For the past four months I trained in hot weather, cold weather, early in the morning before work, in the evening after a long day at work, on Saturday mornings before rushing to the cat shelter for hours of volunteering, or on Sunday mornings before taking a three-minute shower in order to get to church on time.
There were days I loved it and days I hated it. All the while, I saw myself getting faster. I set a new 5K PR and even won the race as first female. I set out to get a half marathon PR and ended up finishing under 2 hours for the first time.
I didn’t know how the marathon I was training for would go, though. There are so many things that can go wrong during a 4-5 hour run. In my first marathon, I had trained consistently and probably would have done really well, but I had major stomach issues throughout the entire second half of the race. In my second marathon, I ran 19 strong miles until the overly warm temperatures and 100 percent humidity caused me to hit the wall, hard. I finished the race walking for most of the last 6 miles, hating every second. And then, two years ago, I did a string of marathons where I just hadn’t trained enough and finished with varying mediocre (for me) results, though at least I enjoyed myself most of the time.
So, in going to the Dallas Marathon proclaiming goals and raising my expectations, I was nervous. I agonized over the weather forecast, because I knew I had trouble in warm weather. In my first miles of the race, I over-examined any signs of cramping or stomach discomfort, because I knew if that flared up, it was going to be a long day.
But, when all was said and done, my body held it together, and my diligent training paid off. In the Dallas Marathon, I not only met my goal of breaking 4:30 (which was already 10 minutes faster than my long-standing PR of 4:40:16), I smashed it. I finished with a chip time of 4:14:29, and I did so with a negative split and a smile on my face.
To go back to the beginning, we made the 3-hour trip to Dallas on Friday evening after getting off from work. My husband is obsessed with Torchy’s Tacos, so I agreed to go there for dinner when we got to town. I had been eating super healthy all week, avoiding processed foods, fast food, soda, and sugar. At Torchy’s I got two healthy-sounding tacos, though I did indulge in some chips and queso.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Dallas, only a half-mile from the race start and finish line. It was the perfect location. On Saturday, we ate brunch at Overeasy, a nice and cute little restaurant in the Statler building downtown. I got avocado toast and scrambled eggs – it was very good!
Afterwards, we headed to the expo. I picked up my packet, then saw a line forming to meet Shalane Flanagan, who was set to arrive soon. So of course, I had to jump in line and get the chance to take a picture with her. So exciting!
After that, we left and went to the Sixth Floor Museum, which is in the former Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have shot JFK as he rode by on the road below. The museum was dedicated entirely to JFK’s trip to Dallas and his assassination. We also walked around Dealey Plaza and the “grassy knoll.”
Dinner was at Sapa House, where I had fresh coconut juice straight from a coconut, plus pho. I think pho is my favorite pre-marathon meal. The combo of the broth to settle my stomach, plus the noodles, meat and greens, just seems like the right choice.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and I got everything together for the following morning. I slept pretty well, waking up on my own around 5:45 AM. The race wasn’t until 8:10, but I wanted to wake up with plenty of time to drink my coffee, eat my breakfast, let everything digest, use the bathroom, etc.
It’s a good thing I gave myself so much time, because at some point I went to eat the bagel and peanut butter I’d brought from home, and realized the bagel had gone bad. It just tasted disgusting! I grabbed some cash and went down to the lobby, where there was supposed to be a 24-hour “pantry,” but I couldn’t find it. So instead, I remembered there was a 7-Eleven right around the corner from our hotel, so I went out into the dark cold and ended up buying a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter! I had to be resourceful – there was no way I could just go without eating anything before the race!
Finally, it was time to leave the hotel and walk the half-mile to the start. So, the weather forecast had race start temperatures at 40 degrees and race finish temperatures at 65 degrees. Therefore, I decided to wear shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt. It was mostly cold at the start because of the wind, and downtown between all the tall buildings, it was like a wind tunnel. So it was rough, but I still knew I had made the right wardrobe choice for the overall race, even as I stood shivering in my corral. The race had a wave start, so my corral didn’t start until about 8:25.
