Holy shit. That happened. It’s so hard to believe, but then again – I did the work. My mind leading up to the race was my biggest enemy and kept telling me I couldn’t. My mind made me think I couldn’t stick to my race plan. That the winds and rain would make it impossible and that I should just give up before starting. My mind was WRONG.
BEFORE THE RACE
This was my seventh marathon and my first after baby number two (now 18mo). The last time I ran a full marathon was in NYC in 2018. But this was very different than all the rest because I used a running coach to help me train. I used to think that coaches were reserved for only the elites, but when I met Rachel Sinders, I learned that wasn’t the case. Of course, I also thought I knew how to train since I’ve run a lot of half marathons and a handful of full marathons, but boy was I wrong.
Slow is fast. That’s the summary of what I’ve learned throughout my training with Rachel. That it’s not about going out and running the miles as fast as you can every time. Most of your miles should be easy miles and that allows you to run faster when it counts. Mind blowing to me. I really need to write a more detailed post about how coaching works, but for anyone interested, definitely reach out to Rachel.
After baby number two, I knew I wanted to make my way to another full marathon. My first postpartum marathon was about 18 months after my first was born, so I felt like I was ready for a full training cycle this year. I’m also in a season of life where I can train when I want – aka when the girls are in school/daycare. Having my own business, Athlete Bouquets, has given me the ultimate flexibility and for that I am extremely grateful (especially to my husband, Zach).
In 2021, I joined the Board of Directors for Beyond Monumental, the organization behind the CNO Indy Monumental. And earlier this year, I started working part time as an Outfitter at Fleet Feet in Carmel. You could say that I’m mildly obsessed with running, but you knew that already. So, training for this marathon was something I considered part of my “job”. I wanted to do it the right way and see what I could accomplish.
Like any training cycle, there were good days and bad days. For me there was only one really horrible long run and the rest were pretty decent. I was lucky to have my dad for company on his bike during my last couple long ones (he’s a marathoner too). All of my long runs were during the week – Wednesdays mid-morning – which allowed me to limit the impact my training would have on my family life on weekends or during the morning routine. I did a ton of cross training too – see my “All Things Peloton” post related to another one of my obsessions.
So, heading into race weekend I was feeling good. That is, until the weather forecast started to take shape…ugh. Once the race was in the extended forecast, I was checking the weather multiple times a day (not great for my mental health). It was an emotional roller coaster – first, hot and no rain, then came the warm temps, rain and WIND. This is when my mind really turned against me. It’s all I could think about – how awful it was going to be. How unfair it was that the day before and day after race day looked PERFECT. But reading other posts of runners preparing for the weather helped me. You see, runners are an amazing breed. So much positivity and resilience. We commiserated together but also did our best to pump each other up. Come hell or high water it was happening…
Race weekend started on Thursday evening when I volunteered at the expo. It was really fun to see everything come together and talk to other runners. After volunteering on Friday last year before the half, I learned that Thursday was the smart choice since I was running the full. When things were closing down for the night, a fellow Board Member, Ashley Haynes, was nice enough to be my expo photographer. We got pictures at pretty much every single photo op. Thank you, Ashley! My favorite was the sign one that I customized.
On Friday, I finished up some orders and made a shirt for race day. White didn’t seem like the best choice given the rainy forecast, but it worked out ok. (Side note: Carrie Underwood’s line, Calia, is amazing). I’d been packing most of the week by laying out everything. Terrified I’d forget something important (like the toaster). Speaking of important… carb loading. The pre-race meal. I am particular about this for a full marathon. Last year I ordered Napolese pizza and started craving it about a week before race day. So, when I found out the downtown location was closed there was really only one option… order carry out from Keystone and pick it up on my way downtown. “Excessive,” my husband said. “Necessary,” I replied. I also wanted to make sure I had a beer or two to go with my pizza, so naturally I packed a cooler of Sun King’s Pachanga too.
