It is still hard for me to process the fact that I am now a marathoner. I worked extremely hard for 16 weeks during my training cycle for the race and to cross that finish line and become a MARATHONER. It has been one of my biggest accomplishments ever and something I worked day after day for. Every time I think about race day and everything that led up to it, I feel emotional. It takes everything in me as I write an Instagram post for the marathon not to start crying. Not sad tears, but happy tears. I am a marathoner. It is something I never thought I would ever call myself.
A year ago I never would have even thought about running a marathon. I was happy running half marathons twice a year and didn’t feel the urge to train for and run 26.2 miles.
But then Detroit Free Press Marathon weekend happened in 2016.
I didn’t go downtown for the race, but I saw it all over social media and it hit me: I wanted to run a marathon. And if I was going to run a marathon, it had to be the Detroit Marathon. I have mad love for the city of Detroit and wanted Detroit to be my first 26.2. On New Years Day of 2017, I registered for the race. A couple weeks later I found out that I was going to be an ambassador for the race. Everything was coming together and I was starting to get excited. I had an awesome half marathon training cycle in the spring and broke 1:50 at the Novi Half Marathon. I continued running and kept a good base to lead me into marathon training that started in June.
I used the Hansons Marathon Method to train for my marathon and consistently ran 35-40 miles every week. A lot happened throughout my training cycle (family vacation, getting a job, moving to a new city, starting my first teaching job), but I stuck with training. I never missed a workout and moved around my schedule as I needed. I loved the grind of marathon training and every week I felt myself getting fitter and fitter for the race.
Marathon Training Monthly Recaps:
This was my first marathon and I did not know what to expect going into race day. The training experience was all new to me, the taper was new to me, the marathon hunger was new to me, everything was new. I did not know how my body would react to running 26.2 miles, but I knew I could do it.
My goal going into the race was to run a sub-4 hour marathon. This was my A goal. It was my goal if everything aligned perfectly before and during the race. I ran my tempo workouts at the pace needed to go sub-4 and felt good at the pace. But, if I did not run a sub-4 hour marathon on race day I was not going to be upset. It would be awesome if I did it, but as long as I finished, I was going to be happy with that.
As part of my role as Race Ambassador, I worked at the Information Booth for a shift during the Race Expo. Due to travelling home on Friday night and having a wedding to attend on Saturday afternoon, I opted for the Saturday morning shift. The shift did not start until 9:30, so I had enough time to get in a 2 mile easy shakeout run and get ready to go. I made it to Cobo (where the expo was being held at) right before 10am. I left with enough time to get there at or even before 9:30, but with a rain storm, traffic, and missing the parking for Cobo 3 times, I was a bit late. Luckily the expo didn’t open until 10, so I quickly made my way to the booth and was ready to go before people were let in.
Working at the Information Booth was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with a couple other ambassadors and answer questions about race day. Common questions were about passports (you need to have proper identification during the race since you cross into Canada and back into the US), parking (the worst!), switching races and switching corrals, and the weather.
Oh yeah, the weather. Leading up to race day, I was monitoring the weather. I tried not to check it often since I knew it would get in my head, but I was a little nervous every day we moved closer to race day and I continued to see a high chance for thunderstorms on Sunday morning. The forecast seemed to change a lot throughout race weekend and even depending on the forecast you looked at, they were dramatically different from each other. Still, seeing a chance for lightning made many of us runners a bit nervous. The race sent out an email that afternoon explaining protocol for cancelling a race due to lightning and weather conditions and it took everything in me not to break down and start crying. The more I checked the weather forecast, the more I thought about everything I put into this training and the possibility that I might not even run the race.
When my shift ended, I got my bib and packet and made my way over to the official race merchandise booth to do a little treat yo’self. 😉 I figured for my first marathon I could pop for the expensive race jacket to remember the race. You only run your first marathon once! I picked up a race jacket and a beanie that has the retro logo on it (the race was celebrating its 40th run, so the first logo was used on a lot of merchandise — I loved it!). At that point, I questioned if I should even buy the jacket since I was not sure the race was even going to happen (I am dramatic, I know, but when you give up a lot during 16 weeks to train for a race the last thing you want to happen is for it to be cancelled due to weather). I bought it anyway and tried to remain hopeful.
