My Magical Marathon Journey
The entire Marathon process was such an incredible journey from the beginning, truly magical. Committing to a marathon when you’re 25 pounds heavier and with a little miracle inside of you is where it began. Running a marathon was something that I had always way in the back of my mind considered as a possibility, but I thought it would happen way, way after softball. I wasn’t planning on it to be within a year and half of retiring and 4 months after giving birth to Baby #2! I was asked (it was a dare and challenge in my mind) by Timex and the main reason for saying “Yes” was that for every person I passed Timex would donate a $1 to the New York Road Runners Youth Program. It added to the challenge. It wasn’t enough just to run 26.2 I would have to pass as many people as possible.
So it was a Go! Praying my delivery went well, Baby D was healthy, & my body was responding well, I was going to run! 2 weeks after giving birth I was hitting the road one foot in front of the other focused on the goal of 26.2 and money for the kids! The Lord was so evident throughout the entire process. We even picked up a 5th family member, a stray dog who ran 10 miles with me all the way home to find himself a home. Ace was thrilled and named him Bullet and he has been just the sweetest addition to our family. Besides the many holes dug, boots chewed, possums brought to our door, overall he is a sweet little mutt and one of us now. Getting out there and running also helped me meet an amazing local running group who have so graciously opened their arms and have treated me as one of their own. From spin classes, telling me all about GU, getting the “right must have” socks, hitting the lonely roads with me at all hours of the day, and most importantly lifting me up in prayer. They are an answered prayer for me being new to Louisiana and our friendship and runs will go way beyond any marathon! Truly a blessing!
Its been so fascinating to tap into the “Running World” and having one of the world’s Top Athletes and a mom herself as a guide. I had the extreme honor of training under Coach Susanne Davis.
With her guidance I went from running 3 miles max and at a pace of over 10 minutes a mile to running 26.2 holding the pace of 9:35 through the bridges and crowds of NYC. She was incredible! I have to admit it freaked me out at times to look to the next week of workouts, or even for that matter the next days workout. Slowly but surely I was getting them done one run at a time and building confidence daily seeing my progression. I couldn’t of asked for a better Coach to help pull off this amazing feat. For goodness sake running a marathon is equal to running to 1st base over 2,400 times. That tells you just how much I was out of my comfort zone! Working with the Timex GPS Run Trainer allowed me to track all my workouts constantly look at my numbers, pace, heart rate, distance, cadence, more numbers than I knew what to do with. It’s truly a wearable computer on your wrist! I was able to log all my workouts and upload them to Training Peaks where Coach Davis could then see, critique, and plan. For me it was accountability too, I wanted to impress her and make sure I was doing her workouts just as she had planned. I have to admit too selfishly it was a little about getting back into my skinny jeans.
After a 12 week crash course transforming me into a marathon runner we packed up both boys and headed for the Big Apple. I had three days of media, interviews, a signing, and a photo shoot for Women’s Running Magazine. It was a marathon even before the marathon began. I had the extreme honor of representing Timex for the race, along with my long time sponsor, Mizuno, and worked with Catalyst Public Relations, too.
New York has an energy like no other, it was a blast going from one studio to the next, one office to another, even if our days did start at 5 am and end many hours later. We went over to the expo to check out the Timex booth and say hello to my friends at Mizuno. Holy Cow I was in runners heaven. Wall to wall running gear, body glides, GU’s, head phones, compressions, sleeves, everything and more. Being a rookie, I was taking it all in, learning all the must haves, and getting exactly what I needed or was told I needed for race day.
We met up with my Godsend of a team at 5am the morning of the marathon. Coach Susanne Davis, Kelly Fillnow (my pacer/angel), and dear friend Dina Kwit the Chicago Bandits Team
photographer/marathon stud! The Timex bus filled up quickly and we headed over. I have to say it took me back to the Olympics heading over to the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing. There was an endless line of busses, a pile of credentials, thousands of people. My stomach sank and my heart started racing. It finally hit me, I had to run 26.2 miles and not only run that far but I felt the pressure of wanting to pass as many people as I could for a great cause. It was the ‘game day’ feeling. The pressure was piling. I was trying to stay calm knowing I still had 5 more hours to go before I would start. As the people started piling in by the thousands, getting out sleeping bags, foil blankets, beanies, gloves, they set up shop trying to stay warm. Bands were playing throughout the crisp New York air, it was the Woodstock of Marathons. Luckily we were blessed to have a tent set up with snacks, coffee, gatorade, and a heater. We got comfortable, waited and waited some more. I was able to mingle with the other athletes, Apollo Ohno, Mark Messier, Dr. Andy Baldwin aka The Bachelor, Trista & Ryan Sutter, trying to help pass the time and help distract my anxious nerves. Finally hours later the tent cleared out and everyone had left. It was my turn to run, I was starting dead last out of over 47,000 people.
