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Post Half Marathon Advice: What to do after

Congratulations you’ve finished a half marathon. Hopefully you have had a great experience not just with the physical running side but also the atmosphere which makes these events so special. Your recovery starts as soon as you get across the finish line so here is some tips on what to do post half marathon to help avoid the aches and pains over the next few days.

Zero – Five minutes post half marathon:

Don’t Stop!

You may feel exhausted, aching and needing a lie down however the best thing to do is keep moving for at least 10-15 minutes after you finish. Listen to you body but get a cool down in and keep moving even, go for a light jog or a walk. Just try not to sit down straight away, walk to the food or charity tent. Start your post race stretching and put some layers on as your body will loose heat very quickly.

Zero – twenty minutes post half marathon:


It’s vital to replace the fluid that you would have lost throughout your run as quickly as possible to help your body recover. For a half marathon distance try electrolyte sports drink, juice, water or the beloved runners favourite chocolate milk. You want to drink enough liquid so that your urine returns to a pale yellow, if its darker you are still dehydrated. Water is great but as you would have lost salt and mineral throughout your run try a combination.


In the first half an hour after you finish you want to eat some small, with main component being carbohydrate with a small amount of protein and fat. Good examples are a banana, fruit either fresh or dried, Nuts, bagels/baps, cereal bar/flapjack, yogurt or chocolate.

2 hours post half marathon:

After you finish your run try to have your main meal; half of the meal should be made up of carbs preferably whole grains with an equal amount of protein. Ginger and honey have also been proven to help and reduce muscle soreness.

Thirty mins – one hour post half marathon:

Stretching and Sports Massage

It wont be the first time you’ve been told about the importance of stretching after a race but there’s a reason way. After you have done your own stretches end the to the sports massage tent and get a massage. The therapist will often be able to detect muscles that you may not have notice being tight as well as getting deeper into the muscles. They will also be able to help you with dynamic stretches, which have been proved to be more effective than static stretches.

The evening post half marathon:

By the evening you should have refuelled and start to relax. Whether your staying in a hotel or you were lucky enough to be local and are able to chill at home make sure you keep moving. Just go for a evening stroll nothing strenuous something simple like a 10 minute walk with the dog at a very leisurely pace will be more than good enough. The most important thing is you get a good night sleep cause lets face it you deserve it!!

Three – five days post half marathon:

Get another sports massage to help with any aches and pains that you may have developed post race. You can read for about the benefits of Sports Massage here.

Four days post half marathon: 

When should you start running again?
The general rule is between 4 days after go for a 2-mile light run just to keep your muscles moving. You want to reverse taper and start to slowly build up the mileage you are doing.

You can download this guide at: The A State of Health Clinic’s Website.

For other articles on Half marathon’s check out what to in the week before and on raceday.

Half Marathon: Race Day Advice

It’s race day! You’ll probably be feeling a mix of emotions nerve, excitement, fear or all of the above and more rolled into one. Here are some tips to get you to the starting line of your half marathon feeling calm and relaxed.

Early Start:

Get up early and leave plenty of time for breakfast and to get to the start. The last thing you want to do is rush to the venue. Go through your race details of where to drop your kit off and where the starting pen is. Have one last look at the half marathon course details including water stations.

Do a last-minute check of your kit bag make sure you have your shoes, clothes, race number with safety pins attached, timing chip if not already attached to your shoes, water bottle and food. Make sure your kit bag has extra layers for after the race and some dry clothes encase it’s a wet race.

Two – Four hours before the half marathon:

Eat a breakfast you’ve had before don’t try anything new, you don’t want an upset stomach. Try to eat 2?4 hrs before the starting time and aim for 1000 calories. Eat a combination of simple carbs with some protein for example bread/bagels, cereal, nut butter, low-fat yogurt, or milk. If you can’t stomach food try a fruit based smoothie.

