I can’t believe I am writing this race recap. Ever since the minute I registered for Space Coast Marathon back in February, I knew that writing this recap would be both amazing and surreal. Needless to say, this is going to be a long post. It’s taken me three days to write! Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and make yourself comfortable!
Hubby, my mom, and I drove to Cocoa on Saturday morning the day before the race and arrived at the Expo just after lunch. First on the agenda was to get my bib and shirt. I also picked up my friend Corinna’s bib. There were a lot of people there and the layout of the line for bibs / shirts seemed very haphazard and probably could have been laid out better. But honestly, I was so excited to be there, I just went with the flow and within about 20 minutes, I had both in hand. After that, I bought a Space Coast Marathon Christmas ornament, a 26.2 car magnet, and a 26.2 shoe charm. I was determined to share my 26.2 mile accomplishment with the world!
After the Expo, we headed to our hotel to check-in and relax before dinner. I chose one of the host hotels so we could utilize the shuttle to the race the morning of, so our hotel was not terribly far from the race. We napped for a bit and then headed out to dinner with Caitlyn who drove in to cheer us on at the race. It was also her birthday so we had another reason to celebrate! (I’m going to leave out the part where I took us to the wrong restaurant because my Facebook Messenger was acting up, so we ended up being late when really we would have been early.)
After dinner, Corinna gave me the sweetest gift. I had given her a card, thanking her for training with me and how excited I was to run the marathon with her by my side. It was a wonderful turn of events that allowed her to run the race after it sold out, so I was happy that she was there. Her gift to me was a beautiful bracelet with 26.2 engraved on it, along with a wonderful card. It was so sweet and thoughtful… I will never forget it. I have worn it every day since…
I finally crawled into bed around 9:30 after getting everything ready for the next morning, including setting three alarms. I had to be up at 3:00am to have time to eat breakfast and get ready without being rushed so that we could make the 4am shuttle bus. I actually slept pretty well and woke up excited when the alarm went off. I was thankful that hubby and my mom got up at the crack of dawn with me to ride over. Corinna and her kids met us at our hotel just before 4am so they could take the same shuttle. Riding all together was great. We had a good two hours before the race would start, but I was happy to be there and not be stressed by being late or not knowing where to go or where to park. Oddly enough, running a race never makes me nervous – it’s all the logistics leading up to it that make me nervous.
I was also excited to sport my I Run 4 Daisy tattoo I ordered on Etsy awhile back. Daisy is a sweet little girl in the UK that I run miles and miles for. I knew that thoughts of her would keep me company on this run!
It was definitely a chilly morning – both Corinna and I wore jackets to keep warm while waiting for the race to start. I also knew that I would warm up quickly once I started running.
The half marathon started at 6am and then we lined up at the start line. This was probably the craziest start line I had ever been in. It was a few blocks away from the race village and it was like herding cattle to get us all there. There weren’t true corrals, but you could get a general idea of where you should be by the pace signs. We lined up somewhere around the 10:30 pace sign – not because we were feeling that fast, but because it seemed like a good place to stand in the sea of people.
Sticking with the space theme, they had a countdown to the start (lift-off!) and had a large screen with video of a shuttle launch on it. It took several minutes for the crowd to start moving where we were, but before we knew it we were off. The sun had just started to come up and I knew we were in for a pretty day ahead. About two miles in, I had to stop and take a photo of the beautiful sunrise coming up over the water. I felt like we were back in Clearwater Beach on a training run!
All through our training, on our long runs, Corinna and I would run the first mile before taking a walk break. After that we would take them on the mile marks or as needed. I told her that we were just going to take this one mile at a time and just like our training, we weren’t out to break any records. The splits for the marathon were at the 10K, half, and mile 20. Amazingly, we ended up holding a really great pace the first half and our estimated finish time was 5:35. I liked these updates coming in on my phone, so I knew how we were doing overall. Even though my main goal was just to finish, I still had that under 6 hour goal over and over again as we ran.
Since the course took us back past by the start line, we saw hubby, my mom, and Corinna’s kids at the half mark. It was nice to see them there watching for us and we were both able to get more fuel from them as we planned.
As we headed south after the half mark, we saw Caitlyn and Genna cheering. It is so nice to have people cheering for you. Even strangers who don’t know you, if they see a name on your bib and cheer for you as you run by, it’s such a pick-me-up.