That afternoon I attended a family friend’s wedding. It was good to keep my mind off the race (and the weather) and the reception was at an Italian banquet center so I had no problem getting my carbs in… bring on the pasta! I left shortly after dinner and just tried to stay positive. I got home and made sure everything I needed for the race was ready for me in the morning.
Race Day Morning
I woke up at 4:10 and immediately checked the marathon Facebook page to see if the race was still on. It looked like it was still set to go, even though I still saw lightning in the forecast starting at 7am (which was race time…). I ate a bagel with peanut butter, drank an electrolyte drink, and had a bit of coffee before heading downtown with my parents. I had bought a parking spot ahead of time in a parking lot which was perfect. The last thing I needed to worry about was parking so having this parking spot ready for us was awesome, plus it was only a half mile from the start of the race!
One of the perks to being a race ambassador was a pre-race breakfast. I headed over to the breakfast, but the nerves were kicking in big time that I could not even think about eating anything. I chatted with a few of the ambassadors, drank some water, and used the bathroom before heading out to my corral. Using an actual bathroom before the race was AMAZING. It was a perk of being a race ambassador and so much better than standing in line to use a port-a-potty! As I walked out to my corral with my parents I questioned whether I should have used the bathroom again. I felt like I had to pee, but I also thought it might just be the nerves of running a marathon, so I decided not to (in hindsight, I should have just gone again.. I really did have to pee!). I put my bib on, put body glide everywhere, and got into my corral. The nerves were kicking in and you could tell the weather was on everyone’s mind but no one was talking about it.
About 15 minutes before I was to start, I ate half of a date to top off my glycogen stores. I got my Garmin ready and my music ready as well. Before I knew it, the Canadian national anthem and the US national anthem was being sung and just a couple minutes later corral A was on the run. I was in corral F so I still had about 10 minutes before I was to start, so I just focused on keeping calm. All of a sudden I realized, OMG I AM ABOUT TO RUN A MARATHON!
Finally it was time for my corral to make its way across the start line. I ran across the start line at about 7:10 am and I was off. The course first takes you through Canada, so I spent the first mile or two making my way towards the Ambassador Bridge. I started off by trying to get into a good pace. Even though there were a lot of people running (the full marathon and international half marathon run the first 13 miles together), I never felt like I was trying to get around too many people. The whole road was blocked off so I had plenty of room to move around if needed without getting stuck behind someone.
A few miles in I was at the Ambassador Bridge. I knew that this was where the first incline of the race was and just planned on taking it as it came. I was worried that border control was going to be pulling people off the course and checking identification, but they were all cheering us along, so my nerves about crossing the border went away quickly. Running across the Ambassador Bridge was really cool. I thought it would be extremely windy, but it was not bad at all. Before I knew it I was being welcomed into Canada and was making my way through Windsor. Running through Windsor I could see the Detroit skyline to the left of me and was constantly being cheered along the way. A lot of people were standing along the course cheering us along. After a couple miles, I was making my way through the tunnel for the “underwater mile.” I thought it would be fun to run in the tunnel that takes you back into the United States since it goes underwater, but running through it was not fun at all. It was humid and with no air flow, I was sweating like crazy. Put a bunch of runners running a half marathon and marathon underwater in a tunnel? Ew. It is cool now to say that I ran underwater for a mile, but in the moment I was ready to get out.
Eventually I was making my way out of the tunnel and could hear a ton of spectators screaming and cheering. As soon as I was out of the tunnel I felt a huge gust of cool air and saw a ton of spectators. I remember this part of the race so vividly and I get teary eyed thinking about it because I felt so strong at this point and was being cheered on by SO many people. At this point I was at mile 8.5 and I knew I was going to see my brother around mile 15 or 16 since we had planned to meet along the course so he could replenish my Tailwind bottle and pass along more dates. I took in the cheering and stayed in a comfortable pace. I was on target for going sub-4 and my miles were consistently in the low 9 minute mile range.
