Category Archives: Races

Louisiana Half Marathon 2014

On January 19th, I ran the Louisiana Half Marathon in Baton Rouge for the third year! Ever since their inaugural event in 2012 this has been far and away my favorite race. Not only is the course really pretty and almost completely flat, but the weather is typically just right for running this time of year also. The thing that absolutely impresses me the most about Louisiana though is their Finish Festival. They really do it up right. Plus, this race was my PR race last year when I finally broke 1:40 for a half. Lots of good things going on in Baton Rouge.

This year was a little bit different though. The course, the weather and the finish festival were all the same as I expected, but this year I got to experience the Louisiana Half as a pregnant runner! This is a completely new thing for me, when I was pregnant with my son I was still in my obese, pre-runner days. I can say with confidence that I never exercised a single time during that pregnancy.

Quick down and dirty on how this happened and then back to the race: (Ok, not really … you know HOW it happened) but …

On December 9th, I finally bit the bullet and did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but never worked the nerve up to do until then. I went for a consultation with a Plastic Surgeon to see about having some post weightloss “work” done. He asked me about plans to have any future children and I told him the truth that Tim and I have been trying on and off for about 5 years to have another baby, but that after being on fertility meds, having surgery to clear out blocked fallopian tubes and a miscarriage that it just wasn’t happening for us. But I couldn’t promise that it would never happen.

Two days later I was ready to schedule my surgery and was about to take a large sum of money out of the bank, but before I did that I decided on a whim to take a pregnancy test … an lo and behold, it was positive.

I’m 12 weeks 3 days pregnant right now, I was just over 10 weeks when I ran the Louisiana Half. I had already decided a long time ago to run the race with Tim this year, but with the news it worked out just perfectly because I didn’t feel up to going all out anyway.

On race morning Drew, Lauren, Tim and I rode the free shuttle bus from our hotel to the start. We all gathered in the gear check building to keep warm before time to head to the starting line.

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I have no idea why Tim is tickling Drew’s ear in the above picture.

Anyway …

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The race was a blast as usual, and running with Tim was very comfortable … for the most part. There was that once when I had to stop and pee and then almost slung my uterus out of my body running a stupid-fast pace trying to catch back up to him. Uteruses are heavy.

Anyway again …

We crossed the finish line together in 2:11:something, a new PR for Tim!

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We immediately headed the the VIP tent (one of the perks at Louisiana for being a member of Half Fanatics). The tent is full of fancy food, all kinds of alcoholic beverages, massage tables, a big screen TV broadcasting the finish line, etc.

I have to admit I was a tiny bit bitter that I couldn’t take advantage of the bottle of free wine, mimosas, beer and bloody mary’s. But I made sure to make up for it in food and CAKE BALLS…

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We relaxed for a little while under the tent and watched the live finish line feed, until the time got close for Drew to be finishing. Then we headed over to watch him finally BOSTON QUALIFY!

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That is a big deal, my friends!

A successful weekend all the way around, I’d say. Hopefully we can find a way to make it happen again next year!

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Chickamauga Half Marathon ‘13

Me: 2 – Chickamauga: 1

Finally I’m in the lead! Chickamauga and I had a rough start. In 2011 I had my worst run to date in Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia at Chickamauga Battlefield. You know, the one where I got lost in the rain storm and ended up on the highway after getting chased by a pit bull, and then ran 12+ mile on a hotel treadmill. Yes, I’m still a little bit bitter.

Last year I ran a PR race at Chickamauga and got my revenge.

On Friday morning Tim, Lincoln and I headed up to Chattanooga/Ft Oglethorpe. The race itself is in Georgia, but its just over the border from Tennessee. On the way up, we stopped in Birmingham for lunch at Whole Foods. I love their hot bar, but it can become very expensive very quickly. This time we decided to try out the restaurant.

I ordered the Salmon with Warm Farro Salad.

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And Lincoln was happy because they had pizza.

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but Whole Foods discourages tipping in their restaurants since they already pay their employees fair wages. Nice to know!

We arrived in Georgia around 5pm Eastern and headed to the packet pick-up. Chickamauga doesn’t have much an an expo per se, so it was a quick in and out stop before we headed over to our hotel in Chattanooga.

After unpacking and settling in, we met up with Drew and headed out to dinner. We ended up at Big River Grille, the food was “meh” but a good time was had.

