be, and I didn’t know what kind of goal I’d have in mind to finish it. But I knew for sure that it was something we’d accomplish.
And just about 19 months later, we did it. On December 14, 2014, we finished our first (and likely only) marathon. And it feels incredible.
But let’s back up a bit. We signed up for the marathon in December 2013. Since we’re Hawaii residents, we were able to take advantage of the kama’aina discount and jumping in early meant a crazy low entry fee. The Honolulu Marathon is the third largest in the country, and it’s unique because it doesn’t limit the number of participants and there is no time limit. Seemed perfect for us.
Originally, our plan was to just finish it. Walk, run, crawl, whatever. Just make it across the finish line. But sometime this past summer, J had the crazy idea that we should try running it. Because you know, what the hell? Might as well give it a go. Ha.
So he did some research, and we settled on a training plan. I’d been previously warned about training for a full. But I didn’t quite grasp the intensity with which it consumes your life.
Marathon training isn’t for wimps. If you’re not running, you’re thinking about your next run, and if you aren’t doing either it’s because you’re eating. Or sleeping. And if you skip a day (or a week), you are consumed with guilt. And if you’re thinking about losing weight? Ha! Forget about it. You’re fooling yourself if you think you won’t go crazy trying. In fact, there’s a solid chance you’ll gain weight. Because the more you run, the more you feel like you’re starving to death. And when you’ve just knocked out 18 miles, of course you can have whatever you want for the next 10 meals. Duh. Who cares if the calorie math isn’t quite in your favor.
The good news is that I don’t think I’ve ever felt like more of a badass than during this process. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. And those 20 weeks of nearly-but-not-quite-total dedication made it possible for us to not only finish the marathon, but we ran the whole thing. We stopped a few times, we did, but that was permissible in my head. I just didn’t want to walk. And my stubbornness paid off – I’ll forever be able to tell myself that I ran a marathon. WE ran a marathon. And I’ll never be able to pretend I can’t do something. It would be dishonest and an insult to my abilities as a functioning human being. Because if there’s anything I thought I might not be able to do – it’s run a freaking marathon. And I just checked that shit right off the list. Done.
So now let’s talk about the big day. (And the one before it.)
My dad and stepmom arrived in town the previous Monday, so we had a full week of adventures with them. On the Saturday evening before the marathon, they took us downtown so we could grab our race packets and check into our hotel for the night.
The convention center was full of excited energy, and we were reminded how awesome it is to be surrounded by so many like-minded people! We checked out all of the vendors, but because our family was waiting in the van, we didn’t spend a ton of time mingling with the crowd.
In case you’re wondering, JAL (Japan Air Lines) was the main sponsor for the marathon.
Our family went back home so they could hang with the dogs, and we headed out for a quick but carb-heavy dinner (Subway). We then walked back to our hotel with high hopes of a super early bedtime. Even sleeping less than two miles from the start line, we still had to wake up around 3am.
We laid out our outfits and affixed our bibs to our shirts. I brushed my teeth and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t need to shave my legs in the morning. And at 8pm, I thought I was gonna fall asleep without a problem. But I was so wrong. Between being insanely nervous and the local club noise, I probably only caught about 2 hours of shut-eye. J, on the other hand, slept blissfully all night. Jerk.
The good news is that adrenaline is a thing, and I got up and going just fine. We both did. We got dressed, drank water, scarfed down a banana each, and grabbed our bag of almonds to eat while we walked. We then packed up our overnight bag and dropped it off with the front desk to be picked up later. We had the room until noon, but I was so nervous that we wouldn’t finish in time. So we went ahead and checked out.
When we left the hotel, it was raining. Not pouring thankfully, but we really hadn’t anticipated the rain. We joined the throng of people labeled with numbers and headed toward the starting line. This was really happening. No turning back now.
It took us about 40 minutes to walk there, but it was the perfect warm-up. We snacked on our almonds and fed off the energy of everyone around us. We were ready for this. And it started to dawn on us that if it continued to rain, that would mean we would avoid the hot, brutal sun. And the light drizzle still allowed us to use our headphones and see clearly.
