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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

State #5: South Carolina, Myrtle Beach Marathon

I ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon this past weekend and the weather was beautiful! It was 55 degrees at the start. When I arrived, I took a taxi to my hotel and the driver was hilarious.  He had such a deep southern accent and had so much to talk to me about.  I listened a lot.  He was talking about high taxes, Harley Davidson bike week, and retired folks.  
My Berwick, Maine buddy and I.
I went to the marathon expo that night and met Logan Hejl who is a local runner and a member of the Grand Strand Running Club. I also met Logan's wife and daughter who are new runners!  At the packet pick-up area, I met two elderly men that were volunteering, and they were both from Maine! One was from Berwick and the other was from Sanford.  The one from Berwick told me he would be at mile 11 on the marathon course volunteering and sure enough I did end up finding him for a picture during the race.  
Lovely boardwalk at Myrtle Beach.
Time to rock out #5!
 I woke up at 4am and put on my 50 for Billy shirt and began walking to the start.  It was a beautiful morning and there was a full moon! At the start line, "Sweet Caroline" was being played and I really wanted to start singing and dancing.  Hearing that song made me think of Red Sox games with my dad and cousin Michala.  We would always have a blast singing "Sweet Caroline." 
At the start! Notice the full moon :)
I talked to several runners at the start, including first time marathoners and Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters.  My favorite newbie was a lady named Kathy who was with her husband, they were from Nebraska but now residing in Myrtle Beach.  It was her first marathon and she was nervous.  However, Kathy just ran 20 miles on the beach with weights a few days before the marathon. Clearly, she had nothing to be worried about.  I ended up seeing Kathy at the end of the marathon and she was ecstatic.  She was with her family and ready to hit up Margaritaville! It's always a joy to see first time marathoners make it to the finish line.

I also met Bill, a 50 stater who had ran 72 marathons.  He saw my 50 for Billy shirt and talked to me for a few minutes before the start and told me, "Pain is expected, injury is optional." I love his motto.

During the marathon, I met Larry Macon who is a Guinness World Record holder. In 2008, Macon ran 105 races of 26.2 miles or more—the most anyone has ever run in a year.  He is amazing and so personable.  I talked to him for about 10 minutes or so.  I asked him what number Myrtle Beach was for him.  He told me it was his 721st marathon...jaw dropper.  He kept telling me that I was an inspiration for what I was doing, but really Larry, you are the true inspiration.  Larry is running several marathons and ultras this year including the Great Cranberry Island Ultra Marathon in July.
Larry and I!
 Around mile 16, I wasn't really feeling so great...I was so dehydrated.  I thought I had enough liquids in my system, but apparently not.  I talked to a lady named Ann, from Modesto, CA and she was very sweet.  It was also her 5th marathon.  She ran Philly too in November and had a PR with a time of 4:28.  We ended up running together for a majority of the second half.  She definitely made the time go by faster and was fun to talk to/run with.  Hopefully our paths will cross again at another marathon as she wants to complete all 50 states too!

Logan and I.
And last, but not least, I really enjoyed meeting my Twitter/Facebook running friend Logan who is from SC.  He ran a 3:09 (BQ) and was so friendly! His wife and daughter were both very nice too! He has inspired his family to run races now.  He waited at the finish line with his wife for me to come in which was so sweet! It was great to see them there and to find out how Logan's race went.  Hopefully, Logan will come to Boston in a few years to tackle 26.2!! When he does, I will be there cheering him on!

2nd Avenue Pier at Myrtle Beach
After the marathon, I realized I had sprained my ankle somehow and also had a huge blister on the inside of my foot. I still ended up running the day after the marathon on the beach for 3 miles and it felt great! Battle wounds are always worth it.  I really took my time during this marathon and talked to other runners, which was enjoyable.  I love inspiring other people to keep running and to run for someone or something.  The marathon to me is a journey and one big party to remember my dad.  He would be happy that I am doing this to stay healthy and to enjoy myself.  I asked my brother Bobby what dad would have thought of 50 for Billy and he said, "Dad would have thought it was really awesome." I am sure he is thinking it is a great way to remember him and to benefit others.  

