Thunder Road Marathon – Race Report

Better get comfortable. This was a long race and therefore this is going to be a long race report. On race morning, Barry and I arrived in Uptown Charlotte (that’s how they refer to their downtown area) without any traffic and found a parking lot right next to Barry’s parent’s hotel without any trouble. I was surprised at how easy it was to get into town and park. We headed into the lobby of my in-law’s hotel and hung out in there, used the restroom, etc. until it was time to head up to the start. When we got up to the start line, we heard the National Anthem and Barry and I parted ways. It was much warmer than expected at the start. At 7:45 AM it was already in the low 50’s and overcast, and it would warm up to the high 60’s by the finish. I saw a lot of overdressed runners out on the course.

This is par for the course for us when it comes to pre-race photos

There were no corrals, but there were pace groups to help you figure out where to line up. I settled in between the 4:30 and 4:45 pace group. With the revving of the official race car’s engine, we were off!

The first mile or two were through the Uptown area. Just before I passed mile 2 I saw my dad. I nearly missed him, but spotted his bike and then spotted him just past it. He saw me, though.

He had also seen Barry go by a few minutes before me.

Barry’s in the blue shirt with the ball cap on

My dad had plans to meet me at certain mile markers throughout the race. I was worried about forgetting which ones to look for him at, so I wrote them on my hand before the race.

As things would work out, my dad would end up sticking with me from mile 14 or 15 on. But we’ll get to that a bit later. There were rolling hills from the start and we encountered our first long incline just after mile 4. There was a big group cheering for us at the start of the incline, and they had a lot of funny signs.

I started to feel fatigued after the long incline, but told myself to just keep moving at a steady pace and it would pass. I focused on mile 5, where I would next see my dad. But when I arrived at mile 5, I didn’t see him anywhere. Turns out we missed each other. I kept plugging along and the rolling hills continued, and I continued to fight a mental battle in my head. In the back of my mind, a very small voice started panicking because I was approaching mile 6 of a marathon and feeling fatigued already.

My pace continued to slow a bit, but I kept trying to reassure myself that I would get back into a groove, just like I often did during my long runs. I tried to focus on the picturesque tree-lined streets and gorgeous houses we were running by in the Myers Parkneighborhood.

As I neared the mile 8 marker, I saw my dad! I was still fighting an internal battle, but it was great to see him. He told me he had goofed and missed me at 5.

He told me I was looking good and running a good pace, and said that he would see me at mile 11. The hills kept coming and I kept fighting that mental battle (seeing a recurring theme, yet?). But the scenery was still great and the spectators were numerous. I saw my dad again a bit before mile 12.

The sign on the front of my dad’s bike

As we approached the half and full split, I first thought “this is where we separate the men from the babies” (which isn’t even the actual saying) and then I got really annoyed at the half marathoners for heading to the finish.

After the half marathoners split off it got really quiet. There were a few folks (as in two or three total) out cheering us on in the Dilworth community, and they were greatly appreciated. But other than that I often found myself completely alone. I could not see any runners in front of me or behind, and there were no spectators. I plugged into my music and took my first walk break on a hill just before mile 13. As I topped the hill I saw my dad standing on the corner with a police officer and I started running again. My dad yelled “oh sure, now you start running” which made me laugh.

The hill I walked up is right behind me

I tried to push through, but found myself taking another walk break halfway through mile 14. We ran through the Third Ward area of Charlotte, where the Bank of America Stadium (home to the Carolina Panthers) is located. I started talking to a guy who had started running on March 12, 2012 and at the time couldn’t run to his mailbox. He told me Thunder Road was his 4th marathon, which I thought was awesome. I told him it was my first and he said I had picked a hilly one. We would continue to ping pong with each other back and forth, as we alternated running and walking, for nearly the rest of the race.

My marathon friend is in the background in the orange hat

As I mentioned earlier, my dad started biking with me from mile 15 or so to the finish. He was able to do so without any problem since it was a small race. It was great to have him, but between mile 18 and 19 I did tell him to stop talking to me and said that I didn’t want to talk anymore. I had been fighting nausea since mile 15 or so and I just wanted to focus on moving forward. He said okay and to let him know if I needed anything.

I kept trucking along with my dad by my side on his bike. As we got close to each mile marker, he would ride up ahead and take pictures of me. At one point between mile 19 and 20 we went by what I thought was a water station, but what ended up being a group of people handing out beer (Michelob Ultra, maybe?). I declined, but my dad happily accepted a can from a guy dressed as Santa. Dad was enjoying himself!

