It’s been just over a month since I ran the San Francisco Marathon, and I’m happy to report that I have fully recovered! I’ve used this time to rest, reflect, and allow myself to feel proud of this accomplishment. I’ve just started to get back into my regular workout routine, and I feel strong. The other day I ran my fastest 5K, ever! While I definitely do not have the dream of running another marathon in my near future, if this is the only marathon I run in my life, I will be 100% okay with that. Because this experience was overwhelmingly special, unique, and hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever been part of. Here’s why:
As you probably already know, this was my first marathon. For years I swore to myself I would never run a marathon. Partly because I never wanted to put myself through the grueling training, not to mention the race itself. But I was also intimidated, and holding myself back; I was afraid of failure. But in typical “runner” fashion, that changed last year as I was crossing the finish line of the first half of the SF Marathon. I thought to myself “I could totally do that (run another half marathon) one more time.” For months I thought about it, and built myself up. My justification was “I’ve run the second half twice, the first half once; I know the course practically by heart.” So in March of this year, I mustered up the courage to sign up.
I trained for the marathon for 18 weeks, and the training was not easy. I knew it wouldn’t be; how could training to run a 26.2 mile race be easy? But the real reason I wasn’t happy with my training performance is because I missed a couple of key training runs. Unfortunately, the marathon coincided with a really rough period of my life; I was laid off from my job, a really important and significant relationship in my life left me heartbroken, and we lost Kate. All of these events were unexpected and devastating in their own right. They all had their emotional and physical toll, where I quite literally could not get out of bed some days.
So how did I complete the marathon not feeling 100% confident in my training? Well, admittedly, one of the qualities I like most about myself is my determination. When I set myself out to do something, quite simply, I do it. I try my hardest to follow through on everything I set myself out to do, and I have a lot of pride in that. When I wish for something, the first thing I ask myself is “is this a realistic goal?” And if it is, I come up with my plan for achievement. On the other side of that coin, having a strong-willed and determined personality makes coping with failure especially difficult to accept. So while there were a lot of moments these last few months where it seemed like the whole world was against me, and I doubted if I could complete the marathon, not running wasn’t an option.
If you ready my earlier blog post, you know that I had the privilege of running with 21 other people, and we called ourselves #TeamSlattery. 21 people, made up of seasoned runners and people who run here and there, ran with me to complete the marathon for Kate. It was the most special thing I’ve ever been part of. You’ve already read about how I got the crazy idea to run the SF marathon, and here’s how it went down for Kate:
Kate came home one day in April after work, marched into the kitchen and said “Hey. So, I was talking to my coworker today about running, and he was SHOCKED I haven’t run a marathon before.” Boo boo #1, mystery coworker man. NEVER make Kate Slattery feel inadequate. Clearly, he had definitely gotten under her skin. Kate ran the Berkeley half just a few months earlier, and crushed it. She loved running hills, and would often wake up after a long night out and run until she felt content. She was also always setting new goals for herself. Whatever it was that day, he definitely gave her a push and sparked her competitive side. Ten minutes later, we were both signed up for the marathon. She immediately printed out the course map and hung it in our kitchen; it’s still there.
A few days after Kate died, we came up with the goal that her bib would still make it across the finish line. We started discussing how this would happen and came up with the idea that multiple people could run a few miles here and there and exchange the big along the course. When this idea started to float around, a lot of people expressed interest in being part of the race. Kate touched so many lives, and they wanted to honor her.
When it came down to who was interested in running on Kate’s behalf, we had 21 people who were interested. Jeff Inhofer, one of Kate’s oldest friends from UW Madison, assigned one runner to every mile, and Jeff biked to every mile to facilitate the penny exchange (Kate’s bib was pinned on a bright pink penny). Yep, he biked 26.2 miles that day, and also ran 5 miles with me (more on that later). The plan was that whoever was running with me would leave me at about .2 miles before the next mile marker and speed up to Jeff, where he would be waiting with the new runner. They would exchange the penny, and the new runner would run onto the course to meet me.
We created a Google spreadsheet, ordered custom tank tops, and had an awesome dinner the night before. The enthusiasm that everyone had leading up to the race was nothing short of thrilling. I typically get so nervous before a race and am filled with anxiety. But knowing that I would have all of these people next to me (literally) gave me so much confidence.
