Oh, Myrtle Beach Marathon. I had high hopes for you. I had, dare I say, sub-4:20 hopes for you. February 18, 2012 was going to be the day. But then you crapped on my heart.

I’ll start at the beginning.

It was determined that Myrtle Beach would be the first marathon that AJ would come to awhile back – long before I was totally sure he would be coming to any marathons ever (we refer to this period of my general standoffishness as “The Dark Times”). In fact, I remember him telling me he was going to come, quite nonchalantly, and I thought to myself “psht, no one tells me what marathons they’re going to-nobody!” Then I realized I was being an asshole and I got over myself and started looking forward to the whole process (love you, mean it!). So anyway, it was determined that we would drive together to Myrtle Beach and stay at his brother’s apartment the night before, since he goes to Coastal Carolina, which is close by. We didn’t leave Florence til around 5:30, which would have been fine if AJ’s estimate of it taking “45 minutes” to get to the beach turned out to be anywhere near accurate. And by 45 minutes, he secretly meant 2 hours. It actually ended up working out pretty well because we showed up at the expo at pretty much the same time as Kate and Jasen, who were driving up from Jacksonville. While trying to make dinner plans right outside the Expo, we suddenly heard, “OH MY GOD! IS THAT THE T-REX RUNNER?”

And it was like all my dreams simultaneously came true.

OMG, I’m being recognized in public. OMG!

I turned around and prepared to greet my adoring fans. Maybe sign autographs, whatever’s necessary. Anything for my people. Sure enough, it was two of my biggest fans of all, Darci and Sara, who are TNT Coaches Extraordinaire and ladies I ran with while training for my fall marathons. I was also lucky enough to see them on the course a couple of times the next day!

Fearless TNT Winter coaches Darci and Sara with our Honored Hero, Caroline.

It was awesome to see them and obvi super exciting to be called out in public, even if it was by people I actually knew, and not secret fans. But you know. Maybe one day.

We headed to Mango’s for a late dinner since we had missed the Maniacs dinner and Mango’s had 50% off entrees for runners. This would have been much more successful if they actually had any of the food we wanted to order, but no matter. Fifty percent off is fifty percent off. It’s hard out here for a pimp T-Rex. Kate and I generally regaled AJ, Brandon, and Jasen with running humor, discussions of more marathons we want to do, and stories about the ones we’ve already done. We heard the word “crazy” muttered a lot, but we’re kind of used to that by now.

Dinner got over kind of late, so we basically crashed as soon as we got back to Brandon’s apartment. And by crashed, I mean immediately fell asleep until Kristen someone who shall not be named called and woke me up at 2:20 am. She immediately recognized my hate spiral voice and I went back to sleep. The race started at 6:30, so we were up at 5. I started the morning off with my usual pre-marathon hate. Kate texted me to make sure I was awake. I responded with “this is stupid.” Only unhinged people wake up at 5 am on a Saturday to run 26.2 miles. Maniacs, if you will.

I had to meet up with my friend Cameron before the race to give her Nick’s packet since he is injured and couldn’t run. She was doing her first half marathon and she was so adorable and excited! I took a picture with her but it didn’t come out, so here’s a picture of me and Kate instead.

You know you’re a Maniac when you have a never-ending supply of space blankets to bring to races.

We bid farewell to AJ and Jasen and made our way to the start while they made their way to breakfast. We had no idea when or if we would see them on the course, since we weren’t entirely sure they had maps and we were pretty certain they were going to try and drink as much as possible before we finished. We started the race bright and early at 6:30 am, surrounded by a ton of Maniacs and with our eyes set firmly on the sub-4:20 prize, which would be a nice PR for both me and Kate. Soon after the race started, we saw the amazing Dave Mari, who runs races all over the place and takes a million pictures at them. It was the first time I had ever met him, but I had heard of him in stories. He’s a Maniacs legend. Fact: if you go on the Marine Corps Marathon website, he’s the fourth photo in the slide show on the homepage.

Kate’s happy. I’m sassy. But damn, my hair looks luxurious.

We ran the first 7 miles a little too fast. We got caught up in the excitement. There was a fun out and back portion of about 2 miles or so where we saw a TON of Maniacs. We said hi and cheered for EVERY SINGLE ONE. We’re those girls, but it’s so much fun! There’s nothing like the comradery that comes with one of those yellow singlets, I’m telling you. On our way back (and Dave’s way out) we saw him again and he took a bajillion more pictures.

So happy in the early miles. So naive.

Kate had wanted to wear fun socks that matched our singlets, so I told her about the socks Kristen and I wore at OBX and she bought a pair. People loved them. We brought joy to the masses. So now we’ve developed a little bit of a sock situation and maybe we’ve bought too many more pairs.

Perfect ass sock shot.

We made our way down Ocean Boulevard, and I kind of had the inkling that it wasn’t going to be a sub-4:20 kind of day and it probably wasn’t going to be a PR day either, but I wanted to hold on as long as I could. I kept telling myself that I could tough it out. I’ve done it before. We both stopped to go to the bathroom at mile 12, and for some reason, I completely lost it. All of a sudden I was really hot. I couldn’t get my heart to settle back into a normal rhythm. Running even a slower pace sent my heart into freakout mode, and I was panicking.  Meanwhile, we still hadn’t seen the boys and were starting to wonder if we ever would. Somewhere around mile 14.5, I told Kate that I really wanted to see AJ. I needed a hug. We had seen Nick, Annie, and Zoe around mile 13 and I think I told Nick “This is stupid.” He laughed but I knew he understood.

