The Dallas Marathon is my most anticipated race each year. It was my first half marathon in 2010 and my first full marathon in 2011. I have always said “I love the race, but it doesn’t love me back” because I’ve had kind of a rough run with it. (Unintentional pun)
For my first full, the weather was cold, windy, and rained the entire time. Then 2012 was warm and humid, 2013 iced out, and 2014 didn’t have the best weather conditions either (along with all of my other problems that day).
Needless to say, my standards this year weren’t set too high. I hoped for decent weather, and planned to run with my friend (who I talked into running her first marathon in Dallas). My goals became to run faster than last year and have fun. I still was hoping for the sub 4 hour race, but truthfully knew everything would have to go right for that to happen. But my friend and I talked about running together because that would help both of us pull through.
But first, let me talk about the expo because that was a big part of my weekend. Dallas has done a great job the past two years by bringing in elite ambassadors and adding some interest to the race itself with relay challenges. So on Saturday, we timed it to be at the stage for the introduction of the elites and then they gave some advice for the runners for race day.
I soaked it all in (foreshadowing), spoke to Josh Cox and Molly Huddle to thank them for being there, and got a couple of autographs on my bib. I was nervous being around so much running greatness. I wanted to meet Ryan Hall, but that line was longer, so maybe another time. I do love that in this sport, the elite runners that I’ve met are approachable and genuine. This totally made my weekend, no matter how the race turned out for me.
Storms moved in Saturday evening and overnight, so when I drove to Dallas early Sunday morning, it was in the rain. Of course. Thankfully there was no lightning and the wind wasn’t too bad. The temps had dropped though to low 50s with a forecasted high of 60. At least that part was manageable, and much improved from the oppressive humidity Saturday morning for my shakeout run.
I hung out in my friend’s hotel room for a bit, then we made the five minute walk to the start corral. Dallas has three start corrals – A, B, and C. We were in B, and lined up between the 9:15 and 9:30 pace. I’m always surprised by how fast time goes by in the corral! Before I knew it, the National Anthem was over and we were moving toward the start line.
I soon realized we should have started at the front of the corral. We both talked about how we needed to make sure we held back in the first few miles. I’ve got a history of going out too fast. There was no problem in holding back because I felt like it was bottlenecked for about five or six miles, but didn’t want to use energy trying to weave around people. The first mile pace was just under 10:00. We picked up the pace gradually and by the end of mile 5, we were averaging 9:30s which is where we stayed until just before mile 13.
At this point my friend started to fall back. I checked on her a couple of times and she finally told me to go ahead. She wasn’t feeling great. We had worked this out beforehand, that if one of us struggled the other one would go on. But I still worried about her and second guessed leaving her side. We had put in so many miles together that it didn’t seem right to keep on, but I also knew that if I was the one struggling I would want her to go on. So that’s what I did, but I said prayers for her along the way.
I noticed the breeze had cooled the humidity and the temperature felt good. I tried to pick up the pace, but the hills kept me grounded. I ended up averaging 9:25 from 10-15, and 9:33 from 16-20. At mile 19, it became harder to hold the pace down in the 9:30s. From that point on it became a fight to stay in the game. I saw the banner that I signed at the expo, and looked down at my Road ID that contains same message: Hebrews 12:1 Run With Endurance.
I started counting down the miles from my Garmin (which was a half a mile over already). Each one that ticked off meant I was closer. I remembered what Meb said at the expo about his phrase “Run to win” which means getting the best out of yourself. I checked to see if I was doing my best, and the answer remained yes every time. I surged when I could and willed my legs to go faster. At mile 23, I felt like I was flying. I looked down at my pace – 10:05. Oh, well, at least I felt like I was flying. I repeated “I can do hard things. I’ve done this before.” My lower back started to ache. I would count down the minutes with phrases like “Only 25 more minutes, I can keep doing this for 25 minutes.” I used every self-talk positive phrase I could think of to get my through those last 6 miles, and didn’t let my pace frustrate me. I continued to smile (which may have looked like a grimace at that stage), thanked the volunteers, thanked the police officers, and tried to encourage other runners as I continued. I stayed hydrated with Nuun and I fueled just like I trained. As I came to mile 26, I started to get emotional. Coming through the finisher chute, the tears started. I felt like a winner because I had run strong, and finished the race giving my all. There were no walk breaks, no talking myself out of my goals, or making excuses. As the announcer was calling out the finishers just ahead of the finish line, he gave me a high five and said “Way to go, Team Chocolate Milk.” Then I crossed the line.
I saw Meb giving out medals, but he was busy getting photos with people too. I looked around but didn’t see any of the other elite ambassadors. I got all my goodies and moved to where I could check my friend’s tracking. I pulled my phone out and dropped a gel. I stood there staring at it on the ground, and another runner came over to pick it up for me. I thanked her and said, “I was trying to decide if it was worth it” because I couldn’t bend my knees.
I saw my friend’s finish on the tracker and went to find her. There was a hug and more tears! We had both done what we set out to do. She finished her first marathon in about the time she expected to. I ran a strong for me race.
I broke my curse. This was my fastest Dallas race by almost 15 minutes, with a fairly consistent pace. The weather turned out perfect for me because I never overheated. But the fact that I was able to run the entire course gives me hope for my future goals, and a return to my speed two years ago.
My mind is whirring with the possibilities of what’s next! 🙂