Thankfully, I scored a hotel room at the Westin for Friday night. I dropped off an order at a nearby hotel (thank you, Katie!) and checked in downtown around 4pm. I proudly checked into the hotel carrying an entire pizza, cooler, and a bag with a toaster in it. Once I got everything laid out and unpacked, I put on my robe and decided I’d get in bed and wouldn’t leave. What a treat to catch up on all of my shows all by myself in bed. Why am I running a marathon tomorrow again? I dozed off somewhere between 9-10pm after checking my alarm and the hourly forecast at least 10 times…
RACE DAY MORNING
No joke, I had a nightmare that I woke up and looked at the clock and it was 7:26am. It felt SO REAL. I was in an utter panic rushing around my room trying to eat and get dressed. WHEW. SO GLAD that was just a dream. My alarm went off at 6am as planned and I started moving diligently (and calmly) through my pre-race routine…
- Take AG1 (Athletic Greens) – travel packs are great
- Make coffee
- Make peanut butter and banana toast
- Drink coffee and eat toast while watching the weather (and laughing)
- Text my coach screenshots of my Oura report saying my body temp is higher than normal and maybe I’m sick
- Poop three times
- Slather vaseline and Body Glide all over my body before getting dressed (only a slight exaggeration)
- Get dressed
- Make sure I have everything
- Scroll through Instagram and do my Wordle
- Make sure I have everything
- Message my friend Kelly for a pep talk
- Make sure I have everything
- Reply to texts and messages from friends and family, message fellow runners
- Take bathroom selfie
- DO I HAVE EVERYTHING?
I had everything. Headed down to the lobby with my phone and poncho in hand. CVS only had this fancy $10 poncho that came complete with snaps and a storage pocket. The entire lobby was bustling with pacers and pace groups. A sea of bright pink runners and their teams chatting excitedly. I let the energy of the room lead me outside to the front of the hotel where streams of runners were heading towards the start line. It had already started raining a little, so I put on my fancy poncho and made my way to the start. On the starting stage I saw several board members and staff and stopped to say hello. My friend, Jen Magley, the emcee of the event, was also there to give me a huge, much-needed hug. I told them all I’d see them at the finish line and headed to try to find Rachel.
Since Rachel was an ambassador she had VIP in the Indiana Statehouse. I crossed the start corrals and found her in line for the bathroom. By the time she was done and we’d checked her gear we went outside to catch the national anthem. After one final pep talk, we took a picture, hugged, and parted ways. IT WAS GO TIME. I needed to get moving so my nerves would calm the hell down. Before I entered the corral I saw my friend, Alex, who has run EVERY SINGLE Monumental since it started. Seeing her before starting was super motivating.
I got into my corral and snuggled in close with a bunch of nervous strangers. The guys next to me were joking and I joined in – we made jokes about our white shirts and nipples, as runners do. Thanks to Instagram, I now know who the guy next to me was – Alan from Fishers Running Club. Waiting felt like FOREVER. The time between the first air horn and our wave starting to surge felt like hours. When we finally started moving I realized I’d ignored my watch – oops – FIND THE SIGNAL AGAIN! It did. Whew. Crossing the start line I saw Julie from Beyond Monumental and she cheering for me as I began my seventh marathon journey. And oh, what a journey it was…
THE FIRST 13.1
For the first mile, all I was focused on was not tripping and not letting the crowd pull me along too fast. If you’ve ever gotten marathon advice it’s “don’t go out too fast”. The plan for miles 1-3 was an easy, 9:30 pace. It feels like you’re moving in slow motion when everyone around you is passing you. I hear Rachel’s voice in my head, “let them pass you, you’ll pass them later”. Weaving through downtown I don’t think I said much of anything to anyone until we got to the circle and I spotted a guy I recognized from the expo. Like my friend Alex, he’d run every single race since it started. I said something to him not knowing if he’d remember me, but hopefully he appreciated the sentiment of me yelling, “15 YEAR STREAKER!” at him.
The next block was miles 4-13. The plan was to speed up a touch (9:20) and “lock in” until halftime. The goal was to feel good heading into the second half of the race. Hah! Again, my mind didn’t believe I could…
On Mass Ave (mile 4) I ran into a high school friend, Joey, who was running the half. It was nice to see a familiar face and get distracted for a bit. He was aiming for a sub-2, so after a few minutes I told him I needed to slow down and drop back.
Then, around mile 5 I hear my name so loud, “ALLLY!!!!” I look up to see Lindsey, an Instagram-turned-real-life-friend (@therunningsisters317). I crossed the course and told her I needed a high five – which I gave her and her brother-in-law before continuing on. Not long after that, I saw another friend, Jon, running the half. Seeing people you know is so helpful during a race.
It was getting closer to the point in the race where the full marathoners drop the half marathoners. The point in the race where I’ve never gone to the right, always left. After the 6th mile marker I hear someone say hello behind me and turn to see @daddydidyouwin, one of the 4-hour pacers and race ambassadors I’d met on Instagram. He asked how I was feeling and we chatted a bit before I realized I really shouldn’t be hanging with the 4-hour group since the pace was too fast. We said our goodbyes and I dropped to the right and let the swarm of 4-hour hopefuls pass me.
