10 years later, I'm a Blue Ridge Marathon finisher
The Blue Ridge Marathon has had an impact of my life in so many ways, but here’s what’s never happened: actually running the race.
I’ve signed up for and started “official” training for the race several times, only to eventually drop to the half marathon, which I’ve completed several times since the very first one in 2010. I’ve ran the half on several versions of the course, too.
Last year the Blue Ridge Marathon weekend was once again part of my life after a couple of years away in the form of the relatively new Star 10K.
Something, though, last year finally got in my head that I HAD to do the marathon 2019. It was going to be the 10th running of the race and it had been on mind for years to do it.
In the years that I’ve signed up for the race, I’ve either been poorly trained or injured or changed my mind because I lacked the confidence to do it. 7,400 feet of elevation change is pretty scary if you’re not trained for it.
But this year, I stopped being scared. I stopped worrying about not running enough. I stopped caring about being slow. I stopped letting myself talk myself out of things.
The truth is, while the past few months of running have been amazing compared to the previous few years, I didn’t run like I should have to run this (or maybe any) marathon. But, that said, I had done enough to finish it. Even if it meant crawling to the finish, I knew I would finish “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” in the cut-off time.
So on Saturday, that’s exactly what I did. I had a really good first 10 miles of the race. I completed what I knew what a ridiculous task — climbing to the top of Roanoke Mountain and back down it. I HAD THIS IN THE BAG.
A couple of views from there:
But at some point in time after Roanoke Mountain, the sun came out and I got pretty hot as the humidity built. As I gradually got there and ran through the water stop, I regretfully didn’t stop to soak in the moment. That area is one of my favorite race spots (and just one of my favorite spots in the state in general.)
I did, however, go back later in the day…
The downhill on the front side of Mill Mountain was brutal. My legs were screaming at me for not enough miles or hills in the past year. Three months of training certainly wasn’t enough, but there wasn’t going to be a DNF.
As I slowly worked my way over to Peakwood - the last major climb - I forgot how hilly Roanoke is. While the mountains are tough, the hills that aren’t mountains were rough on me. I would run until my legs wouldn’t go and then I’d just walk.
At some point on the voyage up Peakwood, even walking felt like a challenge. People were passing me asking me if I was OK.
Yes, I was OK … I was just doing what I could. My body was asking me to quit and try again next year.
But this is where things have changed for me — my mental health has gotten over these crappy moments I’ve had with running. And after so many injuries and other down moments, I wasn’t having another one. Peakwood was, slowly, mine.
When I got to mile 20, I was alone. There was a point around there where I didn’t get passed or have anyone pass me for at least a half hour, maybe more. It was raining, which was a nice relief after feeling so hot earlier.
As things flattened out a bit, I was able to run a little more. Just before mile 23, I saw my sister, who had started with me, but was having an amazing race and was in her final mile.
That right there was all I needed to get me through the final few miles. So I ran, walked, walked a lot more, and then in the final mile saw my family, who ran with me for a couple of blocks.
But there at the finish was ONE MORE HILL. Seriously. I wanted to cry at the site of another hill… but I also wanted to cry at these emotions of not running a marathon in 6+ years and also finally feeling like I was over these low moments I’ve had in the past few years.
Somehow at the end, and seeing my sister one more time, I held it all together. I crossed the finish line. So little fanfare being a back-of-the-pack runner, but the support from the volunteers made up for it.
I just kind of stopped and bent over to compose myself and was grateful for not giving up. Almost immediately I regretted not having a finish with my arms in the air or a fist pump or something fun.
But I made up for that a bit after the race with this …
A day later with so much soreness, I continue to struggle to find the words with how I feel about this. I’m a marathoner for the sixth time. And not just any marathoner — a Blue Ridge Marathon finisher. There’s not many people that can say that.
I can’t help but think, though, that with another year of training, improving my overall fitness and health, and running more hills that I could run this race with a totally different approach.
That’s a decision for another day and I deserve to celebrate this moment a while longer. So for now, that’s where I’ll leave things with me.
My sister Heather deserves a huge shoutout. A few years ago she wasn’t able to complete her first marathon, but now look at her.
This first pic was as we headed down Roanoke Mountain. A couple of miles later, she was gone!