Bursting with pride, two best buds rock the D.C. National Marathon
I had been dreading this day, just as much as I had been looking forward to it. I didn’t even realize it was possible to feel two polar opposite emotions simultaneously. I guess that’s what happens when you have your first marathon lurking around your thoughts for eight months.
Two years ago I decided to run a half marathon. Considering the farthest I’d ever run in my life was four miles at once, this was a daunting task. I roped my college roomie, Jackie, into the deal and we dedicatedly began training. Two years and two half marathons later, we decided to put our big girl running shoes on and conquer a full-fledged, 26.2-mile marathon.
Conquer we did. Well, kind of. In our words, we “rocked it.”
In my opinion, we selected a fabulous marathon as our first. Our landscape was Washington D.C. Talk about an inspiring scene to get that adrenaline flooding through the body. Another inspiring factor propelling Jackie and I through the 26.2-mile trek was the fact we both used to be little chubby humans.
Jackie’s coined nickname was blimp and I certainly accrued a slew of obesity-related names by rude 4th graders.
So, it was our mission to rock it for those little chubby girls who could barely do the six-minute mile in 6th grade.
Let’s start from the top of my trip to D.C. The race was Saturday so I got in a couple days early to spend some quality time with the bestie and load up on the carbs. Let me tell you, it sure feels fantastic when you feel required to eat pasta. No guilt whatsoever! Jackie took me to a fun pasta bar in Chinatown and then we hit the hay pretty early. The next day was busy with race registration and shopping for our perfect race day ensembles. We may have not been the fastest racers, but we were definitely the best dressed! It’s our tradition to have matching outfits each race we partake in together. This year we fashioned running skirts and totally looked the part. Before the race, a group of ladies came up to us and said “wow you must be serious runners.” We chuckled out loud and said, “don’t let the outfit fool you- we are faking it ‘til we make it!”
The morning of race day, we set our alarms for 5:15 AM. I am not a morning person so I was dreading this wakeup call like no other. As our alarms buzzed in sync, Jackie exclaimed, “rise and shine.” This was a familiar exultation from living with Jackie for two years. I burst into laughter and could not believe that race day was upon us. Jackie spouted off encouraging statements as we prepared for the many hours of running ahead. We were soon spinning around the apartment, blaring our pump-up play list to get in the zone. We continually repeated, “DC 2010: This is gonna suck.” Although this might have been our joking mantra, we were fully prepared to push ourselves to the max and run our hearts out.
We soon navigated our way through the streets of D.C. to the RFK Stadium where this pursuit was going to take place. Parking was chaotic, which we expected with 12,000+ racers. The police didn’t even know what to tell us, so we were freaking out a little bit. Although nothing was going to get in the way of the finish line. In the mean time, we rolled down our windows and chatted up our fellow competitors. The aspect I love most about these races is the cordialness among the runners. Now if we were with the serious runners who are the leaders of the pack, perhaps they would tell us to eat their dust. But back in chorale nine, the company is quite pleasant. Soon enough we found a parking spot and sprinted into the expo center. We were hesitant to expend any energy before the race but we wanted to keep warm. As we were inside, we instantly made friends with folks from all over the country. Perhaps our favorites were two gals from the Northeast who have been running together for years. One of them completed five marathons in one year when she turned 50. We told them they were our inspiration and we hoped to catch up to their accomplishments. Then we met another first-time marathoner at the starting line. This girl looked the part and you could tell she was a serious runner. We knew we wouldn’t be running side-by-side with her for long.
Finally, the moment we had been anticipating for months: the race had started! My first jam on the Ipod was “Let it Rock” by Kevin Rudolph. The heavy beat blared through my headphones and I could feel my energy elevating. Race day was upon us! I cannot even describe the feeling of everyone, all shapes, ages and sizes pounding it on the pavement. You learn that some people have been “marathoning” it up for years, while others were first-timers just like us.
