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<span style="font-family:Verdana;">As I trained for the Kiawah Island Marathon through summer and fall, it felt like the day would never arrive. My training went off completely issue-free and I enjoyed every mile of marathon preparation like I never have before, with the exception of running through this year’s seemingly endless hot North Carolina summer and warm fall. Little did I know that on race day, all those muggy long runs and swampy speed workouts I logged would reimburse me.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">As the race drew closer, I started incorporating visualization and positive thinking as part of my regular meditation practice at the beginning of every day. I was extra careful with my nutrition and re-lost almost 10 pounds to return to the weight I feel best at for running and racing. In addition, I found myself in the happiest, most positive and relaxed place mentally I’ve been in in a couple of years. With all of these things coming together, I had my mind made up to run a great race and that this third attempt at a BQ would be the one that nailed it.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Now there was only that small, HUGE detail of running 26.2 miles in under 3 hours and 46 minutes.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">The journey to Kiawah Island, SC, began Thursday afternoon when a group of four runners and two “support crew” rolled out from our corner of North Carolina. Our caravan took us to Fayetteville NC, almost half way, where we stopped for the night. I was traveling with four women I know casually through teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, three of whom were running the half marathon. Our lone brave man, Mike, is the husband of one of the half marathoners. Over dinner and beers, we started to get better acquainted, then called it a night for that all important “night before the night before” quality sleep.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Friday morning, we continued the excursion. After what seemed like forever and half a dozen stops, we arrived at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, where we were staying and where the race was happening the next day. We got our race packets, settled in to our villas, and had an early pre-race dinner of bread, pasta, and brownies. After dinner I finished getting my race gear ready, took a bath, talked on the phone, stretched, and did a recorded guided relaxation. I felt ready to sleep after that, although it was the typical pre-race sleep of waking up many times and dreaming that I couldn’t get to the Start on time.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">4:40 a.m. Saturday. Yay! It’s race day! Everything from the all important bathroom business to a traffic free 5-minute ride to the start area couldn’t have gone better. I was one of the earliest runners to arrive an hour ahead of the 8 a.m. start, so I saw the palmetto tree-bordered area peaceful and serene before thousands of pairs of muscular legs would be stretching, pacing, and lining up. I wrote my name on a piece of tape to identify my gear bag at the honor system bag check, thinking it was a testament to what so far seemed to be a small, friendly, well-organized race that the runners trusted one another to pile their stuff together. I spent the rest of the hour stretching and listening to music (including the now requisite “Fame” and “Flashdance”) in the indoor waiting area, repeatedly going through the Port-a-John line, and placed myself between the 8 and 9 minute pace signs about 5 minutes before the start. I felt confident and excited, yet relaxed at the same time.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">It was 50 degrees at the start and sunny, with temperatures expected to be in the low 70s by the end. This is warmer than ideal for me, but I knew the plentiful shade on the course and low humidity would help and decided to just work with being warm and not react to it in an upset way. I had not done weekly track workouts in 90 degrees all summer for nothing! There were many miles of suffering in the heat that I could use to draw strength to keep pushing through a warm final hour.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">The gun sounded and I made it across the Start about 1:30 into the race. Kiawah has a small starting area for its 4,000 runners, three-fourths of those half marathoners, and apparently nine-tenths who need to review Race Start 101. The first mile was the slowest start I’ve ever had. Without trying to waste energy, I maneuvered around and passed countless walkers and runners who had lined up far too forward for their paces. Somehow I got to <b>Mile 1</b> in <b>8:39</b>, just where I wanted to be for an easy start.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Apparently I took out my frustration on <b>Mile 2</b>, since I hit it in <b>8:02</b>. Way, way too fast! I could have let this freak me out and tell myself I just blew my race, but instead I calmly let it go. From Mile 2 on, I never looked at another mile split until after the race. Instead I compared my overall watch time with a 3:44 pace band I wore. I knew I would fuss and worry too much over individual splits, when overall time was what counted. Especially after now seeing my splits, I believe this decision was one of the key things that helped me.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">The next several miles I settled in to running. For a few miles, my feet and lower legs had the same bad puffy feeling they’d had during my most recent BQ attempt, 2007 Shamrock Marathon. My right foot felt like it wanted to explode out of the shoe. My lower legs felt swollen and stiff. At Shamrock I pretty much mentally freaked out that I wasn’t feeling perfect early in the race, and ended up with a sprained foot, acute PF, and a DNF. Today I told myself my legs were just getting used to the task and that they would feel fine in a couple of miles. And they did.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Now I could enjoy the course. It is gorgeous and fun to run, with Spanish moss dripping trees lending shade most of the way as we cruised by coastal marshland, ponds, golf courses, and mansions. About four miles take runners on wide bike paths, which looked exactly like my favorite training path where I live. Some runners don’t care for double-loop courses, but I do many of my long runs back and forth on a 5K distance path and don’t get bored with that, so had no issues with doing a loop only twice. I loved the natural scenery of the course, and didn’t mind the lack of spectators or entertainment.