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On race morning I woke up exceptionally early. I remembered that last year the traffic going into the battlefield was backed up and I was nervous about getting to the start on time. This year I made sure that I could leisurely get ready and drive to the start to find parking with no extra anxiety. As a matter of fact we ended up arriving more than an hour and a half before the start of the race. Thankfully McQueens can sleep anywhere.

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The morning was cold and dark. The thermometer in the car read 32 degrees and there was ice in the grass as I trekked over to use the porto-potty with only the light of my cellphone as my guide.

During the quiet time in the car before the race started, I spent a few minutes pondering my “goal” for the day. I knew that a PR race wasn’t within my reach this year. The only training I’ve done in the last 9 months or so was for a marathon distance. Longer, slower running. Even the speedwork for a marathon is not the pace that is necessary to excel at a Half Marathon distance.

I decided that I would take this opportunity to concentrate on my pacing and to work on consistency, and finishing the last few miles strong. I aimed specifically to finish in 1:45 because when I looked at the 21 previous Half Marathons that I have run, my average pace is approximately that.

Eventually the sun came up and everyone started making their way to the starting line. I waited until the very last minute to hop out of my warm car, rushed over and picked my spot in the crowd just before the race got underway.

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The first 2 miles or so I didn’t even bother looking at my Garmin to check my pace. My feet were numb from the cold and the crowd was pretty tight, so I knew I just needed to go with the flow for a little while before I locked in on my target of an 8 minute pace. I was surprised when I looked at my splits later and realized that even these first couple of miles were right on… 8:04 and 7:51.

I remembered from the previous year how incredibly beautiful this course was, the wildlife, the monuments, the gorgeous fall colors … what I didn’t remember and was quickly reminded of around the 4th mile were the very rolling hills and the camber of the road in places. Still I managed to stay pretty consistent through the next several miles … 7:55, 8:04, 7:45, 8:01, 8:01.

Miles 8-10 went by in a blur. I tried to make myself look around and enjoy the scenery, look for deer in the distance of the open fields, enjoy the cold air on my face but all I really wanted to do was focus on the music blaring in my ears and watch the ground 3 feet infront of my body. So I let myself do that. 7:54, 7:52, 8:03.

At mile 10 I was really ready to be done. My feet, legs and hands were freezing cold but my chest and my head were on fire. It was a weird sensation that I didn’t like. I wanted to take my outer long sleeve shirt off, but I had attached my bib to it, so I just rolled up my sleeves and tried to make-do. I lifted my cap off my head a little to let some cold air in and that helped some. I still just wanted to be done.

I tried to run faster, but was only able to pick it up slightly. I felt some satisfaction in catching up to and passing a couple of runners who had blown past me miles back. The last few miles felt like forever, but finally I hit the corner of Barnhardt circle, the very last stretch around the loop where the race first started. 7:48, 7:47, 7:45

And just like that it was over! My official time was 1:44:24. Overall it was a really solid run for me that I was proud of.

We stuck around and ate some Chickamauga special Banana Pudding and Chicken Noodle Soup, let Lincoln play in the grass with the other kids, and then watched the reenactors fire the cannon as the first marathoner finished before heading out to Blue Plate for lunch.

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I would definitely recommend Chickamauga to anyone looking for great Fall Marathon or Half Marathon in the Southeast with lots of beautiful scenery and historical significance. Because of the small size of the race, it sells out quickly so jump on it in March when registration becomes available.

Next up: Louisiana Half Marathon on January 19th.

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Chicago Marathon 2013

A little over 3 weeks ago I was fortunate enough to run The Chicago Marathon! Waaaaaay back in February I decided on a whim to try to make one of my husband’s bucket list wishes come true, and we registered. Tim has always said that if he was to ever run a marathon he wanted it to be the Chicago Marathon. I knew from the previous year when we started toying with the idea that the race sells out quickly. In 2012 it sold out in a record 6 hours, so the moment the registration opened at noon on February 21st I was sitting infront of my computer ready to get’ta clickin’. It took about an hour of refreshing the screen over and over again to finally get through, but ultimately I was able to register myself, Tim and Drew before the server completely crashed and the registration became a lottery.

After being injured in March and April, I was finally able to start my training plan in May. I initially wanted to try out a training plan from the book Run Less, Run Faster which is a fairly intense 3-day a week running program. The program is based on 3 quality runs a week: a tempo run, an interval run and a long run. Since I planned to also continue CrossFitting through my training I thought the 3 days a week would be ideal for me but I ultimately ended up choosing a less intense Runner’s World Smart Coach program that I have used before because I felt like I wasn’t quite ready to run as hard as the RL, RF plan required.

