Last Thursday, Kevin and I left our home in Northern Virginia and drove 638 miles to Nashville, Tennessee!
We were heading there for the County Music Marathon on Saturday, April 30th. This was Kevin’s first marathon and my sixth. We had been training hard for sixteen weeks and we were so excited (and very nervous) for this race. Kevin and I had run two half marathons together, but this was the first time he was going the full distance. Our training was tough and full of challenging setbacks, including Kevin’s wisdom teeth surgery, a stomach flu, inner ear infection and knee issues, BUT we made it through and we planned to stick together for this race. I was looking forward to being by Kevin’s side and experiencing his first marathon with him.
We had planned to drive a little more than halfway (6 hours) on Thursday, stay overnight just over the Tennessee border, and drive the remaining 4.5 hours the next day. We hit some major traffic on Thursday night due to part of I-81 being closed from the tornados that hit down there, so we didn’t get to our hotel until after midnight. We passed out immediately and woke up bright and early to finish our drive!
As soon as we got to Nashville we met our friends, Cynthia and Jared, at the hotel then went downtown to the expo.I thought it was pretty funny that Cynthia and I were wearing the SAME shirt 🙂 I have known Cynthia since elementary school and we have run a few races together. Most recently I ran from mile 20 to 26 with her in her first marathon (the Philadelphia Marathon in Nov. 2010). Her and Jared came to Nashville to run the half marathon, which would be Jared’s first one!
I love going to expos, and the Rock and Roll ones usually do not disappoint. We left with lots of free stuff and most importantly, these!
After the expo we explored a little bit and went to the Centennial Park where the start would be the next day. It was beautiful. We saw all the porta-potties and tents getting set up, and the starting line heading to its place on wheels.
Then we went to dinner at an Italian pizza and pasta place called Mafiaoza’s on 12th South Street. We met our support crew there- Kevin’s mom, aunt, grandma and family friend had come to Nashville to watch the race and cheer us on. Having them at the race was one of the best parts of the whole weekend. They were the best cheerleaders EVER!
For dinner I had a roasted veggie pizza with no cheese. Kevin and I have been eating homemade pizza as our pre long-run meal for months, and it works like a charm. This pizza was delicious. The crust, sauce, and roasted veggies were so good I didn’t miss the cheese at all. I am not a vegan, but I do eat that way most of the time due to lactose intolerance. Although I still love my cheese (and ice cream!), the night before a race I try to stay away from it to avoid tummy issues.
After dinner we went back to the hotel and were in bed by 8:30! After 2 days of traveling and a one-hour time change (which we were not aware of until we drove through it!) we were exhausted. I fell asleep right away and before I knew it, it was 4:30 and my alarm was going off. We got up and got ready, then went downstairs at 5 am to catch the shuttle that would take us to the start.
We got to Centennial Park with about an hour to spare before the 7 am start time, so we walked around, chatted with Cynthia and Jared, used the porta-potties a few times, and tried to stay warm. Once it got to be 6:45 we went to our corral where we ran into two of my favorite bloggers, Kelly and Ben! Kelly spotted my No Meat Athlete shirt and then I realized who she was. It was really fun to meet them after reading their blogs for a while. I saw them a couple more times during the race too. They both did an AMAZING job!
The race began and we crossed the start line about 6 minutes after the gun went off. The first few miles felt great and we held a pace just under 9 minute miles despite some crazy hills. When Kevin and I ran the National Half Marathon in March, he finished in 1:45:33 and I finished in 1:48:55, so we predicted that we could run the marathon in about 4 hours (My current PR is 4:07:43). Even though it was his first marathon and his true goal was just to finish, we were shooting for about 9:00/9:10 miles. We ran into our support crew at the first water stop where they were sporting race crew shirts and handing out water. Check out that first hill!
