Spinx Marathon Race Report – “Be brave. Be thankful.”

I woke up the morning of the Spinx Marathon feeling a little nervous, but ready. I knew I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and I knew that that could be painful and scary. I had found a new mantra thanks to Swim Bike Mom: “Be brave. Be thankful.” I thought it was perfect for the day ahead.

The best thing about doing small races, especially those close to home, is that the logistics are super easy. We were just a 15 minute drive away from the start line, and the race didn’t start til 7:45 anyway, so we didn’t have a super early morning. We got to the start line in plenty of time and promptly froze to death because we’re stubborn and refuse to check bags at gear check for reasons that seem logical at the time and then seem incredibly stupid when I’m freezing to death before and after the race.

Possibly the best pre-race photo we’ve ever taken. Probably due to the hats.

As you can see, Amanda had purchased us excellent Halloween hats. I planned on wearing it until it got uncomfortable, but it actually never did and those hats got us many, many cheers and compliments along the way.

The course starts out running about 6 miles through downtown Greenville – a rather hilly start. There are some big hills in this section of the course. I did not wear my Garmin so I would not have known our pace anyway, but I did have my heart rate monitor on and we decided that we would just set out at a pace that felt comfortable and manageable based on the course and then check where we were at the halfway point. No point in going out too fast, right? The first few miles flew by since we had to constantly pay attention to what felt like hundreds of turns and changes in direction. The course was well marked, but we still saw plenty of people go off course and need to be pulled back in. There were definitely some confusing sections!

Annnnnd not the best mid-race photo we’ve ever taken

After going through downtown, we got on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is our lovely local multi-use path here in Greenville. It’s almost 19 miles long and is lined with trees and has some cute cafes and stores along the way. This time of year, the fall foliage was absolutely beautiful and we really enjoyed the view. Of course, the only bad thing about running on a multi-use path is that you’re essentially just running in a straight line for a rather long time. We took a turn through Furman University around mile 11, which I had never seen before. There were some hills in this section as well, but I was feeling really strong and had been pumped up by seeing the race leaders heading back down the trail. If there is one thing that really puts me in a good mood, it’s cheering people on during the out and back sections of a course. I absolutely love it!!

Around Furman, my left glute, which had been kind of tight since the beginning of the race, started to really seize up and start sending pain down to my calf. I tried to change my stride to engage my glutes more and forget about it, since it was way too early in the race for that nonsense. Amanda was feeling a little worn out since she hadn’t trained for this race at all, with the exception of the one long run we did together about a month and a half before this. She definitely was feeling the hills! We did really appreciate the support from all the kids at Furman, though, as plenty were out cheering the runners on. It’s a beautiful campus! We crossed the halfway point while on campus and I checked my watch: we were at exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes.

At that point, I knew that my dream of a post-surgery PR was out the window, because it meant I would have to negative split the race by 6 minutes. Not happening. I have run even splits on a couple of occasions, but that would put me at 5 hours. Strangely, I wasn’t really upset – I knew that we had run at a pace that was smart and sustainable, and just because I wasn’t going to hit my goal didn’t mean I couldn’t still push myself for the last half of the race. We headed back onto the trail from Furman at mile 14 and I got to resume cheering for all the runners heading back to town, but now there were a lot more of them! I was in such a great mood, because we only had two miles until the turn around point in Traveler’s Rest, where AJ would be waiting for us! I was having so much fun cheering and high fiving people. Amanda seemed to be having a lot less fun than me, but she was hanging in there. Before I knew it, I saw AJ straight ahead!

Hooray AJ for taking running pictures!

He was pretty amazed by my great mood but was excited to see my in such good spirits. As I’ve said before, AJ is not much for actually cheering during races. He stands there while holding coffee and waits to see me run by, but that’s sort of his personality anyway. He hasn’t been to a race of mine in a long time, so it was pretty exciting.

Yayyyyy husband!

We reached the turn around and headed back towards town, and as we did, I noticed Amanda didn’t have one of the yellow wrist bands they had handed me. There were no timing mats at the turn around, which seemed weird, but they were apparently supposed to be handing out these wrist bands. We weren’t sure if she needed one or not, but thankfully one of the volunteers stopped her on the way out and gave her one and explained that we would need them at the finish. Totally fine, but there probably should have been some type of mention of that at some point during the pre-race instructions…just saying.

