I think it is still sinking in today…I am a ‘marathoner.’  I had a blast in my first marathon: Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL.  It’s been quite an adventure in training with my GKIN class and although it seems hard to remember weekends without Saturday group runs, it’s also hard to believe the marathon has come and gone.

The adventure started early on Friday when my class met at 6:30AM to load up in vans and make the 9-ish hour drive to Huntsville, AL.  Although I was not looking forward to the early morning and long trip I was really relieved to be with my class to calm my nerves and finally be getting to the long awaited run.  The trip down involved a lot of metabolism studying, a long lunch at Mellow Mushroom in TN, a few sketchy bathroom breaks, and some unplanned back-roading but we finally made it to Huntsville, AL.  None of us realized there was a time change involved (oops) but the extra hour gave us plenty of time to check into the hotel before dinner.

Our hotel was right next to the start of the marathon and expo which made it super convenient to get around.

The class hit up Olive Garden for a pre-race carb-loading meal.  I enjoyed salad, bread sticks, pasta with tomatoes and basil, and more bread sticks!  I figured it couldn’t hurt at that point!   After dinner, we hit up the expo to get our race packets and headed back to the hotel to rest up.  I slept pretty well but kept waking up thinking it was time to go!…not yet Anna…not yet…

Finally I had enough and got up at 5:00AM when I knew I wasn’t getting back to sleep.  I sat around in the lobby until most of us wandered down to eat breakfast at 6:00.  I had a piece of peanut butter and jelly toast, cup of coffee, and bowl of cereal.  I didn’t want to eat too much since the start of the race was at 8:00 and the last thing I needed was any GI issues.

At this point, it was time to gear up, get ready, yet calm down and mentally prepare.  Our class meet in the lobby at 7:30 and after an epic pep talk and “Roll Tide” chant we walked over to the start of the race.  The race drew about 1,200 runners and our class started the race together.  Right at 8:00 the gun went off and I put one foot in front of the other…

Group Shot before at the Start

I stuck with two of the girls in my class, Jordan and Molly, for the first few miles and we chatted about anything and everything.  It was really fun to get going, see the city, and chat the miles away.  Jordan and I lost Molly around mile 5 or 6 but Jordan and I had decided we would stick together through the rest.

How did I fuel?  I took water at most of the aid stations and found myself incredibly thirsty throughout the second half of the race which really bothered me.  I took Powerade at a few of the stations too for extra energy.  I used4  gels in total, starting at mile 9 and slowly eating one every couple of miles.  The gels still don’t sit well with me for the first couple of minutes or so after I take them so next time, I’ll definitely look for an alternative fuel.

Did I like the course?  Overall the course was a good mix of low rolling hills (nothing like what we were used to running in Harrisonburg).  It weaved through neighborhoods near downtown and only had a few longer stretches.  The variety provided a good distraction but it wasn’t the most scenic of courses.

How did my body feel?  It’s incredible how your body can unpredictably react during these long runs.  My IT band did not bother me at all thankfully.  After about mile 12 I began to hurt at various intensities and places which lasted throughout the run.   I had slight pains in my hips and the balls and big toes really started hurting at this point too.  It varied between a few sharp pains and overall blistery ache the rest of the run.  I never ‘hit a wall’ thankfully and no aches or pains got unbearable or forced me to walk.

Did I have fun?  Believe it or not, I did!  What an epic experience for sure.  It was so great to have Jordan as a partner and I could not have done it without her.  It was hard not to start thinking about how many miles you had left and feel negative but Jordan provided an awesome distraction and did her best to keep my spirits up!  It was nice to have friends in the class to support each other throughout the course.  Some students in the class had their parents come watch and they would cheer for us when they saw our “JMU Marathon” shirts.  There was a few really fun aid stations and stops in the course with music and lots of cheering fans, yet other stretches were quieter and I had to work harder to be mentally in the run.  Jordan and I chatted with some various runners we passed throughout the course.  By mile 20 I was definitely getting a little loopy and resorted to singing to keep my energy up.  Belting out Flo Rida “Good Feeling” kept me moving and Jordan even joined in too!

The finish?! Finally at mile marker 25, the course weaved back into downtown Huntsville and Jordan and I knew the end was insight.  As we turned the last corner at mile marker 26 and went for a final sprint to the finish…26.2 miles done!

My official time: 3 hrs 52 minutes 33 seconds, 12th out of 59  in my age group, and 339th out of 1130 runners. I finished the first half in 1 HR 52 min 48 seconds and the second half in 2 hrs 0 min 12 seconds.  I feel pretty good about not loosing much momentum between the start and finish!

Volunteers helped us through, giving us a space blanket for warmth, a hat, and medal for finishing.  I couldn’t believe it was done.  It was great to share hugs and congrats with classmates.   It was incredible how much your legs and body could hurt; I didn’t know whether I wanted to sit, stand, walk, stretch, or just cry!  I finally shuffled through to get some water and food.  I downed a bagel with peanut butter, mini ice cream sandwich, chocolate milk, and a ton more water.

As my classmates finished up, we had to make our way back over to the hotel and shower/pack to get right back in the buses.  It was a long  trip back (many food and bathroom breaks) but our spirits were up knowing “We Are Marathon Runners…Roll Tide!!”

My friend Rachel and I, feeling strong post race!

So how do I feel today?  Well I hurt, not going to lie.  My hips hurt, muscles are sore, my feet ache, yet nothing seems that much worse then the 18 milers in training.  I am definitely going to take some time off of running and ease back into it when I feel the time is right.  This week will be low-key in exercise for sure (perfect timing since I have exams).  At the same time, I might already be thinking of marathons in the spring to check out if you have recommendations…