Two Hours – Thirty minutes before the half marathon:

Have a pre-event massage 2 hr ? 30 mins before the race. The massage should be light and up-tempo to aid the runner in getting their muscles warm and ready for the race. The theory is to increase the blood going to the muscles. It also has been suggested to improve focus and relax before the race. The practitioner can also help with some dynamic stretches. It should not be used instead of a good warm up and stretches but to complement it. If you want some more information about how sports massage can benefit you check out my blog post on Sport Massage.

Up to one hour before the half marathon:

Keep your fluid intake up and drink 500?700 ml up to the hour before and then no more than 200ml 30 mins before. While you need to make sure you’re properly hydrated before you start, you don’t want to over hydrate or have to stop and take a pit stop mid half marathon.

Thirty – forty-five minutes before the half marathon:

Have a good warm up and stretch. Never stretch cold muscles always go for a light 5-minute jog before hand. Do the same warm-up you are used to and get into your normal pre-race/run routine. For more tips on advice on warming up check out my  guide to the importance of warming up.

Up to thirty minutes before the half marathon:

Drink around 200ml this will be your last main fluid intake till the start of the race.

Twenty to thirty minutes before the half marathon:

Go to the start early, hand in your kit bag and have an old track suit or old foil blanket, to stay warm at the start but something you can just get rid off. Get to the pen 20-30 mins before the start so you know you don’t have to rush or add any extra anxiety.

Two minutes before the half marathon:

Leave it to the last few minutes to take your old kit off.
Most importantly enjoy the race!!
You can download this guide at: The A State of Health Clinic’s Website.
For other articles on Half marathons check out: What to do the week before, what to do after a half marathon

“A half marathon is just a 5K race with a 10 mile warm up.”


My first (and, so far, only) half marathon did not exactly go how I envisioned it going in my head. In an attempt to get back in shape after an extended running hiatus, I signed up for the 2013 Minneapolis Half Marathon. I even managed to pressure my non-runner husband into doing it with me. The furthest I had run before was 10 miles… about 10 years earlier. But I stuck to a pretty consistent training program and aimed for a 2:10 finish time.

To say the race did not go well is an understatement. I quickly realized my Nike+ running app was about .2 miles off, so I had mistakenly believed I was running a lot faster during training than I actually was. That was a huge mental setback for me, but I stayed with the 10 minute/mile pace group for the first nine miles. Then things started to implode. My ankles were suddenly on fire. My legs felt like thousand pound weights. The hills felt like scaling Everest. When I slowed to a walk, the incredibly kind pacer patted me on the back and asked if I was okay. I said I was pretty sure I was dying and that I would catch up. I plodded along alone, silently cursing my Nike+ app, which had given me such false confidence. 

By the time I struggled up the last hill at mile 12, I hated races, running, inclines of any kind, and all the ridiculously happy spectators fortunate enough to be at a complete standstill. I crossed the finish line, swearing I would never do a full. Dream or no dream, only crazy people ran twice that distance. 

On the bright side, my hockey playing, I-hate-running-because-it-kills-my knees husband finished his first half marathon that day as well, and I was so proud of him. (Although after the race, the medical tent became his base camp. After running through a “pop” in his knee, he spent the rest of the day sandwiched in between ice packs.)

Eventually, the pain of the race faded, and within a few months, I decided to sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon. I had officially joined the “crazy” runners. I was determined to train better and harder and chase my 26.2.

Oh, and I also upgraded to a Garmin.   

“Whether it’s 10 miles or one, you will never regret lacing up those running shoes and going outside.”

Seen on a run

Ah, how I love to run outside. The first spring-like day always feels like Christmas morning. After the long winter months of trudging on the treadmill, I get to run outdoors! The crisp air, the chirping birds, the fragrant flowers… it’s all a heavenly mix for the senses.

Each season, I have a favorite spot to run past. During spring, one of my usual routes passes by some big, beautiful lilac bushes. Their gorgeous, delicate aroma fills the air, and I often choose that particular route just to smell their blooms.  

The photo above is my favorite place to run by during the summer. I usually stop to simply admire the spot’s beauty. Near sunset, the light glimmering on the lake is breathtaking. I could drink in the view for hours.

