Holy Crap, I Ran a Marathon: PART 2

02.23.16

Fitness

So… Where did we leave off? Oh yeah, at the START LINE of the marathon!!! I graced your eyes with this photo, a.k.a an absolute sea of 30,000 people that was by far, for me, one of the coolest parts of running a marathon as large & iconic as this one. (Trust me, ask my friend Alexi: we ran a half marathon in Long Beach — that we didn’t train for at ALL — about 4 years ago and there was probably a grand total of 45 people there and it was really lacking the vibe and energy of a legit race like this one… We didn’t even get a t-shirt… lol)Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 3.03.01 PM

Miles 1 – 6

Don’t ask me why I am breaking this down by 6 miles at a time… Probably because in my head I just kept thinking, “One 10k down, two 10k’s down, two-ish 10k’s more to go!” etc. (FYI: 10 k = 6.2 miles, and it’s also a popular distance to run for people who aren’t crazy enough to run a full marathon.)

The first things going through my mind when we crossed over that starting line were: “HOLY SHIT, we are actually doing this,” which I probably said out loud a good 15-25 times during the first couple of miles; and also “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”

We ran through Dodger Stadium and made our first turn in Downtown LA (I think it was Cesar Chavez Blvd judging by this course map, but then again I can’t be trusted to know such details when all I was thinking was — OMG, OMG we are doing this and my MUSIC ISN’T WORKING.)

Yes, that’s right folks, the music on my phone was not working. This wasn’t necessarily a huge deal, because I actually trained for the entire season without listening to music while running. But on this particular day I was SO STOKED to listen to the Spotify playlist that Jonathan (my pacer / one of my BFFs) had made for the both of us so we could listen to the same songs as each other throughout the run. And I couldn’t help but immediately start thinking: “Why, Jordan, did you not double check your Spotify playlists before the run actually started to avoid this ish happening?”

After about half a mile of fiddling with it and then putting it back into my armband, then fiddling with it again and giving up on it a few times, Jonathan lightly suggested, “… If it’s not working, it’s probably not worth stressing about it right now.”

Boom. Truth. When you’re at the BEGINNING of running 26.2 miles for the first time in your life, someone’s common sensical words basically become invaluable wisdom. So just like that, I gave up on trying to find the “otfweho” playlist J-man had created and reasoned with listening to an Eminem station on Spotify instead, which definitely pumped me up. Em is my MAN, in case you didn’t know. 😉

The first few miles of the race felt incredibly surreal. On the one hand I felt so comforted and full of energy because I knew that I was in the best position: well-rested, fully trained, thrilled to be there, being paced by someone super experienced & awesome, no injuries, no stomach probs, nada. On the other hand I was still intimidated by the sheer distance and couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s going to happen once I cross that 19 mile mark? Further than I’ve ever run in my LIFE… Will my legs be able to carry me?!”

I tried my best to push those thoughts out of my head. It was helpful that every time I started visibly thinking any of those thoughts (thankfully I wear my emotions all over my face no matter how hard I try not to), Jonathan would say: “Stop thinking. Just relax. Just breathe.”

It was during this beginning phase of the race that Jonathan also helped me remember to relax my arms and shake them out every so often so they wouldn’t get too tight or cramped later in the run. It really helped conserve energy, and not only that — it also made me FEEL relaxed and gave me a little confidence boost because I knew I still had so much expendable energy and felt good about saving as much of it as humanly possible for the later parts of the race.

Relaxing my arms and shaking out my hands and wrists also helped a lot because it put everything into perspective for me. It made me think of my 10+ years on the yoga mat, surrendering to a tough vinyasa flow or an even tougher emotional meditation practice. Wiggling your fingers, stretching out your arms & breathing into those spaces gives them life and keeps your whole body in tune with your mind + spirit. At the beginning of such a long and monumental run, it was cool to be able to channel those other aspects of my life that remind me to relax and remember WHY I commit to the things that I do. Because they scare me, because they strengthen my mind and my body connection, because challenges are what I thrive off of, and so much more.

The first 10k seemed like a breeze energy-wise, even though I was so internally panicked about losing steam that I might have tricked my brain into thinking that the arches of my feet were hurting even though I’m pretty sure in reality they weren’t. (Have I ever mentioned that I’m #crazy when it comes to anxiety?)

