I can’t tell you how delightful it is to type that title.
When last we met, I was on the bathroom floor.
With the essential pre-race activities complete, I got dressed, took some selfies and headed out into the dark.
It was chilly but I had so much adrenaline I felt surprisingly comfortable. I walked down to the corrals with a friendly dude and texted my wonderful internet training buddy (and fellow first-timer) Sara to meet up. It was so fantastic to see her and share my excitement with someone who TOTALLY understood. We exchanged hugs, neglected to take pictures (whoops), and wished each other luck before heading to our respective corrals.
Before I knew it, our corral was heading forward and then I was stepping over the mat.
I AM RUNNING A MARATHON.
There were definitely some happy tears at the start. I opted to begin with some chill music to ensure that the cumulative effect of taper and race excitement didn’t set me off too fast. The first mile was a gentle decline which felt wonderful. I knew that miles 2 and 3 were uphill which would help me establish a cruising pace that would ideally carry me through the first half of the race. I barely remember anything I saw in these early miles. All I remember thinking was that everything felt perfect and easy, exactly as it should. This was the first of many times that I knew I was running exactly the race I trained for.
Miles 3 – 6.5
Downhill + endorphins + marathon energy = BEST MILES OF MY LIFE.
I turned my music off at mile 3 and enjoyed the energy around me and my own positivity. Heading back downhill, people were flying. I truly felt incredible and *really* had to pull back my pace here. I kept reminding myself that slowing down now was an investment in the twenties. Every time I looked down and saw a low 10, I thought “invest” and slowed back down. The course flattened out and I hit my first benchmark: 6.2. Wooo! I had celebratory music picked out for this moment but I knew I would see my parents who were waiting at mile 6.5 / 11. Spectators are absolutely amazing and YOUR SPECTATORS are the best. My stepmom is the most organized woman on earth and true to her adorable form, she laminated my “GO SHAUNA” race sign. I LOVE HER SO MUCH. They were on the opposite side of the street but went absolutely apeshit when I ran by! It was such a fantastic moment. I could tell the runners around me were delighted by their energy too.
Miles 6.5 – 11
This section was an out and back in an industrial area. Not the most scenic section of the course but wonderful because I got a fantastic surprise. I already knew that my fabulous friends Nick and Marissa had named their most recent podcast episode “Marathon” for me but I did not realize that they were going to give me the sweetest intro and ending dedication. Nick even sang part of a song that I sang for a high school concert. I straight up laughed out loud like a crazy person. I was so beyond touched. At the end of this section, I saw my parents again and got the chance to tell them that I was having the best day of my life.
Right after blowing kisses to my parents, we split off from the half marathoners. Several of them wished us luck which I thought was really sweet.
Miles 12 – 17
Bzzzzzzz Mile 12..
Bzzzzzzz Mile 13…
Bzzzzzzz Mile 14…..
This section got a little prettier and the miles just ticked away. I was actually amazed that I often didn’t know or care what mile I was in. I had long established a rhythm of drinking water, taking a Bolt Chew every 2 or 3 miles, checking my average pace, and trotting along. Somewhere around mile 12, I caught up with the 4:40 pace group who had begun in the corral before me (meaning I had a few minutes less than them). When I settled into their rhythm, I felt like I had found my people and it was a tremendous relief not to have to set my own pace. Even though I was listening to a combination of podcasts and celebratory halfway point music, I could feel the camaraderie of the group. Despite a distracting and poorly timed headphone mishap, I stayed with them as we trucked up the notorious hill to the St. Johns bridge.
That hill was really, really worth it.
Once on the bridge, I slowed down to fix my headphone issue. I dropped a bit behind the 4:40 pace group but I had felt so great throughout the race, I was confident I could catch back up.
Miles 18 – 21
Over the bridge, I began a podcast. Not the best timing because I was still a bit fatigued from the ascent to the bridge and the lack of musical inspiration lulled me right into the wall.
