It’s been four days and I’m still on cloud 9 after completing my first marathon. And no, it’s not because I’m on pain meds! I’m not lying when I say I am pretty sure I smiled all 26 miles.
I couldn’t have asked for a better race for my first marathon. Cincinnati knows what it’s doing. Everything was so organized from packet pickup to gear check on race day to aid stations to the recovery area and gear pickup. The volunteers and spectators along the course were also outstanding. They had some hilarious signs, but having no one in the crowd personally, I definitely appreciated all the ones geared towards strangers that said things like “Stranger, I’m proud of you!”
Many people who lived along the routes basically had tailgates and their own makeshift aid stations. The official aid stations were numerous and always stocked with water and gatorade. There were stations with food, too, ranging from twizzlers to peppermint patties to fruit. Let me tell you, orange slices have never tasted better!
In regards to the course, I was told it would be hilly. I don’t think I’d say it was hilly. There was a long, gradual hill from miles 6-8. It would go up, level, and go up more. There was another small, but steep hill around mile 17 that just sucks and some minor hills later on that if you weren’t tired you wouldn’t even notice. I got to see some pretty parts of Cincinnati, although the highway stretch around miles 18-20 wasn’t too fun. The volunteers along that section made it much better though! Here’s a look at the course:
I did love getting to run in two states in the same day in the same race. Right after the start you head into Kentucky for a few miles before crossing the river back into Ohio. Here’s a photo on the bridge heading back into Ohio.
I also want to highlight one of my favorite aid stations that was somewhere between miles 21-23. They gave you ice cold towels and sprayed you down. It felt awesome considering it had gotten a bit warmer than you really want it to be.
I learned a lot of great lessons during this marathon, especially with things I never had an issue with during my training. Thanks to a tough 20-miler in training, I knew I needed to stay on top of hydration and fuel during the race. Each water station had both gatorade and water. I don’t care for gatorade, but I would take a cup every few stations along with water. When it started getting warm I tended to take an extra cup of water to pour on my neck and head to cool off. It helped a lot. I also walked through the aid stations when I did stop so I could ensure that I got a solid drink, could eat some sport beans, and then keep moving.
Some not so fun issues included chafing. I have never chafed…ever. But when you’re sweating and then getting wet and running 26 miles, things change. I didn’t realize I had that issue until I went to shower and my sports bra had indeed rubbed me in a few spots. I will be looking into Body Glide for future long races 🙂
I also wasn’t sure how much things would start to hurt. I remember hurting a bit during my 18 and 20-milers, but nothing terrible. It also went away by the next day. My friend Lauren, who was running her 8th marathon, told me to “embrace the suck.” Pretty darn good advice! Miles 20-26 were tough and I definitely walked more than I anticipated, but it happens. I also preferred running at that point because walking and then trying to get running again was tough. The crowd also kept you going because they were so enthusiastic and positive!
I have to say I had a lot of self-doubt going into the race. I knew I had done the training. I also knew that my main goal was just to finish (although I did want to be under 5 hours). For some reason, once I reached mile 16 I knew I was going to finish and often found myself fighting off tears of happiness! Silly, I know. I did end up crying after finishing while talking to my mom on the phone. I was just so happy.
One other thing that the race confirmed was that I look pretty awful while running. You hope you look good, you know? Hahaha definitely don’t. Regardless, I took screenshots of two photos from the official photographer’s website to share.
I feel like I have to end this post with some thank yous. A big thanks to Gabe for all his support. He believed in me from the moment I told him I was going to train for this. While he couldn’t come, I know he wanted to be there and calling him from the finish line was awesome. A big thanks to my family for their support and love. I also must thank those who ran with me during training. I definitely will repay the favor. To Lauren, thanks for agreeing to do this with me, all the advice, inspiration, and giving me the best reception at the finish line! Luv you! To the rest of the Heifers, I love you all! Mary Kate, thanks for being a great host! Katie, it was so great to see you and meet little Beau. Thanks for the support too! And to the hills of Happy Valley, thanks for always sucking yet making me a better runner!