Since I crossed the finish line on Saturday, most people have had one question “How did you survive running the same one-mile loop 26 times??” And my answer has been universally the same: it was actually pretty awesome.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
While some of you may have left work early to get in on the March Madness action, Meg and I were strategizing on all the important pre-race logistics. Throughout the day, we organized our topics that all of you crowd sourced. We got some really good ones and then added a few of our own. We also came up with a game plan for our “pit stop” (the place our fans would congregate with their own snacks and beverages, while also being on-duty to hand us ours). That night, she went to the Running Company and stocked up on gels while I went to target and picked up food, gatorade, water, diet coke etc. Also that night, Nathan and Hunter arrived so we went to Mama Carollas (my favorite restaurant in Indy) for some carb loading. The laughs among JD, Hunt, Nathan and I made the pre-race jitters go away. It was a perfect pre-race meal.
Cheers to Marathon #10!
When I got home, I laid out my clothes and we all packed up our coolers, bags, etc. It was going to be chilly at the start so we had plenty of blankets for the spectators. My outfit consisted of two long-sleeved tops, my lucky marathon tights, long socks. And I brought an extra layer for the beginning.
I set my alarm for 5:16am and was wide awake when it went off. I got up, brushed my teeth and then realized I had plenty of time so got back in bed. Of course I didn’t sleep….but just tried to relax and focus on the day. At 5:46am, I got up for a second time, got dressed and started packing the car with the boys. Nathan, Hunter and JD all wore their See Meggie Run shirts which I LOVE. They made them back for the San Francisco Women’s Marathon years ago and hold plenty of good memories. We bundled up and packed into the car while Meg, Jake and their dog Slater led the caravan up to West Lafayette. On the way there, we listened to my Songza app and chose some pretty awesome playlists. Starting with the 90210 Slumber Party Mix (Yes, we DID hear “How Do You Talk to an Angel” by Jamie Walters but as Nathan put it “No one will ever take him seriously as an artist after Ray pushed Donna down the stairs), we then moved on to “2000′s One Hit Wonders” (my personal favorite, “Do Your Chain Hang low.”) We knew the other girls were en route too – Christi, Kristi and Dana were running the relay as a team, as were Kelly and Jaime.
Hunt and Nathan dancing
When we arrived at the park, we saw no signs of running life. There weren’t posters directing you where to go. There wasn’t another single person even wearing running shoes. We parked and asked a woman standing in a snowsuit if we were in the right spot and she confirmed that we were. There were 2 parking lots for the race and we picked the one less traveled. And it made all the difference.
Meg and I hiked up the trail to get our packets (read: 2 bibs and a tshirt). The race organizers had let us pick our own numbers so I was my lucky number 22. We put one bib on the front (the one with the chip) and one on the back so that when people passed us on the trail, they would know our name. Pretty brilliant really.
When we got back to our cars, the rest of the crew had arrived. Poor Jaime was deathly ill so when they picked up their packets and saw the medal in their bags, they all contemplated just hanging with the boys, eating donuts and drinking beermosas. But of course they were going to finish – they didn’t drive an hour north to relax in the park!
It was quite cold at this point – we were all bundled up and I had no problem keeping on my mint sweatshirt all throughout the first lap even!
Jaime, Meg, me, Christi, Dana, Kristi, Kelly
Kristi and Christi had both made signs! Kristi focused one on the Crossfit Games which Meg and I loved. We did our own 26.2 that day!
Ryan Gosling anyone? YES.
With only ten minutes until the start, Dana, Kelly, Meg and I walked up to the start line. With only 105 people running the marathon plus the relay teams, it was easy to navigate. We bundled together and before we knew it, we were running.
Ready, set, go!
As you guys know, we had topics for every mile and Mile 1 was just talking through the race and seeing for the first time what the full lap looked like. It’s pretty easy to describe: we crossed the start line where the organizers marked our every mile (and as we passed, our names popped up on a screen telling us what lap we were on). We turned right and ran a long stretch that was lined with the spectators. Families had blankets and chairs lined up and some even had tailgating tents. For those that had observed the Circular Logic water bottle system, this is where they picked up their bottles and had them refilled. This is where all those who parked in the other lot went. It was by far the most populated. From there, we turned right and faced a slight incline – luckily it was VERY slight but still was my least favorite part of the course. We turned right again and ran along a sidewalk next to the road. This was the most congested part of the race and often we had to run single file to let people to pass. We raced by a softball field that later in the day was occupied by some Purdue students. We then hit a very sharp almost u-turn which brought us up by our pitstop. We could hear them cheering for us and other runners well before we actually ran past them but it was (of course!) the highlight of the laps. There were also no other people around so it kept the energy up! Then we turned right one last time before heading back to the start line. The first lap, we jaunted off to pick up the .2 miles which was nice to get over with.