Training through the Alabama summer was difficult at times, but it kept me motivated through a tough time of the year when it would have been easier to stay in bed. I reminded myself how sweet the payoff would be come Fall.

In the weeks leading up to the race I found myself more excited and less nervous than I ever remember feeling for previous marathons. However, in the days leading up to the race that all changed. In my final taper week aches and pains started surfacing that really put me in a bad place mentally. On top that I’m a notoriously nervous traveler, so the entire trip to Chicago was extremely stressful and then just to make matters that much more interesting I started my period the night before the race. Super duper.

I was just really an emotional, hormonal ball of nervous energy. That part was horrible, but somehow I did manage to have some fun anyway. On Friday night when we arrived, Tim and I met his boss (his company is based out of Chicago) for dinner at The Boarding House. We had a really great time and lots of yummy food and drinks.

I don’t even remember what exactly this all is, but it was good and I took pictures of it:

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On Saturday morning Tim, Drew and I headed down to the local Fleet Feet store to participate in a short shakeout run with Bart Yasso, stopping to take pictures along the way.

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During the afternoon we hit the Expo to pick up our race packets.

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By Saturday night I was a complete bundle of nerves. Tim, Drew, Drew’s friend Will and I went out to dinner at Pizano’s, a local Italian joint for our final carb loading session before the race. We waited approximately 45 minutes for a table, which was to be expected, but once we finally got seated we ended up waiting almost 2 1/2 hours longer for our pasta orders. By that point we were begging the manager to just let us leave. We ended up getting our food at almost 8:00 and wolfed it down before booking it back to the hotel. Thankfully the manager comped our entire meal, so we paid nothing but a tip to our waiter.

I set my alarm for 5:15 Sunday morning, but ended up waking up at about 4:45. Tim and I had some breakfast and coffee in our room and then went downstairs to wish Drew and Will well before they headed off to the race. They started 30 minutes before us, so we hung around a little longer and then eventually headed down ourselves.

We walked about 1/2 mile from our hotel to the starting area. Tim and I were in different starting zones so we had to suddenly separate before going through the security checkpoints, which unexpectedly overwhelmed me with emotion. I checked my gear and made my way to my starting corral. I was cold, nervous, alone and feeling very negative about the race in general, but I kept telling myself that as soon as I started actually running I would feel at home again.

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I listened as the announcers started the wheelchair race, and then the elite runners. I remember thinking, “I’m about to run a race with actual Kenyans” and laughed. The first wave started, and then it seemed like no time before it was time for my wave to start. Everyone moved forward to the starting line and in just over 1 minute I was crossing the line.

I warned myself for 2 straight days to not go out too fast, so I concentrated on that. Keeping an effortless, comfortable pace. Within the first mile we went through a tunnel that completely confused my Garmin and immediately my distance was off by atleast 1/4 mile. My Garmin was essentially useless before the end of the first mile, which I never anticipated happening. Also, one of the bottles from my fuel belt bounced out of it’s holder and hit the ground during that first mile. There was no way that I could retrieve it without being trampled. During the 2nd mile I felt a little bouncy in the chest and realized that my bra had come undone. WHAT?! Seriously. So here I am trying to re-fasten my bra while running a marathon and for a split second I thought this actually might be the death of my race. I might be crazy, but I wasn’t about to run a marathon with no bra. Thankfully I was able to fix it and carry on.

Around mile 7 I started feeling some achiness in my knees, which were what were worrying me pre-race. I had a mini panic attack and then forced myself to push it aside agreeing that I would zone out and reasses the situation later.

By mile 11 I started realizing that my knees weren’t hurting any worse than before and I started to feel a little more positive. I finally started relaxing enough to take in my surroundings and get caught up in the amazing crowd support of the race. I’ve never seen anything like it! The spectators were 5-6 people deep on either side for the full length of the race.

Once I hit the Half Marathon point I felt even more confident. I actually had the thought, “I think I’m warmed up now”. Somewhere around this point I decided to pick up the pace a little bit and agreed to reasses at mile 16. By now though I had to pee … bad. I ended up having to stop just after mile 16 to hit a porta-potty. I knew I wouldn’t make it 10 more miles unless I did.