I got photo bombed by the Marathon Maniac who had run a marathon in all 50 states

In the later miles there was more and more walking, but I tried to keep my walk breaks limited to a quarter mile at a time. I ran in small spurts, and anytime there was half a mile or less to the next mile marker I made myself run to it. After mile 20 we entered an artsy area of Charlotte known as North Davidson, NoDa for short. I was looking forward to going through here, because I had heard it’s pretty much a big block party. And it was. They even had a wall you could run through that said “don’t hit the wall, break on through it!” and they were handing out everything from orange slices to shots of vodka.

The miles seemed to stretch on, and I kept forgetting which mile I was at, even though I could just look down at my Garmin and see. Mile 22 clicked by, and then slowly but surely so did mile 23 and 24. At this point, I hadn’t been able to take in any fuel (Shot Bloks or PowerGel) since mile 16 and was only able to take small sips of water at a time. I was having a lot of issues fighting through mentally, but the nausea certainly wasn’t helping anything. Finally I hit mile 25 and I knew I just had 1.2 miles to go.

During the final mile, my dad and I came across Barry who had come back to find me. He had finished in 4:19. He told me he had been on pace to finish around 4:00, but had started cramping around mile 17. Somehow, he was still able to run me in to the finish, though. I hate to say it, but there was some walking in the final mile. I wish I had pushed through but I was feeling exhausted and defeated. Finally we made the turn onto Caldwell Street and I knew the next turn we made would be on MLK, where I would run up a gradual incline (how fitting) to the finish. I am happy to say I ran it in from there, even though I felt like I was going to be sick at any second.

I crossed the finish line in 5:34:46 and pumped my fist into the air. It may have been slower than I wanted, but I had finished and I was a marathoner!

As I slowed to a walk, I was immediately handed a bottle of water, had a medal draped around my neck, and had a foil cape draped around my shoulders. I scared a woman working at a table with water bottles, as I leaned on the table and asked her where the Gatorade was. She said she thought I was about to pass out, and I said no I just need some Gatorade. She pointed to a table that was no more than 500 feet ahead, which I somehow hadn’t seen before I asked her. Then she offered to run and get me one and I told her that it was okay, I could do it. I made my way through the rest of the finish line area, and was handed a bag with a banana in it. I also grabbed a small, plain bagel. I met up with Barry, my dad and his friend, and Barry’s parents just outside the finisher’s chute. I was kissed and hugged and told “Congratulations!” by all, and then I found a patch of grass to sit down on, so that I could sip on my Gatorade. I was tired and in pain (the fatigued kind, not the injured kind) but I was all smiles.

All of the muscles in my legs were so tired and both of my feet had hot spots on the bottom of them, but guess what didn’t hurt at all? My shins! And guess what never hurt the entire race? My shins! I was so glad for that. Shortly after I finished, I saw the guy I had run with and talked to during the race come through the finisher’s area. Naturally I had to walk over and high five him. We exchanged “good job’s” and “congrats'” and then we shook hands and parted ways.

I sat back down with Barry to recover a bit more before heading over to the Victory Lanearea where the finish line party was being held.

So that’s the marathon from start to finish. I think I will leave all of our post-race shenanigans for another post, since I’m nearing 2,000 words on this one.

To put it plainly, the marathon kicked my butt. I’m not sure I was prepared mentally for the challenge, but I am still happy to have completed the race. You better believe I’ll be taking another crack at this distance! Some of you can probably even guess when that might be. If you can’t, you’ll just have to wait and see!

26 Comments

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  1. Congratulations, my friend!

    It’s hard to know exactly what will happen going into that first marathon – but it sounds like you pushed through a lot, learned a lot, and are still fired up to try again. Can’t ask for much more out of your first time, really! πŸ™‚

    Also, a super quiet course (or half a course) can be mentally really hard to run – glad you found a buddy, and had your Dad along with you. You know, he might be able to start a side gig as “company” for the second half of marathons – available to provide company, jokes, water, snacks, etc. πŸ™‚ What a great guy!

    Rest and recover well (also, I’m doing a happy dance at the absence of shin pain!). Congrats again! πŸ™‚

    1. The main thing I wanted from my first marathon was to finish! I definitely learned a lot and I definitely want to run another one. I think I’ll know better what to expect and how to fight through.

      My dad was a lifesaver! He probably could start some kind of ride along company for small marathons.

  2. Congrats on finishing!!! Now you know what the marathon is all about and I bet next time will be even better! So glad to hear that your shins didn’t hurt you! And your dad is awesome – that’s so cool he was with you for so much of it! Go Dad! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Becky! Now it’s your turn!! When does your training start?

      I definitely know better what to expect for next time and I think I’ll be more mentally ready.

    2. It starts on Monday!! I am hoping these cold weather runs go okay – I’m usually big whimp when it comes to running during the winter haha.

