One Determined Runner

Heather Lucier Stanley, My 1st Marathon, Frankenthon, Saturday October 22, 2011

I started training for my 1st marathon last September and shortly after my first 16 mile run, I got injured. I went to Advanced Rehabilitation and did all the therapy, but felt compelled to switch from the Austin Full to Austin Half marathon. This marathon season, I was determined, no matter what, I would complete my 1st marathon.  I’m a deep thinker and changed my strategy.  Any time goal went out the window.  I remember telling a seasoned marathoner earlier this season who asked me my time goal, “If I am concerned about finishing, I should not have time goal.” He responded, “Good point.”  My focus the past five months has been to remain injury free to get to the marathon start and to bring home my 1st marathon finisher’s medal.

Without going into too much personal history, I got hit by a car while running at 15 years old. I suffered extensive injury to my left leg as the car was traveling at 55 miles per hour, hit my left leg, threw me up in the air 12 feet and shot me 80 feet down the road. At the time I was running with a relative who saw the car, stepped back, and witnessed the accident.

I am lucky to be living, breathing, and walking.  I am ecstatic to still be running.  I get emotional as I write this because my surgeon, Dr. V. , the one who fixed my leg, said I’d be in a wheelchair at 30 years old if I didn’t get the surgery to straighten my leg which was severely bowing out over a number of years from the ages of 15 – 23 years old.   Enough said about that.

My 1st marathon day. It could not arrive soon enough. I had some major anxiety about the marathon which climaxed last Saturday 10/15/2011 after a routine 10 mile long run. For the past two weeks, I had been reading other runners’ race reports via email and about other runners’ injuries on Facebook.  I said to a friend after last Saturday’s run, “If there were a marathon next weekend, I’d run it. I just want to do it.  I’m losing motivation.”  Or reality, anxiety had taken over.  A woman who had overheard some of my conversation with my friend, another Rogue, all of us Rogues, suggested the book Running Within, by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott. She also suggested dedicating every 3 miles to a person.  I ordered the book on Amazon that day and started working on my dedication list.  Instead of dedicating every 3 miles to one person, I dedicated every mile to one person, and the remaining .2 to the car that hit my left leg.   I thought, I’m still running, but that car is in a junkyard.

On Tuesday 10/18/2011, I saw a Rogue Facebook post for the Frankenthon Monster Marathon in Cedar Park, Texas.  My first marathon was supposed to be San Antonio. But logically, I thought, if I do a 22 miler this weekend, then a 15 miler next weekend, then another 10 miler, what is my risk of injury in the next 3 weeks before San Antonio?  High, knowing how I felt I was on the verge of injury. Then, I concluded, I must do the Frankenthon while I am still injury free.

My husband Alan and I discussed it.  We were supposed to do our first marathon together. I told him, using more logic, and I was most definitely fear and anxiety driven, “If I don’t get to the starting line at San Antonio, we won’t be doing our first marathon together. I have got to do it this weekend.” I felt very strongly about that.  After some more discussion back and forth, he supported me 100%. He got it. I waited one day, thought through my logic and emotion a little more to make certain I was not being impulsive, and I signed up for the Frankenthon on Thursday 10/20/2011.

The day before the Frankenthon, the book arrived, Running Within. I ate pasta early at Enoteca Vespaio, my favorite potato gnocchi, and started reading that book.  From that book, for my 1st marathon, I remembered 2 key things:  to relax and believe that you are healthy and strong.  The muscles respond to thoughts and I needed to be very positive on marathon day.

The morning of the marathon, before the marathon start, I met a few women in the restroom. A real restroom, I thought. As we were waiting in line, we started talking.  I told them it was my first marathon.  They had all done marathons before and said that they liked this course and were very familiar with it because they all lived in Cedar Park.

The Frankenthon marathon is in Brushy Creek Park. It is a 3 lap course, 8.77 miles per lap.  Each lap has 2 sections that are out and back and one section along the water that connects the 2 out and back sections.  I had 6 out and back sections and 3 sections by the water total.  I knew this marathon would be mentally challenging.

At the marathon start, several more of us chatted. The marathon started at 7:00AM, but the sun was not supposed to rise for another half hour. In the faint light, I could still see other racers’ faces as we talked. I mentioned again to a few women that it was my 1st marathon.  I felt relaxed. I told myself to be relaxed.  I thought, I am at a neighborhood marathon and the people are friendly.

