Twin Cities Marathon Race Report

Glad Dimity captured this image as I have very little memory of seeing my posse of supporters near Mile 15. But this BAMR was smiling!

In the starting corral of Sunday's Twin Cities Marathon, Shannon, a mother runner friend, and I huddled together in the brisk 28-degree air, trying to find a patch of sunshine to stand in. Flanked by downtown buildings, I envisioned the mother runners I knew who would be along the race course, as well as the natural beauty that awaited.

The first few miles went by in a settle-in blur. There were a few more short climbs than I expected, but I was able to settle into a pace of about 9:06, which would have put me under 4 hours. Instead of having a hard-and-fast time goal, I had a range--from 3:59 to 4:08. After standing at the race expo for the past two days, I knew in my slightly weary bones that I didn't have a 3:59 in me. But the pace felt good, and I had more pep in my step than I had expected.

For me, the race really began in earnest near Mile 3, when we seemingly left the city behind and entered an autumnal wonderland of yellow-, orange-, and brown-leaved trees flanking one lake after another. The TCM bills itself as, "the most beautiful urban marathon in America," and I soon realized why: Thanks to a vast network of parkways, bike/pedestrian paths, and wide boulevards, the course was like running through a majestic park instead of a city. For the next few miles, I tried as best I could to drink in the lake vistas. The only thing that made it feel "urban" was the amazing number of spectators. Our local pals--JoAnn and her posse of awesome St. Paul moms, in particular--had told us there would be loads of locals cheering, but I didn't believe it until I witnessed it. It was uplifting and fun.

One spectator I had my eyes peeled for was Alana, a mother runner we met at the expo. I'd taken her up on her offer to lend a helping hand, so I'd given her a nuun table to put into a bottle of water. (I'd opted to stash my GUs in my vest pockets, and just pick up water bottles along the route.) The bottle hand-off at Mile 9 went seamlessly, and I continued on without breaking my stride.

I don't have many standout anecdotes over the next 10 or so miles: On training runs, I've almost perfected the art of putting myself in a zen state while running, and the scenery, sunlight, and vibe of the TCM helped immensely. Even as the race was unfolding, it felt like I was moving through a tube of autumnal colors spliced with rays of dazzling sunshine. It felt like work, yet also like being pulled along on a conveyor belt. I know I saw Dimity and a bunch of mother runners at Mile 15, yet already it's a blurry memory. (I recall Dimity saying she ran 1:24 in the 10-Miler, which gave me a boost.) I rarely looked at my Garmin, running instead by feel (another intangible "skill" I honed on training runs). Perhaps I should have have focused more on the numbers on my wrist, but I felt like I was pushing myself enough. I was intent on staying strong--and not backing down or giving up--at any point during the marathon.

For me, this marathon was like a 20-mile training run with a 10K race at the end. It was in this final 6.2 miles--after crossing to the St. Paul side of the mighty Mississippi--that my racing-drive kicked in as well as where my race memories sharpen, starting with connecting with Kristen and a bunch of Moms on the Run members at the aid station at Mile 20.6. As planned, Kristen handed me bottle of nuun and a bagel. I shouted out, "Moms on the Run RULE!" or something equally inspired and continued chugging uphill.

This is the part of the race that folks describe anywhere from "a steady incline" to "major hills!" I'd side with the "steady incline" folks, and it actually felt good on my hips to be climbing rather than churning out more flat miles. Around Mile 21 was the most memorable interchange with Dimity and our gaggle of gals--lots of photos and a smack on the arse from Dimity. (I'd specifically told her not to "pat" me on the back during the race as she can pack a big swat. But she couldn't help herself--then, as I ran off, she felt compelled to yell out an apology of, "I smacked you on your butt!" To which I yelled back over my shoulder, "I know!" At the time, it seemed hilarious.)

Me and Dim at Mile 21. I can subtract at least two minutes off race clock for all the photo-taking, I think.

The incline went on for longer than I had anticipated, and my tunnel/zen vision really came into play from Mile 22 on. As much as I'd planned on soaking in the beauty of the grand homes along Summit Avenue, I didn't shift my focus from the road--and the runners--ahead of me. I started picking off folks I'd been following for miles--a guy in a tank that said, "John" on the back. A younger woman in funky green-and-blue patterned capris. A woman in a flamingo-pink tank top. The mantra I'd come up with specifically for this race--"Stay strong on Summit"--was on a continuous loop in my head. Then, at one point, over the strains of Nicki Minaj's "Va Va Voom" I clued in enough to realize I was hearing Dimity's voice--and, there she was, cycling along the sidewalk, yelling the same words at me. "Stay strong on Summit, Sarah!"

