By Lisa Leigh Connors
My journey to running a marathon started out so simple. While on a Saturday group run in Yarmouth on a brisk January morning with my friend Katie, we started talking about all the races we had on our list in 2015: The Hyannis Half Marathon, the Falmouth Road Race, the Newport 10-miler, the Mystic Half Marathon and a few 5K races. But then Katie said, “I am also thinking about the Chicago Marathon.” I couldn’t believe my ears. As soon as she said it, I responded: “Me too!”
I was never much of a runner. I was never a fan of track in high school and had trouble completing one mile. But when my youngest son turned 4 a couple of years ago, I was ready to start losing the baby weight. I needed to take mental breaks and just have one hour to myself. I joined a gym and started running one minute at a time on the treadmill. Then I started running outside on the bike path and never looked back.
I met Katie on one of my first races almost two years ago, the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod, the 200-mile journey from Hull to Provincetown. I also met another runner friend during this race, Lainey, who also decided to run the Chicago Marathon with us. Spending more than 24 hours in a van for the Ragnar with nearly complete strangers tends to bring people closer together. Katie, Lainey and I have kept in touch because it was such an unforgettable bonding experience. And we love to run!
For the Chicago Marathon, Katie and I signed up when the lottery first opened in March. But we were worried we wouldn’t get in, so we switched from the lottery to guaranteed entries by agreeing to raise $1,000 for charities. Katie chose the Ronald McDonald House and I settled on the Anti-Cruelty Society. Lainey was selected through the lottery system. Before we knew it, we were all training for our first marathon together.
The marathon was Oct. 11, so we kicked off our training plan on June 1. We ran separately at first and would check in with each other via text: “How many miles did you run today?” “How did you feel?” “How many miles are you running tomorrow?” We also followed each other’s progress on Facebook and Instagram.
When our mileage increased significantly, we started running our long runs—13 to 20 miles—every Sunday together starting at 6 a.m. Instead of saying to my husband and kids, “I’ll see you in an hour,” it was more like, “See you in four hours.” I should point out, I was only able to do these long training runs because of my supportive husband. I couldn’t have done this without him. It’s true what they say: The training is the hard part; the marathon is the reward.
We mapped out convenient stores and bathrooms along our route, which varied from week to week, through the streets of Hyannis, Yarmouth, Centerville, and the bike path in Harwich, Brewster and Orleans. On hot days, even with our hydration packs, we would have to stop for more water—and Gatorade.
When marathon day finally arrived, we were beyond excited. Two million spectators cheered on 45,000 runners from all over the world. We felt like rock stars running through the streets of Chicago, and it was the most amazing feeling when we received our medals.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had highs and lows, laughed and cried along the 26.2-mile route, said some prayers at the end, and had to dig deep mentally to finish. But having said that, I would love to run another one.
When we got back to the Cape, we all experienced Marathon Blues because we trained so hard for months and suddenly it was over. But we have each found our next challenge: Lainey is running the Ragnar Relay Florida Keys in February, and Katie and I are running the Vineyard 20-miler in February. We are all hoping to run another marathon (or two!) next year, either New York or Chicago. Maybe even Boston in 2017. The challenge with Boston: You have to run a qualifying time in another marathon or raise about $5,000 for a charity. But in the meantime, we will proudly display our 26.2-mile bumper sticker!
Do you have a favorite road race on Cape Cod or a running goal you are working toward? I plan to run a guide to road races next year in Cape Cod Magazine and hope to publish a few inspiring stories. Please write me at Lconnors@LHmediasolutions.com.