We found & joined our “corral” (aka the person holding the sign that indicated ‘5-6 hours’ since that’s how long we thought the race would take us). We waited for 30 minutes, and just before the start, I went one last time to the restroom. I’ve been pretty open about my issues with runner’s trots during training, and it was obviously a gigantic fear of mine. But thankfully, my stomach issues lessened tremendously as the weeks of training wore on. It seemed to be much more in my head than a physical issue. As long as I had a bathroom nearby and a plan to stop frequently, I didn’t actually suffer from the effects. Sure, I still had to go, but I could just do it and move on. It didn’t affect me for hours. TMI, I know, but I’m not alone here so I think it’s important to mention.
Just before 5am, someone sang the Star Spangled Banner beautifully and then what I believe to be the Hawaii state song/anthem. And then to signify the start of the race, the fireworks flew. I’m sure you can imagine the feelings. So many feelings. I don’t have any other marathons to compare it to, but this one did a great job of starting off the the event.
We crossed the start line at about 5:15am. It was super dark and still raining. But we started running as fast as we could through the mass of people. It turns out that people don’t really care about those designated corrals because we had to weave through lots of walkers.
But at least there were photographers everywhere ready to get some great shots of us!
The first four miles flew by in a flash. We weren’t making great time, but we were going as fast as the crowd allowed. And then we saw there were some bathrooms, so we decided to stop.
Instead of having one long line for the half a dozen port-o-potties, each one had its own line. So dumb. I, of course, got in the slow line. I waited 11 minutes for 4 people to go. FOUR PEOPLE. I was so frustrated. Was this how the whole race was going to go? It was killing my time! I did my business (both 1&2 if you’re wondering – sorry if you weren’t) in one minute, and ran out to find J.
And then it took a few minutes to get our rhythm going again, but we did. And we found ourselves picking up speed. There were times when we were running as fast as 10 min/mile, but we were aiming between 11 & 12.
The big thing we kept hearing about with this course was the hill around Diamond Head. We had to hit it twice – once around mile seven going east, and then just before the end going west.
The climb wasn’t as bad as I envisioned, but it helped that we were totally surrounded by other people going every bit as slow as us. And the race staff that were there holding up the divider tape gave us so much encouragement. So many high-fives and comments like “great job!” or “keep it up!” were handed out. It made me weepy, honestly.
And right around mile 7, we saw the first place runners rounding the bend to finish up. We of course cheered them on, and I just chuckled at the fact that they were that far ahead of us. Go them!
I took this shot as we were at the top of the hill and beginning to go down. And you think in your head that downhill is easier, but it’s really not. It just hurts a different part of your knees.
I don’t know when the photographer grabbed this shot, but it had to be somewhere between miles 10-15 based on my smile. Those were just fine.
The rain kept coming and going, and there was a definite minute where we could barely see because of the wind blowing the water in our eyes. It was a little less than awesome.
As we were nearing mile 16, my stepmom texted both of us to see where we were. I was secretly hoping they’d find us before the finish line because I really really needed the moral support. Up ’til this point, I felt like we were rocking it. But J’s thighs started to cramp, and my calves quickly followed suit.
As the pain was taking hold, I saw a volunteer sitting on the side of the road spraying people’s legs. We ran over to find out what it was, and it turns out he was using Icy Hot. So we took full advantage of that and it did help the cramping a bit. Temporarily at least.
In addition to the pain, we were losing energy fast. We’d taken PowerBar Gels somewhere around miles 10 & 15, and we’d been alternating water and Gatorade at the aid stations. But unlike the Gu we’d used during training, the provided gels didn’t have caffeine. And we could definitely feel it.
My dad and stepmom ended up finding a spot somewhere around the 19 mile marker, so we started looking for them. And that helped get us through an entire mile.
When I saw them all standing there, I had to fight back the tears. I knew I was struggling, but I didn’t quite know how much I needed the visible and verbal support. The texts we’d been receiving all day were an amazing help, but nothing compares to seeing your babies on the sidelines cheering you on. It reminded us of the example we were trying to set. It reinvigorated us as we headed toward our last 7 miles.
Unfortunately, the cramps got worse and the energy drained even further. By mile 22, I didn’t know if we could keep going. We just kept having to stop and massage and stretch our legs. J offered to stop running and walk, and I snapped at him. No! I could do this. I knew I could. He was trying to be helpful, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I quit when I knew I could make it. I was so frustrated by our pace, and that was messing with my head. When we were moving, we were usually going at our desired speed (11:30/mile). But the stops were killing us.
