April 25, 2012


Madrid will forever and always be so much more to me than another city in Europe.

I loved Madrid.

Running Madrid was an unbelievable experience. The course, the crowd support, the experience - it's something I will always remember. While the course wasn't always easy (what marathon is?), I had an amazing time and ran a strong race, never once stopping to believe in myself no matter how tough things got.

Let's recap.

Saturday was a pretty low key of wandering around Madrid and getting off my feet nice and early in order to get some rest before Sunday's race. With a 9am race time and a room in the race's host hotel (Kenyans and Ethiopians included), I didn't have to wake up too early. I went to bed around 10pm...about 15 minutes before Real Madrid defeated Barcelona in El Clásico, one of the biggest football rivalries in the world, for the first time in 5 years. If you know anything about European football, you will know that the city then erupted into celebrations that lasted well into the middle of the night making sleep nearly impossible.

Sunday morning, I woke up feeling tired but not exhausted. I headed down to breakfast where I was the youngest person in the room by maybe 15 years and the only woman with a Marathon bib. After breakfast, my Mom and I met up with Ally and her sister Rachel and hopped on the shuttle to travel the 2km to the starting line.

We got to the start early enough that there wasn't a big crowd and I was able to use the toilet and warm up a bit before jumping into my corral. The corrals filled up almost immediately and were more crowded than any race corral I've ever been in. I could count the women around me on one hand and as we crossed the start, we headed out to take the streets of Madrid.

My goal was to take the course in 3 phases: the first 10, the next 10 and the final 10k. I wanted to hit Mile 10 in an hour and a half and mile 20 in just under 3 so that I would bank enough time to be able run the last 10k in under 4 hours even if I started to slow down.

Miles 1-5: The first 5k was brutal. It was hot and humid and oh my goodness, it smelled! It was so crowded and I was rubbing arms with really sweaty men and the entire atmosphere just reeked of body odor. It was the first 5k! How were these men sweating so badly already??? I've never experienced anything like that before and it was completely overwhelming. By the time we hit the 5k, my left foot had gone completely numb. I wanted to just keep running through it but it was completely throwing off my stride so I stopped and walked.

Plaza de la Castilla - KM 5
At this point, the 4:00 pace group was way out of sight and I started to get really upset. It only took a few seconds for the feeling to come back in my foot and when I started running again and realized that I was right on pace but I was still upset that they were so far ahead of me. By Mile 5, my foot had gone completely numb again and I just wanted to quit. I couldn't run like this for 20+ more miles and it was already hot and humid and I was letting everything get to me. I stopped to walk again to let the feeling come back in my foot and took the walking break to clear my head. I was right on pace for where I wanted to be and my legs felt great. If the 4:00 pace group wanted to be running 40 seconds faster than what was necessary for a 4:00 marathon, then they could go ahead. I was going to run my own race. And run my own race I did.

Splits - 9:05, 9:06, 9:05, 8:51, 9:00

Miles 6-10: It was time to quit my bitching and run this race the way I went to Madrid to run this race. From this point to Mile 10, I was so focused on just racing that everything was pretty much a blur. I know that these miles were down a pretty narrow street and the spectators were overtaking the race course a little bit but I was focused and I was running and I was on pace and I felt great. There were so few women on the course that every time I ran past women spectators, they went crazy cheering for me yelling "Va campeona! Va Va Va!" Champion? Why yes, I do feel like a champion, thank you!

Calle Gran Via - KM 17

We were in the center of the city around these miles and starting to run through some of the Must-Sees of Madrid and it was amazing. I was still feeling strong and taking it all in but maintaining my focus. We started hitting some pretty steep downhills around Mile 7 which I knew would continue until about Mile 20. I was prepared for the downhills but some of them were really steep and I had to slow down to keep from falling. I hit Mile 10 right on target, just under 1:30. I felt awesome. I started to think: "Hey, I can do this!" But I quickly told my self I still had two other legs of this race to get through and to stay focused and stay strong and to not get ahead of myself.

Splits - 8:57, 8:47, 9:06, 8:50, 9:03

Miles 10-15: I saw my mom and Rachel (Ally's sister) around the Half at which point I was slowing down a little bit but I knew it was more an issue of fueling than anything. I took a gel at Mile 15 and refilled my water bottle. It was getting hot at this point and I had already gone through an entire bottle of water...which has only ever happened during 1 other marathon - DC. I couldn't get enough water down and I was having a really time taking down gels. I was still doing pretty well but not hitting the sub-9 miles I wanted. I was ok with that because I was still making great time and moving quickly.

Puerta del Sol - KM 18  

Plaza de Oriente - KM 19  
Casa de Campo - KM 25
The gel hit me pretty quickly and I was back on pace. I wasn't going to let one slow mile bother me. I was still well on pace to go sub-4. We came into the Parque del Oeste at this point and were in there for what seemed like forever. The park was beautiful but it was so hot. There were some small inclines and some steep declines in the park but I was taking them pretty easily.

