I signed up to run Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon with Savannah's Team In Training (TNT) chapter. There were only two of us from Savannah who signed up for it; however, Georgia was well represented with the Atlanta chapter and its Team Omni corporate team. The team's honored hero, a cute little curly-haired girl named Izzy, was in attendance as well. It was very moving when her mother delivered her motivational speech to us during our inspiration dinner. The struggles to run a marathon just pales in comparison to what these families go through. My heart goes out them!
My fellow MRTT friend, Megan, and I road tripped up to Ohio. God bless Megan for driving us safely to Ohio and back home! It's about a 10-hr drive, but it wasn't too bad since we had great conversations and admired how the scenery differed from state to state - from the tall mountainous and rocky terrain of Tennessee to the green rolling hills and grassy pastures of Kentucky. We finally arrived in Ohio, had dinner at a world's famous rib joint, and Megan dropped me off at my hotel, the Netherland Plaza Hilton - smack in the heart of Cincinnati's downtown. She was staying with a friend at another hotel.
The great thing about participating in a TNT event is that you get rock star accommodations - the hotel is always really nice and you are within walking distance of the expo and/or race start line. The next morning I hit up the expo at the Duke Convention Center, which was just a few blocks away. Holy moly - it was the largest expo I'd been to yet. Taking my time, I perused the aisles and purchased a pair of cute leopard print Lululemon shorts that were on sale, a customized Flying Pig shirt, some wings for my shoes, and my pig charm for my marathon necklace collection (I collect a charm representing each marathon I run.) The race swag was out of this world too! We got a commemorative poster for the 17th annual run, as well as a tech shirt and backpack, in addition to a bunch of freebies! Hands down, one of the best expos I've attended yet! Cincinnati is such a beautiful city! I wished I had more time to explore, but after walking around all day and consuming a heavy lunch, I was ready to get back to the hotel and take a nap.
That night, I had my TNT inspiration dinner held in our hotel and was able to meet my other Team mates. There were a good bit of people there representing TNT from several states. Team Georgia alone, had 4 or 5 tables reserved. Go Team! These dinners are always pretty emotional. You get to hear from survivors and honored heroes, as well as meet survivors who are also participating in the event. After dinner, I went straight to my room, laid out my gear in preparation for race morning - making sure I didn't forget my customized grace band (from Races2Remember) that had names of honored and loved ones to which I would dedicate my 26.2 miles, read a few chapters of my book, set my alarm, and went to sleep. It was a restless night. My emotions were all over the place - it was a mixture of nervous jitters and worries that this was too soon to be running a marathon after running a mountainous, not hilly, but mountainous 21-miler (Big Sur) just 7 days before. What was I thinking?! Would my legs give out on me? Would I be struggling? Would this be a terrible experience? Why did I sign up for another hilly marathon?! GO TO SLEEP SEAL!!
My alarm went off and I was up. I threw on my TNT singlet and Skirt Sports 261 Fearless skirt and met up with my Team downstairs, took a group picture, did a group huddle wishing everyone a good race, and was off to the start line (which again - was only a few blocks away from the hotel). I found my corral and patiently waited for the race to start. Once again, the pessimistic thoughts started making its way into my head again. They wouldn't go away until after mile 4 or 5. I found my groove and had my sights on running up every freaking hill that came my way. I started repeating mantras like "come on, you got this!" "let's run up this bitch" (every time I had to run up a hill); and "let's do this!" and "mom, look at me!" Believe it or not, mantras help! They provide me just the boost I need when I feel like I'm struggling. Another thing that helped on this course was all the crowd support. There was only a little stretch that didn't have many spectators, but it was fine. My most entertaining moment was seeing the nuns on one side of the street and the DJ on the other side of the street playing some racy songs! It made me chuckle! Running past the nursing home was really cute too. All these cute old folks were holding up signs and were clapping and cheering us on. It was really sweet! There were folks with hoses and sprinklers or what they referred to as "hog wash" to spray runners down if they wanted. Volunteers and local residents were passing out Twizzlers, Swedish fish, beer shots, bacon slices, orange slices, jelly beans, and all kinds of fuel to get runners through these 26.2 miles!
Another thing running with TNT is that there are coaches throughout the marathon course to check on us. I had three different coaches run with me for a small stretch at varying miles to keep me company. Their task for the day was to make sure we had enough fuel, salt tabs, Glide/Vaseline, anything we needed and to give us motivation and inform us on just how many more hills we had to look forward to. It was great company and once again provided me with boosts of energy to get me by these miles. At about mile 19, I ran past a runner. She screamed, "Go Team!" I responded back, "Go Team!" and she began to tell me, "43 years ago, my parents were told that their daughter had leukemia and to start planning for a funeral within the next 3 months...and I'm still here." She thanked me and told me that I was making a difference. It doesn't get any better than that. You spend months on finding clever ways to fund raise, begging everyone you know for a donation...and to hear a survivor thank you while you're beginning to start hitting the dreaded wall, is purely overwhelming and emotional. I held back tears. This is my 2nd TNT event and the 2nd time a survivor has thanked me on the course. There is no greater feeling than that!