At mile 18 I was feeling so good that I just couldn’t imagine that I was going to possibly hit “the wall” in 2 miles or so. Since my distance was so off on my Garmin I only watched my overall pace time. I conservatively increased the pace a little more, still realizing that even though I felt great I had a lot of distance left to cover. At this point I started to see people dropping off to the side with obvious cramps.

I knew by mile 20 that I had run the earlier miles too slow to hit my goal time that I had in mind, but I felt absolutely wonderful so I couldn’t be upset in the least. People were dropping like flies at this point, and I was speeding up. I couldn’t help but wonder when my time was going to come. I gave myself a quick assessment. What hurts? .. Absolutely freaking nothing. .. Then go!

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By mile 22 I saw more people walking than were running. I had told myself in the early miles of the race not to make the mistake of increasing my distance by weaving around people, but in the late miles it was unavoidable. The streets were more narrow and people were giving less and less shits. At one point I slammed into the back of someone who stopped to walk right in the middle of the road. I took one last Gu although I didn’t feel like my stomach could hold anymore and promised myself that when I hit mile 24 if I was still feeling good I would go all out.

I ran the 25th mile at an 8:43 pace and realized I was still slightly holding back, and then ran the 26th mile at an 8:08 pace.

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My final time was 3:54:36. Even though this race wasn’t a PR for me, it was absolutely my best marathon ever. I overcame a lot of self doubt and anxiety. It was the first marathon I ever ran alone and the first one where I actually felt strong from beginning to end. Of course there are things looking back that I could change here or there, but I have absolutely no regrets. Chicago knows how to put on one hell of a race!

After the race, I collected my bag from the gear check, grabbed a beer, took my shoes off and sat down on the ground in Grant Park and relaxed.

I was so proud of my hubby who finished the marathon in 5:27 and Drew who PR’d (and barely missed Boston Qualifying by 3 seconds)with a time of 3:25:03.

After my previous marathons, I swore I would never do another one. Clearly that was false, but after Chicago I know I’ll do another one and I can’t wait!

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2 in 2 Days!

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I completed my goal of running 2 Half Marathons in 2 days!
Race recaps coming soon!

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Ok, Fine. Just One More.

Well, less than 2 weeks ago I was quoted saying “this shit is bullshit” in regards to running marathons. Ten days after I said that I’m already registered for another 26.2 …

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The Chicago freakin’ Marathon!

The registration opened on Tuesday at noon, and Active.com’s servers were immediately flooded with thousands of people all trying to register at once. With some persistence and a lot of cursing, I was able to get myself, the hubby and Drew registered.

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Shortly after I finished the registration process, the entire operation was shut down until they are able to fix the problem which they are now saying will be February 28th at the earliest. I’m feeling very fortunate to have gotten in when I did!

Last night I had a dream that I found out I was pregnant. At breakfast this morning I told the hubby he better keep his men away from me for atleast 8 more months! I’m not missing this one!

See you in Chi-town!

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Mercedes Half Marathon 2013

I was very hesitant to register for a half marathon the weekend immediately following my full marathon, but I’m so glad that I did. Mercedes has always been my favorite race and I really didn’t want to miss running it for the 4th year in a row.

I’ve been babying my right foot since Mississippi River Marathon. The top of my foot is what has been hurting oddly enough. I looked back through my DailyMile posts from my previous marathons though and realized that I complained of exactly the same thing before. Realizing that I have had this similar pain before that worked itself out over time actually made me feel better and gave me confidence going in to this race. Still I intentionally ran very few miles this past week leading up to the race to rest my body and my foot as much as possible.

I ended having the best time! Saturday night I went out to dinner at Surin West, per my pre-Mercedes protocol with my hubby, Drew and Kate, and our new friends Lauren and Tim. After dinner I had a drink with my high school friend Crystal, who I’ve reconnected with through running after over a decade!

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Race morning was coooooold! But still not as cold as the 17 degrees or so at last years race.

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I’m noticing that the more races I do, the less pictures I take. I really didn’t get any good pre-race group photos this year. The only thing I have for you is this gem of me and Duane. I don’t even quite remember what was going on here … it was early, and cold.

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My friend, Drew, and I ran this one together. We started off at an easy comfortable pace for the first couple of miles (8:44 and 8:03). I was feeling really great though and wanted to push the pace a little. By the third mile we had dropped well below an 8 min pace and managed to stay there for the rest of the race.

