An Emotional Roller Coaster – Missoula Marathon Weekend, Part 3

The whole waking up at 4 am thing was quickly getting old by the time I got up on Sunday morning for the race, but what can you do? The race started at 6 because of the heat, so Fawn and I headed out to pick up my mom and head to the start line.

There were tons of Maniacs at the start, but many of them had taken the early start at 5 am in an attempt to beat the hot weather, since the temperature was supposed to be 95 that day. WTF is with the northernmost states having the hottest weather? First it’s 95 in Minnesota, and now this? Ugh. Anyway, I hate hot weather, but not as much as I hated the idea of waking up even earlier, so I just went with the 6 am start. Good thing, too, because I got to see the Prez and start the race with him! Commence freak out.

I’ve really lucked out lately in terms of having someone to run with during my races. I’ve either run with various members of Team T-Rex or been fortunate enough to meet someone at the start of the race and stick with them the whole time. I ran my first 7 marathons or so by myself, so you would think I would be ok with doing that, but I realized I really rely on people now for that companionship since I pretty much always run with someone else now. Note to self: work on that. As you might have guessed, it was only a matter of time before my luck ran out. I’ve gotten arrogant, apparently, because I pretty much thought I had it in the bag. With all those Maniacs running the race, I would definitely find someone to run at my pace, right? Uh, wrong.

Worst thing about running by yourself? No one to take funny pictures with at the mile markers 🙁

Now, I’ve run a few really pretty marathons. The Bataan Memorial Death March, despite being one of the worst days of my entire life, was held in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen – Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was pretty sure nothing could top that, but I was hoping Missoula would come close, and it exceeded my expectations. Granted, I really love mountains and I really REALLY love farms. Bonus points for silos and hay bales. I have a thing about those and I have no idea why. Just go with it.
Around Mile 2 of the race, I saw a woman wearing a brightly patterned skirt and a 50 States shirt and decided to harass her and beg her to be my best friend talk to her to pass the time. She was running a similar pace to me (about 4:45 marathon pace at that point) and as we were both 50 Staters, we had plenty to talk about. I want to say her name was Karen, but that isn’t right. Whatever her name, she was kind enough to take my picture in front of this…lovely factory.

I promise the rest of it was really pretty. No, seriously.

Can we all just take a moment to reflect on my running skirt? I got a ton of compliments on it, but I pretty much hate it. Yes, it is comfortable. Yes, it is great at wicking sweat off my giant marathoner thighs. But I just feel like that awkward 3rd grader who wears sneakers with their skirts to school because they think it’s cool. True life: I was that awkward third grader. I have vivid memories of it. I thought sneakers made my legs look more athletic. WTF.

I found a few more friends to talk to along the way, still rolling along at a decent clip. I was starting to feel incredibly nauseous though. I don’t think it was because of the heat, since it wasn’t really very hot yet. Truth be told, I have no idea. I wanted to keep going until I was forced to stop, but I knew that once I did, it would be a very long road. I was able to see T-Rex Mom and Fawn a couple times between the halfway point, which was key since I had completely failed at life and forgotten to bring my fuel belt, gels, Garmin, salt, etc. Totally unprepared. My life is a disaster.

The lady behind me in the patriotic skirt was totally sick of me by this point…and we were only at Mile 5. Thanks Mom for the super flattering photo.

The wheels more or less came off at the halfway point, when every step that I ran just brought me that much closer to throwing up. So I stopped and walked for awhile when I came up next to a girl who looked like she was struggling. The back of her shirt had angel wings on it, and she was limping. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she had a bad knee and knew it would hurt, but didn’t know it would hurt this soon. Her shirt had angel wings on it because 4 of her friends from college had been in a horrific car accident 2 months before and 1 had died, while the remaining 3 were still in critical condition. She said that if they could fight to stay alive, she could finish a marathon. Touche.

Somewhere around this time, we saw these girls volunteering at a water stop. For information regarding how I feel about fake mustaches, please click here. I nonetheless thank them for volunteering.

