I want to tell you about the 2015 26.2 with Donna. But it seems a little ridiculous (even for me) to recap a race that happened two months ago. So much has happened in the two months since the race – particularly my week in Israel and the Jerusalem Marathon – that the details of that day in February are a little fuzzy.
Still, this year’s Breast Cancer Marathon was one of my favorite races to date, and I want to share some of the highlights with you.
1. I ran the race with my best friend. This was the first race that Kristie ran together. We started the 2013 Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon together, but our paces didn’t match and we decided to separate around mile 2. And even though we’ve done quite a few long training runs together over the past couple of years, our pace and/or race schedule never seemed to fit. But not this time! Once I made the decision to run the half marathon instead of the full, it was a given that we’d race together.
2. We made a “No Talking” Pact. Kristie trains with the Jacksonville Galloway program, so we run-walk-run together. But to be honest, it’s usually more of a run-walk-talk. And we always have a lot to say! Our training runs (even the short ones) tend to be 12:00+ minute miles. I was determined to get a PR, and in order to do that, I needed to average about 11:15 mile. Kristie’s half marathon PR is sub-2:00, so she was on board for a faster race too. And we actually stuck to our pact.
3. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. This was my 3rd year running in the Donna, and in my first and second years, the weather was a huge factor. In 2013, it was frigidly cold (by Florida standards) and never really warmed up. The start was delayed significantly, so by the time the race began, everyone was stiff and sore from standing around with cold muscles, and it was hard to recover. In 2014, the weather started out pretty nice, but around the 4 hour mark, a thunderstorm rolled in. I was able to finish, but barely – the race ended up getting called because of severe thunder and lightening.
The week before this year’s race, I was hearing predictions of another cold race – a starting temperature in the 30’s, which again is quite cold for Florida. Kristie and I bought extra layers of throwaway clothes and mentally prepared for the worst. But it was sunny and in the mid-40’s at the starting line, and it only got more beautiful as the day went on. Lots of sunshine, no rain, and just enough of a breeze to keep it from getting too warm.
4. I was physically and mentally able to enjoy the experience. In 2013 and 2014, I ran the full 26.2 with Donna. My first marathon was very challenging, both physically and mentally, and I wasn’t able to focus on anything besides crossing the finish line. My second marathon was much more fun – I had a great time running with a group of friends. Still, between the physical stress on my body and the mental stress from running in a thunderstorm with hard rain pelting me in the face…well, all of my energy was focused on finishing, especially during the last 10 miles or so.
This year’s race was no walk in the park. I paid very close attention to our pace for all 13.1 miles, I didn’t stop to use the restroom or take any photos, and I even briefly ran ahead of Kristie (she caught up) when I realized how close I’d be cutting it to get my PR. Still, despite the pressure that I put on myself, I was able to take it all in:
- Celebrity Sightings – Along the way, we saw Donna and Tim Deegan (race founders and local TV news personalities), Dr. Edith Perez (race founder and internationally known cancer specialist from Mayo Clinic), and Jeff Galloway (race founder and Olympian). I also watched Joan Benoit Samuelson (Olympian) cross the full marathon finish line in 3:10:06.
- The amazing crowd support – so many came out to cheer us on! There was music, food, dancing, and an ocean of pink. There was even a “free mammogram” station, graciously set up by some young men. (Oh, how I wish I’d gotten a picture of it!) There were some great signs too, although you’ll just have to trust me on that one since I can’t remember any of them now.
photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/26.2withDonna
- Memorial Mile – a stretch of the course on the beach where people who have struggled with breast cancer are remembered and honored. Expo attendees sign and leave messages of courage, hope, and strength on large banners, and on race day these banners line the Memorial Mile and remind us of what makes this race so special.
5. I had an epiphany at mile 7. As we approached the mile marker, I thought to myself, “holy crap! We’re more than halfway done!” (I would’ve said it to Kristie, but we had the whole No Talking Pact thing going on.) I went on to think, “Wow, marathons suck! My friends who’re running it probably have 19 miles left to go! I love half marathons! I’m never running a full marathon again!” Granted, I was probably on a bit of an endorphin high right about then, so I wouldn’t necessarily take that too seriously. But I will say this – in that moment, I realized that I don’t have to limit myself to being a Marathon Runner. I can also be a regular old Runner and still have it feel just as good, if not better.
I have so much love for this race – it’s hard to explain why. I’m not affiliated with it, although there are a number of people in my life who play a part in or have been impacted (directly or indirectly) by this event. It’s so important to my community and to the future (and present) of breast cancer research. It’s an amazing event that’s all about the beach and boobs. How can you NOT put it on your bucket list?
The 9th Annual 26.2 with Donna will be held on February 14, 2016. I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll see you there too?