We went over to the starting line, watched the last wave of thousands and thousands of people take off like herded cattle. I was covered in chills as “God Bless America” filled the air followed by “New York, New York!” Amazing! Luckily, I had an interview with NBC to distract me once again. Finally it was our time to take off, our team of four all lined up at the start. We started our Timex GPS watches, Coach Susanne, Kelly, and Dina took off. I followed just as I would do for the next four hours, one step at a time moving from dead last passing as many people as possible and there were plenty of people ahead to pass. There was clothes all over the bridge, people packed shoulder to shoulder, we had to start passing immediately. My body at this point was numb, taking in the breathtaking view of Manhattan. It was on, I had to maintain a pace, I had to keep gaining ground in order to reach our goal. I was overwhelmed with emotion all throughout the race. So many people, so many causes, so many brave courageous people joined going for one goal, reaching the finish line. Good thing I had sun glasses on! The tears started even before the race when Kelly prayed over us and continued through out the race when I saw signs such as, for Mom, for Dad, NYPD, 9/11, Imagine a life without Cancer, I run for fun but live for the Lord. Passing so many incredible people that had physical disabilities, when Kelly told me this mile is for Diesel, this for Ace, and this for Casey, and much more. I had to tell myself many times to get it together… Honestly the first 14 miles flew by, I was floating, weaving in and out of people. The streets lined with so many people from all over the world and local people cheering us on, offering us fresh cut fruit and filling us all with their positive energy! Their selflessness once again made the tears flow.
Mile 16 I was ready for yet another bridge, I thought if I made it through this I was in the clear or so I was told. Not quite, mile 20 was probably the toughest one steady mile that felt like 20 miles of incline. We were racing to get to Central Park and the finish line. The last 6 miles were tough but I was pumping it, taking advantage of some of the downhill terrain and using the leverage of my 27 inch inseam. I can’t begin to tell you what an all star team we had. I kept telling myself, “Jennie you need to enjoy this, soak it all in, this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.” My three teammates made it so very easy on me, weaving in and out, shouting “it’s for the kids” as we are bumping people left and right. My arms were bruised and sore the next day, no joke.
Coach Davis was taking care of it all, from getting me water and gatorade so I could just sprint right through the crowded hydration stations. Coach Davis handed me salt tablets, Advil, and even reminded me of when to GU and open it up for me. Yes, you can say I was spoiled! These three ladies were there making it possible for me to keep on trucking as smoothly as possible. Coach Davis constantly telling me scrunch your toes, do some high knees, butt kicks, focus on form, telling me my pace was excellent! I had to laugh as I was behind her watching her do high knees and I would try to mimic but basically unable to get them anywhere but high! Kelly was there to give me bible verses, cheers, and share her experiences and tips with me to help carry me through it. Dina was there to remind me of where I came from and who I am. She reminded me of my entire softball family that was there with me. She was awesome doing whatever was needed and just there supporting me and our endeavor. It was a magical team and such a blessed journey to the finish. I would take on anything with these three super women beside me!
The last 3 miles my 91 year old grandmother was on my mind and in my heart. She is my prayer warrior and a true inspiration, she rides her stationary bike 3 miles everyday. If she can do it, I can do these last 3 miles. When we hit the 400 yard marker to the finish I began to sprint, or try to sprint. The girls yelled, “Pass all of these people. There is $100 dollars right here, get these for the kids!” And I did. Sprinted across the finish line looking at the best view possible, Casey and Ace! The perfect ending to My Magical Marathon! I immediately found the fence to use it to brace up against. My quads were pulsing, my feet felt broken, my heart racing, I was filled with relief!
Note- Reading this through after I wrote it I realized running a marathon is like child birth. I wrote this and mostly included the positives because they do most certainly drowned out the negatives.
I have to be honest though, I was dying, my mind battling not to give in to my body, my legs were heavy, my feet were burning, my hamstrings tightening. It wasn’t as pretty as it sounded, but
I will keep the positives close to my heart and flush the negatives!
I DID IT!!!! Beat my goal of 4:10 and had passed as many people as possible! I finished, 4:05 and 26 seconds, passing 30,500 people. Its hard to put into words what I was feeling afterwards. I was so very proud to accomplish something for a greater cause. It had nothing to do with me. Yes, it was an achievement for me to finish, but I was the least important factor of it all. It was about all of the kids who will benefit from the New York Road Runners Program. So many people had helped me through this journey, I am so humbly blessed and grateful.
Thank you Jesus for allowing me to run and blessing this entire journey. Thank you to my family who have allowed me to make the sacrifice of time, training, and preparation. Thanks for laughing at me at first then supporting me and believing in me 100%! My friend and agent, Erin Kane, for bringing this and so many opportunities my way. Thanks for being there every step of the way and all of your hard work over the years. Thank you Timex for taking the risk of asking me mid-pregnancy and having faith in me to step up to the challenge. I was honored to represent Timex, and so grateful for your generous donation of $30,500 to NYRR Youth Programs. Thank you Catalyst Public Relations. You guys rocked it. Thank you for making it a terrific campaign in so many ways! Thanks to my awesome Coach Davis whom I trusted completely, following and buying into her plan from the start. Kelly Fillnow, a true blessing from above! Thank you for shining so bright and bringing His light to the journey. Dina, thank you for your friendship, courage, and endless support. The Spar Stars, my sisters and brothers, who came up big, hitting the deserted Louisiana roads at all hours. Your friendship, fellowship, and advice are so appreciated. I’m so happy that this journey is just beginning with you all. To all of my friends, teammates, and fans thank you all for all of your prayers, love, and support!
Thank you all for believing in me and inspiring me to take on anything! There is so much more to do and so much more to give! It was truly a Magical Marathon!
Continued Dreaming & Believing… #27