Shortly after that time, I started to run/walk with Christina, who was this amazing dynamo of a girl who talked really loudly. That’s most of what I remember about her. We climbed this ridiculous, awful, three mile long hill together and she literally walks faster than she runs. It was so bizarre. We would walk for a good 3 minutes and I’d be gasping for breath. Then we would run for 2 minutes and I was completely caught back up on breathing by the time we started walking again. When does that ever happen?

The good news is that alone or not, I never give up on the cheesy poses.

By the time I got to mile 16, where my mom and Fawn and MY DAD were waiting, Fawn had pretty much assumed I was dead and threw her hands up in the air when she saw me in some sign of odd frustration that apparently I wasn’t running fast enough for her. Yes, the girl who fought her way through a 5k and then yelled at me about it while crossing the finish line had now decided that I was running my marathon too slowly. Sigh.

In other news, T-Rex Dad made his FIRST EVER appearance at one of my marathons, which he has been trying to avoid for as long as possible on account of it seeming “boring” and the fact that he hates the sun almost as much as I do. T-Rex Mom reports that he brought a chair to the race and sat down within 5 minutes of arriving. Obviously, my mother was appalled. T-Rex Mom does not sit. Ever.

T-Rex Family! I think my dad was trying not to touch me due to the sweat situation.

I told my mom that there was a pretty good chance I was going to walk in most of the rest of the race. Every time I tried to run, I felt like I was going to throw up. As luck would have it, I ran into group of runners who were experiencing just the same problem. Joe, Joel, and his wife were running the marathon together and Joe, the dad of the wife whose name I forget, was getting just as sick as me. I come to find out that Joe had just run a 100-miler down in the Keys the month before with Dan Hartley, race director for the AMAZING COLUMBIA MARATHON (seriously, go run it). Joe was in his 60s and extremely bad ass. So the four of us continued on together until about mile 20.5, when T-Rex Mom joined the party and decided to help me finish my marathon!

She wanted to look like she was running while I took this. Yes, she insisted on carrying the cooler the entire time.

It was quite delightful to have my mom finishing the race with me. For one, it gave me someone to talk to. For two, she walks very fast, which made me walk very fast even when I didn’t really want to. My mom carried that cooler the whole time so she could force ice packs and cold water on me. I know – awful, right? Well a side effect of this was that everyone thought my mom was doing the race since she was with me. She wasn’t wearing a number or anything, but why the hell else would she be walking along at Mile 22? So every single person we passed asked incredulously, ” Have you been carrying that cooler the WHOLE TIME?” Note to self: if I ever need an ego boost, get a cooler to carry. People are super impressed by this.

Along the way maybe around Mile 23, there was a couple outside making drinks with beer. I hadn’t had any beer during the race yet, so I naturally stopped and asked if I could have some. They obviously obliged and the guy explained to me that I was drinking a “Man-mosa,” aka a mimosa made with beer and orange juice and totally manly. It sounded like an awful idea, but I kid you not – that shit is delicious.

My first ever Manmosa.

And then I fell to the ground in protest at Mile 24.

No really Mom, I’m fine.

Really, I just got tired and couldn’t get my heart rate down, so I took a little rest on the lovely Montana grass. No big deal. On an unrelated note, I am now realizing that that skirt is more pink than red and thus I still have not accomplished my goal of finding a running skirt that matches my Maniacs gear. LE SIGH.

As we approached Mile 25, I could see far in the distance a sign with what appeared to be a T-Rex on it. And it was right in the middle of the road. As I got closer, I realized it was MY T-Rex. MY LOGO. What could this be?


My wonderful, amazing, and thoughtful friend Anders had made a sign for me that was sitting right at Mile 25! He writes for the Swedish version of Runner’s World and is an avid supporter of this blog. He read about how I always try to run the last 1.2 miles of a marathon and decided to name those 1.2 miles a “Cupido,” which is my last name. Well, it was. But that’s another story for another day. Anyway, he had finished his marathon and came back to wait for me (for a reallllllyyy long time) to run the last 1.2 miles in with me!