I knew I was getting close to the halfway point since I was seeing a lot of spectators and I could see a split for marathoners to stay left and half marathoners to stay to the right towards the finish line. I felt a boost of energy with all the spectators and felt good at the halfway point. As soon as I passed the 13.1 mile marker I heard people screaming my name. My mom, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend were there along the course cheering me on. I remember seeing them and flashing a huge smile (as you can see in the video) and a wave. I felt so good and wanted them to know that I was feeling amazing.
As soon as I passed them I was on a long stretch on Lafayette. All of a sudden there were barely any spectators out and the humidity was creeping up on me. I realized I was only halfway through and still had a ways to go. I had received a text from my brother telling me he was at mile 15 so I just kept making my way towards him. I knew seeing more family would give me a boost and I was ready for more Tailwind. Finally I saw my brother and my dad on the side of the course and quickly ran over to them, got my refill of Tailwind and a couple more dates and told them I would see them soon. Now I was really in it. No more family to see, the humidity was picking up, runners around me were slowing down (I was too…) and I even saw a few runners on the side of the road getting medical attention. I didn’t realize it at the time (or maybe I did and was trying to ignore it) but there were a lot of course volunteers holding red flags along the course. I knew I did not want to see a black flag since that meant the race was cancelled, but I did not realize that red was the next color to see. Red meant that weather conditions were potentially dangerous and recommended actions are to slow down and consider stopping. Slow down is definitely what I did. I was taking in water at almost every aid station on top of the Tailwind I had with me and decided to listen to my body instead of charging at a sub-4 hour goal. At the 13.1 mark I was right on target for the sub-4 marathon, but with every mile after, I slowed down more and more.
I was looking forward to making it into Indian Village, which is a neighborhood of homes in Detroit. I had heard from a lot of people that this was the funnest part of the race since everyone is out and cheering along the way. They sure were right! I was not in the head space to truly take it in — I think this is where I hit a wall and the humidity started to really take a toll on me. I remember a lot of people standing outside of their houses cheering us along and it seemed that many residents made this a party for themselves. One person was handing out full size waterbottles and although I had Tailwind left, I grabbed one. It was ice cold and at that point in the race it was what kept me going. I drank half of it and poured the other half on my head and neck. Whoever was passing those waterbottles out — THANK YOU. You saved me!
Soon I was making my way onto Belle Isle. I love Belle Isle (I ran a half marathon there last summer!) and was looking forward to getting there, but by the time I got there I was tired, hot, and was just putting one foot in front of the other at that point. There were a good amount of spectators along Belle Isle, but it was also extremely windy since it is on the water. I seriously felt at many points that I was just going to blow away. The storm was coming in and the wind continued to pick up more and more. All around me people slowed down to walking, especially with the wind taking its toll on us. I did not want to stop and walk at that point because I knew if I did, I was done for. The loop along Belle Isle was only 3 miles and before I knew it I was making my way back on the bridge to get back into Detroit.
With just a few more miles to go, I was really digging deep. It was taking everything in me to keep going and not give in. I remembered how much training I had put in, how much I had given up over the past 4 months, and how much I really wanted to be a marathoner. I made my way onto the Detroit Riverwalk, which is a really pretty spot since you can see Canada across the water, but I was not in the head space again to enjoy it. The wind was BRUTAL at this point, since I was, again, right along the water and the storm was coming in. I continued to see red flags and prayed that I would make it to the end without a black flag. There was no way I was stopping at this point!