In fall, there’s a house I run past whose owners often burn leaves in the backyard. The invigorating, crisp smell of the wood smoke makes me think of apple cider, hot chocolate, and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. I always breathe in deeply when I pass the house and savor its smells.

I think one of the best parts about running is the chance to see, smell, and listen to nature. There is so much beauty in this world. Taking a moment to appreciate it during a run is often the best part of my day.

Half Marathon Advice: What to do in the week before the race

So you’ve signed up for a half marathon! Whether you have competed before or it’s your first half and taking on the challenge. Here are some of my tips of what to do in the week before the race:

1 week before the Race:

Use today as a full dress rehearsal, get up and have the same breakfast you plan to have on the day. This way you can test out everything and have some more confidence going into the race. Try to go for your run at the same time as you plan to do the race. Remember stay hydrated through the day and maintain through this week.

6 days before:

Either take today off or do a light cross training session. You could try the main meal your planning to have the night/lunch before your race. Make sure you get a good night sleep.

5 days before:

Do you last main training session before the race today and practice your routine including your diet, clothing. Try doing the run again at you’re planned  race pace.

4 days before:

Go for a fartlek or short high intensity interval work out to keep your legs moving and to get your heart racing. Fartlek means speed play in Swedish its just a term for interval training or run/walk training.

3 days before:

If you have a rest day planned for the day before and are not traveling aim for a light session no longer than 30 minutes. Start monitoring your fluid intake and make sure your staying hydrated. Make sure you get a good night sleep. Start to increase your carb percentage to 65?70%, but try to avoid beans and other food that may upset your stomach.

Get a good night sleep!!

3-5 days before

Get a sports massage preferably after an easy training session. Depending on how often you normally get a massage depends on how close you can leave it to the event. If you get them regularly you can have one closer to race day. You can find out more at the benefits of Sports Massage on my blog post.

Two days before:

If you have to travel to your race this would be the ideal day, go to pick your bib and other race day essentials including your food and drinks you may want on the day. Start increasing the percentage of carbs in your diet to around 70%. Avoid beans and other food that may cause bloating. If you’re not traveling to the race go for  a short walk or a light cross training session.

The day before:

Go for a very short run first thing to keep your legs moving no more than 20 mins! May attention to your diet with your main meals being breakfast and lunch to give your body enough to digest. Aim to eat easy to digest carbs like pasta with protein and not too much fibre or fat. Drink 2 glasses of water with dinner and then go for a short walk. Get everything laid out and packed for the morning so everything is ready. Set your alarm and try to get a good night sleep.
You can download this guide at: The A State of Health Clinic’s Website.

For more articles on Half Marathon running check out my race day and post half marathon guides.

No Run Is Ever The Same

I blogged a few weeks ago about my 8th marathon coming up.  It is now completed and several days after.  I’m still trying to determine what made this such a good run.  Was it the weather, atmosphere, clothes, shoes, music, course. Probably all the above and then some.  I completed this marathon and finally got myself a new PR taking 47 minutes off.  It was a out of state run, humid, sunny to cloudy the whole day, two turn around, split from half was at approximately 12.5 mile marker.  At the split off we ran right in between where the half was finishing and the bus stop was to take finishers back to the start line.  Mental, I forgot to add mental.  Running is such a mental / physical sport and I think that is where I lose myself sometimes. It’s so easy to talk yourself into things when you are mentally and physically exhausted.  When you are running so close to the finish of others and you know you have to complete the same amount of miles you just ran to be done is a mental game.  Normally I’m fine once I’m far away enough not to hear or see but, until then it’s a struggle to talk myself into not stopping.  Walking is another struggle when your trying to stay on pace especially when the majority of the field is walking around you.  Normally I do run with at least one person that’s at my pace and we seem to talk ourselves into what ever craziness pops into our heads.  This race however it was just me and me alone to deal with all these crazy notions that popped up saying you need to slow down, you need to walk, you just need to stop. I ran this race for me, my way and well I will never tell you it’s easy because it’s not, but the satisfaction when you cross that finish line and you know you’ve given it everything you had is an amazing feeling!    As I said before I’ve been doing a special challenge along with lots of others.  It’s called My Peak Challenge which is to motivate us to get fit and in turn it benefits Bloodwise which is a charity that supports people living with blood cancer.  I’ve only started with them at the beginning of this year, what a difference just a few months can make.  The program is still going if anyone out there would like to take a look at it.  There is such a great support system with this group it’s just been a unbelievable experience. Exercise videos that are what I would call cross fit, but angled to if your new to exercise you are still able to follow along and menu’s that are terrific. This program is the first time I’ve attempted anything close to cross fit and it’s made a world of difference in the activities I was already involved in. I am so much stronger now than what I was and my time on this race proved it.



