Here’s the full story of my full marathon! As you know, I’ve been training my body for endurance running since January of this year. In April, I ambitiously signed up for the St. George Marathon. Yes, a full 26.2 Mile Marathon (when I was struggling to even finish Half Marathons). But, this was a “bucket list” item for me. Two decades ago I ran a few marathons, and I was always getting asked if I had “run St. George yet?”. For many (at least in Utah) St. George is considered the ultimate running accomplishment – the “Boston of the West”. For years running St. George was nigh impossible for me.
- It was always a qualified lottery to get in, and
- It was always held on the first Saturday of October, which meant General Conference weekend.
But, this year – all the stars aligned. No lottery & Not General Conference Weekend! This meant “now or never.”
My fellow MoTab friends Stephanie and Maria were already signed up and convinced me to join them in this crazy venture.
October 6, 2017: We planned to get an early start on our drive to St. George. However, Elder Robert D. Hales, an apostle in the LDS Church died on Sunday, and his funeral was held at 11:00 am MT. My friends and I delayed our departure in order to sing for his funeral. It was a beautiful service, and we are so glad we didn’t miss it!
Friday was a beautiful sunny fall day in Utah. The colors on the mountains are really starting to pop!
We had a fun drive to St. George together, with a stop for dinner at The Timberline Inn Restaurant in Beaver, Utah – our favorite place to dine whenever we are travelling south. (Try the Timberline burger, the spaghetti with homemade bread, or the Cobb Salad)
We made it to the marathon Expo by 6:00 PM to pick up our race packets, numbered bibs and shirts, and then spent some time browsing all of the booths (I bought a new hat and 2 pair of running socks).
Twas The Night Before…
With our super early 3:00 am wake-up call I made sure to check into our hotel immediately after the Expo, and get to bed early. But, sleep eluded me. I tossed around for what seemed like hours and hours with a racing brain filled with excitement and nerves. Suddenly, the alarm was going off and I was leaping out of bed prepping for the race. I had laid out all of my gear the night before so I wouldn’t disturb Mr. Mo very much. But, he woke up long enough to wish me good luck and let me know he’d be waiting for me at the finish line. ♥
The Early Bus
October 7, 2017 – I received a frantic text from my brother Matthew at 3:15. He was staying at the RV park next to our hotel and had forgotten to pack his running socks. Luckily, I had just bought those two new pair at the Expo! Crises averted!
I have to give a shout out to my hotel which was totally awesome. When we checked in, they handed me a “Marathon welcome bag” with water and snacks. They also opened their free buffet breakfast starting at 3:00 am for all the runners plus a free shuttle service to the race buses. Matthew and I hopped the shuttle and were able to board one of the “early buses” to the start line. [The marathon “bribes” runners to get on the earliest buses with an entry into a raffle of tantalizing prizes – sadly, neither of us won anything – but it was worth a shot].
Our school bus ride in the dark to the start line took about 30 minutes. We realized that we just covered in 30 minutes what was going to take us several hours to run back.
The St. George Marathon starting line is a beautiful marvel to behold! There are flags from all 52 US states and territories and then all the countries in the world being represented. Giant search lights filled with sky and there were many fire pits to huddle around and hundreds of portable potties for us to use. It was very chilly – but the race organizers handed all of us a foil blanket and gloves.
The hand-cycle & wheelchair athletes start at 6:30 am. But their start was delayed by a bus still making its way to the start line. So, they started at about 6:45, and runners started at about 7:00 am. There were approximately 7,200 runners in this year’s pack. That created some long lines for the portables, and a dramatic view of all the athletes queuing up before the race began! I found my friends Stephanie & Maria before the race began.
Off We Go
All of a sudden, it was REAL! I was actually crossing the start line of the race I’ve been training for so many months to run, and I was actually running with hundreds and thousands of other people who had also been training for months. This was it!! Whoo hoo!!
“Give me this mountain” (Josh. 14:12).
Every runner preparing for St. George hears about “Veyo” – the mountain-like volcano at mile 7 that we will have to climb. I was mentally prepared, but it was still a bit startling to see all of those little running bodies climbing up that steep hill looming ahead.
This cute local couple was rooting for us! 🙂
Up, Up, Up… and More Up
The whole time I was climbing Veyo I kept giving myself a pep talk that “at least when you get up to the top, you will get to go down!”
Good thing I didn’t know that was a lie.
Once reaching the summit at Mile 8.5, the road leveled off to a very gradual but noticeable slope upward. The first significant downhill on the course doesn’t come until Mile 14.
Onward, Ever Onward
There was a big drama two nights before the race for me trying to put music onto an iPod Shuffle (it shouldn’t be that hard, right?). All I can tell you is that it was TOTALLY worth the time and effort! My music saved me. I don’t think I could have run all of those hilly miles, for all of those hours in the sun without something to entertain and distract my brain! I know it’s odd, but I’ve never trained or raced with music before. It was really nice. I highly recommend it. However, I only kept one headset in, and I left my other ear free to hear what was happening around me.
The course is filled with wonderful fresh air, and very beautiful landscapes. The entire highway was closed to all traffic for us.
At mile 15 we were treated to lots of colored rock formations.
Run With Your Heart
Mile 17 was another long hill.
They told me it was the last.
But, it’s kind of like one of those little white lies you tell your kids when they keep whining “are we there yet?” and you keep saying “almost there!” when you really know that there’s still about 9 more miles to go…
Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
That Moment I Made The Cut Off!
This was the biggest victory of my day because I was so nervous I would be pulled into a support van and not allowed to finish. We had to reach Mile 23 by 6 hours or we were going to be “swept”. I made Mile 23 in about 5 hours 20 minutes. Now I was getting excited because that meant I had a chance of breaking 6 hours for my marathon finish.
That Moment The Sun Slapped Me
As soon as I passed mile 23 and entered the City of St. George I lost the breeze that had been keeping me cool in the blazing sun.
And I melted.
God bless all of those amazing people lining the course that kept handing me ice pops, and baggies of ice water, and ice cold washcloths.
I could never have made it to the finish line without them! Seriously.
The final 3.2 Miles
The final 3.2 Miles were the hardest miles of the entire race. My legs felt like they were barely moving. I was hot, I was tired, and the course kept turning and turning each corner with no end in sight.
“WHERE THE HECK IS THE FINISH LINE?!?!?!” my mind was screaming.
The Finish Line
And then, the last turn, and the finish line could be seen in the distance with balloons and a giant water mister… and my beautiful polished red rock medal.
My sister in law took that photo right after I was given my medal. I was SOOOO happy! And very emotional, and SOOOO Happy! But, I had to hold onto a pole because I felt like I was going to faint.
We All Did It!
After a long swim in the hotel pool, a shower and a DELICIOUS lunch at Viva Chicken we hit the road for our 4+ hour drive home.
I’m still absorbing the fact that I ran for 6 hours, and I completed all 26.2 miles.
I’m amazed!!! I feel so blessed to have been able to accomplish my goal, and that all of us were able to cross the finish line in time – uninjured – and still smiling even! 🙂
No rest for the weary. We were all up the next day to sing the Sunday broadcast. And, back to work again Monday morning. I’m walking! I feel surprisingly well all things considered! But, I’ll wait until tomorrow to decide what my next big goal is going to be!