Guest Post: Kristin Werner

Hi! I’m Kristin aka @stlrunnergirl. Some of you may know me from Kristen’s Facebook group the Badass Running Buddies Community.  I’ve been training with Kristen for the last six months for the Chicago Marathon, and it was honestly the best decision for my marathon training cycle that I could have made.  With two super important races on my summer/fall schedule, there was no way that I wanted to end up with an injury right in the middle like I did last year!  I met Kristen last October at a Rock ‘n Roll race here in St. Louis.

I was injured during my Marine Corps Marathon training last summer and had almost zero motivation for running through the winter – yet, I still signed up for the Chicago Marathon, because let’s face it that’s what we do as runners, right?! I started building a base and worked my way up to full-on marathon training in the dead of summer.  Marathon training is INTENSE – mentally and physically exhausting! It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, just ask my friend Steffany – Marathon Brain (as we call it) is a real thing! All of those long workouts and intense runs, I almost forgot my own name! But I promise you, if you’re hoping this story has a happy ending…well just keep reading! 😉

Fast forward to RACE WEEKEND! The Chicago Marathon was approaching quickly….of course like any race, not without a few bumps along the way.  I got bit by a bug on my second to last long run and ended up on antibiotics in case it may have been a tick and to combat possible Lyme Disease since I didn’t see the bug and the bit looked extremely suspicious. Say what?! YES! This would only happen to me! However, while in the past, this would have destroyed me mentally since the antibiotics were physically destroying me (or at least I felt like they were) Kristen helped keep me in check and made sure that I keep my eye on that finish line!  I decided to take the train to Chicago since I was staying downtown and didn’t want to deal with parking or driving home after running 26.2 miles.  Well, the train left over an hour late the morning of my departure to Chicago – talk about race nerves really setting in! Yes, I still had plenty of time, but I had never taken the train before so I had no idea what to expect AND they were all like “just leave your luggage down below here [by the door] before you head up the steps.” Umm, my race day shoes are in that bag! Soooooo, I definitely after 30 minutes of sitting on the train pretended I was cold and went to get my sweatshirt but really went to get my running shoes!  I got to Chicago and the race nerves disappeared! I mean how could you be stressed with a view like this??

I was running the race with my friend Kristin (I know it’s so confusing! I know so many people named Kristin!) and she was meeting me from northern Virginia.  Friday morning, we headed to the expo when it opened.  I’m so glad we did because after a couple of hours exploring the expo, it was INSANE!! There were so many booths to walk through and we picked up some good race souvenirs and then we headed out for lunch and some sightseeing.  

Saturday we wanted to keep things low key – save those legs for the MARATHON! We met up with some friends at the We Run Social meetup at The Bean in the morning and then hit up the Museum of Science and Industry, easily my favorite museum in Chicago.  I could spend almost an entire day here, but we just spent a few hours and hit the highlights – Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, the Coal Mine and a few others. We spent the rest of the day with our feet up, watching some Netflix. It rained on and off all day, but stopped just before we headed out for some dinner, and we noticed outside there was this beautiful rainbow. And then we saw another rainbow – two rainbows!? Leading right over the start line of the race!? This must be some kind of good luck! We ran up to the roof to check them out from the top.  AMAZING!!

Race morning final arrived. Was I nervous? Not really. This was a new experience for me. I had never not been nervous for a race.  Especially one this big! I knew that I had put in the work and I had my race day strategy and I was going to leave everything I had out on that race course.  We headed to the start line around 6:45AM (we started at 8:35AM), which was only a few blocks away, but I wanted to make sure that I was near the front of my corral (because that’s where Kristen told me I needed to start) since I was in the very last corral.  Success! We were at the VERY FRONT! I thought that sitting around would only increase my race nerves but I felt pretty calm and collected. Race time came closer and we moved towards the start line and before I knew it, we were off for 26.2 miles through the city of Chicago. Kristen broke my race up into 6 mile stretches and told me to take the first six miles at a comfortable pace (she gave me paces to use but since you’re running through the city of Chicago, your pace on your watch is WAY off). I felt like my pace was pretty comfortable and had a pretty solid 10K – I got several of encouraging  texts along the way from friends and my cousin Haley was at mile 3.5 with her boyfriend Frank to cheer me on! I stopped for a quick hug and a selfie of course!  

