(These olympic colour shirts happened completely by accident)
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me through the training and completion of my first marathon. I really had a wonderful time. I cannot wait to take part in another one, and next time I am aiming to beat my current time by 30 minutes.
Dallas, Texas ~ Metros PCS Dallas Marathon
After four months of (what felt like) insufficient training, the time to run the Dallas Marathon had arrived. The first marathon I trained for, in Xiamen, China, did not turn out well. As most of you already know, I developed a chest infection in the week before, and could not participate. That was in January of this year. As soon as we arrived in Dallas, and I heard about this international marathon, I signed up. Over the following four months, I tried my best to train despite all of the distractions that we faced. Running in China was a lot easier because we had so much less to do with our time. There have been many weeks where I fell short of what I should have done, and I feared how this would affect my performance on race day.
The day before the marathon, we went to the Convention Centre to pickup my race packet. I was calm but we were busy, and as the day went by I began to feel nervous that I was not resting enough.
We got downtown VERY early, and we waited near the start line. The night before, I laid out my clothes, hydration bottles, GU’s, jellybeans, maps, race bib, safety pins, vaseline, warm clothes, and anything else I would need for the race. As suspected, the “pre-race jitters” kept me up all night. At 4am we had to get up and start getting ready. I had only managed to sleep a total of about 3 hours because we decided to get to the race so early.
It was dark, but fortunately not cold. As you can see, there were barely any people waiting in the corrals when we arrived. The starting lines were quiet and almost totally empty.
There I am ~ Ready to get going!
As the corrals filled up, I began to feel more and more anxious to leave. I realized that we didn’t have to arrive so early, especially since I was placed in corral C and I would not start running until about 8:15am.
I hung around the gate of Corral C so that I could get my last few minutes with Justin, but once the gates were shut, we had to move between the crowds and find a spot near the fence where we could love on each other like Jail-Birds.
Look at all those runners ~ 25,000 people took part in the Dallas Marathon, but only 6,000 were doing the full marathon so the crowds were sure to thin out later into the race.
When the crowd started to move forward, we had to say goodbye to the guys and huddle into the centre of the corral. This felt like China all over again (but there was some room to move here).
Justin climbed a small hill and tried to stay in view.
It was easy for me to see him. This sign really stood out!
We sang the national anthem (*goosebumps*), and then the gun went off. Confetti filled the sky, and the crowd began to move forward.
Justin kept running along the fence to wave at me. It was very sweet!
As soon as I was out of his sight, Justin ran to the subway station and began to make his way to the next spot along the course where he could cheer for me. I had a list of the spots written down, and memorised so that I could look out for them. In the meantime, his parents were at home getting ready to pick him up at another station so that they could all head to the next spot. This was all very well orchestrated.
Margret Hunt Hill Bridge
Despite the fact that it is December here, the air was warm and humid. I started to overheat within the first hour. D’Andra and I were taking things slow, but we still could not wait to see someone that we knew so that we could give them our jackets.
There was a lot of excitement in the air.
During the first hour of the marathon, we saw many tables giving away free food and coffee. This must have been mainly for supporters because I can’t imagine any of the runners stopping to eat and have coffee at that point.
D’Andra had a lot of people supporting her along the route. They had pink balloons and the letter “D” on a stick. When we got to the first of her supporter groups, we handed over our jackets, and started to feel much better.
Justin waiting at his first post.
I knew where to look out for him, and this gave me something to think about as I ran.
His sign was very helpful. Sometimes I could see it before I saw him.
The second time I saw Justin, he was with his best buddy (Enrique), and his parents. I was so happy to see them that I forgot to ask for some extra energy supplements.
Parts of the marathon led us through some of the wealthier neighbourhoods of Dallas. There seemed to be a band located every mile or so along the way. This offered some distraction for the runners going by. Many people had moved their couches onto their front lawns, and they sat drinking a morning cup of coffee while they cheered us on.
By the time we got to the lake, D’Andra started to feel some pain so we slowed to walk a few times. This was when my energy started to kick in, and I felt excited to get through the second half of the course.
The supporters were AMAZING!! Some of the signs made me laugh, and others gave me power to keep going. Especially, the poster that said “TOUCH HERE FOR POWER”. Loads of people ran by to tap on this one! These people deserve a medal for standing and shouting words of encouragement. It really makes a huge difference, especially when they look at your bib and shout your name,
“Go Catherine, You can do it!”
What an instant energy boost!
Thank you to all the supporters!!
After all the training runs around the lake, I was filled with joy to be finally running by here and completing my first marathon. I think that this was when I really started to feel happy and energetic. I couldn’t imagine hitting a wall later if I felt this good, so I picked up my pace.