Now we were headed back to town and had basically 10 miles to run back down the trail. I wasn’t really looking forward to that part, but we did get to cheer people on who were still heading out for a while. I was feeling pretty great and encouraged, and I was pumped to keep running. Amanda was not. She said she thought the race would be more enjoyable for her if she could walk a bit more, and that she didn’t want her lack of training to hold me back. It was a hard decision for me, because we always finish together, but I had promised myself that I would push myself during this race and see what I could do. Still, the thought of running the last 8 miles of myself kind of scared me. Then I thought “No, BE BRAVE. You can do this. BE THANKFUL that you had someone to run 18 miles with and now get after it.”

As I left Amanda at 18, I thought to myself, “Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.” I picked up the pace a little bit but mostly just wanted to keep a steady running pace. I have a bad habit of finding myself in pain (especially back pain) at the end of a race and walking a LOT, as you know. I really didn’t want to do that this time.

As I passed mile 19, I started having really sharp pain in my lower back. “NONONONONONO” I thought. “NO!!!” I really needed to bend over and let my spine decompress, but whenever I tried to do that, I got really dizzy and disoriented, so I kept running. I took it one mile at a time and just tried to get to the next mile marker or water stop. I also really, really had had to pee since about mile 10 of the race, but there were no bathrooms anywhere along the course. There was also Gatorade at only 3 of the stops, and one of the aid stations ran out of cups at mile 17. I was pretty surprised by that because this even is put on by one of the local track clubs, and you’d think it would have been more runner oriented. Fortunately, I had carried my water bottle and some extra Chomps with me, so I was ok, but had it been a warm day, it would have been tough.

Anyway, I kept pushing and running turned to shuffling. The miles dragged by so slowly, and with no one to cheer for or talk to, I was losing my enthusiasm. I was determined to think positive thoughts and tried to just think “Be brave. Be thankful,” over and over again and remind myself that this is what I had trained for, and how amazing it is that I am still running after 48 marathons.

I’m not going to lie, though. As the pain got worse and worse, I got angry with myself. Why am I torturing my body like this? I only get one body, and my back had shown me signs over the past few weeks that it wasn’t entirely thrilled with what I had going on. I have had some pain and stiffness after my last few runs since my long run, but I ignored it. Now, at mile 22 of the marathon, I just felt so bad. Bad physically, yes, but also, mentally. Why is it so hard for me to let go of something that my body clearly doesn’t appreciate?

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Keep pushing. Walk as little as possible. Stretch quickly, keep going, PUSH YOURSELF. I pushed. I really did. Around mile 24, a woman caught up with me (I had still somehow mostly been passing people at this point, because most other people were walking), and she said “Come on! We can catch those walkers!” I laughed and said I wasn’t so sure I could, but that I would try. She was running her 10th state that day and was about to join the 50 States Marathon Club, so we chatted about that for a little while until we came to the aid station at mile 25 and she left me in her dust. I was inspired by her positive energy, though, and she seemed so strong and happy. I remembered when I used to feel like that at mile 25, too.

As we wove the final mile through town, I was just praying for the finish. I heard a cheer from the sidewalk and one of my clients at Barre3 said “Keep going, you’re almost there!” HEY, that’s my Barre teacher!!! Go Danielle! Only 20 more to go…19…18…YOU’VE GOT THIS!” and that made me laugh, because that’s how I countdown in class and I guess I deserved that one. Definitely brightened my spirits. There were far too many turns before we got to the finish line, but the finish was pretty cool – we ran a lap around our minor league baseball team’s field before finishing at home plate! As we turned towards the stadium, I really gave it everything I had and charged the last quarter mile to the finish, passing a lot of people in the process. Might as well, right? AJ was there in the stands, waiting for me.

Kicking it to the finish!

I crossed the finish line and immediately just wanted to bend over and then lay down, but I had no idea where Amanda was or how long she would be. I trudged up into the stands and then laid down on the concrete floor between the seats and froze to death (due to lack of gear check because I’m an idiot) while AJ stared down at me and confirmed again that he will never, ever run a marathon. We waited for Amanda and about 15 minutes later, she ran into the stadium and crossed the finish!

Also an excellent post race photo!

I finished the race in 5:16, far past my time goal. I did, however, meet my other goal – to push myself and not to quit. I did push myself as hard as I could and never gave up. I didn’t walk it in. I kept going even when it hurt and I didn’t want to. Where the results what I hoped for? Definitely not. But I can’t say I didn’t try, and I don’t have to wonder what would have happened if I had just pushed myself a little harder, because I truly could not have. There is something satisfying in that, even if I ended up in a lot of pain as a result.

At the end of the day, I finished marathon #49 and am proud of the effort I put in. I was brave. I am thankful.

