The longer that you do endurance events, the more you hear about people doing some pretty crazy things. Two years ago when my sister, Rondi, and I made a goal to run a marathon in all 50 states, I joked that if we did one a year, we’d be done before I was 85 years old.
As we started running some races in other states,while wearing our capes (made by our awesome Mom!) that said “26.2 in 50” on them, people began to tell us ways that we could get this accomplished a bit faster.
Come to find out, there are actually whole race series that have marathons in up to 7 states in 7 days, having all of the states within driving distance from one another. So, in theory, you could check 7 states off your list in 7 days. This idea really stuck with us and we decided that we should at least try to run back to back marathons and check two states off our list in one weekend. (Did you know you can actually Google “pairs of marathons” and easily find states all over the country where this is possible?! Yeah, I didn’t either…)
And that is how this crazy idea came to be reality.
After doing some researching and looking at driving distance, the cost of the races, and the weekends that would work, we finally decided on Alabama and Mississippi. We marked it on the calendar, figured that we could leave Thursday after work and be home during the day on Monday, and honestly didn’t think much more about it until a few days before we left.
At that point, I decided to take a brief look at the course maps (noting that race one looked a bit hilly and race number two looked flat as a pancake), make sure there were breweries close by (because we also have a challenging goal of going to a brewery in all 50 states), and check what the weather might possibly be like on race day. Yes, approximately three days before the trip was the very first time that I looked into any of these things.
My older, wiser, sister, who was running her first half marathon that weekend! had looked at the course descriptions and made the brilliant decision to run in Mississippi (day two) because Alabama looked way too hilly for her. She is smart.
As it turns out, marathon number one in Alabama was INCREDIBLY hilly. Our plan was to just go slow, take it easy, and conserve our bodies so that marathon number two would be more tolerable. That was not possible. We ran our slowest marathon ever, and still felt completely beat up. There is actually no pace slow enough to make 26.2 miles feel “easy,” especially on a hilly course.
Immediately after we crossed the finish line, we headed into the golf course club house and hopped in the shower. Rondi was adamant that we needed hot showers ASAP to help our muscles recover. But, after each of us hopped into the two showers that were available, we found out that one (mine) had hot water and the other (hers) was freezing cold. She toughed it out anyways and claims that maybe cold showers are the way to go! And then, thanks to our big sister who played chauffeur for the day, we were on the road to find a Mississippi brewery before packet pick-up for marathon number two.
Upon arriving at packet pick-up, we found that our Mississippi marathon was going to be run in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that we were literally going to be starting our marathon next door to a cow farm.
The laughing didn’t last long though, as the realization sunk in that our bodies hurt. Badly. And yet, there were goals to accomplish. Honestly though, if at any point before we stepped on the starting line, Rondi had said that she wanted to just wait and run Mississippi a different time, I totally would have bailed. There was NO part of me that wanted to run that marathon. Everything hurt so much and I just didn’t want to. In a short little video interview in our hotel room on race morning, I teared up because I just didn’t want to run that stinkin’ marathon. Luckily, Rondi cut filming and switched to a motivational YouTube video that reminded me that I don’t need to leave this earth with a body that’s in perfect condition. But, I do need to leave knowing that I’ve worked hard and done what I wanted to do. That I’ve set big goals, dreamed hard, and pushed myself farther than I thought possible.
So, that’s what we did. We waddled to that start line and kept putting one foot in front of the other. We actually RAN the first 3.5 miles without walking at all! Unfortunately, my stomach/butt started acting up and I ended up in the port-a-potty for quite a while, and came out with a head full of dread and a new plan. The new strategy would be to walk for 1 minute, then run for 4 minutes and just keep doing that the whole time. Also, I would eat and drink at every aid station. This proved to work to clear up my stomach issues, which was huge!
In addition, we listened to a motivational book, appropriately titled “Grit”, nearly the entire race. It was the perfect distraction from what was actually going on.
And, eventually, we reached finish line number two. It took even longer than the Alabama marathon, but that’s okay. We got there with zero mid-race mental break downs, and that’s honestly what I’m most proud of! Not once during the race did I think about quitting or did I feel like I wasn’t going to reach the finish line. I didn’t even ever really feel like I didn’t want to be out there running that marathon. I got over those emotions before the race started. Because, once we started, you better believe that we were finishing.
In the end, we decided it’s going to be a VERY long time before we sign up for back to back marathons again. It was hard. So much harder than we thought it would be. But, that just means that we grew stronger, both mentally and physically. And that’s what will help give us the courage to keep dreaming big and keep pursuing goals that might be a little too big for us. But, we sure are going to try and grow into them.
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” -unknown
Dream bigger. Work harder. Do more than you thought you could.