Near Mile 24, I high-fived my posse of supporters--and realized that if I was going to make my cutoff time goal (4:08), I had to put the hammer down. My playlist was planned perfectly: Taio Cruz and Travie urged me to go "Higher," and I started pushing even harder than I had been since entering St. Paul. All along, I'd told myself that when the exertion got really hard, I wanted to embrace it, not back away from it. And that's what I did. I told myself to just keep pushing until I saw the Mile 25 banners. Once I saw those leaf-festooned markers, I told myself to keep driving until I saw the soaring Cathedral of St. Paul, which would signal the finish line wasn't too far away. I was caught by surprise by the half-mile climb from Mile 25 to 25.5, but as I passed more and more people slowing and walking, I reminded myself how hard I'd pushed up a similar sucker-punch hill at the Big Sur Marathon.

At last, I reached the promised downhill to the Capitol, and I churned my legs even faster. I surged toward the finish mats, and rejoiced when the announcer said my name. Yet I didn't allow myself to look at the face of my Garmin for nearly 15 minutes after the race: As proud as I felt at my effort in the final 10K of the race, I knew I'd be disappointed if I missed my time goal window. Finally, when I reached our appointed meeting spot--V for Verweij (our friend JoAnn's last name--and also the first letter of "victory"), I allowed myself to look down at my wrist. There it was: 4:08:39. My pride beamed as brightly as the golden autumn sun.

Jack later texted me that in the final 2+ miles of the marathon,ย  I'd averaged 9:01, nearly 30 seconds faster than my overallย average pace.

Even through all my disheveled layers, my post-marathon pride shines through



31 responses to “Twin Cities Marathon Race Report

  1. I really enjoyed reading your race report and the talk you and Dimity gave at the Expo for the Marathon weekend! You were able to practice in your race what you shared with us in your talk. Having more than one goal for a race helps us to ensure the possibility of being able to later celebrate our success. You were also able to celebrate the joy that running adds to hour lives by enjoying the race itself, no matter the outcome! Magical. So thrilled to meet you again and laugh out loud about Glide.

  2. Love everything about this post. You have a gift with words and somehow make us all feel like we were at that race too. Need to win the lotto to travel to all the cool race places you talk about.

  3. Sarah – your race report is amazing! Knowing that course up close and personal (and fighting my own battle to stay strong on Summit last year, which nearly sucked everything I had out of me) makes your words hit very close to home. You looked so strong heading into that final 10K, and were were proud and honored to be part of your marathon support team! Congrats on a great race — it’s my favorite event, hands down, and I’m so glad you and Dimity were able to join in the TCM hoopla last weekend. It was crazy chaos at our aid station, so I didn’t even get a chance to whip out the sign we had ready — BAMRs storm the Capitol — but you clearly didn’t need the reminder of the sign! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Great job Sarah! I LOVE this post! And I just love how Dimity was there slapping you on the ass and riding by cheering for you. That’s the epitome of why I enjoy you two so much. Encouragement!

  5. You were aweswome that day!!!! Your words you write allow me to follow you through the whole marathon…..LUV that… and I just think you are awesome dear!!!! Well done!!!!

  6. Oh thank you thank you THANK YOU!!! My first marathon is Nov. 3rd in Savannah, Ga and although I’m slightly terrified, reading your post makes me look forward to it SO much. Thanks for the inspiration~

  7. Way to go SBS! I must have been channeling some of your BAMR vibes during my Chicago Marathon. I have struggled the whole summer with hamstring issues and got a new injury during my 20 miler and only ran once during my taper. All I did was the elliptical machine. So the fact I actually RAN the whole 26.2 with only walking through aide stations after mile 18 (I ran through the rest) was a huge accomplishment. Thank you for what you and Dimity do for our tribe. You are truly inspiring.

  8. Way to go, SBS!!! I knew you’d spank Twin Cities!!!! Congratulations on a job well-done and a recap beautifully conveyed!!! And congrats to Dimity for her sweet time on the 10-miler!!! I love you ladies…and the whole tribe…amazing women doing amazing things and setting great examples!!!

  9. OK, I am officially dying to run the Twin Cities marathon now! It is my hometown, though I don’t live there now, and you make it sound sooooooo beautiful. My husband ran this in 2001 and I think my year will be 2014 (as at this time next year, I will have a 6-month old, and I can’t see the training happening until she/he is a little bigger). 2014 it is! And I will print this blog post and refer back to it when I need inspiration! AMAZING JOB, SARAH!!!!