Science behind Treadmill Running

Running on a treadmill may feel like your cheating especially when the weather is wet, cold, windy and generally miserable, however this is where you are wrong. If you are going to brave the elements check out my blog post on what to wear running in winter. The latest research has exposed the truth about some of the myths around treadmill running including the 1% rule and biomechanics that people assume make running on a treadmill easier.



There have been many papers into the biomechanics of treadmill running vs. outdoor running the most noticeable studies I have read are by Leeds Beckett University for the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and Kerrigan et al for the National Institute of health.

Leeds: There was such minor changes in biomechanics of runners and racewalkers on a treadmill compared to outside that it could not be ruled out as normal variation between the subjects. The changes were was small increases in their stride length as well as decrease in the amount of strides that they took. However while negligble this is not necessary a bad thing as often many runners will train to purposely increase their stride length and decrease the number of strides.

Kerrigan et al: Also noted the biomechanics and therefore the use and strain of the muscles on the treadmill compared to the outdoor were almost exactly with minor differences put down to differences in terrains. On a treadmill you make brief contact with a moving belt rather than a stationary surface however reasearch shows the relative motion is the same and therefore the same biomechanics so the same stress on your body.

For information on the biomechanics of running in general check out my other blog post.

1% Rule

Most people will say that they set their treadmill onto a 1% incline to simulate the conditions that you would find outside but have you ever questioned why?

Andrew Jones investigated why:

The theory was that as you are running on a belt in a controlled enviroment there would be a reduction in air resistance and therefore if you increased the incline you would recreate the conditions. However Jones proven that unless you were running a mile in 7.09 mins or around 4.20 mins a km the influence of air resistance is not detectable. If you are in category of running under 7.09 mile firstly well done!! Secondly you will need to put your treadmill up to 1% to off set the resistance and those even luckier to be running even faster than you will need to put your treadmill incline up to 2 %.

What does all this mean for me?

• It’s easy to train and get used at an even pace that might not be possible outside with weather and terrain changes.
• You can get your runs in no matter what the weather and it wont affect your run
• It’s easy to monitor your technique
• You control the environment; got a race with hills yet there are no hills near where you live no problem you can replicate the course exactly.
• Returning from injury? Worried you’ll over do it and get carried away now you’re back a treadmill can prevent you overdoing it and if you need to stop you won’t be stuck halfway round your loop.

Original article from: A State of Health Blog 

“The marathon can humble you.”


Running the Chicago Marathon was supposed to be the race where I celebrated breaking five hours. I arrived at the start line injury-free and intent on a PR. The weather was warm for an October day in Chicago, but I wasn’t worried. I had trained in sweat-drenching heat and humidity. I was ready.  

Except I wasn’t. The race was the most difficult physical experience I have ever endured. I stumbled across the finish line, broken and battered. Not only had I missed my goal of breaking five hours, I hadn’t even come close. The disappointment was crushing. I staggered out of the finish area and didn’t run again for three months.

