This weekend has been insane. I hope you’re in the mood for a lengthy post because that’s what you’re about to get. In case you’re quite busy, let me summarize my weekend for you:
- I ran my first marathon.
- I had the best cheering section in the world.
- I came in second place in the Run For The Rabbit fundraising competition!
- I spent lots of quality time with my family, amazing friends, and boyfriend. We ate giant cookies and drank wine.
- I got no sleep because I have been too excited to close my eyes.
For those of you who would like a few more details, let’s get started…
Remember on Friday when I was like, “Today is going to be super chill, I’m going to take my time getting out to the Hamptons and I’m going to outlet shop and all that jazz?”
It took seven hours to get out to Amagansett.
So there was no outlet shopping. There was no relaxing. There was a lot of Ali stressing out and crying in the car. I wanted to get dinner, I wanted to unpack and I wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
I eventually had dinner with my fellow Run For The Rabbit crew — whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and broccoli…boring and delicious — and got to the hotel around 9:30 to check-in, unpack and get to bed.
But not before a visit from two of my very best friends, who not only made the drive out to the Hamptons to cheer me on, but also went batshit crazy making “Go Ali” signs.
In true Type-A fashion, I laid out everything I would need for the next morning in an organized little pile.
I brought along all the good luck cards people had sent me so that I could read them for extra motivation while I was getting ready. It worked.
I didn’t sleep very well on Friday night. I was excited and anxious and antsy, but when my alarm went off at 5 am I felt plenty rested.
I followed my usual pre-race routine: hot shower, granola bars, some ab exercises and applying Body Glide everywhere imaginable. Whoever said running isn’t sexy is wrong.
So it rained — no no, it poured — all day Friday, and the same weather was expected for Saturday. Race Day.
The best news of the day came when I was in the shower and my Handsome Friend yelled to me, “Hey Ali…Guess what the weather is for today?” I’m pretty sure I ignored him, but he then proceeded to tell me that, “There’s a zero percent chance of rain starting at 8 am.”
I was immediately pumped.
We assembled into cars and we were off to the start line!
At this point I wasn’t nervous about running. I was happy the weather was holding out, even though it was brutally humid.
I was mostly just excited about getting to see my family! My parents drove down from New Hampshire and my brother (Ryan) and his wife (Michaela) made the trip from Boston. They got in late Friday night so I hadn’t seen them yet and wanted to make sure I got hugs before the race began.
And I did!
They were a huge hit on the course in the Sweat shirts, from what I’ve been told.
So I got some hugs and well wishes and then moved into my “corral,” which was really just a tiny area marked by pace groups.
The Hamptons Marathon was incredibly well organized. From packet pickup to the start and finish lines, the organizers did a great job. The course was clearly marked, the water stations had tons of water and the volunteers were superbly happy. I yelled the F word at one water stop, apologized for swearing and the volunteer said, “You can yell whatever you want, you’re running a marathon!” So yeah. Good job, Hamptons people!
Coach Cane’s plan for me was to run the first 10 miles slowly, the second 10 miles at my marathon goal pace and the final 10K as fast as I could.
That’s good advice.
I would love to tell you that I followed it and hit the goal time he had for me.
Instead I will tell you the truth, which is that I ran the first 10 miles slowly, just like he asked, then ran the next 5 miles even slower, then had to walk all the water stops during the next 5 miles, and ran the final 10K feeling like one of those mall walkers wearing track suits. I’m not sure why, but that’s what I felt like.
It. Was. Tough.
I felt great for the first 10 miles. My legs loosened up quickly and I was maintaining a nice, easy pace per Coach Cane’s plan.
The humidity was tough, but I didn’t think about it too much. I enjoyed that the road wasn’t crowded, but I hated how boring it was. Nothing to look at. Very few spectators.
The rolling hills kicked in immediately and lasted for the first seven or so miles. Lots of up and down, up and down, but it didn’t bother me. My legs felt good and my stomach felt great!
I saw my family for the first time a little after mile three. My dad hopped in and ran with me for a bit, which I loved, and then everyone was screaming their faces off for me by the time we reached them.