Dave Mari loves Cupido time too!

Anders is running a marathon in every state (after he RIDES HIS BIKE to them), and he is carrying with him the ashes of a boy named Alex who died several years ago from a heart condition. Anders met Alex’s mom a year ago and learned that Alex’s dream was to see the world, so he has been spreading some of Alex’s ashes at each marathon he has run ever since. Anders gave me the container holding Alex’s ashes to carry with me across the finish line, and it was incredibly moving, especially as someone with a heart condition (although nothing nearly that severe). I have been so fortunate to see the places where I have run and meet all the wonderful friends I have made along the way. As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Sometimes I get bogged down in the logistics and the stress of getting too and from races and it’s easy to forget why I’m here. This was a great reminder to “look around” every once in awhile.

So, back to the “Cupido.” Well, Anders and I were set to run in the last 1.2, provided my heart didn’t give me too much of a fit. T-Rex Mom gamely agreed, but that cooler was quickly no longer her friend. Oh, did I mention it was now about 90 degrees? We all hung in there and crossed the finish line together, holding hands, of course. Anders even carried my sign, I carried Alex, and T-Rex Mom carried the cooler. We multi-task.

There’s nothing like finishing a marathon with your mom.

I guess you could say this race was an emotional one for me, although I never expected it to be that way. Looking back though, that’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t incredibly super fun like some of the most recent ones I’ve done. That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time, it just wasn’t the same. I started the morning hopeful, then afraid of being alone. I worried throughout the first few miles. I was saddened to hear the girl talk about her friends who had been so badly wounded in the car accident. I was excited every time I talked to someone new along the way. I was touched to have my dad there supporting me, enthusiastic and proud, regardless of whether he was seated or standing. I was sick. I was angry at myself for not being able to go faster.  I was relieved when my mom joined me on the course. Amused when I tried my first Manmosa. Exhausted when I laid down. I was humbled by how amazing my friends are when I saw the sign Anders had so thoughtfully made for me and thought about all the races Fawn has supported me through. And I was reminded of how short life is and how important it is to make the most of it by Alex, who gave me a memory I’ll never forget.

One of my favorite medals by far.

Oh, and I guess you could say that I was proud of myself, too. This race was my 21st marathon and my 17th state. I have now completed 16 states in less than a year (9 months, but who’s counting?), making me a 6 star Marathon Maniac.  But none of that seems very important anymore. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Alex knew that, and now I do, too. So I’m going to make it count.

SO TELL ME: What’s the best lesson you ever learned from a race?

26 thoughts on “An Emotional Roller Coaster – Missoula Marathon Weekend, Part 3

  1. I’ve enjoyed this series, thank you. My lesson is similar to your story about the girl with the angel on her skirt. I ran the Missoula half marathon last year only three weeks after learning my mom had entered hospice care. She had colon cancer. At that point, we thought it would only be a matter of weeks. During the race I kept thinking, If she can solder on after two surgeries that left her with no viable digestive tract, then I could make my damned legs run instead of walk. She actually lived seven more months but was miserable. I ran the half again this year after committing to an actual training program this spring. I have always said I’d never do a full marathon, thinking it was beyond my mediocre running capabilities, but my mom’s illness and death has given me a different outlook… “If she can endure that.”… so we’ll see.

    One of my last real conversations with her was about running. A teacher in eastern Montana was abducted and murdered in January while on a morning run, the victim of drugged-out lowlifes on their way to the booming oilfields in North Dakota. (Occasionally, our friendly, beautiful world here is shattered.) My mom heard the news reports and kept asking me if I run alone, in the dark, on highways, etc. I reassured her I don’t, even though I do, sometimes. On her deathbed, she was worried about me, and I think about that often when I run. In fact, I enjoy running races alone; no music, no conversation with others. That’s when I can process a lot of thoughts and appreciate what I have and where I live.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. People talk a lot about how running has helped them get through tough times, but in a way, it’s amazing how tough times get us “through” running too. Our times, mileage, and races seem much less important in the context of a fight like your mom’s. I have met many people along the way who are running a marathon (that they swore they would never run) because the courage of a dying parent, spouse, friend, etc inspired them. After reading your story, it is easy to understand why. Thanks for reading.