  3. Congrats on finishing your first marathon! It’s so cool that your Dad was with you throughout the race, especially in those final miles. They are hard no matter how many marathons you’ve done before. My daughters were waiting for me at mile 21 of my race, and I have never been so glad to see them. I stopped to give them hugs and kisses. It was just what I needed to keep pushing. So proud of you for overcoming the 26.2 monster! Welcome to the club!!

    1. Thanks, Nicole! It was great to have my dad, and hopefully I wasn’t ever mean to him. I never intended to be but I know sometimes us runners can be very blunt when we get tired πŸ™‚

      That’s awesome that you got to see your girls at mile 21! I bet that gave you a boost to get to the finish. I can’t wait to read the full recap!

    1. 26.2 DONE! Thanks for being there πŸ™‚

  4. I’m soooooo happy for you!! Congrats!! That’s awesome you pushed through even though you weren’t feeling great.

    1. Thanks, Jan! I was determined to finish no matter what.

  5. Yay for Meagan the Marathoner and happy shins! What a bummer that you were sick to your stomach during much of the race. I hope you’re recovering well today and that walking down stairs isn’t too brutal!

    I can just see Roger grabbing a beer. Way to take one for the team, buddy!

    I’m guessing that the Marine Corps Marathon is next for you!

    1. I have no idea why I felt sick during so much of the race. That’s never happened to me before during a long run or any half marathon races. My dad did have a good time on the course, though πŸ™‚ And of course the spectators handing out the goodies loved it!

      You would be right in guessing MCM πŸ™‚

    2. OK, so now you make me want to come out of marathon retirement and run it with you!

    3. I would love it if you did! I promise I’ll be a bit quicker than I was with this first one πŸ™‚

    4. I will fly anywhere to run a marathon with the two of you. Name the place and the date. I’m there. (Um… I’m not kidding)….

  6. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!! You DID it!!! I am really excited that you ran your first marathon — what an accomplishment!!! I was thinking about you a lot this past weekend. I really enjoy your blog and reading about your dedication to running.

    We will be in town from Sunday to Sunday, and I’ll send you and Kim a message later this week. I would be embarrassed to run with y’all right now — I’m so out of shape, but maybe we can still meet up!

    1. Thanks, Nicki!! I’m so excited that ya’ll are going to be in town. I hope we are all able to meet up! If we get to run together, I’m sure it’ll be fine no matter what. Kim is 2-3 weeks out from her due date and I’m coming off of a full marathon. It won’t matter what kind of shape you’re in, I think it’ll just be fun to all get together again!

  7. Congrats!!!! Even better that your shins didn’t hurt the entire time!! I think that’s so great that your dad got to bike beside you towards the end…I can imagine what a relief having him there through those rough moments must have been!

    It does sound like you picked a beast for a first marathon, ha, maybe pick a flatter #2! (MCM, perhaps??)

    1. Thanks, Logan! I was so glad my shins didn’t hurt me at all. The crazy thing is I never even thought about my shin until mile 15, when I randomly thought about the fact that it wasn’t hurting! MCM just happens to be the race I have my sights set on for #2 πŸ™‚

  8. Congratulations!! I loved reading your race report. That “Don’t hit the wall” wall in the middle of the road is pretty funny.

    I had to laugh when I read the part about you having to tell your dad that you didn’t want to talk. I have definitely been there! My husband and I did some training runs on the course of the Blue Ridge Marathon course and he was chatting away when we hit the steepest part of Roanoke Mountain. I had to tell him that I did NOT want to talk. Funny stuff.

    I’m so happy for you!

    1. Thanks! That don’t hit the wall sign definitely had me laughing.

      Sometimes you just need everything to be quiet while you focus on putting one foot in front of the other πŸ˜‰

  9. So. I’m late to your party. I’m here… and have thought about you all week!
    I’m a little teary reading this. It’s such a journey, isn’t it? When I read this race report I just KNOW I want to run another marathon. Up until now I wasn’t sure. Now I am. You are AMAZING. You fought a long, hard battle and you won! I’m so happy for you!!! πŸ™‚

    1. Hahaha I’m glad my writing was good enough to make you a little teary! I always kind of struggle with writing race reports. Even though I was tired and hurting, I knew I wanted to run another one as I crossed the finish line of my first.

  10. I too am late to the party – way to go, Meagan!! I am so jealous that your dad got to accompany you on those later miles; company during runs, especially one as ridiculously challenging as the marathon, is the best! Congratulations, and on to the next!

    1. Thanks, Jeano! It was great having my dad along and luckily he was not offended when I told him I didn’t want to talk anymore. He just busied himself with making sure none of the beer on the course went to waste πŸ™‚

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