Before I left for SC, Joey Cresta from the American Journal wrote an article about 50 for Billy.  Here's the link to the article:

Also a few weeks before the marathon, I did a phone interview with Lauren from the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, ME.  Lauren is a graduate student at Boston College and is currently interning at the Center for Grieving Children.  We had a great conversation over the phone and she will be writing an article in the Center's newsletter about 50 for Billy.  I hope to meet Lauren at one of the Center's events in the near future. 

45 more states to go!! I am heading off to VA Beach for the Shamrock Marathon in March.  Thanks again everyone for your continued love and support. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

State #4: Florida, ING Miami Marathon

"Every setback is a setup for a comeback." This describes my experience with Florida.  I was unable to run Disney due to being sick, but then came back to tackle Miami even while on antibiotics.

Marlins Mascot...very ironic!
This was my first marathon experience on my own.  I was anxious and nervous at first, but it was very liberating to travel by myself and to meet other runners.  I arrived in MIA a few days before the marathon and went out for a 6 mile run.  The weather was beautiful the whole time I was there.  I hung out at South Beach the day before the race and drank lots of H2O!

On the morning of the race, I woke up at 3am to get a shuttle at 4am.  The shuttle was about 2 miles away from where I was staying.  It was so funny because as I was walking down Washington Ave in Miami Beach everyone was out clubbing and drinking.  The bars and clubs stay open until 5am.  I was hit on by some random guy...he said, "hey mami, where you going??" I didn't say anything because it was completely obvious where I was going with running clothes and my bib # on.

The shuttle bus ride was quick to the start area in downtown Miami.  The start was at the American Airlines Arena where the Miami Heat play.  I didn't sleep well the night before, probably slept for only 3 hours.  I was a bit emotional in the morning, the weather felt the same way it did the day my dad died.  Once I got into my corral and talked to other runners, I felt a lot better.  I talked to a local running group in my corral, most of them were first time marathoners...awesome!! I met a commerical litigation attorney named Melissa who was from Miami.  It was her first marathon and she was so sweet.  I told her about my journey and gave her a 50 for Billy magnet.

The race started at 6:15am and runners ran under a huge United States flag that was at the World Trade Center after 9/11.   The beginning of the race was absolutely beautiful.  All of downtown Miami was lit up and the sunrise was gorgeous. The course itself was very beautiful, and very flat.  The weather was great until about 10am.  The heat was really on and the humidity was high.  I had covered myself early in the morning with sunblock, but it didn't do much for me.

Around mile 17, a man running his first marathon with a shirt on that said "WHAT WALL?" ran to catch up with me and he said, "You didn't know this until now, but you're my motivation.  I just read your shirt and your dad is proud."  I talked to him for about 5 minutes and he said he has two more marathons planned--Kentucky Derby and Marine Corps Marathon (with his son)! He asked me, "Is the marathon worth it in the end?" and I told him "Yes, it's the best feeling in the world." I started to pick up the pace again because he got me pumped up.  He stopped and walked and said, "go get em." I wished him the best of luck and told him he could do it!

The next runner I met was a Marathon Maniac Diva, Bonnie.  I ran with her for a few minutes and talked to her about races.  She is doing the Gaspiralla Ultra Marathon in Tampa in February.

During the race, I heard a group of ladies talking about how boring it would be to run a marathon alone.  I thought to myself, it's not boring at all.  It's actually quite self-reflecting and liberating.

As I reached the last few miles, which were scorching hot and over a sunshine exposed bridge, I thought of my dad.  I wished he could have been in Miami with me.  I cried a little and then called my mom and said "I am at mile 24!"  I finished strong with a kick at the end.  I clearly do not know how to race a marathon. I am an endurance athlete, there's no question, but I am not a racer. I am not concerned about where I finish, I just want to have fun and talk to other runners.  I did exactly that.  I inspired a few others out there and that was my main goal.   That will continue to be my goal.
Miami taught me more about myself.  I can be alone for a weekend far away from family and friends and still have a fun time.  I can rock out 26.2 miles solo and still laugh and cry at the end.  I can talk to my dad and know he is listening and smiling down on me.  I can finish a race and enjoy it for the sake of running, for the feeling of being alive.