My Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon Adventure!

As many of you know, I am an ambassador for the 2017 #KDFMarathon.  This is my race recap-the good, the bad and the ugly! I say this because weather delays and the perfect storm of conditions led to a challenging race for most, including me.  When people ask me “How was it?”, consistently my first answer is “Interesting!”.   I say interesting because I cannot think of a better word. At any rate, this is my story as I remember it…

First, this race was very special to me because I was training with a good friend and this was her first marathon. We were both beyond excited about it; I may have been more excited about her first race than she was, honestly! I love seeing people set goals and meet them, so it was a great feeling to watch her train and prepare for the race. Also, my mentor, or “Fairy God Mother Runner”, as I affectionately named her, would be joining us for this adventure on a last minute whim.  She is a seasoned marathoner and was a wealth of knowledge for us as we trained for this race. I was happy and relieved she would be there to support us on race day.

Our Marathon Trifecta

The three of us stayed in a hotel downtown the night before the race.  We had dinner and talked about the things we were looking forward to as well as worked through any last minute details.  Lights were out early as we hoped to get a good night’s rest, but sadly lightening crashing down outside the hotel room woke us at about 3:30 am.  At 5:00 we found that our race was delayed for 30 minutes due to weather.  Little did we know, this would be the start of two more delays and a start time of 9:20 am instead of 7:30 am!

All smiles as we wait out the weather.

Once we were dressed and fueled, we walked down to the start line. Dozens of our running friends were gathered outside a stadium waiting for an announcement that the race would start.  There was discussion of race fuel, hydration, weather, weather…oh, and did I mention weather? Finally, it was time and we started lining up in corrals.  Our plan was to start out a little under our race pace and safely maneuver through traffic before settling into our comfort zone well before hitting Iroquois Park. Best pace scenario would put us at the finish line right around the 4:20 mark, which would be a PR (personal record).  My running partners agreed they would be ecstatic to get near that time as well, so we were excited! As soon as we took off, heavy rain started, but quickly backed off to a drizzle.  Then, things went gray and humid. Still, no sun was beating down on us and we were all smiles and in good humor. It was great to run on that course and see so many people that I have made friends with during training season.

Our 10K pace was right at an hour, which was pretty comfortable for us considering the crowd.  I was ready to pick up the pace, but it started to get hotter and my partner started to feel ill around mile 8. We were forced to slow down in order for her heart rate to get back in order. In mile 9, she told me to go ahead without her. I didn’t want to and so we went back and forth about this for awhile. Honestly, I was scared for her and didn’t want to leave her this way.  (AND, I had ran my first marathon alone and knew what that felt like!)  After a pep talk from another mother runner and after much insistence from my running partner, I went on ahead.  I looked at my watch and started doing the math and realized her argument was right, I could still PR this race!

Getting into mile 12 and starting the hilliest part of the race was invigorating for me. I have a bad habit of going faster than I should up hills, so I really had to watch my ascents, and descents, for that matter. I wanted to run hard and fast and get out of the park so that I could find my rhythm again on flat ground. My fueling was way off because of the delayed start, so I kept my mind occupied by doing “fuel math” as I ran to mile 15. On miles 15-20, I ran my fastest miles of the day, and I felt like I had wings on my feet! Towards the end of mile 19, I had a group of mother runners, affectionately known as our “Scream Team” waiting for me and the others with ice, body glide and jello shots.  I took the ice and rubbed it down my neck and poured water over my head. I shoved ice cubes in my mouth like a squirrel hoarding acorns for the winter – I am sure I made a lovely picture at that point, looking like a drowned, crazy squirrel!  It was so humid- fire hydrants were turned wide open as the sun beat down on us. It was easily in the high 80’s with high humidity. I made sure to run through every drop of water I could find.  I started passing people in mile 22.  I could feel it; I was so close to that finish line!  My husband and my children text me a photo that said “We are waiting for you, mommy!” and I just started crying!  They were tears of joy, to be clear.

Suddenly, my pace slowed and I thought miles 23 and 24 were never going to end. I was sure that my watch was wrong-my pace was staying consistent but I felt like my legs were running in slow motion. As I rounded the curve at 26, I could hear my husband yelling and then I saw my two boys.  My ten year old was leading the pack with my eight year old right behind him! They were running alongside of me, cheering me on, blowing me kisses as they ran screaming, “Run, Mommy! Run!” like it was a game we play every day.   I held my head up and put my feet forward one at a time as I ran to catch them. They ran the entire last 0.2 of that marathon with me and it was 0.2 miles of pure joy the entire way.  Later, after I had my medals, some food and a celebratory beverage in my hand, my husband revealed I had PR’d the race. I had forgotten to look at my time at the finish line!

Now I look at my finisher’s photos and I am wearing a huge grin. My smile tells a story of which I am so proud. I am proud of my friend who finished her first marathon not long after I did. I am proud of my Fairy God Mother Runner for PR’ing what was her seventh marathon finish. I am proud of myself for finishing what was a race under not so ideal conditions.  I ended up with a 4:35 finish time for this race- 10 minutes faster than my first try at this course. And I think to myself, not too shabby for your second 26.2!

I now look forward to my next marathon and the experience it brings me. I welcome the training because it makes me stronger. I welcome the challenge because showing my children hard work can pay off is priceless. No matter how slow or fast I go, I know when I cross that finish line, I am a better runner and a better person than I was the day before.

*A special thank you to my husband and family members for putting up with me during my 14 week training season.  Also, I want to thank my IRun4 buddy, Jessica and her mother, Merlene, for being such great cheerleaders! You all are my a place I find strength and comfort on the hard days.

3 thoughts on “My Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon Adventure!

Add yours

  1. Your story is amazing. I agree with the “INTERESTING” description for sure. I had pictured a far better race in my head…but the delays and the humidity took it out of me. And I only did the mini. You’re amazing for doing so awesome on that full. CONGRATS!!

    Liked by 1 person

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