  10. Sarah, I loved reading this. Cheering you, Shannon, Tom on and all the other runners made for a special weekend for us.ย  ย Speaking from both sides of the experience โ€“ the excitement, emotion and the adrenaline of running TCM โ€“ itโ€™s awesome, nothing like it!ย  But being a spectator this year with family and friends out there, who have poured their hearts into their training โ€“ seeing them on the course is also emotional and thrilling and most definitely inspiring.ย  Your recount of the race will bring back memories for a long time to come. Thanks for that.

  11. Congrats on the marathon!! Reading all these race recaps gets me very inspired and excited for my own races. I’ll be running my first marathon this time next year.

  12. Congratulations Sarah and Dimity! My BRF ran the Portland Marathon this weekend, and when I jumped in and ran with her at mile 18, we were talking about you and Dimity in the TCM. ๐Ÿ™‚ My BRF (and your writing) has inspired me to finally bite the bullet and I signed up to run Portland Marathon next year! I can only hope for weather half as nice … ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Beautiful recap of what sounds like an amazing autumn marathon. I thrive on the colors of fall and take in as much beauty during this short season as possible. Your descriptions make me want to sign up and run this marathon one day. Not next year as my first 70.3 is on the race schedule, but one day. And yes, that hill at the end of Big Sur??? Is that really necessary? I ran that race in 2011 (the year Highway 1 fell into the ocean and the course was an out and back from Carmel) and remember climbing that hill with a Marathon Maniac gentleman who was quite an inspiration. Thank you for your wonderful website and blogs. Enjoy your marathon recovery and I look forward to hearing about your next adventure. Congratulations!

  14. I saw that BAMR sign at mile 15 and had a big smile on my face! My race was not as good as yours. I went out way too fast and really struggled those last 8 miles. The hills at the end about killed me. I really need to work on my pacing. I’m going to bookmark this post and go back to it – great memories of a beautiful day and some lessons in there for me. I hope to get back to MN so I can run this one again.

  15. Great post! I CAN’T WAIT for the Calgary Marathon! I love your words (in several different blog posts) about embracing the exertion, the fatigue, and “pain”. I need to learn that!

  16. Sarah, you make me want to run a marathon! I am so close. I have done so many halfs I can’t even count but something about the full scares me. You paint such a beautiful picture of the race I jut want to jump in and run right with you. I am putting it out here right here and right now that I will run one next year! My BRF will be thrilled, right??? And between this recap and Dimity’s 10 mile recap, I think I need to make it TCM. Congratulations on your race!

  17. I’m celebrating your TCM journey and finish with you. Congrats and thanks for such a moving recap. As Julie D above mentioned, you have a gift of eloquence and inspiration.

  18. FANTASTIC run Sarah!!! Awesome lady!! (I am so close to signing up for a marathon myself…..really feel I could be ready to try one…mentally anyway….or just plain mental! hahahaha)

  19. Your words are truly inspiring! I had tears in my eyes at the end. Congrats Sarah! You are one badass mother runner. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Can I be completely honest with you, Sarah? Before reading this, I wasn’t sure I’d ever run a marathon again. The last two marathons for me were too big of a let down in the time and training I put in, for both to end in injury for me. One a disappointing, painful finish (PDX) and the other a DNS (Eugene). I was pretty sure I couldn’t face that disappointment again after putting in the enormity of training miles and hours. Halfs were going to be it for me. Something about the way you write and write specifically about the marathon (there is a reason you get paid for what you do) ๐Ÿ™‚ that makes me know I HAVE TO run a marathon again. There is nothing like it. Have you ever noticed that of almost all the pictures of you during a marathon, your face is ALIVE, lit-up, you LOVE it?! I’m reminded when I see those pictures of you (your Boston ones…the ones above) how much the marathon truly does mean to me and that it is something I will do again, simply because I love it and I want that feeling of accomplishment and joy again that shows so evidently on your face as you run them. Congrats, Sarah….and thank you!!

    1. Julie, that is AWESOME!!! I don’t know you personally, but loved reading your post above. Sometimes we need someone or something else to open our hearts wide open to possibilities. Way to go! Can’t wait to hear about your next marathon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. Thanks, Jessica!! I appreciate the encouragement! Sometimes we just need a couple extra nudges to dive back in!! ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. I agree! I “enjoyed” the event of my last marathon but the memories of long training runs alone…hours and hours slugging along on my own made me feel like the distance was not worth it. But your post has inspired me (once again)! Thank you!,

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