A few days ago, after syncing my ipod with Nike+, a video from marathoner Paula Radcliff popped up welcoming me to the 0.1 % of the population who has completed a marathon.   It was a very nice reminder about a goal I’ve had for close to 20 years.  
After over 19 years thinking about it, about 16 weeks training for it and a whole lotta hours running it – it’s done. 
You only have one first marathon, so before the experience fades from memory, I decided to record how it went down. 
I’m Ready!Saturday, March 3rd ~ 3 pm
I arrived in New Orleans with my family.   We checked into the hotel and while hubby took the kids to the Riverwalk for a meal and the aquarium,  I hit the expo.  Got my gear, visited several of the vendors and I registered for another Rock N Roll event (Chicago in July).  The highlight of the expo was meeting in person several runners known via online groups or their blogs. 

Pictured CW from upper left:  Pamela from Black Girls Run! Baton Rouge; Brandon from Run Louisiana – http://claimyourjourney.com/ ; Renee from http://www.reneejross.net/ ; and part of the crew from the National Black Marathoners Association – http://www.blackmarathoners.org/

I’m Pumped!Saturday, March 3rd 7 pm. 
Had my carb load supper and a lot of laughs at the Black Girls Run! Meet N Greet at Cheesecake Factory.  ?
~ 9 pm – Arrived back at the hotel, super hyped and chattering a mile a minute to my husband about the happenings at the Meet N Greet.  Tried on my outfit and laid out supplies for the race. 

Come on morning! I’m ready to get this thing started!

I’m Pooped!Sunday 5:15 am 
I tossed and turned most of the night.  Between nerves and a half dozen trips to the bathroom, (been hydrating all week),  it was a long semi sleepless night.

I’m Pumped Again!Sunday 5:45 – 7:00 am 
Met up with runner Jennie Kyle and family, (friends from our church), and walked to the start line.   The weather was PERFECT , the music was bumping and the huge crowd of runners and supporters milling around brought great energy.   Exchanged hugs and well wishes with about a dozen runners from Baton Rouge and made my way waaayyy in the back to my corral.

I’m Inspired!  Sunday 7:00 am 
Met a fellow NBMA member who has completed over 80 marathons.   In between jokes, he encouraged me and 3 other ladies, (who were also running their first marathon), to forget about pace, relax and enjoy the experience. 

I’m Off! 7:31 am
Corral 17 made it across the start line.  The wave start was well planned and it was easy to get into pace.

I’m Going Too Fast!Mile 1
Relatively speaking of course!  I’m a slow runner and my plan was to make my first mile my slowest mile (12:00 – 12:30 was the plan).  I did it in 10:30.

I’m So Grateful!Miles 2-7

Slowed down to a comfortable pace and focused on the experience. Along this early portion of the race, I’m loving everything and everyone. The weather, the scenery, the bands, the high fives, clever signs and crazy costumes made me smile. 

I’m Loved!Mile 8

Took a quick pit stop to get some suga from the best cheering team on the route (my wonderful hubby and children). Awwwww!!!!!!!
I’m Hungry.  Mile 9
Stomach was growling so I downed a banana and some CHOMPS (hit the spot!). 
I’m Feeling Good!Miles 10-12
Going slow and steady easy breezy about now.  Hit the 10 mile mark at 2 hours and 1 minute.  Was trying to conserve energy so I could do a negative split.  That was the plan.
I’m Surprised!  ~Mile 13
After the full and half marathon course split,  we could hear the hootin’ and hollering celebrations of half marathoners completing their race.  I always thought at this point I would burst into tears and wonder why in the world did I choose to do a full – but that was not where my head was.  I was surprised to be feeling really confident about the task ahead. 
I was also surprised at how much the group had thinned.  More than ¾ of the people in the race were halfers and most of those in the full were well ahead of my pace, so I went from being in a large pack of people to what looked like a mighty lonely road.

I’m Impressed!Mile 14
As I was just getting started on the second leg,  I looked across the road and there at mile 24 about to finish this thing was fellow church member Randy Gallow.  A full 10+ miles ahead of me – smoking his race!  I was so excited for him I scratched up my throat screaming encouragements as he whizzed by.  Way to do it Bro Gallow!
I’m Settling In.~Miles 15 – 18 

I’d been walking about 30 seconds or so at every water stop and was feeling good on the run portions.  It was as if my legs were on a slow automatic.  I didn’t have to think about the run, it was just happening.  (Angelic choir singing).

It was clear a negative split was not happening.  I don’t know what my pace was, but it wasn’t impressive as I was battling it out with a speed walker who kept passing me at every water stop.  

After mile 16, the route turned and had us running along Lake Pontchatrain.  It was absolutely beautiful!   I enjoyed the scenery and talked to God.  All was good.

I’m   %(*&#@^$@*#$&*#!   ~Miles 19-21 
OK.            This race was advertised as a FLAT course.
I looked ahead and saw a big ding dang hill.  OK.      Actually it was an overpass, but still!  I looked at a lady next to me and we said to each other – “Can you believe this!”  The way she said it was much more colorful.  How cruel to throw this in at this point.  I wondered who I could talk to about the false advertising of this course. 
Further, there was not just one, there were multiple long overpasses… and after going over them,  the course doubled back and we had to come back over them again.  This threw me big time.  I’ve never run hills, (always walked them), so now I’m walking the hills and the water stops.  Too much walking.  It was a huge mental battle to push my legs back to a run jog after the walk. 
I knew it was bad when I walked an underpass. 
BTW – that race walker left me in the dust after the second overpass.  Apparently, her training included hills!
Will and the kids were at the finish.  I was still confident I would complete this thing and see my family again, but it felt like I wouldn’t finish until sometime around noon on Tuesday.  Help!!!

Note: I learned 3 weeks after the race that an elevation map of the route was online. Big lesson to check out the route early and train accordingly.

I’m Pulled Out Of My Funk. ~Mile 20

In the midst of this bad period – I got a call from Randy Gallow and family.  He finished a good while ago and was checking to see where I was.  The Gallows were just a few miles down the route waiting to cheer me in. What a boost!   About 20 minutes later, when I was going back into the negative mode, the Gallows called back checking on me again. 

Don’t you love how God sends what you need when you need it!

I’m Near Tears!Mile 24

The Gallows are some kinda cheer team!   I know they were a God sent help.   They made a video of me passing by and looking back at it, I had a bit of pep in my stride…. (just a little).  Only 2 miles to go!

I’m full!Mile 25-26
I was in full praise mode, on the verge of a shout, by the time I made the turn for the last mile in the park.  My feet were moving slow, but my mind was going a mile a minute.  So much to be grateful for! 
Apparently my praise looked like pain because after crossing the finish line, three medics rushed and tried to grab me.  (Check out the spectator in the red jacket watching the commotion!  My husband had jokes about this for 3 weeks.)

All was well.  All was beyond well!

I’m a Marathoner!  Mile 26.2 – 5:34:09
Left: Finisher photo Right: Post race picture with Bro Randy “Lightening” Gallow
My goals in this race were to:
  1. Finish
  2. Finish before the sweep up van (under 7 hours)
  3. Finish before the sweep up van, with an experience that would make me want to do it again.

Done, done and done!   To God be the glory! 
I trust God and know what He can do. 
Through this experience, He showed me to look beyond what I think I can accomplish, to know and trust what He can do through me!

I’ll be ready for those hills at the Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon 2013!

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