We were still taking it a mile at a time, but around mile 16, we slowed down. We were starting to feel it and the sun was hot. By this point, we had both stopped a few times for potty breaks, and would stop a few more times before it was over. I think we both stayed very well hydrated along the way. I was so impressed at the number of hydration stations for this event – just about every mile. We refilled our water bottles when we needed to and both drank Gatorade a couple times. As for fuel, I had my Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews and pretzels. Corinna had Gu Chomps. We fueled just about every 5-6 miles, just like we did for our long training runs.
Once we passed mile 20, we knew that it was very likely we could finish under 6 hours. The mile markers were off compared to my Garmin, but, even with that discrepancy, we knew it would be close.
In my promise to keep it real, this is where it got hard. Really hard. When they say the race starts after 20 miles, it’s no joke. We were lucky to have a good 20 mile training run, one that really boosted our confidence and showed that we could absolutely tackle 26.2 miles. But a couple factors were different…. It was later in the day than we would normally be running and it was very warm with the sun high in the sky. Among our normal conversation talking about anything and everything, Corinna and I would ask each other how we felt, if we were okay. We walked when we needed to and ran when we could. We walked much more the last several miles but there is no shame in that.
There were spectators just about the whole way, but certain areas had more. Many homeowners had tables set up with snacks and beverages. One house even had pancakes and bacon! I would have loved to partake in that, but I felt like I needed to stick with my chews and pretzels and not take a chance of having an upset stomach.
When we hit mile 25, there were more even spectators along the route. With just a mile to go before we would turn an enter the finish line chute, we agreed that we were going to run it in, no matter what. And we did just that.
Just as we turned, our friend Caitlyn was standing there cheering us on. I learned later on that she texted hubby to let him know she saw us. We ran through the chute, hundreds of people clapping and cheering for all the runners. It was so surreal. I’m pretty sure I had goosebumps from there on out and I got pretty emotional. Going around the last little bend, we saw hubby and Corinna’s kids hollering and cheering for us. Just past them was my mom with her phone ready to record us crossing the finish line. She loves to do that at the races she goes to. Can we say proud mom? I love it!
And then we were done. Crossing that finish line felt amazing. It was every bit as emotional and exciting as I imagined it to be. I was crying, tears of happiness and overwhelming accomplishment. I felt so proud in that moment, knowing that I set a big huge scary goal, trained for it, stayed injury-free, and ran the race giving it my all. I love that I crossed the finish line with Corinna, who has become such a dear friend in the midst of our all our running and crazy marathon training. And best of all… Our finish time was 5:58:06. Goal met.
I really don’t feel like I could have given it anymore out there. I don’t have any regrets on how I ran it. It was an amazing first full marathon experience, one that I will never forget. Yes it hurt. Yet the last 6 miles were really hard. But I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I did it. I am a marathoner! I am included in the less than 1% of the U.S. population who has run a marathon. So much of this is incredible to me. Especially since there was a time that I swore I wanted nothing to do with a marathon. NOTHING. I am glad I listened to that little voice in my head when it started nudging me to run one. I am glad I registered for it and didn’t change my mind. I’m glad that I trained for it, and even though life got in the way the last few weeks, I still got every single long run in. I am glad that I never gave up on myself.
I am also very thankful that two of the most important people to me were there with me for that weekend, to support me. Hubby trained much of those 18 weeks with me, keeping me company in the dark and making sure I was safe. My mom was excited for me and proud of my determination to get it done. It meant so very much for them to see me cross that finish line and share in my excitement. It was a day I will never forget. The moment I crossed the finish line, I was forever changed.
So…. The biggest question I’ve had since running Space Coast is, will I do another full marathon? The answer to that is…. No. Corinna and I joked about this quite a bit and our motto is “one and done”. That distance is no joke. And the training for a marathon is intense and time consuming. It literally took over my life for 18 weeks. And while I am so glad I did it, it’s not something I could easily do again. I will be happy sticking to half marathons, my favorite race distance, and shorter races. I would also love to get my 5K time under 30 minutes. That will be my next goal.
In addition to that, I have to get my eating back on track. Another side effect of marathon training is weight gain. I take full responsibility for it but now, it’s time to realize that my eating habits need to change since I am no longer training for those 26.2 miles.
I am so thankful to everyone who supported me and cheered me on during my training and on race day. You have no idea how much of a difference it makes. So, thank you to everyone!
I am a marathoner.