As much as it sucked to run in a very long straight line for about 10 miles, sometimes you saw some cool stuff. “Cool stuff” NOT being the Half Marathon split. I really wanted to split.

One thing that was really funny when we were running down the strip was that Kate’s bib had her name on it and mine did not, so spectators would say “Go KATE! …and Kate’s friend!” or “Go KATE! …and number 2016!” I don’t know why, but it made me laugh. Also, pretty much everyone called her Katie, which I thought was odd. But cheers are cheers.

All of a sudden, like a shining beacon of light from heaven, there were AJ and Jasen. I was so happy to see him that I almost cried. I knew it would freak him out if I did, so I didn’t, but I was seriously ecstatic. I hugged him. You’re welcome for the sweat, babe. I had been having problems with my heart consistently since Mile 12 and I wasn’t just annoyed – I was scared. It used to be that the Baltimore Marathon was the closest I’ve ever come to quitting a race, but I’m sad to say Myrtle Beach has now taken that esteemed position. I couldn’t find a pace that made my heart feel ok. I was hot. I felt bad because I was holding Kate back. I told her about 5000 times to go on and leave me, but she didn’t. I think she thought I was going to quit if she did, and she was probably right. I just wanted it to be over. So I kept going. And things began to get a little tiny bit better.

Putting on a brave face at Mile 15.

Somewhere along the way, Kate and I settled into about a 10:30-10:45 pace that, while hellishly slow, seemed to be about the most my heart could tolerate. I still had freakout moments every mile or so, but I could sustain the pace for a little bit longer than before. I began to feel a lot better around mile 20, when we saw the boys again. I didn’t even stop when I ran by – just shouted “I’m ok! I’m not going to die!” and kept running. I knew I wasn’t going to die, but I was so ready for the race to be over. I have never had that many hate spirals or emotional breakdowns in one race before.

Aww, look how happy I’m pretending to be.

Also per usual, I took out my marathon hate on unsuspecting bystanders. I have really got to stop doing that. Some teenagers on a bike rode past on bike trail we were running on around Mile 22 and I demanded that they NEVER run a marathon. The one kid said “well I ran cross country as a freshman so I think I’d be fine.” OH THE HATE. OH THE HATE OH THE HATE OH THE HATE. Cross country is like 3 miles. Come at me in 23 more, bro. And then, some poor, poor sweet volunteer girl got the worst of it. To be fair, I was barely making it between water stops by this point. I was dying. My heart couldn’t handle running and Kate’s hamstrings couldn’t handle walking, so I was running more than I wanted and she was running less than she wanted. At the water stop for Mile 25, this volunteer girl said very cheerfully, “only 2 miles to go!”




There are NOT two miles left. DON’T YOU TELL ME THERE ARE TWO MILES LEFT!! So I snapped said “Don’t say that to people! That’s not true! It’s less than that! I hate you!”

OK no. I did not tell her I hated her. Even T-Rexs aren’t that mean. But I did say the rest of it.

So we trotted on and I was determined to run the rest of the way, so I did. Slowly. We were at about mile 25.7 and all of a sudden Kate goes, “Omg, is that the boys?” Sure enough, sprinting through some trees and across a grass field next to us are AJ and Jasen, running in jeans and boots to catch up to us.  That one moment made the entire day worth it. I don’t know why, but in that moment I just felt so loved and supported and happy. It was amazing. Best quarter mile ever, til they got tired and went to get a spot on the finish line and we turned for the finish.

So close we could taste it!

Obviously, we decided to cross the finish line holding hands. I really, truly could not have done this race without Kate. If my endless complaining bothered her, she never said so. She tried her best to keep me going and I am eternally indebted to her. She and I were talking just the other day about how we are marathon soulmates, and it’s so true.

The happiest I’ve ever been to cross a finish line.

We finished the race in a surprisingly unterrible (but nonetheless nowhere near PR) 4:46. Definitely not my best, but not even close to my worst considering how bad my heart was. Kate kept me moving and our slow but consistent pace got us across the line decently. I think the best part of the race was how many other Maniacs we got to see. It seemed like they were everywhere, especially on the out and backs (where I also saw TNT people!). That is such awesome motivation and it put us in such a good mood. Early in the race we saw a husband and wife team who have finished 150+ marathons and are 10 star Maniacs and are probably in their 50s or 60s. They ran the entire race side by side and finished a little after us. So cute! I loved that.

Best medal pic ever? Maybe.

I was pretty dead and very cold after the race. So I asked AJ how far it was to the car and Jasen said “oh, about a mile and a half.” I thought he was joking. He was so, so not joking. They thought the finish line was where the start line had been (so did we) so they had parked close to that, which was not really so close to the finish line at all. Oh, the horror. I don’t remember the last time I was that cold. It was Dallas level of delirium cold. We got there eventually though and the world made sense again.

I earned the hell out of that medal.

So, here’s what I learned. Basically, you can never plan your race. You can think things are going to go one way and they go the complete opposite. I had an AMAZING race in Birmingham, and I could have PRed. I had the worst race of my life 6 days later. It just is what it is, and you have to take each race as it comes. Some people don’t understand why I run a lot of marathons instead of putting all my energy and training into doing really well in just one, and the answer is that I know that anything can happen on race day. I never want to cross  a finish line upset with myself because I didn’t have the race I wanted. I want to be happy because I finished a marathon, and that’s an accomplishment in itself, regardless of what the time is. If I PR, cool. If not, I still have 20 more races to run this year. Little Rock, I’m coming for you next!

Thank you, AJ and Kate. I could not have finished that race without each of you. Yo mamas let you date?

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