Get Set.

PACKING LIST: ODMarathonAlways bring body glide

Long sleeve shirt
Short sleeve technical shirt
Warm up running shirt
Disposable on-course shirt
Running tights
Nike Wicking shorts (x2)
Spandex shorts
Underwear
Tight sports bra
Running tank
Features Socks
Nike Socks
Compression socks
Sleep Mask
Arm band
In-ear headphones
Gels/glukos (x4)
Honey Stinger – Carmel (x2)
Immodium (shut up)
Aspirin (2 before, 1 every 7 miles, 2 after = 8)
Body glide
Extra Body Glide
Deodorant
White English Muffins
Bananas (x2)
Peanut Butter (chunky)
Coffee
Coffee Maker
Coffee filters
Beet Root Juice
Granola bars (low fiber)
Bud Light
Seltzer Water
Extra safety pins

This was the actual list I made for my last marathon. Ironically, I left off running shoes, which seems like maybe the biggest oversight I have ever committed. When I first thought about running it seems like the simplest thing—the least involved sport. It’s
something that humans are biomechanically programmed to do, so why did I need a list more extensive than a first-baby-registry for a 48-hour trip? I tend to think of myself as a fairly low maintenance, although my friends and family might disagree, but did I really need enough shirts for the population of the Marshall Islands? The answer, of getsetcourse, is no. But I still used every one of the things that I brought, between warm up runs, and layering on race day. I know a lot of runners that have amazingly consistent routines, and while I am a loose cannon on daily runs, come marathon day there is a specific system of dynamic stretches,ounces of coffee, and grams of carbs that I will not adjust until the day it steers me astray.

Quite honestly, running can be a very, very expensive hobby. If you’re smart about it, it doesn’t have to be, but for someone currently without a full time job, who barely qualifies as a recreational runner, much of my spare money goes into my marathon fund. I’ve considered getting jobs with an airline to minimize the costs of traveling to marathons. I’ve sent inquiry emails to athletic companies, asking if they sponsor runners for coming in last in their age group, or for wearing a silly outfit, or just generally because I like the products they offer, and will promote them to my friends and family (note: most companies will not sponsor bad runners!). My birthday wish list is usually asking for airfare to a race, or paying for an entrance fee, and Santa Claus knows me so well that no Christmas is complete without a shiny pair of new Asics under the tree.

What it boils down to is, when you are at the starting line of a race and the Timer tells you to “Get Set” are you prepared to go? Or have you left your running shoes at home, realized you forgot to put on deodorant, and now you stand thinking about the post-race beers you’ll soon drink, realizing that you missed the starting gun going off?

On Your Mark.

In ninth grade I got kicked off of my school’s track team. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise since I hated running, was bad at running, and had even been checked for exercise induced asthma, since I had a propensity to run out of breath on even a short climb up stairs (the doctor told me I was just out of shape). But what really made me mad was that I was accused of being a ringleader for inciting four perfectly strong-willed friends to leave, and was made to apologize to my teammates for leaving the team in its final hours before Districts.

still not easy.jpg

Still out of breath after marathon #12

Naturally, this meant I was thrilled to be rid of the team, and not only did I not apologize, but left our coach with my gnarliest toenail that had just fallen off from my too tight track spikes. My friends and I were able to commit more of our time to soccer, and our track team tied for Districts, which inevitably we could have won, if any of us had stayed on. But it was without a doubt that my earliest exposure to the running community was the exclusivity of that world, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

It was then in my sophomore year of high school that I went on my first non-mandated run, just days before the end of the school year. Despite playing soccer for eleven years, I made it exactly .6 miles, at 5 in the morning, perhaps proving my doctor right. I started that run for the same reason that I think a lot of teenagers, and adults too, start running; because I wasn’t happy with how I looked or felt, especially after ten days in a bathing suit, eating meals smothered in olive oil. Everyday of that summer I ran the same 3.1 mile loop, all the way through soccer season, despite two-a-day practices or games, and then through the winter, ill or not.

I am sure many other people have gone through this obsessive stage of running, and while I know now it is not a healthy introduction to the sport, it did mirror the unhealthy obsession I bring to most of the things I start doing. Over the years I have talked to many runners who have felt the same way, and I totally get it. It’s something that as an individual, you can control. When there are stressors like schoolwork or work-work, relationships or tragedies, the only thing you can control is what your body is capable of doing, and with that comes postponing facing whatever else stands in your way; plus, these shorter daily runs were largely very good for my health. So I saw no issue with my new running habit, and was rewarded by my improved fitness for my senior year of soccer.

But as all things come to an end, so did my soccer career, and I knew after my last kick of the ball in high school, I never wanted to play again. The following day, I tied the same Asics that millions of runners know well, and started running the familiar path. But that day was different; I wanted to get lost, really run away. I made it 7.5 miles that, which was more than double my longest recreational run. When I got home in the middle of a thunderstorm, I decided to sign up for the State College Half Marathon. One month later, I finished my first half and from there, my cousin convinced me, my mother, and my best friend to sign up for the Nashville Rock and Roll full, just four months later.

Six months from that run, I would finish my second marathon in Baltimore. I struggled through with a painful freshman 20, and a list of four other state marathons I still wanted to do. I had never heard of the 50 state challenge, didn’t know if it existed, but I wanted it. My brother told me once that the key to life is to read new things, go new places, and meet new people. Touring around the US and meeting runners seemed as good a way as any to knock out two of those tenets. And from that day to this, my challenge has always held a place in the front of my mind. Some days it is in that obsessive part; the one that still times every split, and convinces myself that an extra mile in the dark on ice is a good idea. Other days it lives in that part that reminds me that there are men and women over 100 still running, and I could accomplish this challenge over fifty years.

So here we are, still at the starting line, with the finishing tape not yet in sight. Feel your already leaden legs? And that weight drop in your stomach? The one that tells you to pee, regardless of how many times you’ve already gone? Embrace it! This is how I feel at the start of every run, knowing how many thousands of miles are ahead, and knowing how lucky I am to have them all still to go.

First Steps

Do you remember when you were a child and you would dream of something that in the deepest places of your mind you thought might actually come true? For me this was being a Dalmatian named Purdy, who was also a dog princess. I am now 22 years on from that dream, although undeniably that would still be an amazing turn of events in my life, but at eighteen I decided to do something that, at the time, seemed just as likely to happen as morphing into  dog. I decided to take on the 50 State Marathon Challenge (51 counting DC), despite taking up recreational jogging only months earlier.

As a Supply Chain major, I should have considered such basic things as transportation costs, car and hotel logistics, and the fact that I didn’t actually like running; but when you are newly eighteen little matters compared to the loads of likes you could potentially rack up on Facebook. So twelve marathons into this journey, I’m going to share the lessons I’ve learned so far, some that will go beyond hip flexor stretches, sports nutrition, and sports bra chaffing. From long training runs that give you the time and peace of mind to quit a job, countless miles of inane subjects with best friends, late night sprints to manage anxiety over unknown futures, tempo runs after fantastic but exhausting days, and a million excuses not to run today.

Welcome to this road, which does not have a foreseeable end, and I look forward to racking up miles with you!