Columbus Marathon Recap (this is a long one!)

I know I didn’t make it a secret that going into this race I was NERVOUS. I revised my goals many times and per the suggestion of all focused on just finishing, but in my heart I knew that I had one other big goal: running the entire thing. No walking, no stopping, no excuses. That kind of became my mantra.

With a few delays along our way we made it (close) to the starting line. K. dropped us off and shouted a few motivational phrases at me as he drove away.  KT & I tried to find our way to the corrals. The starting area was pretty hectic and honestly kind of poorly marked. Although there seemed to be volunteers everywhere no one was particularly helpful at the time. KT had a bag to check but there was very little indicating where we were supposed to do that so we just followed everyone else carrying bags. We finally found the gear check, dropped her bag off and got in line for the porta-a-potties. It was getting pretty close to 7a (when corrals supposedly closed) so we rushed through, said our goodbyes and good lucks and found our respective corrals. The Columbus Marathon went from 6 corrals last year to 4 this year and I’m not sure why. I found my corral to be WAY overcrowded and very hard to get into- there was one small entrance (so that bibs could be monitored) and the back up to get in was crazy! Tons of people were just jumping the fences and bypassing the bib checkers which was frustrating to me, a follower of rules, but I just blocked it out and tried to get into my own zone. I had a weird sense of calm washing over me. I’m generally almost afraid to be confident, I’m more the kind of person who lowers expectations so as to avoid disappointment, but I was feeling really good and that was terrifying. I knew that today was my day and I really tried to go with that feeling. Despite the freezing temperatures and lack of personal space, the 30 minute wait between corral close + first corral release flew by. I ditched my sweats and my windbreaker, popped a Shot Blok in my mouth and got ready to run. As corral B moved up to the start line I soaked it all in: I was going to run a marathon!

I was very focused on keeping my first miles in check, I refused to go out too fast and ruin my race (as I have done during every.single.half-marathon) so my key phrase was “hold back”. Despite the crowds I had quickly settled into a pace that I knew was too fast, so I just kept repeating “hold back” and finally found a happy place around 10:30. My goal was to keep my miles between 10:00-11:30, slow but steady. The first few miles honestly flew by, I knew I’d be seeing K. just past mile 1 so that was my first little burst of energy. I kept my eyes out for him, which was good because I think he would have missed me if I didn’t start screaming his name! After I saw him I turned up my music and just stayed focused on slowing my pace down and enjoying my surroundings, as I knew I wouldn’t see my cheering crew again for another 7 or so miles. Per the suggestion of Carolina John, I was taking a small sip of water during every song change (which ended up being the perfect hydration strategy!) and then sticking with my tried-and-tested nutrition of one Shot Blok every three miles. That little routine made the whole marathon seem more manageable- it basically broke the race up into little three mile sections for me. Although I still felt very strong and comfortable it was around mile 3 that I realized two things: 1. these shoes are dead. They may have JUST died. Either way I’m never wearing them again and 2. I am pretty sure I have some level of a stress fracture in my foot. I hadn’t really had many doubts, I still felt strong and great, but the thought of an actual injury ironically made me commit even more to my goal of running the entire thing- because I imagined I may be sidelined for a bit post-race I might as well make it worth it, right?

First 10K splits:

mile 1: 10:37
mile 2: 10:26
mile 3: 10:34
mile 4: 10:34
mile 5: 10:30
mile 6: 10:38

10K : 1:05:35

Right on pace.

I had told my family to expect for me to hit that halfway point just around 2:20:00 and I knew that I was doing a good job of staying on track for that. I kept my eyes out for my cheering section around mile 8 but I nearly missed them! A big thanks to the non-headphone wearing runner next to me who got my attention :-). I told K. I didn’t need more fuel, said my goodbyes and continued on. I didn’t expect to see anyone again until mile 20ish, so I knew that I had to make sure I was keeping the positive thoughts going strong. As I was running through mile 9 I thought about how terrible I felt at that point during the Columbus half last year and even Cap City back in May- I had started walking there in both races- but not today. Today I felt SO STRONG, which was extra great considering I still had 17 miles to go, haha. The next few miles were pretty uneventful. They felt easy and I was just preparing myself to get through the low of watching all the half marathoners turn toward the finish line. An important part of the Columbus Marathon is that it supports Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Each mile is dedicated towards a current or former patient and throughout the mile you see facts and photos of the patients and, for those who are well enough to be there, you see the patient themselves. Which is certainly motivational. Mile 12 is the Angel Mile, dedicated to the kids who lost their battles. Last year at that point I was in the homestretch and pretty much only thinking about collapsing but this year I was trying to hold back (all the half marathoners were picking up their paces at this point) so I had a chance to really have a moment for those children. I got to see their friends and family members holding signs dedicated to them and it was very touching. As I hit mile 13 (and watched hundreds of happy half marathoners finish up their races) I felt exhilarated- I was doing this. I was running a marathon and there was no turning back!

mile 7: 10:44
mile 8: 10:36
mile 9: 10:32
mile 10: 10:35
mile 11: 10:42
mile 12: 10:48
mile 13: 10:27

Half Marathon: 2:19:29 (perfect!)