We ran through DTLA, then passed the Disney Concert Hall & Echo Park and with each and every STEP, I swear I started to feel more comfortable. Just gaining distance and clocking a few miles made a world of difference for me mentally.

Miles 7 – 13

Jonathan must have been happy when we got to Silverlake, because then he could finally say “YES” when I continued to ask, “Are we in Silverlake? Is this Silverlake? This looks like Silverlake. Are we now in Silverlake?”

Yes, with the beginning of mile 7 we had indeed entered Silverlake. It was still early in the morning at this point so I loved seeing the neighborhood quiet and peaceful, since I had only ever been to Silverlake at night when the streets were bustling with people in the nightlife and trendy restaurant scene. We even ran past an Alfred Coffee in Silverlake and I freaked because I didn’t realize they even had one out there! Can you tell I am a West LA girl? Haha.

But now it was about 8 a.m. so there were starting to be some people out on the streets cheering us on, sipping on their morning coffee, and no doubt thinking, “These people are NUTS.”

I really enjoyed this part of the run because my body was warmed up, I was still totally full of energy and enthralled by the experience in itself, I had a double burst of energy from my first gel (Vanilla Clif, baby!), we had a gorgeous view of Hollywood / Sunset in the far off distance to look at, & the palm tree lined streets made me feel like such an Angeleno.

During this part of the run and even before it, we started seeing runners with the word “Legacy” on their bib #s. I learned from J that those people had been running the LA Marathon since the very first year it started in 1984. Most of the legacies that were near us were older in age and were so, so, so inspirational to me because if they could run it 30+ years in a row, then I, a 25-year-old active girl who had trained her ass off, could certainly complete it this one time.

All in all, this part of the race was one of my favorites, because I knew we were coming up on the halfway mark which would be a fete in itself, and it was too early on to experience any aches, pains or exhaustion. We were cruisin’!

Miles 13.1 – 19

I can’t even tell you how thrilled I was to get to the halfway mark for many reasons. The exact halfway mark of the race was OrangeTheory West Hollywood, which is where Jonathan works and where a bunch of his friends / co-workers would be standing outside with signs, water, beer (for him, not me) and CLEAN BATHROOMS that we could use instead of the port-a-potties on the course.

I am not a port-a-potty person… So the clean bathroom thing was really keeping me sane as we approached the 13.1 mark. After chugging tons of water before the race and staying plenty hydrated along the way, I definitely had to use the bathroom.

I was also stoked to get to OTF Weho because I know how thrilled I was to get to Brentwood/Santa Monica to see my friends & family and their signs / support, so I knew the excitement Jonathan must have been feeling as we approached his stomping grounds. Even when I am in the marathon zone and still semi-panicked about the 13.1 miles ahead of us, there’s almost nothing I love more than an impeding situation that I know is going to make someone I’m with super happy. Seriously probably nothing better.

His friends were out there with signs and after we snapped some pics with them, Jonathan chugged not one but TWO beers, and we went inside to use the bathrooms. I can’t even tell you how phenomenal it felt to be in an air-conditioned, clean, well-kept bathroom in a place like OTF where I am sooo comfortable. I am pretty sure some people at the front desk mistook me for someone who stepped out of a workout class that was currently going on in the studio. No, just in the middle of running a marathon!

After that we hopped back out on the road and suddenly things seemed much more doable. Being halfway done with a marathon is much more of a confidence-booster than being at the VERY beginning of a marathon… Even though both are cool, being halfway there is an incredible feeling.

I was also really happy to be at this point in the marathon because from West Hollywood forward I was SO much more familiar with our territory than I was with Downtown LA, Echo Park, Silverlake, Fel Feliz, Thai Town and Hollywood. West Hollywood holds a lot of awesome memories for me, and from there forward is Beverly Hills, Century City, Brentwood and then the home stretch to the beach — my hood!!

Around mile 15 we saw my coach Jimmy Dean and my friend Heather, so we decided to speed up a bit to catch up to them. It was such a cool experience running side by side with Jimmy, the person who inspired me (and full on convinced me) to sign up for the marathon in the first place. Jimmy was sick that day and his voice was hoarser than I’d ever heard it, but he was out there running alongside all of us and cheering us on (for 8 full hours — go JDF) with a huge smile, a calming force and extremely motivating words of encouragement. I don’t think my race would have been complete without that one-ish mile that we ran together, the photo we snapped with the drag cheerleaders in WeHo (photo below!), sharing my happiness and gratitude about the whole experience with him, and hearing him joke about how I was going to fire him as a coach after the marathon. (Which, for the record, is definitely not happening — I need him!)

