Follow by Email

Monday, November 18, 2013

How to run a Marathon

How to Run a Marathon
Subtitle: I really can't believe it did it. 

It’s Sunday and Hot Roommate and I have just dropped off two of my many unlikely friends that I’ve made these past two years. For the first time I didn’t cry, though it might have been dehydration, but I’m leaning more toward the fact that we’re choosing as friends to no longer sit around and say I wish and I hope; we’re making seeing each other happen. 

But that’s another story that shall be told in another blog :P

I ran a marathon. 

Now, for the sake of those people who do not seem to understand what a marathon really is and are living under the mistaken impression that runners run these things to win them, my time was 05:46:07, slower than I would have liked, but I finished. Not only does this give me a baseline for improvement should I do this again, but I didn’t need to really walk more than a few feet until Mile 22 1/2 primarily because I was scared of straining my calf muscles. It was a wise choice, I finished with no severe injuries, some chafing and lots of blisters but no pulls so I can continue to run during the winter season.  Ok, that’s taken care of...

I ran a marathon, and there are some things I don’t want to ever forget for as long as I live.

I have to start with the rain. I’m freaking out about it, will I get hurt, will my signatures run, but the rain turns out to be a blessing.  They say when it rains on your wedding day that’s a sign of good luck so when it started to pour down on me as I ran past the one mile marker, I KNEW it was a sign. 

It was at that point that I knew that I could finish. 

There will be no wall, there will be no crash, no more negative thoughts because this is here and this is happening and when I finish mile one I decide I’m gonna to tag every mile sign that I can and celebrate every single mile completed because I know I’m gonna to finish. 

Around mile 3 I got out of my head. See normally when I run I put on my music and slip into Daniel & Addy (my Stargate OC fanfic that I write for anyone that doesn’t know - it’s my escape from reality) and tune out the world. 

Today I didn’t need them. 

I leave my headphones on just in case I needed a boost, the song du jour being Timber by Ke$ha and Pitbull (don’t judge) but I start to look around and enjoy the marathon. I’m actually beginning to tear up writing this because it was at mile three I understand why people run marathons and why I was running a marathon. I was in a slow wave which was ok because the people I was surrounded by were the ones that taught me what this is all about.

One of the first things I notice is all the cancer survivors.  I think I notice them because I have so many friends who are fighting cancer right now. There’s a young man who has “Save the Tatas” written all over EVERYTHING.  He’s running with this woman who looks like his mother, and is wearing matching clothing. Well, I assume it’s his mom, and just by body language and the way they’re dressed I’m thinking she might be a breast cancer survivor. At that moment I’m thinking of all of my friends who have fought breast cancer, who are fighting breast cancer and of my kick ass Granny who kicked its ass. Turn the corner off of Broad Street, I see a girl, probably mid-20‘s wearing a yellow shirt, a handwritten message on the back. It read: 2011 cancer, 2012 remission, 2013 Anthem Richmond Marathon.

At that point I realize the marathon isn’t about bragging rights or anything else.  It’s about fighting back when you didn’t think you had any fight left because every single week of training I wanted to quit and I never had to fight cancer.  Their fight inspires me to keep pushing. Here, at about mile 3, the first round of tears have started. 

When I hit 10k, 6.24 miles for anyone that doesn’t know (I didn’t till I started doing them) it hits me that I only have 20 more miles which is the most I have ever trained to do. The race is passing, fast in my mind at least, now all I have to do is the run I did a few weeks ago. Hot Roommate saw me do it and Nerd Boy’s “Girlfriend’s” Mom who is also a new cool as hell friend saw me do it too, so, it’s doable. And, I’m leaving behind the distance of the Monument Avenue 10K my FAVORITE race ever and I start planning my training team in my head because people, we’re gonna do this, together, come hell or high water. 

The ranks are thinning. Some that started in my wave are much faster and are so far ahead that I’ll never catch them. Others burnt themselves out the first 10K and are walking already. I haven’t slowed yet, not that I’m fast but pace, pace, I keep repeating the manta. I find the Ginger Ninja, a short red headed guy on the training team. I love his shirt, that’s how I know he’s the Ginger Ninja because his shirt says so and he screams as I’m ‘Popping my Marathon Cherry’ because that’s what my shirt says.  We keep yelling for each other if one of us falls behind.  He’s a complete stranger but it doesn’t matter, no one here with me is a stranger right now, not the girl who is stopping me to fix the name tag on my butt, not the girl I’m offering fuel to, we’re a family for the next, now, less than 20 miles. 

I see a pink boa ahead and scream! It’s Blair, who encouraged me to do this. He’s one of the Marathon Training Team coaches, and he told me that If I could train myself to run a half marathon I had the discipline to do the same for a full since I live so far from any training teams. He yells out for me and he introduces me to other MTT members: ‘This is Bri and she trained herself.  You all look out for her for me.’

I tear up again, I’m not one of ‘his’, but right now I am.  He high fives me and gives me some advice to help with my first bridge before jogging on to find more runners.