The next few miles went by quickly. Kevin actually had to stop to go to the bathroom (too much water!) at mile 6, then things started to change. Even though we had trained in hilly Virginia, the course was very hilly and it was taking a toll on us. It was also getting pretty warm. We held onto our pace and crossed the halfway point at 1:58. We ran into Kevin’s family again just past mile 16 over a HUGE hill that practically killed us, and they gave us new bottles of water. It was perfect timing, because I was starting to really struggle.
Once I had a new bottle of water I put a Nuun electrolyte tablet in it, hoping that would make me feel better. The heat and the sun were strong at this point and I was feeling weak and nauseous. I was having a hard time controlling my heart rate and my breathing. I also had to stop to use the bathroom (after five marathons, that is a first for me!) I felt really bad because I knew I was holding Kevin back. He was feeling much better than me and I wanted him to finish his first marathon strong, so I forced him to go on without me. He didn’t want to at first but eventually he agreed. Once we split around mile 17 I walked for a little bit. I was feeling extremely upset and discouraged. In all my racing experiences, I had never felt this bad, this early in a race. I didn’t know what to do and I was sad that I was missing running the next 9 miles with Kevin. I walked up a huge hill and ran into Meghann! I was so excited because I have been reading her blog forever. She was waiting for Kelly and Ben who were right behind me, and she took this picture:
After seeing Meghann I felt a little bit better and spent the next few miles alternating between walking and running when I could. But every time I ran my heart rate and breathing would sky rocket and I would start to feel panicked. The miles seemed so slow and I watched the time tick by on my Garmin, wondering how Kevin was doing. Then, on an out-and-back part of the course I saw Kevin coming the opposite direction! He was at about mile 23 and he was looking great. He was right on track to finish in just over 4 hours. I was so proud of him. I was able to say a few words to him and then had a little bit of renewed energy that carried me through the next couple miles.
At mile 24 Cynthia found me and I literally cried tears of joy (She PRed at the half marathon too!) I felt so nauseous and my body was hurting. I couldn’t say much but I told her I was so thankful for her. She helped me through the last few miles running and walking when I needed to.
At this same time, Kevin was FINISHING his first marathon! He literally sprinted at the end, finishing in an amazing time of 4:10:05!
These pictures made me tear up… I so wish I could have been there to see him finish in person. I can’t even describe how proud I am of him. This time last year he could not run a full mile without stopping, and he ran his first marathon in an amazing time!
And then he found his family and they waited for me… and waited… and waited. Finally I came into view and tried my hardest to push it to the finish line.
I crossed the finish line in 4:41:24 and I have never been happier to finish a race. It was my slowest time yet but it was by far the most physically and mentally challenging, and I was proud of myself for finishing it.
I instantly started crying and then cried more once I saw Kevin (I am a little bit of an emotional person if you couldn’t tell by now).
We got some food and water, walked around for a few minutes, then sat down to stretch. The stiffness and pain in our legs was instant. Kevin got some ice for his shins and knees.
After some rest, we found our way back to our shuttle and went back to the hotel to shower and EAT! Kevin got a burger and I got a (house-made!) delicious veggie burger at the restaurant in our hotel.
We also clearly got some sun during our 26.2 mile journey!
After an amazing nap, we went downtown to meet up with our friends and family and enjoy Nashville. We also went to our free country concert to see Montgomery Gentry. It was the perfect end to an amazing weekend.
We had a lot of fun 🙂
The next morning we left early to make the 11 hour drive back to Virginia. We stopped a few times to get out and stretch our sore, stiff legs.
When we got back home I added sticker #6 to my marathon map, and Kevin put his first sticker on.
Overall, Nashville and the Country Music Marathon were so much fun. This race was definitely a learning experience for me. I am looking forward to the day when I WILL run a whole marathon with Kevin. He is already talking about running another one- he has his eye on the Air Force Marathon in Ohio this September, since he is in the Air Force Reserves. I think he’s hooked! 🙂
Thanks for reading!