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Miles 15 – 19 ish were still a total breeze, to the point that I firmly believed I was NOT going to hit the wall or have issues like people always talk about as mile 19/20 approaches. I was still sucking down my gels every 45 minutes or so, staying hydrated at the aid stations and from the awesome people on the sidelines who were giving us water and gatorade, and feeling more exhilarated than life itself to get to Brentwood and see all of my people!!!

Mile 19.5 – 21

Now I’m breaking it down into slightly smaller increments because this stage of the race and the last couple of miles were vastly different from one another!!! It was around 19.5/20 miles where I started to really feel the distance. In my training I had run up to about 18 and a half miles on my longest run, so anything past that was basically unknown territory for me.

Jonathan was well aware of that, and he made it pretty special for me once we passed that mark by telling me, “This is the furthest you’ve ever run in your life!!! You’re killing it!”

Other than general physical fatigue starting to kick in, my thighs were starting to feel reeeeal tight around miles 20 and 21. This part of the race was TOUGH mentally, because we were successfully nearing the end but there was still a good 6 miles to go. Running down Santa Monica Blvd in Century City is pretty much steady but subtle uphill the whole way… So that was rough. And it was HOT, and the sun really beats down on you in that area.

Highlights of this part of the race were the cheerleaders from the local high school cheering for us, passing a ton of awesome people on the sidelines who were cheering on their family members / friends, seeing our friend + fellow OTF member Jen Levin (check out her BLOG!) cheering for me and Jonathan as we ran by (and snapping pics, as I later found out!), and the kind soul who gave us an orange Gatorade that Jonathan and I split. (Side note: I usually hate orange Gatorade, but it was SO FREAKING GOOD when we downed it.)

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Thanks for the pic Jen! We love you!

Miles 21.5 – 23

This part of the run was SO AWESOME!!! As soon as we rounded the corner from Wilshire to San Vicente, I wanted to burst into an emotional mess of happy tears. I live in Brentwood, so as if it weren’t comforting enough to run straight into the neighborhood that is home to me, we were also passing all the places I go on a daily basis + SO MANY amazing people in my life who were out there cheering us on.

The absolute best part of this area of the run was when my BFF Alexi saw us outside of OrangeTheory Brentwood and hopped in to run about half a mile with us!!! She was wearing a “#TEAMJOJO” & “Run Jonathan Run” shirt that was the best thing to see in the entire world. Here were our faces when we initially spotted her (a.k.a overflowing, blissful, insane amounts of happiness):

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And thennnn right as Alexi left us (so she could hop in a cab to meet us at the finish line), we ran past the Lululemon Brentwood ladies who were cheering their faces off for us!!! Passing their cheer squad was something I looked forward to throughout the ENTIRE race, because I knew they’d be out there with bells on and would give us the dose of energy and good vibes we needed to keep on going. Plus, I knew that approaching mile 22 would feel SO GOOD because we would be so close to the finish! Photo below by the AMAZING Ashley Streff who runs the @lululemonla account! So much pure happiness and raw emotion on our faces at this point.

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We passed Lulu and to my SHOCK, the Brentwood Farmer’s Market was going on & was totally poppin’! I guess it was naive of me to think that the entire world would stop functioning as normal just because of the marathon, but it was so trippy to pass the farmer’s market, a place I go EVERY SUNDAY, after having just ran from DODGER STADIUM (22.5 miles away on foot) to get there. It was cool!!! Also made me sort of jealous of the people who were just getting their groceries and had probably just woken up (lol).

Once we passed Brentwood… That’s when the difficulty really set in. At least leading up to Brentwood I was full of thrill and anticipation about seeing our crew cheering us on, and I knew we were only a couple of miles from the finish, but my legs were dying and my body was starting to be like WTF!

Miles 23.5 – 26.2

I started sort of saying to Jonathan around this point, “Ummm, this is getting really hard.” And he just kept responding in his wonderfully calming way by telling me everything was going to be fine and that it was ALL mental from there. We also started seeing a bunch of signs that said things like, “Run from your heart & your spirit, not your body,” which helped a LOT because I knew my heart and spirit were IN IT.