Splits - 8:53, 9:00, 9:22, 9:03, 9:08

Miles 16-20: At Mile 16, I tripped over some really uneven cobblestone and came so close to face planting, I thought it was over. Some guy had stopped and pulled me up and dusted me off and I stepped off the course to collect myself before taking off again but I started slowing down...a lot. It was so unbelievably hot. At Mile 18, I refilled my water bottle again and dropped in a Nuun tablet. I started feeling it kick in at Mile 20 which I hit in 3:02...two minutes off pace but still well on pace for running sub-4. 

Splits - 9:46, 10:49, 11:37, 9:29, 10:06

Miles 20-26: The last 10k is a blur. I had picked up the pace again at Mile 19 and slowed back down at Mile 20 but I had given myself the pep talk that I was still on pace for sub-4. At Mile 20, it was like I crossed the Finish Line. It's so hard for me to put in to words what happened at Mile 20 and through the rest of the race.

I had been so focused through the entire race. I wasn't thinking about anything. Nothing hurt. I felt strong and my mental clarity was more on point than it had ever been during any race or training run I've ever done. I was so in tune with my body, running consistent paces, picking up where I could, slowing down when I needed to, taking gels like clock work and hydrating efficiently.

I didn't hit the wall at Mile 20. I didn't blow up. Both of those things happened to me during Marine Corps and I knew what that felt like. At Mile 20, quite plainly and simply, I wanted to go to sleep. Three weeks of writing late into the night and waking up early in the morning to go to work all caught up with me. In my last post, I said that training for a marathon and writing my thesis were a bad combination and at Mile 20. I knew it.

I had finished my thesis at 2:00 in the morning one week before. I woke up at 7 the next morning to send it off and spend the the day at work. I left work and went for a run, came home and packed, worked the whole next day and headed to Jersey. I left Wednesday and didn't sleep on the plane at all. I was jet lagged until Friday and never got a full night's sleep the whole time I was in Madrid.

I'm not trying to make excuses. That's just the reality of what happened. All of that hit me at Mile 20 and I stopped to walk, take in some water, take a gel and start running again. I wasn't in pain and I felt great, but I was running slower than I had ever run before. And I was ok with that. I took the last 10k to enjoy running the fact that I was running a marathon in Madrid, to enjoy the spectators being so unbelievably supportive of the few women on the course. I tried to stop and walk a few times, and every time I did, some runner  would come back for me. I had never seen that kind of camaraderie in any race, ever. At Mile 24, I started walking and an older man came up behind me, put his arm around me and started running with me and cheering me on.  From that point on, I stopped walking and ran the rest of the race. Slowly. I had nothing left. I was tired. My legs started cramping up around Mile 25 and I was moving even more slowly. At this point, I looked at my Garmin for the first time in those last 6 miles and set a new goal for myself: Beat my time in DC. I knew I was cutting it close but I knew I could do it.

I had trained hard for Madrid. I knew that going sub-4 would be tough and 2 weeks ago, had completely written it off. During taper, I gave myself the confidence I needed to be able to enjoy that last 10k. I told myself that I would run sub-4 in Madrid. I didn't give myself any alternatives. I really, truly believed that I could run my best marathon in Madrid. If I hadn't let myself think that, I would have walked off the course the second I saw my second 12:xx mile on my Garmin. But I kept going. I pulled myself together and started really pushing at Mile 25. I worked hard for Madrid and I wasn't about to let Madrid be my worst race.

Splits - 12:35, 12:47, 12:41, 12:06, 13:18, 10:33

The Finish - The finish was about as cruel as the finish of Marine Corps. While there was no mountain to climb at Mile 26, there were somewhere between 5 and 8 inflatable arches...all of which I thought were the finish and kept sprinting toward. When I finally saw the Finish Line (still with about 3 arches to run under), I saw a bunch of little kids lining up in front of the barricades. There was a man in front of me who ran over to one of them, a little boy about 5 years old, grabbed his hand and ran across the Finish Line hand in hand with his son. I started tearing up and when I finally crossed, I was so emotional. I had done it. I had run Madrid. I finished my 4th marathon. I ran an unbelievable first 20 miles, well on pace for a sub-4 race. I never lost that sub-4. I never fell apart but when the realization came that my body couldn't run a sub-4 marathon after 3 weeks of eating and sleeping poorly, I didn't give up. I pushed through and I finished strong.

