On December 12th, I ran the Dallas Marathon. This was pretty close to the date of my 10th anniversary of my first marathon (Dallas 2011) as well as the 50th anniversary for the race itself. Dallas went big for their celebration, and I went big myself with a return to the weekend series: 5k on Saturday, marathon on Sunday. I had not run the marathon in Dallas since my struggle in 2017, so some of my goals were to run better than I did that year, and walk away from the finish line happy with my result. I also wanted to crush mile 14 – more on that later.
On Saturday, my friend and I headed to Dallas for the 5k, and we cruised through the race. The weather was chilly, but not unbearable, and before we knew it we had finished three miles. It’s funny how fast 3 miles fly by when you’ve been marathon training. We ran a tad faster than I thought we would for a marathon shakeout, but it was fun.
Then we headed to the expo to pick up our packets. This expo was much better than RNR San Antonio. One of my favorite areas is where they have the banners for each year of the race. I found where I started my history with Dallas (first half 2010) and reminisced down the row. It was interesting to see the temperature, number of runners, shirt and medal designs and how those have changed.
Race day was forecasted to be a cold start, and I was super excited. The expected high would be in the 60s so I hoped I wouldn’t get too hot, especially since this race starts pretty late in the morning. I tend to heat up faster now than when I first started running. Regardless of the sub 40 degree start, I made my choice of race outfit and stuck to it. I wore a disposable jacket to the start, and I save my previous races’ heat sheets exclusively to keep warm at race starts. I made a definite fashion statement getting to the start corral, but at least I was warm.
We also met up with some of our Texoma Runner friends and shared good luck vibes with each other before moving into our corrals.
The start was exciting! Dallas has done an excellent job of improving the runner’s experience over the past several years, and with BMW as the title sponsor, they have really kicked it up. The race now starts by City Hall, and there is a jumbo screen with a video countdown as each corral moves up to start. I was a little emotional watching the video, but also excited and ready to run. I remember feeling so happy before the race started, not really nervous. Once we were out on the course, I kept my disposable jacket on for the first mile and then tossed it. I was ready to roll, but I held back and paid close attention to my mile splits. I was not going to fall apart this year from going out too fast!
I kept an eye on my splits but also tried to take it all in. The race experience, the feeling of being out there again, running an official (not virtual) marathon. I was running with gratitude, but at the same time… respect for the distance.
At mile 14, my friend took my picture. I had previously shared with just a few of my friends how mile 14 had brought me down at my last few marathons and 20 milers. It seemed to be a mental block at this point. But when I crossed this mile marker, I felt great – smiling and full of energy. I also got a text from my friend who was tracking all of us. “Mile 14! You can do this!”
Once I was halfway around the lake, I began to pick up the pace. I was feeling good and following my race plan. I brought my pace under 10 minutes and was passing people around the lake. At the mile 20 marker, which is at the bottom of a big hill, I walked and took in my chews. This was the plan I settled on weeks before. I knew the hill would defeat me if I let it, so I had planned to walk it and that as an opportunity to refuel. At the top of the hill, I stuck to the plan and started running again. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to recover my pace again, and my legs still felt good. I just needed a little time for my lungs to recover from the climb.
The great thing about the current Dallas course (half and marathon) is that the last 4 miles are a gentle drop in elevation. I knew that once I made it to mile 22, I could hang on and grind it out to finish. At mile 23, I was passing people. Well this is new, I thought. But then I started to argue with myself, because I really did want to stop and walk. But I had no reason to. So I would slow a little, and then pick up the pace. My legs were tired, but I wasn’t in pain. (Strength work matters.) I didn’t feel sick, and my heart rate was fine for this stage of the game. So I told my brain to shut up. My pace was still hanging on. I looked at my Garmin once in the final mile, and didn’t do that again. It’s funny how you feel like you’re flying, look at your pace, and nope. Not flying. Pedal to the ground, just get it done.
I crossed the finish in 4:32 and was so happy I almost started crying! It was not one of my fastest marathons, but it was the way I ran and how I felt – that was what mattered. And after a string of marathons pushing the 5 hour mark, it was a turn in the right direction.
Then of course, we celebrated our marathon finishes around the after party.
It was a good day.