Jaime and Kelly were swapping every mile whereas the other relay team ran in increments of 2 miles. Every single mile, we ran in a pack. Sometimes it was 4 of us. Sometimes it was 7 of us. But Meg and I were never alone. And that made all the difference.
Christi, Kelly and Nathan running alongside me
We were quite committed to the topics the first 15 miles. Each lap, Nathan would hand us a strip of paper with the respective topic and we’d spend the mile discussing. So thank you for all who submitted ideas and thoughts for us to discuss. At the bottom of this post, you will see the topics and what we talked about!
Miles 1-5 flew by. Seriously flew by. I think I even said “I really love this race and could see all of us doing this again.” The course became familiar quickly. I knew the part I didn’t love and luckily, it was brief. We started to get to know other runners and the spectators. This little girl yelled “Good job Meghan! Good job Meggie!” every time we ran by. And it made me smile every single time. As one man passed us and saw the back of our tops he said “It’s a MEGATHON!” which we really loved.
There were a couple costumes – mainly a monkey and a bee. And though we started to create stories around our fellow runners, we got most of our information from the pit stop. Our fans were interacting with every runner, every lap. Nathan, a former University of Iowa cheerleader took to this race like a fish to water. He and Jake both had brought dry-erase boards so every time we passed, they had a different sign for us. Some of them were song lyrics and some were just hilarious (like “Donna Martin graduates” and “I’m a 90′s bitch”) But they just didn’t make the signs for us – they made them for other runners. The relay runners were our liaison between the path and the pit so each time they switched out, we would hear what was happening back on home base. We learned that Bryce won the race last year but that Jake had already lapped him twice and was in a great position for a win (which he did! Bryce got second) Laura was working hard for a win and ended up PRing at 3:09. Anne was running with her husband but was actually beating him. And our pit crew thought that the Monkey and the Bee were dating. We were right smack in our own little community and each lap brought us all closer.
pit stop action and
At mile 4, we took our first walking break. We only fueled up at the pit stop rather than the water station the other runners used. When we approached the pit, I would yell “JD – Water!” or “JD – gel!” “JD – Gatorade” and even once “JD – donut hole!” Our team and supporters were amazing. I can’t even begin to tell you all how much I appreciated every single one of them.
JD took lots of pics of us in the beginning. We were all smiles. The weather was warming up and we were running really well. Our first 3-4 miles were all sub 9:30/mile and every time I said we would slow down, we didn’t. But we felt good so carried on. That’s never a great strategy – we should have started and held at 10/miles the entire time but oh well. We fought for every mile that day so I have no regrets. At mile 6, we took our first gel. At mile 8, another water stop. At mile 12, more gel. At this point, I was just “chunking” the distances in my mind. Every 4 miles was water. Every 6 was a gel. Mile 13 was more than halfway. Mile 15 was IBprofen and mile 17 meant we had single digits left to run.
Jaime, Meg and I on the sidewalk strip of the loop
JD climbed a fence for this pic
My hips started to hurt at mile 12. And though I promised myself I wasn’t going to let those mental demons in during the race, I did. I let the pain in my hips seep into my brain. I was negative and in a bad spot. But at mile 16, with IBprofen in my system, I caught a second wind. I take absolutely zero credit for that energy – it came 100% from my friends. JD, Jake, Nathan all rang alongside us. We had the 4 of us runners, plus at least 3 more fans packed together, taking on that trail. I didn’t have to talk, but instead could just listen to their conversation and be distracted by the course. Hunter jumped in the next mile. And on and off it went for the next 10 miles. Nathan ran more that day than he ever has in one day! Hunt kept the questions going. JD was by my side for every mile I needed him. Jake was the same for Meg. And my girls…..I still don’t know how I got so lucky to have such incredible, fierce women who get me. They know when it hurts. They know how to inspire. They know how to make me laugh. And they, along with Jake, JD, Nathan and Hunter made all the difference.