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Inside my head I had a loop playing too, what I now call the “Mantra Medley.” Over and over with the rhythm of my stride I repeated my phrase <i>“Yes I Can, Yes I Will;”</i> the phrase my coach gave me, <i>“This is what you trained for;”</i> and the slogan I got from <b>roots</b>’ recent Person Of The Day post <i>“Today’s my day!”</i> Many times I pictured the two of them running along on either side of me saying those things. I had also made a poster board collage a few weeks ago with pictures of inspiring people and encouraging images, and I mentally recalled each motivational image over and over.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;"><b>Mile 13</b> came in <b>1:50</b> as I started loop #2. With the half marathoners heading to their finishes, we marathoners had the place to ourselves. It was our party now, and it felt good. I was having fun! Miles 13-19 were my strongest feeling all day and I was feeling so good that I decided to spread some positive energy around. No one passed me the entire second half, but many runners I came upon who weren’t plugged in to earphones got a little encouragement or greeting. I complimented people, joked with them, shared a mantra, or asked them their goal today. A few talked back and asked me mine, and I would say “I need under 3:46 to get to Boston and I think today’s the day,” and get some encouragement in return. I’ve never had this experience before because I’ve always worn headphones in marathons. I will never wear headphones in a marathon again!</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">I got to <b>Mile 20</b> in <b>2:50</b>, just what I wanted so I’d have 56 minutes to run the last 10K if need be. That would be training run pace. The long way home was starting, and now I had friends to watch for. Mike would bike out to meet me at Mile 21 with Gatorade I’d given him the night before, and a few members of our group planned to walk to Mile 23 after the half marathon finish. My “Bike Sherpa” Mike pedaled into view at the exact time I needed him. I was warm, thirsty, slightly carb-depleted, and almost all alone on the course. All of a sudden, I wasn’t having so much fun. I wasn’t feeling any muscle fatigue or pain anywhere, just low-level exhaustion and fogginess. Thoughts of doubt started to creep in. Thoughts of stopping really started to creep in. Thought of repeating my 2006 Philly BQ attempt and running out of steam too early were haunting me. The “Mantra Medley” volume had been turned down. Knowing I needed fuel, I kept taking swigs from the Gatorade bottle Mike had on his bike, and listening to his quiet encouragement. He said I looked stronger than anyone else around, that I was getting there, that I was almost through this bad spot. I didn’t believe him right then but decided to act like I did. We went past two of our friends who screamed and cheered for me and I could barely acknowledge them, but inside was grateful for their support.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Miraculously, the Gatorade kicked in right before Mile 24 where Mike dropped me off at the second bike path. I had 21 minutes to run 2.2 miles and all of a sudden the confidence that I could and would do it today came back. I charged down the bike path losing count of the runners I passed. The “Mantra Medley” was back up to 11 and now I was seeing myself phoning my parents and friends with happy news in 20 minutes … <i>Yes I Can, Yes I Will</i> … 15 minutes … <i>Get ‘r Done!</i> … 10 minutes...<i>Today IS My Day!</i> I started having visions of the Dairy Queen DQ logo, except with the letters BQ, and laughed to myself because I’d heard only ultrarunners hallucinate.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">With about half a mile to go, my legs suddenly felt heavier but I ignored it. Amazingly, I still felt no pain except for a little tightness in my calves. I kept checking my watch to make sure I would still make it in in time. I would! Finally, Mile 26! I had about 3 minutes.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">I had imagined this moment for close to two years, and now it was actually going to happen. The feeling was unreal. I had pictured my not-so-emotional self bawling like a baby or doing a cheerleader jump at the Finish, but as it came into view I told myself to use the countless 800 track repeats I did in training to dig in for my strongest finish, and everything else was a blur of semi-shock and exhaustion until I stopped across the line.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;"><img alt="" src="http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w6/andyber1/4.jpg?t=1197258311" style="border:0px solid;"></span><br><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">My watch said <b>3:44:43</b>.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Two volunteers helped me get into a chair. Apparently one took my chip and somehow I had a cup of Gatorade in my hand. I don’t normally swear, and all I could say to no one in particular and everyone in earshot was “That was f---ing hard!”</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">My friends found me, wanting to know if I’d made Boston. Not entirely trusting my watch, I sent two to scout for official results. When they came back with an official time of <b>3:44:41</b>, I sat there and felt the overwhelming joy and accomplishment and pride and success permeate through me.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;"><img alt="" src="http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w6/andyber1/1.jpg?t=1197258434" style="border:0px solid;"></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;"><img alt="" src="http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w6/andyber1/6.jpg?t=1197258717" style="border:0px solid;"></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">I am a runner who does not posses an extraordinary amount of natural athletic talent but, I have learned, was able to make up for that with an infinite drive to do whatever work it took to achieve this dearly held goal. But the best thing about qualifying is not that on April 21, 3 days before my 36th birthday, I will have the great honor of lining up at the Start of the Boston Marathon course. The best thing is all I have learned about the sport of distance running and about myself, how I have grown, and the so much stronger person I am for this journey of 18 months of training.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">I was not on that path alone. The advice, support, and encouragement from more experienced runners, my coach, my parents, friends, training buddies, and especially today a Bike Sherpa helped me cross the line in under 3:46.</span> <span style="font-family:Verdana;">With that kind of inspiration, every step felt like a blessing today. Even the agonizing ones from miles 22-24.</span>
 