Mile 7 and I’m still tagging my markers. I see the party stop ahead and an ambulance TEARING down the hill approaching the course. One of us is down and my heart stops. Please let them be ok I think because I’m just starting to hurt and what’s keeping me going is tweets and texts popping up on my wrist case for my phone, that these people believe in me, and that could just as easily be me. I glance right, reach out to slap some outstretched hands, again of strangers, and see a familiar face. Anna!! I break stride and reach to grab her hands. This is just the first of my amazing friends to show up and I had no idea that she was coming. I push on, there will be others, and need to have faith that my fellow runner will be taken care of. 

Mile Seven - A Stupid Grin as I see Anna!

I’m in the Southside of Richmond now and feeling comfortable. I’ve run this race before with Betsy, I know this course, this is the Stratford Hills 5 miler or at least part of it. I can enjoy the river and the sights. Time to cruise, I’m passing mile 8, my favorite mile.

I scream at mile 9 and I hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me I should walk a mile but I feel too good to. Sorry mommy, I’ll walk when I have to I swear. I don’t just scream and tag mile 9 however, I have a specific scream: ‘Go to hell Dr. K!’ Dr. K was my old MD who told me after my karate injuries that pretty much being fat and sedentary was going to be my destiny.  

I dedicate that mile to you, because you were wrong

I’m running a marathon.

I do have to power walk up the same hill that I had to in the Stratford Hills 5 miler. My hip is being good I don’t want to push it, I walk fast and I need to preserve my muscles because at this point I can be honest with you guys. Up until race day my hip still hurt, as did my left thigh, my left knee (this is my bad leg from Karate) and my neck (Yeah Jodie I think I did worse than sleep wrong, don’t fuss, I can already hear you in my head) but when I woke up this morning I didn’t hurt and I want it to stay that way.

All of a sudden I’m at mile 10. 

And for some reason that doesn’t seem to be that horrible. I’m on pace by the time I reach mile 11 on Forest Hill Avenue and now I’m looking around for Flor, who’s there, at mile 12 as promised screaming her head off like a fool and passing over a cup of water. I jump and hug her and kiss her as per Bri usual and tell her to power walk with me since I now need to fuel.  She declines but I didn’t hear why until she tweeted me later. She was made an honorary volunteer at the water stop and she worked for an hour. That’s just awesome. We need volunteers, even if it’s just to hold a sign. Some of my favorites: 

Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon.

Just think: You’re running better than the government. 

Complete and Total Stranger; you’re my HERO.

Justin Timberlake is at the finish, waiting to kiss you (<---- We all know how I changed THAT sign in my head, don’t we :P )

Not much longer and then you can make people bring you beers. (<----I was ALL over that one)

REMEMBER the reasons that you are doing this. 

There’s someone at the finish that loves and believes in you. 

These mean the world to me, these signs, every cup of water and every candy bar passed along the way and I’m sure everyone else too.

Shortly after I pass her I hear screaming from a mini-van on the side of the road, and I look over to see. It’s some half marathoners who have come back to support us and I know this by their signs:

 We just ran the 1/2 marathon because we’re only 1/2 crazy. We can’t explain you guys. Why don’t you get a cab?

I wanna know when Jodie called these people.

At 13.1 there’s cheering, because apparently in my little group we’ve made here there are a lot of half marathoners like me that thought this would be a good idea. We would have normally finished by now but we have a whole ‘nother one to go.

I meet another half marathoner who upgraded to the marathon yesterday, YESTERDAY, and I realize that she’s the same girl who fixed the name tag on my butt at mile 2. She tells me that 6 years ago she weighed 70 pounds more and was depressed. I tell her a short version of my own story (Click here if you are new to this crazy train, I can explain that) and we’re now sisters in this even though I never got her name.  In this names don’t matter, we still act as if we have know each other for our entire lives.

I’m closing in on the Belvidere Bridge, and I’ve been told it’s the worst. It’s a mile long. I decide to walk for just a touch because my calves hurt, and alternate and stretch as needed. Lightly jogging I call my Granny who is screaming through her whole house that Brianne is at mile 16. She tells me to keep going and call her when I finish, so I chat with first timers (yes we are chatting and running, hell we eat and drink and run, chatting is nothing) and a veteran who tells me it’s a shame I don’t live closer as she would love to train with me and I need to do the Marine Corp marathon. We’re slow but we don’t care because it is mile 16 and we’re going to finish. 

We’ve got this. 

By mile 17 my friends and family are there, Hot Roommate, Adorable Nerd Boy and my Fashionista-in-Training, Hannah, LaVerne (who FLEW here for me, one from ANOTHER COUNTRY)  and Dawn who drove 14 hours straight with her dog from CANADA to surprise me.   

I’m still not over that, I’m tearing up right now typing this. 

I love you guys so very much.

I kiss my kids who have water for me, and hug my friends the best I can and continue on, because at mile 17 I have decided that I want to do this again. 