I knew by mile five I was in trouble. My legs felt as heavy and as tired as they had at the end of Twin Cities. At the half marathon mark, my stepdad and I were still on somewhat track to break five hours. But things began to deteriorate at an alarming rate after that. My body just shut down. My quads felt as if we had been running hills the entire time–steep hills. My ankles were on fire. At mile 18, I texted my husband and said I wanted to quit. He replied that I was almost thereonly eight more miles. It might as well have been 80 to me.

I could have not made it through the race without my stepdad. When I was struggling and told him to go on without me, he told me he was staying with me no matter what. If I bailed, he’d bail with me. Otherwise, we were crossing the finish line together. This man, who is a 3:20 marathoner, never left my side. I cannot express in words how much that meant to me. His encouragement and support kept me going mile after mile, even when all I wanted to do was stop and fall to my knees.

We walked much of the last eight miles. I tried to run again at the end, but I couldn’t find the strength for more than 100 meters or so. When we finally crossed the finish line, I didn’t feel any pride or happiness. Instead, I felt shame and disappointment. My husband and family congratulated me, but my heart was breaking. This was not how the race was supposed to go. This was not how I was supposed to feel. All my training, all my hard work, was for nothing. I had failed at my goal. That evening, runners proudly wore their marathon medals on the streets of Chicago. I left mine in the hotel room. 

After arriving home, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about the race. I was humiliated. The only people who truly understood how I felt were other marathoners. I sought out their advice and comfort. They were all so incredibly supportive and encouraging. They lifted me up when I was at my lowest. But I still couldn’t–wouldn’t–run. 

After several weeks, a friend of mine, who is a 15time marathoner, told me I was letting the marathon have too much power over me. I knew in my heart she was right, so on a cold day in January, I laced up my running shoes and stepped on the treadmill. It was nearly three months to the day since the Chicago Marathon. As I began to run and my gaze fell on the two marathon posters my husband had lovingly framed and hung on the wall, I realized it was finally time to let Chicago go. 

Four months later, I have started to heal. I can now look back on the race and see my strength rather than my weakness. I can see my determination rather than my disappointment. I can see my character building rather than my spirit breaking. I can see an opportunity for a comeback rather than a huge failure.

Though I am planning to take 2016 off from running a marathon, I will be back. Of that I am certain. After all, I still have five hours to break.

I’m not finished with you yet, Chicago.

Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow – My 20 Mile Adventure

Having never run before last year, I have encountered many things in this running journey that I thought I could never do. Completing a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon; me?…. “yeah right.”

Much to my surprise, I HAVE completed each of the above distances several times even, while posting halfway decent times to boot. Yesterday’s training run for my upcoming Two Rivers Marathon on March 26th, however, would put both my mind and body to a test even I wasn’t sure I could complete.

Pre-Run Selfie
A quick photo before beginning my training run with Ann Marie biking alongside.

The 20-mile training run along the canal path in Rochester, NY started off like most of my other runs, a quick pre-run selfie with my girlfriend Ann Marie who decided to bike the distance to make sure I had no problems and then we were off. The weather was beautiful, especially for Upstate NY at the end of February. The temperature was in the upper 40’s and I was pumped!

Knowing I had completed my last half marathon at a 10:04 min/mile pace I had every intention of pacing myself at around 12:00 min/mile – with a couple of simple goals being to just finish and to complete the run safely, as my prior attempt at marathon training last year came to an abrupt end with my 16 mile training run resulting in a thrown out back.

The first mile passed, 10 minutes and 37 seconds. “Slow down” I thought, still feeling great. Mile 2, 10 minutes 26 seconds… not exactly slowing down. I remember two thoughts crossing my mind early in the run, “I need to slow down,” and “this must be how a race leader feels” in regards to having my girlfriend biking behind me.

Training Run Splits
Splits for my 20-mile training run as tracked by

Around mile 5, I realized I had made a big mistake. I packed plenty of fuel for the run but somehow managed to forget the water before leaving the house. “No worries” I told Ann Marie, there are plenty of water fountains along the route so I should be ok. Except, after all, this WAS still Upstate NY – and we WERE at the end of February meaning they had all been shut off for winter.