The next six miles, I was supposed to keep it at a comfortable pace still – STAY COMFORTABLE was the key. I probably was running a little faster than I should have but I still felt fairly good and I held a conversation with a  runner I met along the way from Instagram!

The next six miles, I needed to kick up the pace a little. I was almost halfway there, and it was starting to heat up a little bit. Motivational texts were still coming in and Haley was up at mile 17 waiting for me…I was kicking up the pace and my legs were feeling heavy. The crowds were incredible though; there were people lining both sides of the streets almost the entire way so far.  The Charity Block Party at Mile 14 was amazing – all of the charities had tents and were out to cheer on the runners in one huge block party! I was counting down the miles until I could possibly see Haley again – a friendly face in the crowd would be nice as I was growing tired and mentally fading as well.  Mile 17 was approaching and I looked all over but Mile 17 came and went and I couldn’t find her and then the text came that I passed by her on the map and she missed me as well…dang it!  The thought of the Finish Line would have to carry me through at this point.

The last six miles were literally the hardest six miles I think that I’ve ever run. The sun was out in full force and shade was few and far between as we were mostly out of the protection of the tall buildings of downtown.  My feet and legs were incredibly tired and heavy and I just didn’t want to continue.  I stopped to walk a lot more after Mile 17, but walking hurt my feet just as much as running and since running would get me to the Finish Line faster…I just tried to run as much as my body would allow at this point.  The route took us through so many different neighborhoods and everyone was out to cheer all of us runners when we needed it the most. I teared up as I turned the corner to run through Chinatown because the crowd was intense and my emotions were INTENSE at this point, and then as I approached Michigan Ave for the last two mile stretch, I teared up again.  There was only TWO MILES left! I could definitely do this. I could run two miles in my sleep! The trick to this though was that there was almost ZERO shade and it was HOT! My friend Max kept texting me and told me that I was close and that I could do it.  I text Max that I was at Mile 25 and he told me if I really kicked it into gear, I could come within a minute of my goal. I literally had no idea where I even was with my time, I hadn’t looked at my watch ONCE the entire 25 miles (and I still didn’t at that point). I knew that if I did look at it, that I would become a mental basket case and I would FREAK out and all my effort would be lost, so I kicked it into high gear and pushed myself. While I ran/walked a lot of the last eight miles, I ran that last 1.2 miles to the FINISH…UP that last hill – yeah as flat as Chicago is, they throw a fancy little hill in the end! And then down to the FINISH LINE!! I threw everything I had into that last few yards and ran! I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch…my watch said 5:30:10 but I knew I didn’t want to trust what it said so I waited until I saw my time from the tracking app.  I walked through the finish line area for some water and my medal and some food and of course a beer…crying every time ad volunteer said Congratulations to me and headed to my friend Kristin.  I sat down on the curb next to her and told her that I hadn’t even looked at my time yet, so she pulled it up…5:29:55. FIVE SECONDS under my goal!!! I couldn’t believe it! I immediately sent Kristen a message…of course…and also a picture of the #concreterunnercrouch with a beer!

Post-Marathon plans included a visit to the Willis Tower and standing on the glass! And some Mexican food with a friend from Texas before packing and heading back on the train the next day.

The Chicago Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart because it was such an amazing experience and hiring a coach was the best decision that I’ve made. I never ever would have PR’d by almost an ENTIRE HOUR if not for working with Kristen and having the structure in my life, and I could not have survived 26.2 miles without all of the incredible and awesome texts and messages that I got along the way from all my friends and family!!

If you followed my training in the Badass Running Buddies Community, I cannot thank you enough! I loved all of your support along the way! If you aren’t part of this amazing and awesome community, you should totally join so we can support each other in our training to awesomeness where you can meet more super cool running buddies just like me! And you can follow me on Instagram (@stlrunnergirl), Twitter (@stlrunnergirl) and my own blog.