After our initial (insanely long) bathroom break, I had stopped once more and waited five minutes in a non-moving line. I gave up and rejoined J. I did finally get to pee somewhere around mile 15, and that got me through the rest of the run. But towards the end, we were taking every water station as an opportunity to rest and get motivated again. I knew our family and friends were watching our time, and that added to my stress. They were waiting for us at the finish line, and we just kept making them wait longer and longer.
So at mile 22, we were at a crucial point. Four miles left and one big hill. And then we’d be done. We could keep stopping constantly, or we could suck it up and just make it happen. We chose option two. Instead of taking another PowerBar gel, we decided to use the stashed Gu packets we’d picked up the day prior. Good choice – it gave us some much needed energy, and we felt like we could keep going.
But you can see my face here. I was hating life. I couldn’t even muster up the energy to give the camera guy a smile. And our speed had slowed dramatically. (But we were still jogging!)
Those last four miles were hell – I won’t lie – but they were much better than the previous four. The hill didn’t seem as bad as we’d anticipated, and you can see below that the smiles had returned by the time we were heading down.
When we hit the final stretch, I was completely determined. We were both scanning the side for our friends because we knew our family was closer to the finish line.
And then we saw them. And I can’t even tell you how good it felt. My friend Erica snapped this shot of us after her husband yelled (to MY husband), “Take your shirt off!” Haha. It was perfect, and I think this might be my favorite picture from the entire race.
Just after we passed our friends, we saw our family and the combination of it all had me fighting the ugly cry. But I was determined to get some good (SMILING) finish line photos so I made it through. And because I had completely blocked out the world, I missed the announcer calling out “Health Nut in Training” as we crossed the finish line.
We did it. It took us longer than I’d hoped, but we did it. We ran a marathon.
Immediately after crossing the finish line, we got lei’d.
And then we wrapped back around to find everyone waiting for us. I really can’t tell you what it meant to have so many people there cheering us on. I’ll never forget it. Knowing that my dad & stepmom found it important enough to fly here to cheer us on kept us going during those training weeks when I wanted to throw in the towel.
And our babies. Our world. Audra already asked me if I’ll be there for her when she completes her first marathon. Of course I will be.
How fantastic is this sign that my friend Julie (left) made? And I love that Erica is representing HNIT with her shirt.
I even got treats from Erica! Wine, a candle, chocolates, and epsom salt!
After some chatting and photos, we headed off to find our medals. And food. But first, we had to get a shot behind the “Finisher” sign.
We found our shirts & medals plus downed our bagels, bananas and malasadas before rejoining our family.
And then we made sure to get pictures of these amazing signs the kids made (with some help from the grandparents)! My dad also had a sign that said “2 proud parents” . So neat.
Rocking our medals.
After the race, we walked the mile back to our hotel, picked up our bag, and loaded into the van for the trip back home. We were just sure that we’d crash immediately, but we were totally running on adrenaline. So instead of napping, we showered and went to Denny’s for a perfect post-race lunch. And you know we wore our finisher shirts and medals. Duh.
We even made it most of the day before crashing just before 10pm.
I can’t believe it’s all over. I’m excited to get my life back – no more getting up to run early on the weekends. I can go hiking again without trying to factor in our long run days! I can stop eating like a pig! But mostly, I can live the rest of my life knowing I set a goal and met it. And that’s pretty awesome.
In the end, our average pace was 13:50/mile and we finished in just under 6:03. That’s a minute slower than our half marathon pace, but I at least know that we ran faster even if the numbers don’t reflect it. We just made multiple stops this time and we didn’t during the half. I was excited to see that we ended up finishing right in the middle of the pack – that’s not bad at all!
I feel like choosing the Honolulu Marathon was perfect for our first/only 26.2 event. I mean, we were running in paradise, even if it was rainy.
As of now, I have no more concrete race plans in my future. I feel like I could do half marathons with ease – so maybe more of those will happen. But another full? I doubt it. It just wasn’t fun in the sense that I want to do it over and over again. But the kids are interested in doing a half with us, so that might be on the horizon. You just never know what the future holds!
I feel like I have so much more to say about this, but that’s all I have for now. Thanks to all of you for following along on this incredible journey. And of course a huge thanks to my amazing husband for not just supporting me, but jumping in with both feet and making it an absolutely unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.