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The whole thing was kind of a blur, a really really fun blur. And then it was over.

My official time was 1:40:55. I kind of wish I had pushed those first two miles harder, because I feel certain I would have beat my PR if my first 2 miles had matched the rest of them. But truly .. who cares? I had a BLAST!

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After the race we headed into the Boutwell Auditorium and chowed down on some Jim n Nick’s sandwiches … and beer.

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As we were eating the Jim n Nick’s table directly behind where we were sitting caught on fire. Under the burners were burlap runners, which flamed up good. It looked like the whole auditorium was about to go up in smoke. I looked around and saw thousands of people and realized if there was a stampede I would be at the back of the pack. So, I stood up and started to lead that stampede when thankfully they got the fire out. Whew!

I headed back out to the finish line area to watch as several of my friends who were doing the full marathon finished their races and then 13 of us headed to Flip Burger Boutique for lunch.

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I got the Smaller, a sampler of 3 miniature burgers, sautéed brussel sprouts with ginger and bacon and fried B&B pickles. It was way too much food! I had to pass it to the hubby to finish off, but oh my god … I will forever cook my brussels with ginger and bacon now.

We stopped by The Cheesecake Factory after lunch and picked up this piece of diabeetus to go …

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Clearly I was on my best behavior eating-wise the whole weekend.

Besides the sugar coma that ensued on the way home, it was a ridiculously amazing weekend. We had tons of fun, there were several PRs set and goals achieved and it was magical to be a part of and watch as so many people accomplished their goals. (Hubby PR-ed by 7 minutes!)

The icing on the [cheese]cake was adding my 4th Mercedes Medal to my “Wall of Awesome”!

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I cannot wait until next year!

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Mississippi River Marathon

This race started in Lake Village, Arkansas and ended in Greenville, Mississippi. The first several miles were absolutely beautiful running along Lake Chicot.

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Drew and I spent some time talking to an older gentleman who was in the 100+ Marathon club. He was finishing up his 4th cycle through the 50 states with this race. I wish we could have coaxed him into telling us some good stories, but he wasn’t a very longwinded man.

After we turned onto Hwy 82 at about the 6 mile mark the wind got very heavy, but we were entertained by a crop-duster flying up high and then diving down towards the ground. It was impressive and kind of scary to watch.

Miles 8-12 the wind was absolutely kicking my ass, it was coming at us head-on and significantly slowing me down. Finally Drew thought to have me tuck in behind him and draft, which I did for the next several miles. I was running so close to him that I had to stare at his feet to make sure I didn’t trip him. He takes long slower strides and I take short faster strides. It definitely gave me something to focus on for a while.

At about mile 12 we approached the bridge …

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The incline of the bridge certainly seemed a lot longer than the descent on the other side, but it was majestic none the less, as was the Mississippi River below it. We got a little laugh as we almost tripped over a dead fish on the bridge. I’m still not sure how that could have gotten there, it was definitely one of the more interesting road kill specimens I’ve come across while running.

At mile 16 I spotted Tim and Lincoln just as we were passing them. I wasn’t actually expecting to see them until the finish line (and I was still busy staring at Drew’s feet) so it was a great surprise. Lincoln made a sign that said, “Run Fast Mommy”.

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Miles 18-20 were kind of miserable. My glutes and quads felt like bricks.

At Mile 20 I thought, “Ok, now lets run 2 miles … 3 times”. That’s about all I could focus on was 2 miles at a time. I actually started feeling significantly better at 22 miles when Drew started feeling worse. Still the last few miles were nothing but mind over matter for the both of us, and yet somehow we managed to run a 8:29 pace on our 26th mile.

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And then just like that it was over.

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My official time was 3:52:28, a new PR by almost 5 minutes!

I was overall really impressed with the race organization. There were buses available to transport all the participants from the finish line in Mississippi to the starting line in Arkansas, where they had bonfires waiting on us to keep us warm before the race. There were water stops at almost every single mile marker as well as portalets. Although the course was open to traffic there was ample police officers to cover all of the intersections. The finish line festivities didn’t seem to be anything special, but honestly I didn’t feel like spending much time there anyway.

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So glad to have my 3rd marathon in the books! I think it will be a while before I do a 4th. I think I’ve decided that the Half Marathon is my happy place. In regards to marathoning, I’ll quote Sweet Brown:

“Ain’t nobody got time for that”.

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