Apparently, they had a ton of fun spectating. I’m so glad. Lauren was Tweeting up a storm from my phone, so I hope everyone following enjoyed her updates!
They also liked taking pictures with my Handsome Friend, who has yet to be revealed on the blog…
Seeing them all in the early miles — my family at mile 3.5, Lauren and Meghan at mile 4 (or something) and then everyone together at mile 5, from what I remember — kept me feeling good and happy. I didn’t want to run past them looking like crap.
At mile 10.5, I saw/heard them up ahead.
We had just split from the half marathoners, so the course was nice and empty. My loved ones seized the opportunity to all jump in with me.
I was clearly surprised.
I didn’t want to use up too much energy chatting with them, so I pretty much just kept running while Lauren screamed “ALI, YOU’RE SO FAST” and my brother commented on how disgusting my Gu looked.
(I took Gu at miles 6, 11 and 17. I ripped them open with my teeth no problem and choked them down like a champion. Delicious.)
I grabbed some water, most of which I spilled because I’m terrible at the old drink-and-run tricks, and I was off.
Then came one of the course’s out-and-backs, which I hated. To add on miles, you just ran out on a straight road, and then came back the same way. It was so boring, and at this point it was still so foggy that you could barely see six people ahead of you, let alone any of the “sights” on the side of the road.
“Sights” = a pumpkin patch at one point and a golf course later on. Super boring course.
My family stayed in the same spot for when I returned from my little jaunt, so I saw them again around mile 12.5.
This was the last time I saw them while I was still feeling strong. I had picked up my pace a bit and was happy to run by them and throw out a high five.
I like high fives almost as much as I like jazz hands and leg warmers. I am a child of the 1980s, after all.
I grabbed some more water from Meghan and kept running.
Because, you know, I hadn’t even hit the halfway mark yet.
From here, things went from great to sucky pretty fast, and they stayed that way for a while.
I got a wretched side cramp right after mile 13. Like, blinding pain. I tried to focus on my breathing and tried that little push-in-and-take-a-huge-breath trick someone taught me once, but nothing was working.
At this point, my caravan o’ friends and family — three carloads full — happened to drive by (the course was not closed to cars), and I yelled to my mom that I had a bad cramp.
I saw panic in her eyes. Sorry, Mom. Didn’t mean to freak you out.
Apparently, a little while after that happened, they saw an ambulance go by and my mom immediately burst into tears, convinced that they were going for me.
I didn’t die, Mom. I’m OK. But I appreciate your adorable motherly concern.
The cramp lasted all the way through mile 15. My pace slowed significantly and things were starting to hurt. When the pain from the cramp subsided, I noticed that the bottoms of my feet felt like they were burning, and my quads and hamstrings were finally feeling the effects of those early hills.
I was not having very much fun anymore.
When I reached mile 17 I was happy because that meant I had fewer than 10 miles left.
Unfortunately it also meant the beginning of a very long, very brutal climb.
Miles 17 through 20 were uphill. Like, the whole time. And not a gradual, gentle hill. A giant, bitch of a hill.
I tried not to let myself get defeated. Suddenly it seemed like everyone around me had slowed to a walk. I didn’t want to stop running for fear of my legs just completely dying, but at one point, the road turned and the hill just went…up. Way up.
I power walked it as best I could for about 30 seconds and sadly watched the pace on my watch continue to slow. It was discouraging for sure. I tried telling myself that “8 more miles” is the equivalent of what I ran many mornings before even going to work during training. “It’s easy, Ali! Come on!”
But it didn’t feel easy. It felt super F-ing difficult.
Around mile 19, the hill became a dirt hill. I tried to imagine that I was running on the Bridle Path like I did so many times with my morning running Sweat Squad. That mental trick didn’t really work.
As I approach mile 20, I saw a familiar face waiting for me in the distance.
He jumped in to run with me and asked how I was feeling. I felt bad being honest, but I told him: “I’m getting tired. I had to walk a few parts of those hills and they hit me hard. Also, the bottoms of my feet really hurt. This all really hurts.”