So, the wall is interesting. I knew I was fueled and hydrated but I just started to feel really tired. I wasn’t demoralized by the distance and my thoughts were still quite positive. Nothing really hurt but I was just TIRED. I realized quickly that this was the wall and reminded myself that it was temporary and eventually I would scale it and my energy would return. I even smiled because I was experiencing this runner rite of passage. And also, it sucked.
My bestie Lauren (WHOSE DAD WON THE MOTHERF*CKING NOBEL PRIZE ON MONDAY. WHAT?!) was stationed somewhere between miles 19 and 20 so looking for her helped manage my waning interest in running. “Waning interest” would be the understatement of the year but I kept reminding myself that I was running my perfect race. I had no pain, perfectly even splits, no tummy issues, and a positive mindset. When I hit mile 21, I put some music on and felt completely recharged! AHHHH SWEET RELIEF! I kept looking for Lauren but at this point I figured I had either missed her or she hadn’t been able to come out. No biggie – I HAD DOWNHILL MILES TO RUN! WAHOOOO!
Okay, so my quads are still trashed today but it was so worth it. Those two miles of descent felt f*cking awesome. I realize some people aren’t that comfortable running downhill but I love it. When looking at the course, I wondered if it would even feel like a relief at this point in the race. Um, it totally did times a million. I caught back up with the 4:40ers and hung out with them until the course leveled out at mile 24.
So, two miles left. No biggie, right? What’s twenty minutes when you’ve already been running for more than four hours?
It’s very, very, very, very difficult.
I knew I just had to get to the Broadway bridge to get back. Just get UP TO THAT BRIDGE (that part was a doozy). Just get over the bridge. Just get to mile 25 where Tim and your family are waiting for you.
I had run the entire time. Even during water bottle refills, I shuffled from volunteer to volunteer. I had not walked a single step. At this point it truly took all my mental fortitude not to walk. I just kept asking myself if it was worth giving up the ultimate baller status of running an entire marathon non-stop. Every time I decided it wasn’t, I slowed down to a shuffle long enough to feel a bit of relief and then picked the pace back up. During this mile, the 4:40 (4:36 for me) pace group drifted further ahead until they disappeared completely.
Now, if there is a single thing I could have done differently during the race, it would have been to take a salt pill around mile 17. I’ve never taken one but I intend to experiment with them in future training. I was drinking water and fueling well but I started to feel a little bit of tummy instability at mile 24. This is my tell-tale sign of mild dehydration. I drank water but my body just wasn’t absorbing it effectively anymore. Truthfully, I had enough energy to push my pace at this point but my tummy wouldn’t let me and I was unwilling to stop in a portapotty.
I got across the bridge with a major improvement in mood and pace. Thank you Demi Lovato. Heart Attack was my JAM on that bridge and I felt pretty amazing. Right at the mile 25 mark, there was a left turn. In an attempt to run the tangent correctly, I almost missed Tim who was standing on the corner! He yelled out for me and when I saw him, he had the most enormous smile on his face. I felt so proud and just screamed that I loved him and kept moving forward.
I was running the last mile of my first marathon. I was tired. I was going to become a marathoner. I had run exactly the race I trained for.
I saw the 26 mile marker and turned on my special song. Then I turned left and saw the finish line.
And then it was done.
4 hours, 40 minutes and 43 seconds of effort done.
I collected my space blanket, MEDAL, and immediately downed several cups of water and OJ. That OJ was seriously the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. Then I went through to get my finishers shirt (SWEET), commemorative coin, replica medal pendant, and rose. If you like SWAG, run the Portland Marathon. For real.
My parents, stepbrother, cousin and his fiancé were easy to find in the reunion area. It was so special to have them there to share the experience with. We took a bunch of family pictures in which I got what is probably my favorite picture ever taken:
So…you know who else it was special to share this experience with?
Every tweet, text, emoji, comment, smile, and encouraging word over the last four months got me to this place. I am so grateful and moved by the unbelievable support of my family, friends, and the phenomenal internet running/triathlon community. This was a tremendous endeavor for me and you made it delightful every literal step of the way. Thank you so much.
I ran a marathon.
Best. Day. Ever.