I knew what was coming next- a very desolate stretch. This race is notorious for a serious drop in spectators from about mile 13-18. To make matters worse I wasn’t expecting to see K. again until somewhere near mile 20. And on top of all that, we had a slow gradual incline to run up for at least 3 miles. It was not a good time. Despite all of that- I felt strong and confident. I just kept saying “wow, you are really going to do this!”. I was easily maintaining my hydration + nutrition strategies and I felt perfectly fueled- not sloshy or thirsty, not hungry or sugar-highed- just perfect. I already started telling myself how this was my smartest race and how I had nailed nutrition. I didn’t want to get TOO cocky at this point- I was still fearing the dreaded wall- but I really tried to keep all negative thoughts out of my head. As I was strolling along High street and enjoying my race PDR I was extremely shocked to see K. (conveniently standing right in front of my work) yelling for me! I took out my headphones and I just screamed back “I haven’t walked yet! I haven’t walked yet!”. I told him I was good on fuel and I’d see him again at 20. That was such a pleasant surprise! As the course took a turn onto Lane avenue I was relieved because I knew we had a bit of a downhill in front of us. I started having new landmarks in my mind: 16.3 miles because less than double-digits left, 17 miles because that was my longest continuous run prior to this, 20 miles to make up for my failed 20-miler/see K., 23.1 miles because only a 5K left. Little things like that were pulling me through. At around 17/18 we went into the famed Ohio State Stadium (the ‘shoe) and while I’m sure other people found this super exciting, I found it kind of dumb. We had to run down a sudden, steep downhill (really hard after 17.5 miles of running), take ~20 steps in the actual stadium and then a sudden, steep uphill! It felt like a cruel joke. What I DID like about this part was that it was a turnaround, so I had seen the people in front of me and now I was seeing the ones behind. During the entire race I NEVER looked back (because why would I?) and kind of had it in my head that no one was running as “slow” as me- which is crazy, I realize. But I somehow found comfort in knowing there were thousands of people in every direction. After the stadium the next 2 miles felt like a mountain- and looking at my Garmin data it was the highest climb of the entire race, which is just mean! I’m proud to say that mile 19 was the first time my pace crept over 11 minutes (and a bit sadder to say that it would never go back down- whoops!). These miles were a bit less rosy- my back and my hips were starting to hurt- but I truly feel like I never really hit “the wall”. I definitely slowed a bit, but I still felt strong and almost more confident than ever. As soon as I hit mile 20 I knew that I only had a measly little 10K left and I had redeemed myself from my failed training run.

mile 14: 10:38
mile 15: 10:40
mile 16: 10:41
mile 17: 10:55
mile 18: 10:59
mile 19: 11:17
mile 20 : 11:39 (slowest mile of the marathon, so kind of my “wall”)

20M 3:36:26

Shortly past 20 I saw K. again and I started screaming “NO WALKING! I’M DOING THIS!!!!!” kind of like a maniac, pretty sure I freaked out the runners around me, but I was just so excited! Any remaining fears I had were completely gone- there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish this without walking. Mile 20 through 23 were again, uneventful, I was just so ready to get to the final 5K. I actually saw the 4:30 pace group around 20 or 21 (they had started a corral behind me, so it was probably more like 4:35-4:38 for me) and thought about booking it and finishing with them but the not-so-great pain in my foot told me that was a bad idea. I once again made peace with the fact that this wasn’t a time goal race for me and I just kept doing my own thing. At mile 23 we were greeted with a Kroger sponsored food stop, full of cookies, candy, fruit and soda. I ate my last planned Shot Blok @ 21 so an orange wedge sounded perfect to get me through these last few miles. It tasted like heaven, really. When I hit mile 25 I started welling up for the first time, I knew only one more mile marker stood between me and finishing this thing. By this point I had turned off shuffle on my iPod and started putting on my power songs (“Roar” by Katy Perry, “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore  & Ryan Lewis and “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machines) over and over. The crowds got REALLY thick right near the “1/2 mile to go!” sign and it was all so overwhelming. I had the BIGGEST smile on my face but I was also basically crying. As we took a turn toward the finish line I was just completely in awe- of the people cheering for me, of the people in front of and behind me, and of myself. I ripped my headphones out of my ears and ran as fast as I could towards the finish line. After 26 miles of running I felt like I was flying but after watching the video that was not quite the case, haha, but either way. I gave it everything I had left and crossed the finish line with my hands in the air. I had actually done it.

mile 21: 11:06
mile 22: 11:10
mile 23: 11:08
mile 24: 11:12
mile 25: 11:16
mile 26: 11:09
.2 (well, .46 because I failed at running the tangents): 9:15 pace

TOTAL TIME: 4:45:40

I thanked every volunteer who would listen and proudly posed for a finish line photo (something I’ve skipped in other races). The second I stopped running I was acutely aware of all the aches and pains in my lower legs but at that point it really didn’t matter. The first thing I said to K. when I finally got to hug him was: “I ran the whole thing. I didn’t really I think I could do that, but you did. And I did it!”.

I can say without a doubt this was the smartest race I’ve ever run. I knew I was in no shape to actually “race” my first marathon so I held back and focused on what I could do. I stayed true to my hydration/nutrition plan and it worked flawlessly- I didn’t even feel famished when I crossed the finish. Another thing that really paid off for me was the heart rate training- my average heart rate was 165 for the marathon, which is GREAT for what was technically race day. I peaked at 179 during my sprint to the finish but mostly stayed in the 160s. I was very pleased to see that.

Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect first marathon. And as everyone had warned it only took me a few hours to decide that yes, I will definitely be going back for more.


  1. Outstanding! You really pulled a great race together there. I've never covered an entire marathon without walking before, the farthest I've made it was 21 miles. That is really cool. Glad the hydration tip worked perfectly as well, I've done that for years.

    The magic of the day and the weather conditions all have to come together in a perfect storm. The fact that it all came together for your first marathon is really lucky. Welcome to the club!

  2. Thanks!! I definitely lucked out with conditions and I 100% believe the only reason I was able to run the whole thing was because I KNEW that if I took even a few steps walking there was a 0% chance I'd start running again (and I was right, seeing as I was basically immobile for the 2 days following the race, ha).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s