Before I went to bed on Friday night, I received a message from my friend Jenna that completely melted my heart + inspired me to no end. She wrote:
“Good Luck tomorrow Ashley….you are such an inspiration and you will do great! You have inspired myself to try and run a couple 5K’s myself this summer. Just starting this whole training thing and think about you often as you are always motivating and inspiring others! You are such a great person Ashley!”
I went to bed hopeful, and excited about my race in the morning (despite having an awful sinus infection / chest cold).
I woke up to dog paws tapping the wooden floor.
My alarm clock had been going off for about 15 minutes.
But Willard (my friend’s adorable dog) wanted to make sure I woke up on time for our marathon relay. He started barking and then banging his head on the door. Willard didn’t want me to oversleep.
I pulled myself out of bed and opened the door. Willard was starring right up at me.
“How are you feeling, lady?” Carla asked me as I walked into the bathroom.
I coughed, sneezed three times, and then blew my nose.
“Better, I think!” I said back.
“I think you’re a good liar,” Carla said back.
She was right. I felt awful. And I honestly thought about trying to find someone else to run for me. But after the Boston events, I found myself more determined than ever to participate in the race.
I proudly put on my “Running for Two” t-shirt (one of my many layers) and placed on my bib.
|“Baby on Board”|
We had a late start, but we sill managed to pick up everyone, find a good parking spot, and be at the start line in time for the race to begin.
We found ourselves struggling to keep warm. Carla kept refreshing her iPhone to see if the weather temperature would change.
“30 degrees,” Carla said. “Feels like 26 degrees…”
Running in cold weather is a challenge. And running in cold weather with a head cold is even harder.
We took a group picture before parting ways.
Me, Jami, Robyn, and Carla.
I managed to sneak back up to the start line and watch Jami kick off the relay for us.
I couldn’t find her at first, but I saw her toward the middle of the pack.
‘YAHHHH JAMI!” I yelled from the sidelines.
She turned over to see me and got a giant smile on her face. I don’t think she was expecting anyone to come cheer her on.
I waved goodbye and let out a good “WHOOAA!”
And then I cried.
Because Jami had a giant smile on her face.
Because I love races.
Because I love runners.
Because I love seeing people be active and care about their fitness.
Because I thought about Jenna’s post from the night before.
And mainly, I cried because I’m pregnant.
Spoiler alert: I cried about 30 times at the race.
After everyone Jami kicked off the race and everyone parted ways, I was left with my group of Leg 4 runners.
I overheard two woman chatting next to me about the many marathons they’ve done over the years.
The adorable, older Asian lady said, “After Boston, I knew I wanted to do another race. So I bought a ticket to the Indy Mini.”
I interrupted, desperate for a conversation, “Have you ever done that race before?”
“Yes, many years ago,” she said. “What about you!? Are you doing it this year?”
“Wellll,” I started. “I am five months pregnant, so I don’t think doing a half marathon is in my cards.”
I was surprised at how many other runners turned around to congratulate me on my pregnancy + compliment me for being so active during my pregnancy.
I learned more and more about the runners next to me.
Most of them were FAST. One girl said she was injured, but hoping for a slower pace of 6:30 minutes per mile.
Try doubling that and then you have my average pace.
Feeling a little intimidated about my future, I text Justin:
“Soooo everyone on my leg is legit runners- like 10+ full marathons! Will you still love me if I am the last one to cross the finish line?”
He replied back:
“Lmao. Hopefully they have all of their pregnant runners starting. So you may start way before them and tie.”
I wrote back:
“Hahah in a perfect world!”
And Justin’s charm came to the rescue again:
“But yes, I will love you no matter what. Even if you end up on the bus shame (in November. let’s hope you don’t end up riding the bus within 4 miles.”
The bus of shame = the trolly that drives around picking up runners who are going too slow.
I got to my starting point around 9 am, which meant I had about three hours before I would run. I spent the time catching up on supporting text messages from my amazing friends and family, Facebook stalking, trying to predict my finish time, and chatting with the runners around me.
Eventually, I realized the marathon runners were passing by so I stepped outside to cheer them.
This is when I started to cry again.
The courage and strength it takes to complete a full marathon is so inspiring.
I tried to look every single runner in the eyes and say something uplifting to them. I wanted them to know how amazing they are…how strong they looked…I’ve often heard that hitting mile 22 is the hardest. You feel so close, yet so far away. So I felt I had an obligation to give every runner a boast of inspiration and support to finish strong.
And I found myself getting SO mad at the people / other relay runners standing around not cheering for the marathoners passing by… some of these marathoners were in pain – whether it be physical or emotional- and the best thing we can provide them is support and inspiration.
I started cheering loudly and recruited the people around me to cheer on the other runners. I wanted to yell at everyone for being jerks and just sitting around on their phones. Some people were standing on the course, which made marathoners have to dodge around them…instead of making a huge scene and screaming- I got tears in my eyes and cheered louder for the inspiring runners ahead of me.
The smiles and “thank yous” I received from the runners made my loud cheers completely worth it!
Eventually, I saw Carla running up to the relay exchange. She looked strong! I was SO proud of her and her amazing pace. In fact, I later learned that everyone had a fantastic pace – PR worthy paces!
