One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: 4:03:36

Marathoners-to-be on the bus to the starting line
Marathoners-to-be on the bus to the starting line

As they prepare for the Wineglass Marathon on October 4 using the AMR #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge, Heather and Marianne, two long-distance BRFs taking on their first marathon, are sharing their experiences--and miles--weekly. Find all their posts here.


“Try to think of the pain as temporary and purposeful,” my midwife said. “Each breath brings you closer to your baby.” Four years and one month later, it occurs to me how applicable this advice is to running a marathon. Minus the baby part.

On race morning, I wake from a good night’s sleep, thanks to Calms Forte. While I pour my coffee, Marianne sidles up. “Want to run a marathon today?” she asks. We high-five, the first of many for the day. Two hours later, I hug Marianne goodbye at the 5 hour pace group and start heading toward the starting line. I pass way, way too many people. There is no way I’m supposed to be this close to the start line. I feel mild panic and try to shove it back down. I trained for this. I trained to be this far forward…right?

The gun goes off and we shuffle ahead until enough room opens up to run. Our pacer heads out a bit on the brisk side, and 8:50 feels noticeably faster than my 10:00 training pace. But I settle in, and smile through the first few miles. People are scattered along the sidewalks, some in their bathrobes, most cheering. The kids are my favorite, and I slap their outstretched hands when I can.


I see Abbie and Tamara, the dear friends who drove five hours to watch me run this thing, for the first time around mile four. They lose it when they see me, jumping up and down and screaming like 13-year-olds at a One Direction concert. I scream back and the ennui that was starting to set in dissipates. Moments later, I pass my parents and yell “happy birthday!” to my dad, who made the same five hour drive to spend his birthday watching his daughter partake in this craziness. I turn up one of my friend Roger’s mixes, and feel like a new woman. Why yes, Jack White, I have been thinking about my doorbell.

At mile six, the water stop is positioned at the top of a rise. My fueling strategy of Tailwind, supplemented by Stinger chews, allows me to skip it and I pull ahead of my pace group on the ensuing downhill. I see the 3:55 group a ways ahead of me and wonder if I’ll catch them.


The next twelve miles are a blur. Abbie and Tamara and my parents are everywhere. There are penguins. There are Girls On the Run. There are Elmira College Field Hockey girls that give me a glimpse into what the Wellesley girls must be like. There are hilarious signs that I swear I’ll remember for the race recap, but don’t. (Except "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon." That one stuck.) There are moments when I feel so damn lucky to be moving and breathing and pushing that I can hardly stand it.

Around mile 18, I’m getting tired. I pass Abbie and Tamara again and yell, “this is starting to suck.” Just get to mile 20, I tell myself. Then I get to be excited that I’m running farther than I ever have before. It doesn’t work. I’m so tired that I don’t even remember to notice. Filling my bottle of Tailwind for only the third time at mile 21, I realize that I haven’t been taking in enough calories or fluid, but neither sound good. I walk. Then I run. Then I walk again.

My pace group catches up with me, and I stay with them for a while, until I don’t. I am so. tired. It’s mile 23. I worry that I don’t have the determination required to be an athlete. The grass looks so inviting and I want to stagger off course and lie down. I think about Boston and how at the beginning of training I wondered if I should try to qualify. I think, “F--- THAT.” I may or may not say this out loud.

Around mile 24, I realize that I’m not going to finish sub-4:00. I’m still close enough to my pace group that I could catch them if I had it in me, but I don’t. Or if I do, I don’t know where to find it. And I have never been more fine with anything in my entire life. I release that goal upward like a balloon and immediately set a new goal of finishing.

When I signed up for this marathon, I was a mess. I felt stagnant in my career and trapped by motherhood, my marriage being tested by the strain of raising two children under four years of age. I felt I needed to shake something up, but didn’t know what or how. I knew who I wanted to be, but couldn’t connect the dots between that person and the person I was. I started running, farther and faster, because I didn’t know what else to do. Training for the marathon gave me the structure and discipline to fix the things that were in my control (career) and the outlet to deal with the things that weren’t (being a parent is just plain hard) and everything in between.