Finally I was reaching mile 25. I knew I was so, so, so close and I could see more and more spectators out. It was almost my moment. Along the way I ran into Jess, who I have been Instagram friends with and despite living in the same area have never met in person. She immediately recognized me on the course and started screaming for me. She gave me that final push to keep going. I was almost there. As I turned onto Fort Street, which is where the finish line was, I could hear people cheering me on like crazy. I wanted to have a sprint towards the finish line, so I gave it my all to the finish, but I certainly did not have a final kick like I have had in previous races. I heard my family cheering for me as I made it closer to the finish line and finally it was there. I crossed through the finish line and immediately wanted to fall to the ground. There was a guy telling us to keep walking to get our medals and move out of the way of the finishers behind us. I got my medal, some water, and a volunteer was passing out food bags. I got one and sat down along the fence that was keeping spectators away from the finishers. I kept my eye out for my family who made their way over to see me and drank some chocolate milk as I talked with them through the fence.
Official finish time: 4:12:47
Overall: 719/ 3,135
Female place:176/ 1,300
Female 20-24 place: 29/ 125
After the Race
I could not get up and walk for several minutes and when I finally could, it felt like the longest walk over to where I could be reunited with them. Finally I was able to see them and show off my new medal. The wind was really picking up so we did not want to stand around for long, so we made our way over to the after party where I was looking forward to getting a post-race massage. As soon as I got my post-race massage (which was glorious by the way), I walked over to the car with my family… more like a limp over since I could barely walk. The wind was insane at this point and I could not help but think of those still out on the course, especially on Belle Isle and the Riverwalk where I knew it was just brutal at that point.
When we made it to the car, we headed out of Detroit and to downtown Birmingham for brunch. We went to Social and I had a pomegranate mimosa, coffee, and a breakfast skillet. I honestly did not have much of an appetite (my appetite has been extremely off in the days since my race), but ate about half of the skillet (obviously I finished the mimosa!) and brought the rest home to heat up the next morning.
My family gifted me a 26.2 roman numeral necklace, which was beyond nice. I have a 13.1 roman numeral necklace and had been thinking about getting myself a 26.2 one when I finished the marathon, but my family was already on top of it!
Shortly after we headed home where I stayed on the couch for the rest of the night. I had to be at work the next morning (I was going to take a personal day, but unfortunately it was a mandatory work day) and was making the 2 hour drive back the next morning instead of that evening. As I laid on the couch, I was reading on social media about people’s races that morning. It had not hit me until then just how brutal the conditions were. When I first saw my sub-4 hour marathon goal going out the window, I wanted to blame it on my training. I wanted to blame it on the fact that my plan only had me max out at 16 mile long runs or that I did not strength train enough. But when I read how other people fell off their goal and were happy to have just made it to the finish line, I was extremely happy with how I did. It was my first marathon after all. I finished it and felt absolutely amazing for the first half of it. With perfect weather conditions, who knows what would have happened?
As for the storms? They never came. I felt a few sprinkles along the course, but there was never any lightning or thunderstorms. Crazy, right?At many points I was wishing for rain just to cool me off! I am thankful that everything went smooth for race day and even though the weather conditions were not ideal, I was able to still run my first 26.2!
A huge thank you to so many people who have supported me throughout this journey. From my family who helped me every step of the way, to my friends who supported my need to not stay out late so I could get my workout in the next morning, to my students who were even more excited for me to race the marathon, to YOU, who supported me with messages, emails, texts, and comments. I read every single one and could not be more thankful. <3
The journey does not end here. Yes, I will absolutely run another marathon. I don’t know when, but training for and running a marathon changed me and I want to continue on this crazy journey of long distance running. Any suggestions of must-run marathons are more than welcome 😉
On a related side note ? I want to continue sharing my running journey with you all. I am not sure as to what capacity I will share it here on the blog in the future, but I want to share more of the daily grind with you. I created a separate Instagram account from my account for this blog so I can share all things running on the account. I will still keep my Lean, Clean, & Brie Instagram account going, but I plan on spending a lot of time on my new Insta account connecting with more runners. Running a marathon changed me and I want to share it with you as much as I can. Follow mu running adventures @brieontherun!
- Have you ever run a marathon?
- What was your first marathon experience like?