“Well you’re running a marathon. It’s not really supposed to feel good.”
Such a wise coach, isn’t he?
He told me that my family was waiting for me at mile 22, which gave me a little kick in the booty shorts.
Also, check out his running outfit!
When he ran toward my family, they went totally crazy for him, from what I’ve been told. I wouldn’t actually know, though. I was busy running a marathon.
At mile 22.5, I was greeted, yet again, but my incredibly excited, super loud and wonderfully enthusiastic cheering squad.
I picked up my pace a tiny bit after seeing Coach Cane, knowing my family was up ahead. But it was still a good minute and a half per mile slower than what I wanted. Coach Cane’s time goal wasn’t going to happen, so now it was just about finishing the race proudly.
The best part of seeing my family at this point was hearing Lauren scream to me, “This is the farthest you’ve ever run before!”
True story, Lauren. Very true story.
Lauren also screamed that people were still donating to my fundraising, which got me even more pumped. She yelled out the names of people who had donated and that pushed me through to the end.
I told myself that yeah, it hurt. But marathons are supposed to hurt. Running is hard. Running on hills is especially hard.
I also knew that I couldn’t let anyone down. Not myself, not my family, and certainly not the hundreds of people who donated to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation for me.
I had a 5K left at this point.
I’ve only ever run one actual 5K race in my life, and it was a turkey trot. And I did it wearing an Indian costume. So channeling that day didn’t really work for me.
I got to the final out-and-back, and saw Ben and Anthony, two of the Rabbits, running the other way. Ben makes running look easy, which isn’t fair, and Anthony’s small yell of “You’re doing great, baby” gave me a surprising boost.
After the out-and-back, I was just shy of mile 25.
I was almost about to finish my first marathon.
But it didn’t feel good, and I wanted to walk. I was hurting, and my pace wasn’t one I was particularly proud of. I wanted to finish feeling strong, but that seemed like a far-off goal.
I pictured my family waiting for me at the finish line (which, according to their photos, is exactly where they were at that exact time).
As I climbed yet another small incline passing the 25-mile mark, I saw someone running toward me.
Someone who basically saved the race for me.
I was so ready to give up, walk for a while and run the final .2 miles.
But when a 7-months pregnant woman comes running at you wearing some sort of baby bump control-top support thing, you know you better pick it up.
Coach Cane’s wife, who I often refer to as Mrs. Coach Cane, but actually has a real name, which is Nicole, ran the final half mile with me.
I cannot express how much I appreciated her in that moment.
I teared up when I saw her, because she’s super pregnant and still out running, and she came out to the Hamptons to run with me. I was overwhelmed with love, and then with fear.
“Nicole can’t see me running like crap. I better get a move on.”
She said everything I needed to hear at that point, and I didn’t waste energy by responding — I just kept running.
“You’re doing great, Ali. You only have a half mile to go. Your Handsome Boyfriend (she used his real name) is waiting for you at the finish line.”
And then I cried a little bit. I was about to run a marathon. A full marathon.
She counted down the miles, told me to control my breathing and relax my upper body. She also told me I was about to be the first female Run For The Rabbit contestant to finish. The competitive spirit in me liked that.
Then I saw another familiar face on the sidelines up ahead: my dad.
Suddenly I was blanketed by people I loved: my dad on my left and Nicole on my right. I could see the 26 mile marker ahead and I just kept running. Not fast. But I kept running.
I was too exhausted to talk, so I handed my headphones off to Nicole and she and my dad chatted. I’m pretty sure my dad told her about that time he finished my first half marathon with me (the Napa to Sonoma half marathon in 2009) and I screamed the F word at him because I didn’t want to carry on a conversation at that moment (roughly mile 13.01).
I begged for Nicole to tell me where the finish line was, because I couldn’t see it yet. “Turn left up there and you’ll see it,” she told me.
And then she gave me her wisest words of the day: “You like pictures, right Ali? I know you do. And you know what’s more badass than a smiling finish line picture? One where you’re sprinting across the finish. You don’t want to leave anything out here on the course. You go give it everything you’ve got.”