As I was running, I could hear the crowd yell, "Way to go 4:10 pace group!" I couldn't believe I was still ahead of them at this point. My best marathon was last year's RNR Savannah and I completed it in 4:14. With all the negative thoughts gone, I decided then and there that since I was feeling good - my goal was to at least run a 4:10 - don't let them pass me!! At about mile 24, the 4:10 pacer was next to me. I decided to just stick with them. When we hit mile 25, the pacer told us to start kicking it in if we still had it in us. I started to push my pace faster and was determined to get in before 4:10 if I could. For the first time, I noticed myself picking out rabbits on the course. Girl in the purple tank...let's see if I can catch up to her. Done! Next - guy in the blue shorts...and he stopped for water so now I'm past him. Who's next? I played this game up until I could see the finish line, or finish swine. I pushed it even faster (or what felt fast to me). The day before at the expo, I posed like I was flying through the finish "swine" with my arms raised like wings. I thought about that moment, and even though I was tired, breathing heavily, and making awful grunting noises (not on purpose), I managed to raise my chafed arms and run through the finish. I had signed up for text alerts and got instant notification of my time - 4:08!! Wait? What?! I couldn't believe it! I totally reached a new PR - and it was all so unexpected! I was so shocked by my time that I forgot to check in at the TNT event and I totally forgot to ring the PR bell that they have at the after party. Boo!!! I went to find Megan (who ran the half) and we headed to lunch. Megan's iRun4 buddy, Aiden, and his mom were there to cheer us on too. We all had lunch and then parted ways. Megan and I headed to my hotel, showered up, and hit the road home.
Running a marathon isn't too bad. Running a marathon and then being stuck in a car for 10 hours is pure hell. We got home around 1:30 am and my bed has never felt so good!
All in all, I would totally recommend this marathon. The expo kicks ass, the route is definitely challenging, but the crowd support makes up for it, and the city is full of energy!
As a Skirt Sports Ambassador, I was recently tasked with answering the question, "what does #REALwomenmove mean to me?"
Here's to the following women who continue to inspire me everyday in my journey of leading a healthier lifestyle. You know who you are :)
* To the woman out there running in the wee hours of the morning cranking out miles, after spending last night cooking, cleaning, and getting her kids to bed....
* To the woman who recognizes she needs to improve on her health and wellness and gets out to make it happen...
* To the woman who knows she's not fast enough to keep up with the speedsters, but gets out there anyways....
* To the woman who's not going to let any handicap get in her way on leading an active lifestyle...
* To the woman who's had a hip replacement and can no longer run, but still gets out there to walk those miles in...
* To the woman who sets her sights on getting faster and is determined to get a PR at her next race...
* To the woman who is a few months pregnant who still continues to remain as active as she can...
* To the woman who's been told she cannot do something and sets out to prove them wrong...
You are #REALwomenmove!
Ladies - You are what embodies what #REALwomenmove is all about! Even though we may differ in age, size, and fitness abilities, we share the same characteristics:
* We are proud of who we are
* We are confident
* We do not judge other women
* We are comfortable in our own body
* We accept and love ourselves
* We understand that an active life is important to our health and happiness
#REALwomenmove is about real women - real bodies - real inspiration. And most importantly, it solidifies the fact that we're all in this journey together on the path of becoming better! We are taking a stance in our lives to make fitness a priority, despite our busy and demanding schedules.
#REALwomenmove is also a celebration of diversity. On my training runs, during races, even when I'm driving around the city, there are always women I see that are just so inspiring! I describe those women above. I encounter them almost everyday. There is no "one size fits all" or blanket description to describe a "runner". We all come in different shapes, sizes, ages, races, ethnicities, paces, fitness levels, and we each are unique with our own personal goals in mind. However, we do have one common denominator and that's the one goal of just bettering ourselves. We celebrate our accomplishments, no matter how big or small, because it's one more step of heading in the right direction of becoming a better "me".
You are #REALwomenmove. And unbeknownst to you, you are inspiring other women who are setting themselves out on becoming a better runner, a better athlete, a better yogi, a better swimmer, a better person. Join the movement!
Post your active photos and use the simple hashtag #REALwomenmove and #SkirtSports. For every 5,000 hashtags, Skirt Sports will donate a "Get Started Scholarship" that includes a Skirt Sports top, bra, bottom, hat, socks, and a free entry to your first 5K (or comparable race). Submit your story or nominate a friend today at http://www.skirtsports.com/realwomenmove/form.cfm
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!