  2. Thank you! Your story made me laugh and cry. And as for Alex the skirt compliments would have been abundant! 🙂
    You go girl!

    1. Sparrow, thank you so much for your comment! Alex sounds like such an amazing kid and I am so glad I got the chance to run with him. That’s something I’ll remember forever. Thank you for reading! Anders is such an amazing guy and I am glad to know him.

  3. Thanks Danielle!! I needed a good laugh this morning!! I also cried, but that’s ok. You tell the best stories and your mom sounds a lot like mine (although your mom and I are probably the same age). My mom once carried an umbrella in a 5k!!! She was afraid it would start pouring and she didn’t want to get wet, so she carried it! I could not convince her to leave it before we started the race!! BTW…I WAS waiting on pins and needles for the Missoula report!! :o)

  4. I’m consistently impressed by how magnetic you seem to be. Every race recap is full of new people, new faces and another batch of characters that seem to love you. It’s quite remarkable. I run a race, get my medal, stuff my face with pretzels and move on. I suppose it comes with the territory – I’m not much of a talker while running and certainly don’t want to gab at mile 26.

    But your running approach is different. I mention it a lot in these comments, but it’s worth repeating. Your posts really bring out the social, communal element that comes with running just ONE marathon, let alone the huge string you’ve stitched together.

    Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, though I try to find the social, human element of traveling away from home for races, my attempts are humbled by yours. You’ve definitely earned the right to say you’re making friends around the country by running as many marathons as you can. It’s awesome to be following this most excellent journey.

    1. Thanks so much, Dan. I must be in a weird, introspective mood because your comments really almost made me cry. Not much else I can say besides thank you. I guess you will find out how loveable I am in November at Route 66, because we’re going to have a meet and greet (at a brewery obviously) and it will be awesome. I hear I am quite magnetic, but you can be the judge of that.

  5. Congratulations on your marathon tally finally reaching legal drinking age! Which makes it kind of ironic that The Bozeman Incident caused you to miss out on the Friday Night BEER RUN that you were really looking forward to. Sorry that T-Rex couldn’t get her drinkz (am I doing that right?)

    Even if you aren’t setting the roads ablaze with your fleet feet (yet), I can tell you’ve come a long way as a marathoner based on statements such as the following: “The wheels more or less came off at the halfway point, when every step that I ran just brought me that much closer to throwing up.” I thought that was remarkable. I’m not sure if you still remember what happens to a ‘regular’ runner when ‘the wheels come off’ and they feel like puking in 90-degree heat with 13 miles still to run, but most people just give up…and yet, you finished what you started. I don’t think your goal of hitting 50 states before you turn 30 is in danger of becoming “extinct” anytime soon, T-Rex (I AM ON FIRE WITH THE JOKEZ).

    As far as the best lesson I’ve ever learned from a race, which it sounds like you’ve already taken to heart: Your chip time is just a series of numbers that shows up on a computer screen, and unless you’re breaking through a personal threshold or qualifying for Boston, your finishing time is never going to be the 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd thing that you remember about a race. The race *experience* trumps everything else, and I have to tip my cap to you for squeezing in a whoooooole lot of living into a relatively small window of time. You’re doing something right.

    1. I can’t even tell you how impressed I am by your perfect use of the “z” and your T-Rex jokez. You have really been paying attention! You know, it’s funny that you say you can tell how much I have evolved as a marathoner based on that statement. At first, I thought you were kidding, because the idea of quitting that race never even occurred to me. And then I realized that’s exactly what you mean.