I started to lose D’Andra a little by the lake. Her foot and knee were hurting. She told me to go ahead without her, but I felt really bad to just leave her, so I tried to stay with her. I am sure many runners have been in this position before ~ Torn between wanting to stay with someone you know, but also wanting to run faster and get to the finish line.
There is the kindest mother-in-law I could have ever hope for. She is sitting with her handmade South African flag waiting to get a glimpse of me, so that she can cheer for me. She later told me that she had tears in her eyes each time she saw me ~ Aww, she loves me!!
I was amused by the runners who dressed up for the race. This guy had Christmas decorations attached to himself. Another girl even had Christmas lights that were flashing. I definitely think I will try to wear something fun in the next marathon that I do.
Around miles 18-19, D’Andra and I stepped into two totally different zones. I started listening to music and felt pumped to keep going, but she was just not there yet. Unfortunately, she was in a bit of pain. I tried pushing her, but on the last occasion that I moved ahead of her, I lost her. I ran into a few of her supporters, and I told them to look out for her.
I had heard many people talking about the Dolly Parton Hills, the Dallas version of Boston’s Heartbreak Hill. These back-to-back hills feature a host of Dolly Parton impersonators adding comic relief. At this point, runners may be tired, but they are closer to the finish, a huge mental boost. This was also a popular spectator spot.
I can’t say that I remember the Dolly Parton Hill’s being rough at all. I think that I had reserved my energy in the first half of the run, and I was flying at this point. On one of the hills, I could hear Sue saying, “Keep your head down and the hill won’t feel so steep”. Fortunately, the road was covered with motivational phrases from other runners. Some of them gave me goosebumps, and others brought tears to my eyes… All in all, they made me run faster, that’s for sure!
Dolly Parton Impersonators handing out water and gatorade.
Does that guy have a belly ring?
My amazingly supportive family
The last time I saw Justin and his family, I was at about mile 20 and completely ON FIRE… All I wanted to do was sprint to the finish line! I realised that despite the slow start and some delays, I had been running for about four hours, and I only had 6.2 miles to go. I don’t run using miles, but I knew that 6 miles equated to 10km, and I knew that I could do 10+ kilometres in under an hour.
I decided that I was going to complete the marathon in UNDER FIVE HOURS, so I took off running as fast as I could. On my iPod, I had one song playing on REPEAT ~ “Girl on Fire (Inferno Version)”, Alicia Keys ft Nicki Manaj. I passed by tons of people who had obviously hit the wall. Some of them were limping slowly, others had moved to the side of the road to stretch or sit down. I kept shouting encouraging comments as I went by those who were struggling. It was awesome to see them start running again. My hips and ankles were burning, but I kept telling my body that it could feel the pain later, but not now!! I kept saying this over and over… the pain went away.
When I reached downtown, I knew that I was close.
The crowds were growing thicker.
The cheering louder.
I turned one corner, and then another…
That’s when I saw the finish line!! Only people who have run a marathon will know, this is the most amazing sight!!!! Even though I was sprinting, I picked up my pace even more. One wrong move and I would have tripped, but I had less than a minute (on my watch) until the five hour mark.
Just before the finish line, I saw Justin and his family to the left. I was coming by so fast that Bryan was still watching for me to come around the corner. I noticed that when he turned his head and spotted me, his jaw fell open. He couldn’t believe that I was sprinting after all the running I had just done.
I crossed the finish line and the clock said 5:11, but I had started in corral C, so my time actually started 12 minutes later than the first group of people. I had OFFICIALLY come in under 5 hours, and I was over the moon. I did a little victory dance!! Look for me in the picture above, I am literally a foot off the ground, and my arms are open ~ I was ECSTATIC!!
I got these stats off the Dallas Marathon website. There was a tracker on my shoe for the duration of the race, so they could tell when I crossed certain points on the route. As I told you, I was “on fire” for the last 6.2 miles… I passed 541 runners, and ZERO passed me!!!!
I felt very proud when the medal was placed around my neck. I may not have come first but this was definitely a PERSONAL VICTORY!!
I waited for D’Andra at the finish line, and then we made our way inside the Convention Centre to have photos taken, get a “finisher t-shirts”, some food, and meet the friends and family waiting for us.
Thank you to everyone who came out to support and encourage!
This was a very special day for me, and I appreciate all of the love.
Even my friends and family in South Africa were cheering me on via Facebook!
The Essers took me back to the house, and I found this on my bedroom door. It made me tear up. Justin and I had left at 4:40am so I knew that his parents must have done this before they left to come to the race spots to support me. I felt so loved and blessed!
Inside the room there were balloons attached to the walls and all over the floor.
I was so happy!!!!