Because every lap is the same – literally – it’s hard to sort the memories of when I felt good and when I didn’t. I know that Meg and I were very eager to get to that “single digits left” point in the race and I even tweeted “9 more to go.” Once in the 20s, I didn’t feel AWFUL but I was mentally in a bad spot. And not so nice. At one point JD was running ahead of me and when I asked why, he said “I am trying to pull you along.” I said “I want you by me. Next to me. Not one single inch in front of me” and then apologized that I am such a beast at the end of a marathon. Luckily he gets it
The hip started to hurt again at mile 22 and you’d think with only 4 more to go, we’d just put it into high gear but that wasn’t going to work. The loops seemed to get longer. At one point, I asked JD to find me some headphones. I just needed one mile to zone out. I listened to Taylor Swift and PINK and Kanye and then pulled the headphones out and reengaged with our crew. I had stopped a couple times to stretch out the hips which felt incredible. So when I complained to JD about how I hurt he told me to walk. I said “I can’t. I don’t want to be last place.” He said “Oh, you won’t be. XXXX is going to be last place.” I said “Who is XXXX?” and he replied, “the person who is going to get last.” It made me laugh and I realized I was being silly. We were fighting for every mile.
With 2.5 miles to go I said out loud to JD “I can’t do this.” He said “of course you can. You are so close.” I responded “Well I just don’t want to.” Of course every marathoner probably thinks these things but we should all be smart enough to never say it aloud. Even to oneself. It opens up the weakness that is dying to pour out. No one wants that Pandora’s box.
When we had 2 to go, I was barely talking. I listened to those around me and kept Meg in sight. She had planned for a fun “mystery topic for miles 25-26 but neither of us were really talking. We were just running as hard as we could. With one more lap to go, I said “Why do we do this to ourselves? You know what we are doing next??? 5ks. That’s what we are doing.” And every time I passed a cone I would say “We will never see this cone again!!” I wasn’t nearly the cheerleader I had planned to be. I wanted to be fun and uplifting and strong and positive. But once I let those negative demons in, they just took over. They didn’t ruin my race, but I had to rely on my friends to keep picking my spirits up over and over.
When we passed our pitstop, it was empty because everyone was at the finish waiting for us. WHAT a beautiful sight. We were close. SO CLOSE. We took off. A little faster. A bit faster. Then full out sprint to the finish. The tears came before I even crossed. I buried my head in JD’s tshirt and sobbed.
Then I hugged every one of the girls, Jake, Nathan and Hunter. JD handed me a class of champagne and I collapsed with it beside me. I was upset. Not because my time wasn’t as fast as I wanted – and it wasn’t – but because I was SURE we would get Meg her PR. I just thought there was no way we wouldn’t. We worked hard. We didn’t slack off so I am proud of us, just always want better.
Right as I was thinking this and feeling down on myself, Meg brought us all together and said “So guys, I want to tell you something. Jake and I are engaged!” HOLY HELL! They got engaged two weeks ago and I have seen her a thousand times, even talked about marriage and she never once let on! This was her mystery topic for miles 25 and 26 that we failed to get to given how bad we felt! Her timing was perfect though – we were done with the race and finish time just didn’t matter anymore. We had bigger fish to fry! She got to tell all of us right there, with champagne in our hands after 26.2 miles of running. PERFECT.
Right after the announcement
The medals are awesome – one big circle. Well played, Circular Logic. Well played.
Number 10 is in the books. I loved the course. I loved how small it was. There was no expo or massive packet pick up. The start line was easy to get to. The finish line was easy to collapse across right afterwards. I loved the community of runners that became my friends for a day. I loved seeing the pit-stop crew at home base every mile. I loved having water, Gatorade, diet coke and even donut holes there whenever I needed them. I loved the familiarity of the path – just like the Monon. I do better when I know what’s coming. I would do this race again – whether the marathon or the relay. But one big piece of advice: if you are thinking about doing this race next year – follow our lead. Bring a party. It makes all the difference
Thank you to all of you who emailed, texted, tweeted and facebooked your way into my inspiration on Saturday. I am so grateful for your support.