For the first 11.5 miles, I thought about how the Porta-Potties were spaced too far apart. I was well hydrated. During the first 3 miles, I thought, where is the Porta-Potty?  Then, I got to a Porta-Potty. During the next 3 – 4 miles, I thought, where is the Porta-Potty?  Then, I got to a Porta-Potty. By mile 11.5, I had to make a different type of stop in a real restroom. A real restroom, I thought. Thank goodness! The nice thing about the course being 3 laps is I felt I knew where I had spotted a real restroom during that 1st lap. I asked a volunteer for confirmation, “Yes, up the hill, around the corner.”

From miles 11.5 – 18, although physically lighter, I struggled mentally. I started getting emotional, on the verge of tears, thinking about getting hit by that car, and I thought, I haven’t done it yet. Meaning, I haven’t completed the marathon yet. I told myself not to cry until the end.  Then, I would see women who I met before the race as we passed one another on an out and back and we would smile at one another.  Or another racer would see me as we passed and say, “Good job!,” “Well done!”   This kept me going.

I remember looking at my dedication list and my brain had become mushy. Once I got to 18, I recall what number 18 said to me during a training run as he passed me, “I think I can. I think I can.”  That helped me through mile 18.

Around mile 19, the physical pain set in and the course started emptying of all the new familiar faces I had met before the marathon started and during the several out and backs I had already completed.  This is when I really needed to look at my list.

From mile 21-22, Alan was on my list.  I thought about how he came to support me on my run. He decided to run his 22 mile marathon training run on the marathon course to be there for me that day.  He asked if I wanted him to run with me, but I said no because I did not want to feel any pressure to go faster.  I saw him as we passed one another at least three times on an out and back. Each time we passed one another, he high fived me and I liked that.  I looked forward to seeing him, and around his mile 20, I got to see him with his shirt off. This made me happy.  I thought, He looked strong.

The last 6.2 miles took a lot of mental and physical effort to complete. I remember thinking briefly – very briefly – I could stop at 22 and call it a training run.  I thought about the book Running Within and banished that thought.  Positive thinking.  I am going to finish, I thought. I came here to do the marathon and I am not going to quit. This was the point in the race when I thought about my father. I remember growing up, he taught me not to be a quitter. I was not going to start being a quitter today, on the day I decided to start and complete my 1st marathon.  I had no big issues, other than a little pain, normal marathon pain.  It was at that point, I decided to dedicate my 1st marathon to my father.  Another emotional moment, but I held back the tears. After all, I had more miles to complete, I thought.

Miles 24 – 26.2 were the most difficult.  Most of the morning, I ran under cloud cover.  But by Mile 24, when I was crossing the dam for the final out and back, I felt the hot sun.  I told myself, I only have 2.2 miles to complete. From that point, I was doing all that I could to move my legs forward. I had some pain in my right ankle, an old soccer injury.  I tried changing my running gait, but then I felt a pain in my left calf. For most of the race after mile 12, I had sore hips and sore hip flexors that I did not want to push any faster. When I looked at my Garmin, I saw the gradual slowdown from a 12 minute mile pace to a 13 minute mile pace to a 15 minute mile pace to a 17 minute mile pace to a 19 minute mile pace. When I tried walking, I walked a 21 minute mile pace.  I thought, slow running is faster.

Some of the inspirational comments I heard during the race:

“You’re still smiling.”

“You’re one of 2 women out here smiling. That’s the way to do it.”

“You’re strong.”

“Keeping moving forward. Forward motion is good.”

“You’re almost there.”

Immediately after I crossed the finish line, the volunteer with the medals congratulated me and put my finisher medal around my neck.  Then, I hugged Alan. Shortly thereafter, Lucy, one of women I met in the restroom before the start of the race came over and said, “Congratulations, you did your first marathon. I need to hug you.” And she gave me a hug.

I completed my 1st marathon in 6:00:43.52.  As I finish this race report, it is 5:30PM on 10/23/2011, and I feel good. It is a little hard getting up and downstairs, but I do not feel like I injured anything. I still plan on running the San Antonio Marathon on 11/13/2011.  Here are my official splits:

124 Heather Lucier Stanley 169 3 6:00:43.52 26.250 13:44/M

169 1 1:42:49.84 8.750 11:45/M

169 2 1:54:44.53 17.500 13:07/M

169 3 2:23:09.15 26.250 16:22/M

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2 thoughts on “One Determined Runner

  1. Awesome post!! COngratulationsa and I’m going to pick up the book! By first marathon is Nov in San Antonio. I’m guess you will be there? 🙂

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