She and my dad both stopped running, I turned left and all I could hear as I approached the finish line was her screaming, “GO ALI! GO ALI! GO ALI!” And you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard a pregnant runner lady scream your name at the end of a marathon. It was incredible.
And so I pushed…
I was ready to finish the damn thing, and I was ready to give it every single teensy amount of effort I had left.
Nicole lit a fire under me, and I crossed that finish line feeling completely drained.
And then it was over. I ran 26.2 miles.
I crossed the finish line feeling proud of myself and happy to be done.
Official finish time: 4:13:37.
No, I didn’t come anywhere close to the ultimate goal time my coach and I had in mind. But I pushed hard and when things started to hurt, I kept going. And I ran really far.
My entire family was there as soon as I blew through the finish, which was amazing to see during the final sprint.
My mom had requested that the first post-marathon hug be a group hug, but I didn’t to collapse on her, so I quite literally fell into the arms of my strapping boyfriend.
Oh, you want to meet my Handsome Friend?
I guess now would be the time.
Guess what, Ben? You call me gross, I’ll give you the sweatiest hug of your life!
I hugged and kissed my family and thanked them profusely for being the best cheering section I could have ever imagined. I saw them a ton of times along the course and they weren’t just cheering for me, they were cheering for everyone. That made me happy.
As soon as I finished everything tightened up. My legs hurt, my shoulders hurt, the bottoms of my feet hurt. It was all a good hurt.
Luckily they had a dude — an Ironman, no less — lined up and ready to give me a post-race rubdown.
It wasn’t pleasant. It hurt like Hell and I repeatedly screamed at the nice man. I think I remember begging him to explain why he was trying to decapitate me, and he assured me that he was just “working out the kinks in my neck.”
I thanked Coach Cane and Nicole profusely for all of their love, guidance and help along the way.
I really don’t think I could have done it without those soon-to-be parents helping me out!
Crossing the finish line felt damn good. And you know what felt even better? My post-race shower.
And then I did all the things I wanted to do: I got a cookie from Levain Bakery and did a wine tasting at Wolffer Estates.
It was all perfect.
Also perfect: the New York City skyline last night.
We all drove back to the city and, while we were at dinner, I got an email from Lee, the owner of JackRabbit Sports, saying that the fundraising race was super close.
Thanks to Lauren’s amazing Tweeting abilities during the race — and your amazing donations — I had pulled ahead and was gaining on the fundraising leaders.
Apparently while I was running the marathon, Lauren was running my fundraising campaign. A slew of $26.20 donations took me into a strong third place — and not far at all from second and first.
At the beginning of last week, I had raised $9,000.
By the end of last week, I was up to $12,000, thanks to lots of “I Heart Sweat” shirt sales.
Last night, right before the 12 a.m. fundraising deadline, I secured second place in the Run For The Rabbit competition.
I raised more than $20,000 for CCFA. I am so grateful, so humbled and so deeply appreciative of all the donations and all of the love and support I have received. I never thought I would see a number this big. Eventually I’ll figure out words to express how I’m feeling, but for now I’ll sum it up with one giant, from-the-bottom-of-my-very-big-heart, Thank You.
I was way too excited to sleep last night, but I eventually passed out and woke up this morning with very sore legs.
I barely had an appetite yesterday, which meant I was more than ready to gorge on brunch with my family this morning.
Tip: Eat a ton of macaroni and cheese the day after you run 26.2 miles. You’ll be very happy you did.
I was sad my family had to leave today, but I will probably always look back on this weekend as the best one of my life. I really am overwhelmed by all of the Tweets, Facebook messages, blog comments, emails, texts and real-life hugs and kisses from the people I love. You all helped me become a marathoner, and I feel so lucky.
- I ran a marathon.
- I ate good food.
- I drank good wine.
- I spent the weekend with my favorite people.
And in case you’re wondering whether or not I marathon peed, the answer is yes, of course I did. Three times to be exact. Sometimes you’ve just gotta go…in your short shorts.