Also, my amazing assistant Danika sent me this text the night before the marathon, and I have to say that when things started to get really, really rough around mile 23/24, her words radiated through my head like you wouldn’t believe:

“You are capable of so many amazing things. You have completely improved the lives of others just based on the fact that you are an authentic human being that radiates beyond anyone’s horizon. I adore you more than you will understand. I can remember the day that we were on the phone and you were talking me into running the marathon with you and WHY you were going to run it.Guess what, babe??? The day is here!!! Well, the day is soon. Every passionate reason that pumps you to do you will be in full effect tomorrow. I am so proud of you and so in love with life because of you and so ready to hug you in celebration of this remarkable accomplishment. When you feel like stoping or giving up just remember that these past 6 months weren’t about preparing you for tomorrow. It was about preparing you for right now, a second ago and the next moment. It was a preparation of molding you to be who you deserve to be. That’s what makes all of this so darn beautiful. Tomorrow is a test of that molding — your body, your beauty and your warming spirit. And you my friend will pass that test. Congratulations Jordan Younger. Now go fuckin run your ass off ?. #butfirstxanax”

It might sound crazy, but her words were everything to me when my physical body started to feel beyond fatigued. I just kept remembering what she said… My spirit is warming, my soul is authentic and makes people happy/inspired and I am going to finish this marathon with a smile on my face, damnit!!

And THEN around mile 24 I saw a few of my favorite people in the world: Will McGregor, one of my favorite humans, (and his wonderful mom — dressed in hot pink seeing as it WAS Valentine’s Day!), and Annie Tenwick Gleason, one of my NutriBullet teammates who had to pull out of the race due to health issues. Annie running alongside of me with her cowbell and her super upbeat and motivating words of encouragement were EVERYTHING to me when my body was in paaaain. She reminded me that I was so capable, and instantly I felt so much stronger because I knew in my heart that I was running for her and all the other people I love who have been dealing with health problems that keep them from feeling their best. (Lord knows I have been there.)

Will’s calming presence was so helpful too, especially because we seem to have a way of communicating without even speaking (luckily, because I didn’t have a whole lot of energy for major conversation at that point!) and even if he was bluffing when he said I looked GREAT and was doing a great job, I took it in as a major compliment that made me feel like maybe I wasn’t so exhausted after all!

Then, just like that, we were a few blocks from the beach!!! AHHH! Everyone kept saying, “Once you hit the beach, you only have .2 to go.” I knew that was false because I was beyond positive from our training run on the course the week before that we had at least a half a mile to go once we turned on Ocean Ave if not more, BUT I knew that no matter what I would see my family near the finish line and that kept me going with a force and energy like you wouldn’t believe.

Those last few blocks on the beach were surreal in every way. The pain was still there but it’s almost as if it had left my body because I was so, so, so blown away that we had made it so close to the end. And I can’t even tell you how special it was to have someone as amazing as Jonathan by my side — to share my first ever marathon experience with someone I admire and am so inspired by was the greatest feeling.

THENNNN I SAW THEM!!!! My parents, my sister and my two nieces Isabella and Olivia. That moment was freaking unreal. I hugged/high fived them/considered collapsing in their arms/bursting into tears simultaneously and then I knew I had the passion I needed to go those very last few blocks to the finish line.

The very end of the race I am pretty sure I moved faster than the rest of the miles combined — however, I could be wrong and I potentially could have been moving slower than Jell-O because my bod wasn’t feeling its very most normal at that point.

Regardless, we crossed the finish line and there was an unspoken sigh of relief,  thrill, gratitude for health/physical ability, love for J, love for my own body, love for everyone who supported me in this journey and so much more. We then snapped this photo & I’m pretty sure it speaks for itself. SO MUCH HAPPINESS & ACCOMPLISHMENT:

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MORE TO COME about the aftermath of the race and answers to all of the Q’s you sent in!!! This post swiftly became very long because there was so much to say. And in case you’re wondering… YES, I AM NOW ADDICTED! I have already signed up for LA 2017, and want to sign up for more races this Spring, Summer & Fall!! YIPPEE!

Thoughts?! Musings? Thanks so much for reading this far. WHEW I feel like I just ran it again getting back into that headspace!!! XO