25 thoughts on “Spinx Marathon Race Report – “Be brave. Be thankful.”

  1. Now I am really bummed I wasn’t there…..I would have walked/walked those last few miles with you! You did it though once again and proved you can do anything once you put your mind to it! I love you!! xxoo

    1. Hey, I wasn’t walking! I was shuffling 🙂 It was a great course for spectating and I think you would have enjoyed it. You were missed!

  2. Congratulations Danielle! You ran an amazing time and didn’t give up, even if you didn’t meet your A goal. So glad that you had someone to run with for most of the miles and had AJ there for you too (another big plus of a local race).

    My Charleston area friends who ran this had a lot of fun too. Looks like it got kinda warm toward the end though. I bet Greenville is pretty in the Fall with the leaves changing color and have heard good things about that Swamp Rabbit Trail.

    1. Oddly enough, I was pretty cold for a lot of the race, but I think it’s because I was shuffling along so slowly at the end 🙂 I might have been hot if I had been going faster! It was really beautiful with the leaves changing and the trail is absolutely lovely. It was really nice having AJ there! He hasn’t come to a race in a long time so that was definitely a big plus of a local event.

  3. Way to go on your 49th marathon finish!! You would never know that you were in pain looking at that finishing photo! You look so happy with a great smile, and your posture looks perfect. You look like you’re doing a photo shoot. 🙂 Love the pictures of you and Amanda, and the picture of you and AJ. The hats are awesome! Can’t wait to see you in 3 weeks!

    1. It’s amazing how we can pull together for a picture, right? Haha! It probably didn’t hurt that I had been laying on the ground in the fetal position for a little while after I finished. We can’t wait to see you in a few weeks one way or the other!

  4. It must have felt nice to run a marathon and not have to fly to it, stay at a hotel, and hop on a plane afterward. I honestly haven’t done that in … four years? But more importantly, it must have felt even better to finish and in the company of good people. But why is this called the Spinx Marathon?

    1. It was rather nice. I have to say that I definitely see the appeal 🙂

      It’s called the Spinx Marathon because the Spinx gas stations here (local chain) are the main sponsor of the race. It’s a family owned chain in the upstate of SC.

  5. Great job – it was very emotional reading that, because I know that the conflict tears at you inside … you have invested so much in this, that even though you no longer *need* to do this, you kinda do have that drive to complete it.

    I am glad that you hit some of your goals – especially the really important ones about staying strong and brave and trying to ‘not be stupid’ as much as possible. I think that while there is undoubtedly much introspection happening at this point, you need to take pride in what you have done – just like everyone elese is saying.

    But of course you also need to learn from it. I don’t see you stopping before you hit your 50 mark, but it is worthwhile starting to assess ‘what comes next’. You have made loads of progress this year, done amazing stuff … and I just hope you can figure out what the best course of action is for you and your body over the next decade.

    Comgratulations to you (and Amanda) again – and fun pictures as well!

    1. I think this comment perfectly summarizes what I’m feeling, for the most part, although I’m not sure I am quite as set on #50 as everyone thinks. One the one hand, I think “What’s one more marathon at this point? I can handle one more.” and the other part thinks “Who cares whether you do 49 or 50? Your body is trying to tell you something.” I haven’t run since the race and I’ll tackle that tomorrow, but it is really touch and go on how my back feels over the coming weeks. I’m grateful that my life has come to the point where there IS a question in my mind of whether I do #50 or not – that means that I have a fulfilling life with plenty of other things going on and I can think about the pros and cons of the next race clearly. That’s a gift!

    1. It was pretty awesome of her, and it definitely made me laugh! Marathon #50 is currently scheduled to be the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa in a few weeks, but it will depend on how my back feels in the coming days.

  6. Just reading this post now for a variety of reasons… proud of you for pushing through! There was a point in Savannah when I wanted to walk, because I was just over it, then I had two realizations: a) there was no real reason for me to slow down and walk b) walking wasn’t going to make it go by any faster/easier! I can imagine the boost you got from seeing people from barre… about 1/4 mile from the end in Savannah, I saw someone from my running club, who had traveled just to cheer us all on. She ran with me for about 30 seconds, and then I kicked into what was probably the mother of all kicks — for me at least, in a half marathon.

    And I’m surprised as well that you’d only have 3 Gatorade stops, especially for a race at that time of year, put on by local organizers…

    1. I am so impressed that you made it through Savannah – it sounds like it was absolutely brutal! Congratulations on finishing in that heat and humidity, and thank you for the kind words!!

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