Before we knew it, we had finished the first 10 miles of the run. I took a minute to fuel up with a couple Gu packets and then we were headed back knowing an out and back would “guarantee” a 20 mile completed run.

Shortly after beginning the 2nd half of the run both calves started to tighten and cramp. I knew it was the lack of hydration as I hadn’t experienced this during any previous runs, even my 5 completed half marathons.

Without sending my girlfriend ahead to find water somewhere I wasn’t left with too many options. But, there was still plenty of untouched snow lining both sides of the path the entire duration. It’s crazy the things you think of on long runs. I would NEVER even consider eating snow and here I was seriously wanting to do just that.

By the time I hit mile 12 I knew what had to be done to make sure I’d finish this run. So off the path I went – and there I found the most delicious, ice-cold water I’ve ever had in the form of melted snow. Just “don’t eat the yellow snow” I remember thinking as I downed a handful of this wonderful “treat.”

The next few miles followed the same pattern. Run a mile, grab a handful of snow to eat and start running again. It got me through mile 16 or so, and my legs started to feel much better.

Then things got really tough. “I only have a few miles to go” I thought. It wasn’t working. I had to sit for a few minutes. I seriously considered letting her get the car and pick me up from the rest area as there weren’t too many more road accessible stopping points along my finish.

I thought about my grandpa who passed a few years ago. He’s a former NYS Trooper. His toughness, even in his later years, has gotten my through many runs. ‘I HAVE to finish this.” I thought about the caramel iced coffee sitting in the car waiting for me. I thought about the charity I’mME who I am fundraising for*. The work they’re doing in Haiti to break the orphan cycle. The children.  I decided right then that whether I ran, walked, or crawled, there was no way I was hopping on that bike or having a car whisk me away from this challenge.

The last 4 miles were some of the toughest I’ve ever run both physically and emotionally. They certainly weren’t pretty. I maintained the run/eat snow walk pattern and pushed on. I remembered thinking how this run was both something I was ashamed of and most proud of, all wrapped into one.

I found a second wind, albeit in very small bursts. “You’re not really slowing down when you’re running” I remember Ann Marie saying. All I knew was that with each painful step I took I was closer to being done with this. And then I could see the parking lot in the distance.

Post Run Selfie
All smiles refueling with a garbage plate after completing the 20 mile training run.

I gave it everything I had that last half mile. I wasn’t going to leave anything in the tank at this point. And somehow, if even for a quarter-mile or maybe even less, I recorded a 6:34 pace for those final few paces. And then it was over.

I had just completed a 20 (point 02) mile run at a 12:25 pace (not including my rest break)! And like every runner before me and every runner who will come after me, I uttered the words “I guess if I could finish that run, the marathon is only 6.2 miles more.”

*If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising effort for I’mME to help their fight to break the Orphan Cycle, Click Here!

“Your first marathon only happens once.”


(Disclaimer: this post is longer than usual. So maybe stock up on a snack and a tissue or two, especially if emotional marathon stories make you teary-eyed like me.)

My dream came true when I crossed the finish line of the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon. After 18 weeks and hundreds of miles of training, after relentlessly devoting every fiber of my being to a single goal, I had done it. I had become a marathoner.

I’m not sure anyone can fully prepare you for the intensity and often grueling nature of marathon training. It takes a certain amount of grit, determination, and obsession. Meals, errands, weekend trips, vacations–they all suddenly revolve around your training schedule. But big sacrifices often lead to big rewards.

One training run, in particular, stands out for me. It was the infamous 20 miler. I remember it like it was yesterday. At mile 11, I had stopped to sit on the curb, waiting for my husband to meet me with more Gatorade. I was hot, I was tired, I was in pain, and I didn’t think I could go on for another nine miles. The late morning sun beat down on me as I thought, Why did I ever sign up for a marathon? I was crazy, totally crazy, to believe I could do this.” 

