On December 4th 2016 I ran my very first marathon! I trained and committed so much time and energy to the training for four months. The day it came, everyone kept asking if I was excited, and I wanted to be, I REALLY wanted to be, but I knew I was a slower runner and all the formal black and white papers stated that the course was on strict time limits. My fear was more about being picked up in the sweeper van and being told that I wasn’t allowed to finish then it was of the actual race.
That morning, not so bright out yet but very early and extremely cold I met up with some fellow friends that I follow on social media for a pre-race meet up. They gave me SO many encouraging words to carry with me through the course and knowing all of them had ran in a full before I knew I could trust them.
At 7 on the dot, they let the runners go, now the start of the California International Marathon is different from any other starting line I had been apart from, no corrals but pace areas to get into. So when they said go, that was for everyone to go. I had made my way pretty close to the front and stayed to the far right. In the corral starts I wouldn’t have been able to do this, and the only reason I did do this was to buy myself some time if they really did close the course down.
The first mile was all downhill, and breezy, I finished that mile much faster than anticipated but my legs felt amazing, then the rolling hills started and I needed to pee so badly! Right before mile 2 my coach found me and offered some encouragement before I sprinted to the port-o-potty line and she finished her leg of the relay. After using the potty, I exited to see that the whole group had passed me, so I started off again getting my rhythm back. I kept looking around at the group of folks around me noting their bib colors (yellow for relay, black for marathon). Only a few were black and I kept mentally telling myself to just keep up with them.
Around mile 10 I noticed that the group was getting smaller and smaller, mile 12 I saw my friends cheering me on, which gave me a huge burst of energy, mile 13 I saw the trucks pass me and start to break down all the water stations and mile markers. I started to rely on my watch to tell me what mile I was on, and the few people ahead of me on course of where I should be running.
Mile 15 they started to warn that they would be opening the roads back up for traffic and that I would need to run on the sidewalks and abide by normal traffic laws. This is when I told my friends that all water stations were gone and they joined me on course with water and soda to help me finish this race!
Mile 17 I caught up with purple vest, I never got her name but she had run this course 4 years in a row and knew where she was going, she was speed walking so I knew I could keep up with her, that was until mile 21 when the cross walk turned yellow and she took off and left me and my two friends waiting for traffic. I internally panicked but knew if worse came to worse I would map it to the capital building. From what I did know I just needed to keep going straight.
Mile 22 was the last time I saw people outside cheering, and let me take a moment and thank EVERY person that was outside cheering us on, even those of us alllllll the way in the back. I needed those cheers, the group at mile 21 made me cry, offering me bottles of water and hugs. The trail runners at mile 15 in costumes hugging the runners, thank you!
Mile 23 is when I text my friends to get their friend to pick them up and take them to the finish, I would be fine. But by this time the few people I kept my eye on on course were far behind me, or had already dropped out. There were two men that I offered my Bfit electrolyte sprays to around miles 15 that I didn’t see anymore and I hope they finished. But at mile 23 I also got a glimpse up ahead of purple vest! I started to run and walk a little quicker so I didn’t lose her. But the police had already picked up all the traffic cones so I was at risk of normal traffic now. At mile 24 and a half I caught up with her and another gentlemen. We walked and talked the remainder of the race, wished luck and congrats to the runners with medals we saw walk past us.
Mile 26 I saw the most beautiful angel, my friend Amber. She walked me to the finish and I knew my friend Stephanie was there somewhere, but at this point I had tunnel vision. I needed to PASS the finish that was behind a barricade to make a U turn into the finish line stalls, my legs were like blocks, I felt as if I couldn’t run any faster, I couldn’t see because my eyes were full of tears, I saw someone holding my medal, I didn’t actually know that Stephanie was putting the medal around my neck until I fell into her arms and sobbed.
Not once during this race did I think about quitting, not once did I doubt myself, the only thing that would prevent me from that finish line was the sweeper van, and that never came. I enjoyed each and every mile, and still as I sit here reflecting on the race I CANNOT believe I did it! I dedicated my miles one at a time to loved ones and I know that each of them in spirit carried me through mentally.
My official finish time was 7:03:56. Unofficial was 6:58:12, because I had to abide by traffic and light laws. But all those are numbers. What matters is that I finished. Someone of my size finished a marathon, someone as slow as myself finished a marathon. So allow me to inspire any one of you to keep chasing those goals, whatever they may be. Officially I may have finished as one of the last, but I think I personally had one of the best experiences on the course getting to personally thank all the volunteers and neighbors that took the time to cheer us on. So Thank you, from a last place finisher.
all photography and videos were taken by Ashley and are on her Instagram : @Smashlybink