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<span style="font-family:Verdana;">1 8:39</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">2 8:02</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">3 8:31</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">4 8:42</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">5 8:21</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">6 & 7 17:09</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">8 8:29</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">9 8:40</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">10 8:36</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">11 & 12 16:49</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">13 8:30</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">14 8:21</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">15 8:33</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">16 8:38</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">17 8:15</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">18 & 19 17:33</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">20 8:31</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">21 8:40</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">22 8:36</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">23 & 24 17:58</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">25 8:37</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">26 8:25</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">.2 1:56</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana;">Chip time 3:44:41</span>
 

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holy cow.<br><br>
your RR is honestly one of the most inspirational ones i've ever, ever read. i could literally feel all the emotion in your race as if it were my own race. i had chills at the end of the report.<br><br>
congrats to you, my friend. all the hard work paid off and you BQ'd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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One nice thing about a warm marathon day is a post-race recovery walk on the beach (check out the puffy ankles and feet):<br><br><img alt="" src="http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w6/andyber1/2003_0101Kiawah0044.jpg?t=1197259446" style="border:0px solid;"><br><br><br>
As you can see, I am still on Cloud 9 today:<br><br><img alt="" src="http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w6/andyber1/2003_0101Kiawah0017.jpg?t=1197259495" style="border:0px solid;">
 

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Andrea, hearing that you made it yesterday completely made my day! Thank you for the mood lift. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"><br><br>
And BTW, one of my huge motivators for running marathons is the interaction I get with people, both other runners and spectators. I bet the little game you played with feeding off everone's energy grows on you the more times you do it.<br><br>
But Ppssst: that amazing vibe is even better in ultras, if you're looking for something to do after you get back from Boston. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"><br><br>
And in case you didn't know this, get ready for some NOISE at Boston. The last 4 miles (and running the gauntlet of the Wellesly Girls) is like a million people (quite literally) screaming for you at the top of their lungs.<br><br>
But again, thank you for making my day. A lot of us were hoping for this.
 

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That was a great report!!<br><br>
Great job, I hope to take your inspiration with me to my first full!!<br><br>
Way to kick ass.
 

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Great report!<br><br>
Congrats on the BQ! I got a good laugh when you mentioned seeing the DQ sign but with BQ instead <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile">
 

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Reading this had me re-living my first BQ. I how what you went through and I know what you mean about always feeling mediocre. I know how you felt at the finish line. And I am so happy for you.<br><br>
We are going to have a PARTY at Boston. And as someone said, get ready for some noise.<br><br>
Great call on losing the headphones.
 

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SGH - you rocked it! Congrats on all your hard work paying off!<br><br>
Hopefully I'll see you in Hopkinton...
 

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I'm so glad that all your hard work paid off ... you earned it! I may need to borrow some of your race tactics (positive thoughts, not looking at split times, etc.) in 2009. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"><br><br>
I'll be seeing you at Boston - I'll probably be at the 10k clock (volunteering), and I'm pretty sure we'll have a CH/Kick gathering again a few days before!<br><br>
You are a rock star! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/headbang.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="headbang">
 

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This is one of the best and most inspiring RRs I've ever read. You definitely had it nailed down in your attitude. Very rich details, and excellent tips for the ones looking for improvement, BQ or not.<br>
What a beautiful day and you make it very clear that you strongly deserved it.<br>
Have a wonderful journey to the Boston you conquered.<br>
Thank you for sharing your gorgeous pictures.
 

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Andrea,<br>
You are SO inspiring!!<br>
Your hard work and positive mindset really paid off.<br>
Well done!<br><img alt="" src="http://bestsmileys.com/love1/1.gif" style="border:0px solid;">
 

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GREAT JOB! Wooot! The pace of your last miles is incredibly even. You ran a very nice race. Congrats on the time and the fantastic BQ!
 

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WOW! I am inspired! I hope to run a maraton one day (still too new to running to see it as a real possibility yet). What a fantastic RR! Congrats on the BQ!
 

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YAY!!!!!!!<br><br>
What a great race report. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile"> No fair making a preggo woman cry! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy"><br><br>
You really inspire me Andrea. You have a real gift in your determination and drive, and your ability to go out there and get what you want--beyond that, your quiet humility, even in great achievement, makes the rest of us believe it is possible for us as well. Thank you!
 

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i'm trying not to cry!!!!! I am sooooooo happy for you. You did awesome.
 
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