A few minutes later, my husband arrived with more fluids and refused to let me quit. In no uncertain terms, he told me I could do this and to get back out there and finish the run. As I watched him drive away, I was so envious. He was enjoying air conditioning! And he was on his way to a delicious breakfast! Stuffing down my spousal resentment, I dragged myself back on the sidewalk and kept going. Somewhere around 15 miles, the pain started to ebb, and my legs seemed to move all on their own. It was a euphoric feeling, and I finished the run. It was only then that I finally believed that I could really do it. That 26.2 was within reach. Exhausted, I bent over, and I let the tears fall.

The morning of October 5, 2014 dawned cold. Temperatures hovered in the low 30s. I was so nervous I could barely choke down my peanut butter toast and yogurt. My husband dropped my stepdad and me off a short distance from the start, and I nervously sipped some water as we waited. We met another father and daughter running together and chatted with them while trying to keep warm. Finally, the gun went off. When we reached the start line, I thought, “Here we go. This is it.” My stepdad and I had agreed that we didn‘t have a time goal. The only goal that day was to finish. 

The fans were amazing, and I tried to relax and enjoy the race. We smiled, waved, and gave high fives to little kids. We laughed at the funny marathon signs. At mile five, I mentioned I couldn’t wait to do another marathon, because I was having so much fun running this one! My stepdad laughed and said I probably wouldn’t be saying that in another 10 miles. (For the record, I was still saying that after 15 miles.)

We saw my family for the first time at mile eight. My husband said we were cruising and asked if I needed anything (Tylenol? A change of socks? More Gatorade? Some sports beans?). My mom surprised me with a colorful sign she made that said, “Go Elyse! On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 26.2.” It melted my heart. She was so proud she had made the sign herself and secretly brought it with her from Chicago.

We ran the first 18 miles before walking. I had started to feel nauseous, and it was the first time I thought I may not be able to finish the race. We slowed down, I caught my breath, I sipped some water, and I began to feel better. After that, we decided to walk the hills. Even though I had trained on them, my quads were tight as a drum.

I tried to take in all the sights and sounds of the race. Amazingly, the time went by quickly. Before I knew it, we had reached the 20 mile mark. Six more to go! I saw a friend at mile 22, and she ran with us for a bit. She told me, “I can’t believe you’re still smiling. No one is ever smiling at mile 22 of a marathon.” (The secret? Walking the hills after mile 18.) 

At the last turn before the finish line, I could feel the tears swell in my throat. I couldn’t believe we had done it. A crazy dancing banana was at the street corner with a boom box. I remember it was hard to laugh when I was trying so hard not to cry. I could hear the announcer welcoming runners down the home stretch and the spectators going wild. I could see my mom, my sister, and my husband shouting from the sidelines. I was running on empty, but I tried to pick up the pace the final two hundred meters. This was it. My stepdad and I crossed the finish line side by side. I had never been more proud in my entire life.

When my family met us after the race, my sister surprised me with the state medal I had earned senior year of high school in the 4x200 meter relay. Before running a marathon, that had been my proudest running moment. As she slipped it around my neck, I wanted to burst into tears. I had given her the medal a year earlier when she started to run sprints in track. I wanted it to remind her of what she could accomplish and inspire her to always do her best. Now she was giving that gift back to me. I wore two medals that day, and each is more precious to me than the world’s most priceless jewels.

It’s true when they say running a marathon will change your life. You find you are so much stronger than you thought possible. During the long training runs, when you’re exhausted and in pain, you learn to fight for those last few miles. When you’re tired or sick or busy, you find a way to muster up enough strength for a run. When people say you can’t possibly work full time, go back to school full time, and train for a marathon, you use that doubt to fuel you on the cold and dark mornings. On days when you question your commitment, your goal, and your ability, you learn to say, “No, I can do this.” You feel elation at covering distances you’ve never ran before, you cry when you have bad runs, and you bite back the pain of an injury. And when you finally cross the finish line, there is no better feeling in the world. The hours and hours of running, of sacrifice, of pain… it’s all worth it to step across a single line that says you are indeed a marathoner. And no one can ever take that away from you. I will never be the same person again, and for that, I am so grateful.