Thank you to Nathan and Hunter who drove down to Chicago, made signs, and were the best cheerleaders not to just me, Meg and the girls but to every runner out there. You two are incredible. And thank you to Jake for being witty with your signs and loud with your voice.
Thank you to the Perfect Strangers for putting up with my beast mode. For hugging me when I needed it. For making me laugh. For talking about our ideal hot tub scenario and for being the best girlfriends anyone could ask for.
Thank you to JD for being my running rock. You know me and what I need at any given mile better than anyone. I couldn’t have done Saturday without you and I promise to support you and cheer my heart out for you during the Boston Marathon next month.
And to Meg for being such a great running buddy. All those runs in the rain and snow and ice. At 5:30am when we didn’t want to run. The hundreds of circles we did on the track. And for waiting until the perfect time to share your amazing news. I am so happy for you and Jake.
And to all of you who gave us topics to run to…..I give you a recap. Thank you!
- The first topic was from my mom “Would you give up 20 IQ points to be able to be your ideal weight without ever having to exercise or worry about what you eat for the rest of your life.” As we tackled this one, we considered how much 20 points really represented. We through out some statistics about average IQ to see if we really have enough to spare but in the end, just about everyone said no, it wasn’t worth it. I can tell you, however, that laughably, at the end of this race, Meg and I were close to changing our mind. We were done with exercise.
- Vacation spots. We all agreed we would go across the sea and while I brought up Spain other girls wanted to go Asian. Meg and Jaime both suggested Laos and Jaime had our brains swimming with visions of eating sticky rice and living in tree houses while moving only by zipline.
- Pick a movie and recast it with people you know in life. I love this one but it was HARD to find a movie we all knew that had enough leading characters to recast it. I went with the obvious and did Sex in the City. Kristi immediately said “Please don’t make me red head! I am always the red head!” I told her that I was happy to take Miranda as I too typically get casted as her. We gave Samantha’s character to Meghan, Charlotte to Kelly and Kristi took Carrie!
- Rank 5 European countries from top to bottom. I chose England, Italy, Spain (although I have never been), Ireland and Germany. Others threw in Scotland, France and Switzerland into the mix.
- Talk about some of your favorite memories from college. Since Meghan and I went to school together and are sorority sisters, we had fun talking about some of our favorite memories. It’s hard to narrow them down to one single event or time. All of them seemed to shape us. But it was a good way to focus our attention on the past and laugh about some of the crazy times – and hear about some of the other girls’ college experiences.
- Who would be the 5 celebrities you want in your ideal hot tub? Every single girl + Nathan picked Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling. Some added Justin Timberlake, Adam Levine (good call, Christi!), Tae Diggs (Meg), Hugh Jackman (Kelly) and I added in Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny from Grey’s) and David Beckman! That tub is HOT!
- If someone made action figures of you, what is your special power? And who is your arch nemesis? That was easy for me! Flying (because that sounded good as I was running) and my arch nemesis was the picture-taker with the newsletter. Some said wheels (same reason as running). We also joked that boys would have had a lot more creativity with this one that us girls.
- Play 3 songs out loud: This one was fun! We just turned on my phone and listened to music as we circled the track!
- If you were guaranteed honest responses, whom would you question and what 3 questions would you ask? We had some great people in this one. Obama. Tiger. I chose someone in the CIA (can you imagine those secrets!) George W. (Clearly we stayed in a similar genre.) As for specific questions, we didn’t get into details about the questions other than just to find out the back stories on some of the “big stories’ involving these people.
- We also talked about crossfit, training runs, past Perfect Stranger girls who don’t run with us anymore (status updates). Kelly interviewed Nathan about his cheerleading days. Hunter came up with amazing questions on the spot about TVshows we would want to star in, etc. We were never short of topics and it’s all because of you guys!
What’s up next?
I am not 100% sure. I am signed up for the Illinois Marathon on April 27th but I think I am going to opt-out. I like the idea of focusing on the Mini Marathon and taking a good break from running while ramping up my crossfit. From there, I start training for Chicago in early summer. Though I already feel good about getting back to pavement and feel motivated to run (every race does this), I also love that I am not sweating this snowfall right now. Because I don’t HAVE to run in it.