Somewhere between miles 18 and 19 I hear more screaming and my friend and fellow Spanish teacher Sarah jumps in, hugging me and pushing me onward. She says I’m looking great and is acting like I’ve already finished the race telling me that I’ve gotten through the tough part. It gives me strength. After Sarah peels off, running a whole block with me and lagging behind screaming, the other runner that I’ve met on the race course are now looking at me asking me how many people I have here.  I list them, all of them, and where they’ve come from and show them the tweets and texts on my phone from those with me in spirit.  One girl looks at me and says, “Do you realize how lucky you are to have those kind of friends?” 

More crying. 

Yeah I do, I really do...

My mom is right before mile 20. My mom who has been through hell this year runs at least a 1/4 of mile with me, if not more in jeans, after she was in a CAR WRECK. 

My mom & I run the Boulevard.
My sister has all of her college friends here too and they’re screaming like idiots even though I only met these kids a few months ago. It’s pretty cool. I guess once a Yellow Jacket always a Yellow Jacket (my sister goes to my alma mater ;) ). They disappear into the distance and the same woman from before asks me who they were and I tell her. She just says you are so lucky and keeps running.  

At the mile 20 water station, I know my cousin is working here as a volunteer so I scan down the line.  I see her before she sees me and I jog right up to her, telling her that one is mine. It takes her a second, but then she realizes it’s me that she’s passing over the Powerade to.  She’s now screaming ‘That’s my cousin!!’ and jumping up and down. I wish I could stay longer to thank her but I have to keep running because this is the part that counts, this is the part that tests yours limits. The race starts here, and now we’re racing against our own will.  

Mile 20 1/2 there’s my son’s teacher.  She didn’t need to come out here, my son is just a kid in her class and I’m the room mom, but she’s there nonetheless with her baby screaming like a fool.  It is AWESOME.  Smiling, I keep running. 

At this point in the race I’ve seen two ambulances.  I’ve seen two people quit.  The girl behind me just sprained her ankle but she won’t give up.  On this course we take care of each other.  If someone hurts you offer Advil.  If someone is hungry we pass over Gu.  No one cares that we’re complete strangers.  We pass things off and just keep running. 

Somewhere between 22 and 23 my calves are threatening to quit and I don’t mean pain, I mean I may lose the ability to walk. I stop and stretch. I don’t want to quit this race but I’m  really scared that I might pull something, so I step to the side and stretch and decide to walk for a bit, planning to reevaluate at every 1/2 mile marker. I meet a girl who is doing the same although her issue is her knee. This is her first marathon too. She was also a competitive martial arts fighter so we talk and exchange horror stories and together work through our pain and injury.   

I didn’t want to walk this much but I also want to finish the marathon and not go to the hospital.  She and I continue to stretch, walking and talking. The friends I met along the way? We’re all together now.  We don’t each others names.  I could give you numbers and shirt colors. I can tell whether or not they are on the marathon training team but I couldn’t tell you who they ARE, but somehow we’ve managed to stay together for 5 hours.  Most of us are limping.  Some of us are crying, not in joy, but in absolute pain.  Regardless, we make a vow: At mile 25 all of us are gonna to run together to the finish the best we can, pain or not. 

And there it is, I don’t even see the number, but I know because I remember the corner, it’s the same as the half marathon.  

It’s over.  

I did it.  

I scream and we all take off running, maybe faster than I should have considering my calves.  We manage to stay together pretty much for the entire trek down hill but I lose it completely as I see mile 26. I want to cry harder but I’m too dehydrated to produce any more tears, but the bystanders see me crying and they get it. They’re screaming my name and telling me that I did it; just cross the finish line.    
See the finish line? 

I hear my name to the left and it’s one of my best friends, Dev, who never misses anything I ever do. And he doesn’t run either, but as soon as I pass him I see him running down to the finish line to be there. Yeah, he ran :P; I saw him do it. 

I hear more screaming and there is the Mile 17 ‘Friends and Family’ crew and my mother in law and apparently another cousin, who I didn’t even know was coming, another amazing surprise.

And it’s over, this odyssey that I began what seems like light years ago and before I know it I’ve crossed the finish line, in tears.  

At the Finish Line. It's OVER!

I did it.  

...and it didn’t matter how fast it was. None of us will always be the best, but we can be the best us.  

My best me just ran a marathon.

People ask me if I ever give up. I did once, but I learned, the hard way, that you never give up, no matter what stands in your way. 

Sometimes not even then

The New Ink. 


  1. Just tears through the entire blog...sooo proud , but you already know that! How I wish I was actlly there..hope you knew I was there in spirit #accomplished #brave #determined #motivated #strong luv ya!

  2. Tears as i read. Thank you for letting me be apart of your odyesssey. It wa so amazing to ne there and watch you cross the finish line and then party with you

  3. Awesome! Words just don't cover what I really want to say. I am at my desk in tears. Love you so much and so proud that you are such an inspiration to everyone who crosses your path. Boy was I proud to run that little distance by your side.

  4. You are so brilliant! such an inspiration.... I can remember after you hit 20 and both Jodie and I were sitting here worried because we hadn't heard anything for ages then we get the email to say you had finished! Big cheers from both of us!