I don’t remember too much happening for the first 8 miles or so. I didn’t want to go out too fast, but I also thought maybe I should run the best pace I could while it was still cold. A 4:30 marathon, which was my goal, equaled a 10:18 pace. I mostly just ran what felt comfortable, while making sure it was under that pace. After a while, I was ready to split from the half marathoners. I felt like once we split from them, I would mentally feel like progress had been made and I was that much closer to finishing.
The race course was varied and interesting – we spent several miles in downtown, then went to Highland Park, where the ritzy and expensive houses were. After splitting from the half marathoners, we made our way to White Rock Lake Park. The temperatures did get noticeably warmer, but the breeze off the water felt good, and there were many shaded parts. The toughest part of the course were the various hills we had to climb – I ended up walking up hills at two points, because I felt trying to run them would only be to my detriment and make me slower in the long run.
I resisted stopping to use a porta-potty for awhile, because I refused to wait in line for one and waste precious time. Finally, at around mile 16, I saw some that didn’t have a wait, so I made the quickest pit stop ever. I was impressed with how fast I was.
Water stops were pretty much every two miles or so. I was running in my Saints Nike Dri-Fit shirt, and a volunteer wearing a Saints sweatshirt at one water stop gave me a “Who dat!” I was really impressed with the course support for this race. I thought the supporters might disappear once we split from the half runners, or that they might be gone when I got to the final miles, but there were onlookers throughout the entire race, and many of them called out to me by my name, which was on my bib.
I was curious to see how I’d feel at mile 20, which is where I hit the wall in previous races. My right IT band started getting tight, so I had to stop and stretch it for a moment a few times. But otherwise, I still felt strong at mile 20 and beyond. My breathing was a little challenged, my legs started to hurt, and my stomach felt kind of tight as well, but nothing I couldn’t overcome. The closer I got to the finish, the more motivated I was to hang on to my pace. I realized at some point that I was definitely going to break 4:30, and then I realized I could very possibly break 4:20 too. I wasn’t sure if I could break 4:15 or not, but breaking 4:20 was going to be good enough and I decided to run hard enough to make sure that happened.
As I turned the corner with less than 400 meters to go, I saw my husband in the finish chute taking pictures of me. Thanks to the runner tracking app he knew to be there, even though I was finishing about 15 minutes earlier than what I had told him was the best case scenario.
As I approached the finish line, I saw that my Garmin was at 4:14:00, so I trucked it to make sure I broke 4:15. I finished with a chip time of 4:14:29. I choked up after crossing the finish, but I also couldn’t breathe, so I had to gulp in some air and I think that saved me from crying in front of a bunch of strangers.
After finishing, we were given a heat sheet, medal, and snack box. Then there was a station to get your additional finishers shirt, which is a nice long-sleeved technical T-shirt.
I found Hunter at the family reunion area, and he took my picture and helped me get all my stuff together. We didn’t hang around too long – as soon as I stopped running, my legs were KILLING me. As usual, I wasn’t hungry for real food after the race because my stomach couldn’t handle it. I did get some ice cream before we headed out of town, but I could only eat a little bit.
We drove the 3 hours back to Shreveport with me still in my running clothes and my legs feeling very tired. Another bit of a blessing – we’d heard that I-20 was going to close completely at some point between Terrell, TX and Tyler, TX on Sunday, and we were anticipating having to take a detour and sitting in delayed traffic. Well, it looked like police and construction workers were setting up cones and signs as they were getting ready to close the interstate when we passed through, but it wasn’t closed yet! So we avoided that potential nightmare and got home in the normal amount of time. Thank goodness!
So, I am home with a new PR that I am very proud of, knowing all the training I did really paid off. I am going to rest completely over the next three days. We have an easy 3-mile Christmas race on Thursday night, then I have a 13-mile race on Saturday. I will probably also take that pretty easy. The Louisiana Marathon is in five weeks – at this time, I plan to run for pleasure and not a PR 🙂
As for the Dallas Marathon, I highly recommend it. It’s perfectly sized, everything was top-notch quality, it’s well organized, support was great, and the course was fun. 10/10, would do it again.
Full mile splits:
Mile 16 = bathroom break. Mile 21 = hill climbing.
Favorite race signs:
- Run as if Matt Lauer/Harvey Weinstein is chasing you
- Just don’t suck!
- Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me