(PR = personal record)
“I had to run an extra mile,” Carla said.
“Holy cow,” I said back. “I am soooo proud of you girl. You did great.”
“Your turn,” she said and handed me the baton. “Good luck!!”
I took off running and waved goodbye to the mini cheering section I had created.
About 2 minutes into my run, I hated life.
I wanted to stop.
I questioned why I was even running in the first place.
My legs were tight from standing up and yelling the cold weather, despite my efforts to jog in place and stretch.
My nose was cold and raw from blowing it 100 million times over the past few days.
My chest was heavy, which made breathing hard.
I stopped for a walking interval and a runner passed me.
“Great job,” I said. “Keep it up!”
Even though I was walking, which implies to some that I’ve given up, the marathoner turned and smiled.
He was an older man. Probably about 69 years old.
“You too, kiddo!” He said. “Keep it up!”
I promised myself that I would thank encourage every single runner who passed me. And I would thank every single volunteer, spectator, and police officer that I saw on the course.
I did a lot of powering walking and stopped once to use the restroom in a portable potty. At one point, I grabbed my stomach and said, “Coop – you have to get me through…I need you buddy.”
Cooper was definitely my running buddy / internal cheerleader.
I kept doing intervals of power walking and running. But I did more power walking than running. I was getting frustrated that I didn’t see any mile markers. Eventually, I came across another water station. It was down hill so my speed REALLY picked up and I felt awesome.
Every single volunteer at the water station started cheering and yelling for me.
And I started bawling.
I could barely get the words, “Thank you” out of me.
One man commented on my shirt and I told him that I was five months pregnant that day.
“Wow- that’s impressive,” he said. “Great job!!!”
I took a walking break to drink my water and two drunk guys sitting in their front yard started yelling, “FINISH THAT WATER GIRL! STOP WALKING AND START RUNNING. YOU ARE ALMOST DONE. CHUG, CHUG, CHUG, CHUG!”
I couldn’t stop laughing and they inspired me to start running again.
I tossed my cup and took off running toward the mile marker sign – the first one I’d seen since I started.
I pulled my phone from my sports bra and text Carla my location (you can tell we cheered each other on via text all afternoon):
|I love her.|
I fought up a hill and a few police officers started cheering me on because I stopped to walk.
“Fight through the pain,” he said. “You’re almost done.”
“I’m five months pregnant,” I said. “This is harder than I thought.”
He, like so many others, complimented me for running while pregnant. I started crying (obviously), thanked him (like I did all the other police officers), and continued running.
About that time, I saw Jami standing on the right corner.
She saw me coming and started jumping up and down while yelling my name.
When I reached her, she started to run with me, but I had to stop to catch my breath.
Even though I stopped to walk, her positive energy and support was EXACTLY what I needed. I can’t explain how thankful and happy I was that Jami spent that last half mile by my side.
We power walked for a few blocks. Jami was a few steps ahead of me to push me to keep fighting through the pain. We chatted about her section of the race, which was her best ever, and that made me very happy. She encouraged me to keep running or walking at whatever pace I needed.
We reached a certain point and I started running again.
“The finish line is up that hill and around the corner,” Jami said.
“How far away would you say?” I asked.
“Not too far,” Jami said. “But if I was running like you, I would think it’s farther than it looks. But it’s really close.”
We picked up the pace and started to run again.
My body hated me.
I stopped to walk.
“I DON’T WANT TO STOP,” I screamed, frustrated with my sick body.
I stopped for about 30 seconds to catch my breathe and we started running around.
“Say something,” I said. “Anything.”
I just wanted to take my mind off the pain.
“You’re almost done,” Jami said.
Just then, I saw a group of people and they started cheering for us. One of the signs said:
Run Like A Mother
As if she was reading my mind, Jami said, “Run like a mother! Hey, you’re a mother! You got this, Ash!”
“I am mother,” I said.
I could see my relay teammates cheering for me and I had Jami by my side. I started repeating “I am a mother” in my head and then we took off sprinting toward the finish line.
|Running like a mother.|
I debated long and hard about sharing these pictures of me post-finish line. But heck – you guys have seen the best and worst of me, so here you go…This is what happens when you try sprinting with a head and chest cold:
|I am pretty sure I coughed and then peed my pants at this point.
Oh, the joys of running + being sick while pregnant.
You’re welcome for the laugh.
|Another unattractive finisher photo.|
A few minutes later, a volunteer wrapped a medal around my neck. I turned around to see a marathoner who had been walking toward the finish line with a group of family and friends. I think she got injured on the course.
I turned around when I heard everyone cheering.
She crossed the finish line and put her hands in her face. She started crying.
And obviously, I started crying for her.
The Carmel Marathon Relay was my best-worst race.
It was the best race because of the random cheerleaders, amazing teammates, and having Cooper with me the entire time.
And it was the worst race from a time perspective. I’m not sure what my finishing time was, but I am sure it was close to an hour.
But, some races aren’t meant to be personal bests. And this race, while I was slower than usual, was a very memorable race.
Thank you for all the love and support! I couldn’t have finished (or even got to the start line) without the encouraging words and inspiration from each and every single one of you!