      Every once in awhile, I get annoyed by my chip time. I get mad at how much slower I’ve gotten (about an hour on average per marathon since December! Ridiculous) and I think I’m failing at achieving my goal. But at the end of the day, you’re exactly right. I remember my times, but even at my PR race, that’s not what I remember most. I remember the guy who I yelled at to keep going when he wanted to quit at 19, and now we’re friends. And it’s a lot harder to yell at people when you’re running fast, so I guess I’ll stick with what I’ve got going. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  6. Wish I felt inspired to run for others. When I hear of peoples stuggles I think, I should have a drink for them and toast to them. Perhaps running would be a better choice.
    Auntie M

  7. Danielle – congrats on this last marathon and I can’t wait to meet you for the double New Hampshire/Maine!! I can completely sympathize with you over the lack of friends while running…I made my mom start running with me and now she does the half’s so I have someone with me for the first part of every marathon (maybe T-rex mom should consider this). On our journey’s to complete the 50 states just remember not every marathon will be fabulous but we can always take something away from each experience and try to be that much better/stronger/smarter for the next one.

    1. Wow! I just read the Make it by Midnight recap on the blog you linked to – incredible! I can’t believe someone dragged a freezer out to the street to hand out ice cream. Now that is race hospitality!

      That’s great that you will be at the double! I look forward to meeting you there! I am trying to get T-Rex Mom to do a half, but she said maybe she’ll think about it after she does her first 10k…I’m working on it 🙂

      I used to think every marathon would be a PR, but I know better know. Each one has been awesome in its own way and I try never to lose sight of that. Thank you for reading and commenting! see you in September!

  8. Thanks for all the good press for Missoula and the marathon! I ran/walked (Galloway) it–my first marathon (and possibly my last). It was so much tougher than I thought it would be, and I made many rookie mistakes. I enjoyed reading your blog–which is being circulated by Run Wild Missoula and others via Facebook–and seeing how it looked from a Maniac’s perspective. Good luck with the rest of your 50 states, and if you’re ever in Missoula again, I believe there’s a beer run every month.

    1. Congratulations on your first marathon, Emily! It’s amazing how much tougher a marathon is than that 20 mile run we do in training – I remember being blown away. I hope you enjoyed it all the same! You picked a great race for your first time. It’s very cool to know the blog is being circulated! I am obsessed with Missoula so I will definitely be back. Y’all are very luck to live in that town! Thanks again.

  9. Hi T-Rex! (Danielle, right?) I’m the lady in the patriotic skirt who ran some of those early miles with you. You were close on my name. It’s actually Carolyn.
    Thanks for mentioning me and posting my picture. I love your blog!

  10. Hi T-Rex! (Danielle?) I’m the lady in the patriotic skirt that ran a few of the early miles with you. You were close with my name, it’s actually Carolyn. I enjoyed running with you and was glad to take your picture! Thanks for including me in your Missioula Marathon recap. I loved the run though the last few miles were a little rough for me too. Love your blog as well!

    1. Hey Carolyn! Thanks for commenting! Now that you tell me your name again I remember – sorry about that, I was a bit delirious there for awhile! I had a great time running with you and I am so glad you found my blog. Thanks for putting up with me during those early miles. I hope you had a great race!


  11. Just found your blog and I love it!
    As a fellow GIS nerd/runner/triathlete, I can appreciate everything you do and say, right down to the strategically placed Sprite! (I just raced Ironman Arizona and they had Coca-Cola on the course- most delicious drink.Ever.)

    My biggest lesson: Race how you train!
    How I learned: Nike Women’s Marathon 2009, I’d trained with a 1 mile run/1 minute walk method, but on race day decided I didn’t need walk breaks. By mile 8 I knew I was screwed.

    When you come to Arizona to cross that state off of your list, let me know!

    1. Thanks Elsbeth! Very few GIS nerd/runner/triathletes out there, so I’m glad to know I am not alone! I can’t have caffeine because of a heart condition, but I can totally appreciate your love of soda, obviously. I am training for my first full iron distance and I’m slightly terrified, so I might need some tips! I haven’t done Arizona yet – any suggestions? I’ve heard Lost Dutchmen is great but hilly. My brother lives in Phoenix also.

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