As the course stretched out in front of us, I felt like I could run all day. I was desperate to hold onto this feeling, ignorantly hoping it would not subside. Fortunately, I was actually able to cling onto the feeling for the first half of the race, which in my opinion was the most amazing part. The course was simply majestic as we ran alongside the National Mall where we passed the Capitol, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian museums, sculpture gardens and most magnificent- the White House. Jackie tapped my arm and pointed up toward the right and there the White House sat. I think our pace picked up a bit from how inspired we felt. We were actually passing people left and right, which was shocking to us. As each mile marker was behind us, we would give one another the traditional high five in celebration.
I certainly don’t want to fool you, Jackie and I did not run the entire course. We had no intention of doing this. Our plan was to run a mile, walk a minute. That method worked well for us in the past and we felt it best to implement it again. For the first 13 miles, we blazed through the streets and did not feel the need to walk; however, around mile 15, our bodies were feeling the fatigue and we walked a bit to give our quads a break. We looked down and our hands were grossly inflated. Our faces were salty and our legs felt like tanks. I know I am painting a glamorous picture for you- race day ain’t pretty folks!
Before the race, one of Jackie’s favorite things to do was look up inspirational race quotes. Our favorite one we kept repeating with laughter was, “Marathon running is a terrible experience: monotonous, heavy, and exhausting.” That being said, we still were eager for the challenge. A few other quotes we clung to inspired us to have gumption, drawing energy for the first part of the race from our mind. The second part from our personality and the last part from our heart. I think this was definitely true, especially in Jackie’s case. Jackie wasn’t feeling the pain in the quads as much as I was. At one point, we were busting our tails, power-walking style. As we passed officers, fellow racers and spectators, Jackie offered them a wave, kind word and a cheeky smile. She was chatting it up with all sorts of cats while I was fighting back tears of pain and fatigue. Even though we vowed to stick together the entire race, I turned up my Ipod as loud as I could to drown out her chipper voice. As much as I wanted to strangle her out of jealousy and pain, I was so grateful she was our cheerleader and pace keeper. If it wasn’t for her, I would have been on my hands and knees crawling. She definitely should have won the award for Miss Congeniality!
I did conjure up some cheer when the volunteers and other participants would shout, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” as they spied my KU hat. That definitely boosted up the adrenaline, finding a link between myself and the other participants. One hunky fellow who worked on Capitol Hill, turned around as he passed us and shouted “Boo KU.” He was from Mizzou so naturally he did not enjoy my hat. We did strike up a conversation with him around mile 23 as we temporarily walked to work through the pain. I also met someone who is from my hometown along the way which was another exciting link. Like I said, the human element of the race is my favorite aspect. All these people have the same goal as you and share the same pride. Speaking of pride, the most overwhelming moment for me was mile 25 as we were crossing a lengthy bridge. I could see the stadium on the horizon and I knew the finish line was a mile away. I hate to admit it, but I was listening to Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” With a combination of being famished, in pain, fatigued and proud, tears of joy began streaming down my face. I was belting the lyrics out, overwhelmed with all we accomplished on race day. We passed the marker for mile 26 and picked up speed. We were going to finish this race strong! As we crossed the finish line, Jackie did a karate chop and a kick. How the lass had enough energy to conjure up strength for that, I have no clue. We clutched our medals and kept repeating that we couldn’t believe we had finished a marathon!
It’s been three days since our day in the sun and we are busy researching our next marathon. We have pledged to join forces once a year and knock one out. So if you have any suggestions on a race, please let me know. Also, please share with me your race day stories or proud fitness moments you have experienced. I am eager to know about them. Thanks for sharing and reading about my first marathon experience!
About the Author
Kimberly Westphall is the author of Blogging Fitness and a regular contributor to Midwest Sports Fans. She is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas where she majored in Journalism. She participated in a podcast with Jerod, which will help you get to know her even better.
While at KU, she was an anchor and online web producer for Jayhawk Sports Talk. Kimberly made her MSF debut in 2009 discussing the fight between Kansas’ basketball and football teams and also had her column about the Dallas Stars Ice Girls featured at Dallas Sports Fans.
She has a passion for fitness and is on the lookout for emerging fitness trends and workouts. Her favorite group exercise format is kickboxing, and when she’s not hitting up the aerobics studio both as a participant and instructor, Kimberly is training for marathons with her best friend Jackie.
* – Marathon photo credit: MeetUp.com