And “just like that” I’m watching the half marathoners turn left just after mile 7 and for the first time I’m hanging with the marathoners. It felt really good to keep right. I thought I’d be tempted to turn left but it was way too early in the race for that and I was still feeling really good. It was cool running through the Indiana State Fairgrounds for a bit and then turning on 38th street. If you’re not from Indy, 38th street is notoriously not the best part of our city. I remember seeing a man with *most* of his teeth and high on something other than life cheering us on. Pretty sure he had no idea why he was cheering, but he was smiling and yelling nonetheless.
Now we’re at 10 miles. “Double digits! Less than 30 minutes until I see Zach and the girls,” I tell myself. And that “running math” continues for the next few miles while I pass spectators with bowls of their leftover Halloween candy. And now we’re in the heart of Broad Ripple, where Zach and I spent our dating and newly married years at 63rd and Park Ave in a little yellow bungalow. We run past the street with all of the bars where I spent too many drunken nights in my 20s. Kind of magical to run a marathon in your home town…
Zach and I had picked a spot on the course where him and the girls would meet me. Winding off of College Ave just after halfway it felt like it was taking FOREVER to get there. Then, right where he said he’d be – Zach is holding our 18mo, Sloane, and a sign that says “RUN MOMMY RUN”. Sydney, our 5yo, is proudly standing next to him holding a sign that says, “GO ALLY!” (Both signs were leftover from the virtual Indy Mini I ran during COVID.) I’m still about 200 yards from them, but I can hear Zach spot me and tell Sydney where I am. Aside from crossing the finish line, this was the best part of the race. (Maybe tied with crossing the finish line.) My eyes tear up as I get closer and I run up to Zach and give him and Sloane a kiss. Then, I lean over to Sydney and give her one too. Even though I stopped for less than 10 seconds, that moment gave me the spark I needed for the second half of my race. The tears fill my eyes but don’t fall and I waved as I turned away. A kind stranger looked over at me and says, “well, that was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.”
THE SECOND 13.1
Now, it’s the third block of the race (14-23) and I increase my speed to 9:15. About half of miles 13 and 14 were on a street called Riverview. This street is special to me because me and my friends spent many early mornings running on this part of Riverview. It was part of “The Loop”, a route that my roommate, Sue, created that was about 5 miles long. We’d do it a couple times a week. I miss those mornings with Sue, Ash, Celina, and others who would join us occasionally. We even had a Facebook group. Our general rule was that we’d run unless the temperature was in the teens. It was the time when I bought my first headlamp. It was the time I really fell in love with running.
My trip down memory lane ended as we made our way onto Meridian which I liked to consider our “preview” of what was to come for the last couple miles. The wind was definitely still there and still very very strong. From Meridian, we ran through the Butler University campus. It looked like it was snowing leaves. The wind was blowing them off of the trees and all around us. Pretty sure this was when there was a table with bananas and pretzels. PRETZELS – my running friends, Celina and Kim, will appreciate the pretzels. No time for that story now. I grabbed a cup of pretzels and told the volunteers I loved them. It took them a few seconds to register what I’d said and I could hear them call, “we love you too!” as I ran away.
We now had single digit miles left to go. We entered Newfields, aka the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the course beforehand, so it was a nice surprise to run through the beautiful gardens where the Halloween decor was being replaced with the infamous Winterlights. I thought of the pictures I have of the girls in those same spots I was running past. Another nice distraction from what my body was doing.
We leave Newfields and run underneath 38th street and onto White River. We are approaching mile 20. Already. I prepare my mind by telling myself that the wall is bullshit and the last 6.2 miles are all that matter. That the last 6.2 miles are EVERYTHING I’ve trained for. The water station just after mile 20 is out of cups. They probably blew away. I put my hands together like a bowl and a volunteer pours water into them. I splash the water into my mouth and all over my face. It’s fine. I’m fine. There is no wall.
I slowly start to recognize where we are and realize it’s part of what was the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon course. I recognize the turnaround point from the Women’s Half that indicates we have about 25% left. Or as my race math indicates, “halfway of halfway”. I see a pink PBT tank top up ahead and as I run closer I look to see if it’s someone I know. Sure enough, it’s my friend, Trena. She has run so many marathons she’s lost count. Seriously. It’s nuts. And she’s usually a lot faster than me so I ask her what she’s doing back with the “common folk”. Trena smiles and says something like, “I’m just enjoying it and taking it all in.” The perfect reminder at mile 20+ of a marathon. Thank you, Trena. She tells me to “go get it”, and I do.
