*The magical day I BQ’d*

There is a good possibility that I haven’t stopped smiling once since Sunday. When I awoke to the sound of my alarm on Monday morning, my aching body reminded of what happened the previous day. Once out of bed, I was greeted with an email from the previous evening that contained a link to the Vernonia Marathon race results. When I opened the page, displaying the top 5 male and female finishers of the event, I about dropped my cup of coffee when I saw my very own name in the fifth spot.

I was the fifth overall female finisher.

How? What? Huh? (…scratching head…)

Honestly, I am still feeling a little overwhelmed by everything that happened on Sunday. After more than a year of dreaming about what that moment would feel like when I finally qualified… there are few words… but I can say with certainty that it feels absolutely amazing!

The Vernonia Marathon is a sweet little marathon that I would, without hesitation, run again and again. The route is spectacular! Most of it meanders among trees and creeks on a paved trail and is predominately downhill or flat.

The race begins in Vernonia, Oregon and finishes in neighboring Banks, Oregon. I have very few negative things to say about this event in general but I’m not crazy about the late start time for the race. It begins at 9:30 AM. I recognize that this is due to the fact that participants are bused from the finish (where packet pick-up is located) to the start.

I traveled with my friend, Bob. We arrived at the start around 7:30, even after catching the shuttle, which means we had more than two hours to kill before the race started! A good opportunity for pictures I guess! ; )

Brrr! A very cold wait!

Brrr! A very cold wait!

On the bright side, the start is located at a retreat center with an indoor area for runners to relax in before the race began. Eventually, we walked to the start and waited a little more.

Ready to get the show on the road!

Ready to get the show on the road!

I have no idea what time we actually started but I was glad to be underway! The first mile is downhill and despite my best attempt to stick to my goal to start slooooooooowwwww, I still started too fast. Shocker, huh? A lovely gal running the half marathon started to pace me just after the first mile. I enjoyed chatting with her but her goal time was way faster than I needed/wanted to run and even though I knew better I continued at a sub-8:00 pace until she decide to speed up around mile 6.

On the bus ride to the start, I considered whether or not I wanted to set the virtual pacer on my Garmin. I opted against it but immediately after starting, I switched the display to keep tabs on my pace instead of time/distance. (I didn’t check my time until I was about 24.6 miles in!)

While my pace was on track the first 13 miles, I felt myself feeling envious of the half marathon runners that were completing their race. I was only half done. Accomplishment aside, running a marathon is HARD!

My splits for the first 13 miles were:

7:55/7:46/7:43/7:46/7:54/7:53/8:02/8:09/8:05/8:15/8:15/8:29/8:25

Miles 9-13 are a gradual uphill. I slowed a little between miles 12-14. There is a pretty wicked hill just past the halfway point where I slowed considerably but once I reached the top, miles 15-21 were actually pretty awesome. It is mostly downhill with a very subtle decline most of the way. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful!  After the half marathon finish, the number of participants dropped significantly. There were periods of time where I didn’t see any runners ahead of me. But there were plenty of bicyclists and equestrians out on the trail to keep things interesting.

Around mile 22, the trail becomes flat and the last four miles run nearly parallel to a highway. This is where things start to get grim. After miles and miles of shade covered trail, we were now running in almost direct sun. I passed several runners who were starting to have issues. One of my other few complaints about the event is that given the late start, and the heat of the day (low to mid-70’s), I think another aid station, or two, would have been a really good idea.

I slowed quite a bit. I had to dig deep. Really deep. I knew that I had banked some extra time early on but I really didn’t know what my time was and I wanted to wait until as long as possible to check. When I finally did, around 24.6 miles in, I was at 3 hours, 20 minutes, and some odd seconds. Whoa! Even if I ran nearly a 10 minute mile, I could still finish in just under 3:40:00!

It was about that point that I realized that I was going to do it. I was going to qualify for Boston. By how much I wasn’t sure. I still had nearly a mile and a half to go. It wasn’t pretty but I as I cruised toward the finish, with the final .20 miles on a track, I gave it everything I had left.

The finish is near!

The finish is near!

Had I known how close I was to finishing in under 3:35:00… I’m proud of what I did and pleased with my 3:35:01 finish… but so close!!! ; )

DONE!

DONE!

My splits for miles 14-26.2 were:

9:00/8:11/8:16/8:11/8:17/8:13/8:02/8:07/8:27/8:21/8:36/8:38/8:24/1:45

I came across the finish all smiles! That feeling… so hard to describe but man, does it feel good! My family was there to share it with me and I was so grateful. My friend Bob had finished before me and was waiting to watch me cross the finish line too. This marathon was his 48th! Incredible, right?! (In fact, he gets credit for three of the photos above.)

Bob and I still smiling!

Bob and I still smiling!

After cooling down we headed inside for the awards ceremony, which was supposed to include complimentary soup. By the time we got there though, they had already run out. ; ( That’s okay, I picked up this blue ribbon for finishing 1st place in my age group!

1st place in my age group!

1st place in my age group!

The rest of the afternoon was filled with celebratory Thai food, champagne, and so many messages from friends and family congratulating me on my fantastic race and BQ! I savored every second of it too! It was an absolutely magical day!!

Officially, I finished in 3:35:01 setting a new 6:32 PR and averaged an 8:13 pace. I was the fifth place overall female and first place female for my age group. And of course, I QUALIFIED FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON! ; )

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again! A super HUGE thank you to everyone for the support, encouragement, good luck wishes, post race congratulatory messages, and anything/everything else I overlooked! It means so much and I’m glad you’ve been along for the journey to this milestone with me! THANK YOU!!

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