Mission Accomplished: Goal Achieved, Full Marathon Completed

Marathon weekend is over! As some of you may know, more than seven months I began training to run my first full marathon. I had run several halves and the next logical step was to extend it to a full. The race was yesterday and I’m very happy that the first one is behind me. That said, what an amazing weekend.

PRE-RACE EXPO: Enjoying the Sites

Fenway Park SeatsOn Saturday we went down to pick up our race packets. We were running the inaugural event of the Celebration Marathon. It was fun to walk through the expo booths and talk to the various sponsors. I especially enjoyed hanging out with some friends from the Fleet Feet Orlando store. They are such great people and good friends. They encouraged me to have a great race and that was very comforting and reassuring. Not sure I knew it yet but I was a tad nervous and a little jittery.

After the expo we went to the start/finish area to see where we’d be meeting up in the morning and the best places to park. The starting line was about 100 yards from the finish line. It was a nice layout in downtown Celebration on Market Street. The various restaurants and shops are all very unique and my personal favorite was the Celebration Town Tavern, which is owned by a family from New England. They had original Fenway Park seats on display as you entered the restaurant. I had to get a photo in that one as I was sporting my Red Sox gear. Lunch was excellent and we were ready to move on to the rest of our day.

DADDY-DAUGHTER HOEDOWN: Priceless Memories…

Daddy-Daughter HoedownLater that night was the Daddy-Daughter Hoedown at my girls’ school. We had to stop at Party City to get some hats to complete our outfits for the night. Who knew so many choices were available for cowboy hats at a party store. After trying on several different models the girls and I found our winners and we left happy.

The hoedown was amazing, the girls and I had a great time dancing away to a variety of songs. My personal favorite was dancing to Cotton Eyed Joe with SC. Her and I had a great time dancing away as TL played with her besties. The night was extremely fun and allowed me to take my mind off the race. That was a double bonus. A night of memories made and now I was ready to get some sleep as the next morning was going to be killer.



RACE MORNING: We’re ready!!!

Celebration MarathonMy wife and I woke up at 4:00am to get ready and get down to the event. It’s about a 45-minute drive from our house to Celebration so we arrived a little before 6:00 for a 7:00 start. The timing was perfect as we found prime parking and were able to walk in, checkout the starting area and then go find our friends from her running group. It was a nice stress free start to the race. That was a great thing.

RACE BEGINS: Feeling good!!!

My goal was to run with a pace group for the first 14-20 miles to have some people to run with and stay on pace but conserve some energy for the last six miles or so. My longest training run was 26 miles and I was dead at 23 or 24 and walked it in. Figured this would be a good way to keep pace and still have some energy at the end. That plan worked through 9-10 miles as we had a steady 9’30” pace going. At this point I walked a bit while refueling, eating a Clif bar and drinking some water. From here I was on my own and kept a pretty good pace through 20.

At mile 21 or so I found “Bill,” a guy we were running with in the first 10, he was limping and didn’t look good at all. I stopped to walk with him and talk to him about what he was experiencing to gauge how severe his injury was because he didn’t look good at all. He was gliding through 10 and seeing him hobbling was terrible. We walked briskly and talked for about a mile or two. I wanted to encourage him to finish as I could tell his injury wasn’t going to keep him from finishing. He was determined and I admired that. After a mile or two he told me to continue on and run my race.

The last 4 or 5 miles were interesting, the voice inside my head told me I was tired, but I had to keep doing, don’t quit. So I ran as much as I could those last few miles and finished strong. It was great running the last two miles after such an abysmal experience in December when I had nothing left in the tank. I was feeling determined to finish and keep things moving.

As I came around the last turn and was bringing it home, I saw my wife looking for me, she was so excited to see me finishing that she had tears in her eyes. It was a very cool feeling to see her so excited and I pushed it to finish on a very high note. It was an awesome feeling of accomplishment and love. Great feeling that I hope I’ll never forget. It was awesome!

POST RACE: Waiting for “Bill” to finish!

Joe & Kaia - Marathon FinishersWe were all sitting around, talking about the race, enjoying the time together and sharing stories of the course. My wife’s run group had 25 or 30 people running the half or full so plenty of stories to go around. I was listening to them, sharing my own tales and telling them about “Bill” and how bad I felt for him after training so hard. I kept looking for him to finish.

It was about 45 minutes after I finished that “Bill” was coming around that same turn. I remembered how great it felt for my wife to be cheering me on, and the encouragement it provided to get that last little bit. I wanted “Bill” to have that same feeling so we were all cheering him on and I ran out there to run him in. I was so excited for this total stranger that I had only met at mile 21. He gutted it out and completed his goal. That was such an amazing accomplishment.

Later his wife came up to me and thanked me for encouraging him and cheering him on. It was worth ever second of the few miles that I walked with him. She was concerned for his wellbeing but was appreciative that I wanted him to finish and accomplish his goal.

ARRIVING HOME: Family Time

We drove back from the race, tired, sweaty and delirious. I remember pulling into the driveway, the girls were riding their bikes with Grandma and they came up to hear how things went. It was great seeing their smiling faces.

As I put TL to bed that night she asked me about the race, how it felt to finish and told me she was happy for me. It wasn’t my best run but it was my first full marathon. A new PR. Goal achieved. Mission Accomplished.

Now that was a great feeling and great end to a great weekend.

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