At this point I don’t know exactly where I am but I’m looking for where I spectated the Monumental the year my friends Celina and Ashley ran (their first marathon). Is that it? No. Maybe around this next curve? Pretty sure it was Fall Creek and Capitol where I stood on a sidewalk near a bridge to watch them run by. This line of thinking distracted me all the way to the dreaded turn onto Meridian. See? What wall? I’m almost done.
Trying to find the words to describe the feeling of THAT wind. Unbelievable… Insane… Comical… I forced a smile as we turned the corner and faced down the final miles of the race. It’s now just after mile 23 and that means it’s the 4th block of the race. It’s time to “give it what I have”squeeze out whatever I have left”. My paces had been a little all over the place, but between ~9:00-9:29 for the entire race. With the wind I knew that I wouldn’t be able to kick it in much faster, but that I could keep doing what I was doing and not slow down. With every stride I could LITERALLY feel the wind trying to blow my feet out from under me. I joked with a few spectators as I passed them. At times it felt like I wasn’t moving forward at all. But I also knew this was it. This is what I trained for. There wasn’t much left to go.
For anyone who has run the Monumental – half or full – you know that the final stretch is often really hard because you can “see” the finish. You can see all of the buildings of downtown lingering and they look close but they are not close. Up ahead I see @daddydidyouwin (Mark) again. He was walking. I yell, “HEY!” Because at this point I don’t actually know his real name and didn’t want to yell, “DADDY!” Mark was in pain and had left the pace group to finish on his own. He started running again with me for a while but then wanted me to go ahead. So I did.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling great. With every step I am praying that my legs don’t cramp. I can feel the tightness in my calves and hamstrings just waiting for one wrong move. And need I remind you we are running in a wind tunnel. But Rachel was right. The energy I’d conserved at the start was coming in handy and I was slowly passing other runners who had either slowed way down or stopped to walk. The last mile is the LONGEST mile. You’re so close but yet so far. Still a few turns to go until we see the finish line. But there’s the energy and pulse of the finish line that you start to feel. On New York street I see Rachel and she captures a video of me saying something like, “I’m here. I’m doing this.”
As I turn onto Capitol I see one of the wheelchair athletes and I cheer him on as best I can. I try to get the hell out of his way and tell others to do the same (but in nicer words). Then it’s the last turn. We’re running where it all started – past the statehouse. I can feel it. I can feel the finish line. The tears start to come again. When I turn and see it, I pick up speed. I run with every ounce of energy I have left. I start crying before I cross the finish line.
I FUCKING DID IT. I DIDN’T THINK I COULD BUT I DID. I AM SO PROUD.
Our Board President, John Stille, is taking pictures of me as I cross. He hugs me and gives me my medal. I have no clue what he said or what I said back. I was done. “Just like that” it was over. “ALLLLLY” I hear as I look left and see Lindsey again with her sister Kelly who ran the half. The crying continues as we hug and as John takes our picture.
The last two marathons I ran I ended up in the medical tent, so I was focused on not falling over and needing someone to haul me off somewhere on a gurney. I say thank you and goodbye to all of them and hobble my way towards the chocolate milk. I tell the volunteer I ran all 26.2 miles for that chocolate milk and he tells me to take two – so I did.
My sister, Morgan, and her fiance, Mike, were waiting for me as I exited the finish chute. We hugged and I handed them things so I could tie my heat sheet cape around my neck. If you ever want to be entertained, watch marathoners try to get on the ground after a race. It’s anything but graceful. I plopped down and figured I may never get back up. We chatted about the race as I chugged my chocolate milk and choked down a banana (the team joked afterwards that the weather was horrible for everything but great for the bananas). We hobbled over to get our results and INDYTHON medals.
There was no Pachanga at the finish so I asked Morgan for a ride home so I could avoid cramping and enjoy my post-race beer. Being the best, she obliged. On the way home, I responded to texts and messages of congratulations. I felt – and continue to feel – so full of pride. And I’m not just proud of myself, I’m proud of everyone who ran, I’m proud of my husband and other spectators, I’m proud of the volunteers and I’m so proud of the Beyond Monumental team. Thank you for everything.