I started the race with Gabe, which meant the world to me. Gabe is so much more than just my roommate; he is a brother to me. In the year and a half that I’ve known him, we’ve had a lot of highs (like quite literally hiking the Salkantay trail in Peru) and a lot of lows (saying goodbye to Jenny when she moved home to Atlanta, and losing Kate). Quite simply, Gabe is my rock, and he was for Kate, too. Starting the race with him was one of the most special moments of my life.
At mile 2 we met Shaudee, Gabe’s girlfriend. Shaudee is beautiful, smart, kind, and overall one of the loveliest people I know. Gabe and Shaudee are quite literally #relationshipgoals.
Miles 3-5 I ran with Tom Rohlf, Mandy Motl, and Dan Cleary. The exchange between Rohlf and Mandy was the first time I got emotional that day. It was the first time it hit me that all of these amazing people were running with me and encouraging me to do my best. And that we were all rallying behind Kate.
At mile 6 I met Erik Davis and we ran the first half of the bridge. Running with Davis was so much fun. Davis is the “dad” of the group, and has such an energetic and bright personality. He kept me smiling through the mist and thick fog as we looked for Mark Zuckerberg, who was running the first half. We then met Jeff at the end of the bridge at the Fort Point turnaround. Jeff ran miles 6-11 with me. I felt grateful having both Davis and Jeff with me at these miles because mile 6 was lead up to the Golden Gate Bridge (the second of four big hills), and mile 10 was the hill getting up to Seacliff. Jeff and I have gone on runs together before on vacations in Wisconsin and up at Gabe’s lake house, so it was comforting running with him.
Miles 12-14 I ran with Briand Scadden “Scadden”, Emily Pocrinhich, and Laura Koenigs. I had met Emily and Laura the night before at our pre-marathon dinner, and was already looking forward to seeing them. You know those people you meet and instantly want to get to know better? That was definitely the case with these girls, and they both were so infectiously positive, telling me I was doing great and exuding positive energy. I was really thankful for their encouragement at this point in the race.
Up until this point, I felt amazing, and my times were faster than necessary but I felt great. That changed at Mile 15 and onward. I was a mess. My legs started hurting. Bad. They had never felt so heavy in my life, and I was really starting to slow down. I ran these miles with Kate’s coworkers: Emily Kofsky, Scott Lowery, Travis Wilson, and Tim Tasabia. At mile 19 Steve Clark ran with me, and I didn’t know him before the race, but he was my favorite person that day. He ran the marathon a couple years prior, and was giving me great tips to end the race strong. He was also just genuinely enthusiastic and stoked on life. I am so thankful for all of these people, their excitement and new energy that helped me so much in these extremely hard miles.
At mile 20 Mandy Stevermer met me, followed by Felipe Quintana, Dominic Pitera, and Alan Browning for miles 21, 22, and 23. These miles are, admittedly, a blur. We were winding through Potrero Hill and down through the Dogpatch, where we curved around the ball park. At this point I was SO ready to be done with the race. Travis Wilson, who met me at mile 18, was still with me at this point, and didn’t leave until Mile 25. He was a rockstar, and I was thankful to have a constant runner with me.
At Mile 24 Alex Newell was waiting and I finally started to feel better physically. I told Alex that I had never been more excited to see his roommate, Rolf, in my entire life than at mile 25. Halfway into mile 25, Tommy Slattery (Kate’s brother) was there on the Embarcadero and we finished the race together. As I was finishing the race, finishing with Tommy was completely and utterly amazing. I wanted to collapse after the finish line, but he quite literally was holding me up and encouraging me to walk it off. Crossing the finish line #TeamSlattery was waiting off to the right, and seeing all of their faces was one of the proudest moments of my life.
All in all, the marathon was just as demanding, both physically and mentally as I thought it would be. A lot of the time when I’m running and start to get tired, it’s my brain that’s psyching me out. I can often silence that voice telling me to slow down, because my legs still feel strong. On marathon day, I felt endless gratitude for the people running with me who silenced that doubt in my head for me, because my legs were ready to give out at any moment. Running this marathon was one of the best experiences of my life, and I know that if I ever do muster up the courage to run another one, nothing will ever compare to this experience.
I know I sound like a broken record, but the amount of love and support I’ve received has been overwhelming. In a time where it’s hard to see light in this world, you all have helped me shine my light just a little brighter. So thank you. I am eternally grateful, and I know the Slattery family is too.
Getting my bib at the expo!
Most of the runners, and Kate’s parents #TeamSlattery
Two of my best friends from home, Mei-lin and Skai, who I’ve known since 3rd and 4th grade, respectively. Both of them have come to so many of my races and having them at the end of the marathon meant so much. Thank you for always believing in me.