Walking again, I see the 25 mile flag and swear to myself that I will run the last mile. With no time goal, I am free to take it as slow as I need. I put away my headphones and actually smile as I cross the bridge that takes me into downtown Corning. Rounding the corner, I see familiar faces in the sea of people lining the streets. I push just a little harder, trying to soak in this moment. I cross the finish line and burst into happy, grateful tears.


They say it takes a village to raise a child. Certainly, the same can be said of running a marathon. My husband, my children, my parents, my mother-in-law, my friends, my running partners, my #FindYourStrong group, my MRTT tribe: they - you - were all riding in my heart those 26.2 miles, making my soul just a touch lighter, my feet a bit faster. I have never felt so loved.

Shortly after finishing, SBS sent me a text: “You RAWK! Massive congrats on nailing 4:03! Get a coach and a BQ is yours if you want it.” I’m not sure what’s next for me. Now that there’s some space between me and mile 24, the idea of chasing a BQ still has some allure. But at the tender age of 36, there are a lot of minutes to be shed between here and there. Whether it’s going after a BQ or just whittling down my time for fun, I’ve definitely got the bug. So thanks for everything, BAMRs. I’ll see you out there.

26 responses to “One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: 4:03:36

  1. This is awesome! Congratulations!!! I kind of cried reading this and I don’t even know you!! Haha! But have been reading yours and Marianne’s posts about your training so maybe that’s why I’m crying. 🙂 Way to go BAMR!!

  2. Congrats Heather! Awesome job! Next time will be easier, b/c you already know you can cover the distance 🙂
    Sorry I missed you at the expo, we got there late. I ran the half. What a wonderful race it was 🙂

  3. Heather, at the risk of sounding corny, you’ve inspired me more than you know. I will be thinking of you, your determination, and this blog on November 1st, as I pray for hoards of cheering kids, more Roger Riddle mixes, and Chuck Norris signs. Your son and daughter will read this one day and be reminded of just how remarkable an athlete and person their mamma is. Congrats!

  4. so I saw you last night and ran right behind you while you told much of the story- but as I read it with study hall room filled my eyes are filling with tears! Maybe it’s exhaustion from staying up late to grade after dinner last night- or the margarita, but I only had one so my guess is that I am just so happy for you and your journey and so happy to have made it out for a few runs with you. So here is to many more morning runs brought to you by Magellan and documented by Paparazzi.

  5. Congrats!! I have throughly enjoyed following your journey….listened to your podcast a couple of weeks ago…. and now this entry! What an achievement…. and you are also a fantastic writer….that’s a big part of what has made following your journey so enjoyable…. Take a little time to yourself, give yourself a break, and eventually if the time is right, you’ll decide whether or not to go for a BQ….

  6. You brought back memories of my first marathon back in 1979. I too cried at the end as I broke 4:00-I was 24 and went on to run many more including Pikes Peak and Catalina Island-never for time but just for “fun”. Now at 62 I want to BQ for some reason, but don’t know if my body will let me after 44 years of running….so I say go for it!! And congratulations!

  7. Awww, what a great recap!! And I think it sounds a lot like my thoughts during a marathon, even though I’ve run 9 of them now, they all end up sounding the same around mile 18 🙂 🙂 You did AWESOME on your race. Congrats to you!!

  8. It was so great to meet you at the Expo and start line. Thanks again for sticking around for more than an hour to cheer me at the finish of my first marathon! It meant a lot. I will be back to do it again next year at the age of 60!

  9. Congratulations on finishing your first marathon! Your wall was almost exactly like my wall at my first marathon. It took me a few more marathons to figure out how to avoid the wall, but when I did, it was even more awesome than finishing a marathon already is.

  10. Way to go! Your recap gave me chills and made me want to go for a run and then sign up for a race. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Inspiring and encouraging and awesome!!!

  11. Congrats on your awesome finish, your great race report and wow to everyone who supported you while you trained and ran. Keep us posted on your what’s next, but don’t forget to enjoy this finish!

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