Official Time: 4:24:02 (just shy of 4 minutes faster than DC)

My mom was waiting for me at the finish and we quickly found Rachel and headed to to the Finish to wait for Ally. I was hurting. Worst than I ever had post-marathon. Those downhills really got the best of me and my legs were shot. When I saw Ally running towards us though, I didn't even think about jumping in with her until I took my first step running and realized just how much everything hurt. I wasn't about to voice any of that to Ally though and we finished together and gave each other a huge hug at the finish line. We had done it. We signed up for this marathon 6 months ago and trained hard through surgeries and theses, broken toes and upper respiratory infections, off days and on days and we did it. We both finished. It wasn't either of our best races, but it wasn't either of our worst races. We both worked so hard in Madrid and were both so unbelievably proud of ourselves and each other to have finished.

I didn't run a sub-4 marathon in Madrid. But I ran a marathon in Madrid. How many people will ever say they've done that? I finished with a smile on my face and a friend at my side. To say that I'm not disappointed would be a lie. Of course I am. I've been training for this for almost a year and it sucks. But I'm not about to beat myself up the way I did after Marine Corps because I know that when I do go sub-4, it will be that much sweeter.


  1. CONGRATS!!!!!! That is such an amazing accomplishment and you should be SO PROUD!!! :-D Keep working towards that Sub-4, you WILL get there someday!! You're such a great inspiration!

  2. Awesome race recap. I like your attitude throughout. You're right that you've accomplished something awesome that you set your mind to and faced down adversity to complete.


  3. And I'm crying! Duh. I'm so happy happy happy for you! When you're meant to go sub-4, you'll go sub-4! I'm so unbelievably proud of you both, and I truly think it's awesome that you've now run a marathon in another country! Congratulations :)

  4. Congrats!!! You still gave it EVERYTHING you had and finished with such an incredible time!

    AND you finished your thesis - you have so much to be proud of :)


  5. That last photo is SO great. Actually, all the photos are great! I loved reading this recap and feeling like I was running right alongside you. CONGRATULATIONS on not only running a great race, despite it being super tough, but on finishing strong with an awesome, positive outlook. That in itself is HUGE. My favorite line from the whole thing was "It was time to quit my bitching and run this race the way I went to Madrid to run this race." You have worked SO hard over the past few months, between training and your thesis and then the whole "my back is broken" thing, and you've been a total trooper. So congratulations on even getting to Madrid after a crazy spring, and congratulations on checking off yet another (international!) marathon! CELEBRATE!

  6. That last photo is SO great. Actually, all the photos are great! I loved reading this recap and feeling like I was running right alongside you. CONGRATULATIONS on not only running a great race, despite it being super tough, but on finishing strong with an awesome, positive outlook. That in itself is HUGE. My favorite line from the whole thing was "It was time to quit my bitching and run this race the way I went to Madrid to run this race." You have worked SO hard over the past few months, between training and your thesis and then the whole "my back is broken" thing, and you've been a total trooper. So congratulations on even getting to Madrid after a crazy spring, and congratulations on checking off yet another (international!) marathon! CELEBRATE!

  7. Congratulations on finishing marathon #4! What a journey!! I"m so prouf of you for not quitting and not giving up and always believing in youeselve!

  8. congratulations, my friend. sub-4 WILL be yours one day, I know it for sure, but I'm so glad you spent the day happy!! what a wonderful thing to say - you ran a marathon in madrid! xoxoxoxo.

  9. YEAH! Congrats, Christy! I've been thinking of you and waiting for this recap! You are simply AMAZING and I am so happy for you!

  10. girllllll you did SO well!!! there were many things you couldn't control (can only imagine the combo of hot+humid+smelly...), but you NEVER gave up! i know you were hoping for sub 4, but you really did amazing. sub 4 will be yours so soon and i have a feeling you're going to absolutely OWN that day.

    and........ you also finished a kick ass thesis. what a finish line that is.

    the sky's the limit for you!!!!!

    xoxo christine

  11. Congratulations!! I know it wasn't the time you wanted, but you stuck it out and ended with a really good time!!

    Let's celebrate soon!!!!!

  12. Girl, you are a beast! I can't believe you ran that marathon with everything else going on. I'm just in awe. Met goal or not, it's an incredible accomplishment. Good for you!!

  13. Oh girl what a friggin race!!! My heart goes out to you my love! You have sub-4 in you, of that no one has a doubt! Next time you WILL get it and you won't have any distractions or lack of sleep holding you back! Sending you big hugs!

  14. Congrats! Marathons are tough things to master. There are just so so so many factors. You will for sure get sub4 and better. Don't be worried by what people say about NYC. It is really not that hard a course. You just have to do some hill training (says the person who completely blew up there on her first marathon...but...you will be smarter and better trained than me!). We need to celebrate! Miss you! xo

  15. I love you. Reading this made me tear up. I am so proud of you and seriously, seeing you there to run me in was one of the best moments of my entire life. I can't tell you how much that meant to me.

    We ran that race, we gave Madrid our all and we lived to tell about it.

    Love your face!


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