Phoenix Marathon Race Recap

The key to this race was NOT overtraining. I have trained for 3 marathons in the past, and for ALL of them I mentally struggled with finishing because I wasted all my mental strength on my training runs. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little background on those races, before recapping Saturday’s race… I’ll try to be brief. 😉

My first marathon, I finished because my whole goal was JUST to finish.

It's kind of embarrassing to see how much heavier I was back then!

It’s kind of embarrassing to see how much heavier I was back then!

My second marathon my partner and ROCK, got sick 24 hours before the race… which put me into a mental panic (I didn’t want to get his stomach bug… now I needed to take care of him… who would take care of the freaking out, pre-race ME??). By the time the race started (30 minutes late) I was over it. I knew I could do it already, there was no challenge, I was exhausted – mentally. But I put on a brave face for those that came to cheer me on.

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I love, love, LOVE #3251 rockin’ out to her music.

That’s when I learned JUST how important it is to rest your mind as well as your body before a marathon. I finished race 2, but only with Dan pushing me on the entire time. (Turned out he had a 24 hour bug and showed up at mile 13, 18 and 22 to cheer me on. Amazing guy.)

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Literally, he came onto the course two times to run side by side with me. <3

Race 3 was my redemption from race 2 since I was extremely disappointed in my race 2 performance. I knew I could beat a sub 4 hour marathon, even if it was by seconds under 4 hours! I kept my mental state relaxed and positive the morning of race 3 and was having a GREAT race, right on my target pace (20.54 miles at 8:42 pace). Then moments after this photo was taken, I unraveled when an injury that crept up a week beforehand locked up my whole knee.

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Little did I know what was about to come… 🙁

The dominos collapsed on that race: my Garmin died, my knee died and after a mile+ of hobble-walking in the last 10k section of the course, I decided to drop out with only 3 miles left. My phone died so I couldn’t call Dan to let him know. I was devastated and have regretted that moment ever since. Some redemption.

So, Saturday’s race was my redemption, from race 2 AND 3. But really, by this point, I was beginning to think the marathon distance was just NOT for me. So over time, Saturday’s race really became my test race. To see how I would do and see how badly I really wanted it. I have always said, if you really want something you will find a way. If it doesn’t happen, you don’t really want it. Simple.

Well, race 4 – which really, technically is race 3 since I got a ‘DNF’ on the real race 3… so let’s say race 3a (original race 3) and 3b (Saturday’s race). So, race 3b I took a very different approach to training and applied ALL that I had learned over the last 3 races. After many discussions with both myself and Dan over the months – much soul searching too – I decided the real reason I wasn’t doing well during these races was over-training. I think many runners over train and I wasn’t the exception to that rule – until race 3b. It was hard to go against the grain and only do a very small number of long runs versus my usual training. And believe me, at 6 pm the night before the race, I started doubting my process – but quickly pushed those doubts aside – ‘just focus on the finish, nothing else matters. Don’t over-think it’. Aaaaaaand on the drive to the race at 4:30 a.m., I started to FREAK OUT and question the process as well. Thank you No Doubt for helping to distract my wandering mind. I didn’t care that I was jamming out to “Hey baby! Hey baby, hey!” in my dark car, alone, on the freeway. It worked.

At this point I should probably mention that back in September I got really sick and simultaneously also got an injury in my hip flexor area. Basically, I was out of the running scene for almost 3 months. When PT didn’t work, I got desperate and tried everything else I could think of. Chiropractor, acupuncture, supplements, expensive CW-X pants, an even more strict diet which helped me to drop an additional 10 lbs making for a total loss of about 30 lbs. since race #1. I just wanted my body to be the best it could be. I was sick of getting sick – that was my 3rd time in 2012. I was sick of dealing with injury – I have a revolving door relationship with my physical therapist. So I also looked into Chi Running. The last 6 months for me have really been about getting my body and mind in the best shape of my life. It has felt amazing. At 35 I feel better than I did at 25. And I don’t ever want to look back.

Then a week before marathon 3b, I. GOT. SICK. AGAIN.

{Cut to visual of me, screaming at the top of my lungs, in the middle of the desert, saying WWWWHHHHHHYYYY???!?!?!?!}

It made me SO mad, that I was calm. Have you ever had that feeling? I was so upset that if I would have allowed my body to feel how upset I was, I would have crumbled.

I made a choice.

I was going to fight this cold off and I was going to run that race. If I had to crawl on my hands and knees across the finish line, I would do it. I didn’t care.

I would do whatever it took to run that race, because I knew how painful it was to quit and I would rather endure 4 hours of pain than months of regret.

This also told me, I DID really want it. In a way, I think getting sick was the best thing for me and this race. It showed me just how badly I wanted it. All week long I kept visualizing myself running across the finishing mat and just buckling over, hands on my knees and crying. That was the image I focused on. Nothing else. Not HOW I would do it, just that I WOULD do it. {spoiler alert}

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That’s me, crossing the mat, and crying.

So, HOW did I do it? Two simple but major changes.

1. Keeping a positive mental mind space the entire time. I never once let a negative thought get past the point of anything other than a wandering thought. I stopped them at the gate of what I like to call the absorption spot where thought becomes reality. I never let those negative thoughts become my reality. As quickly as they popped up, I flicked them away like tiny little gnats. (70%)

2. Not letting my watch tell me how I should feel. After my 3 month hiatus from running, when I came back, I had lost any speed I had gained over the summer. Instead of getting frustrated, I quickly focused on what I could control and that was simply mileage. I had reached a point in my fitness and running that I could run “forever” at a slower pace so I focused on that and ignored my watch DURING my runs. My pace is constantly wavering and if I happen to look down at a slow bump, it messes with me. So, over the last 4 months I’ve let ME tell ME how I should feel on my runs. I let the watch do it’s work, but I don’t review it until I’m home and done. (30%)

Down and Dirty Details

On race morning, I pulled into the full marathon parking area and saw all the buses lined up, ready to take us to the start. 26.2 miles away. {don’t freak out, don’t freak out}. The bus ride was stuffy and very loud and the whole time I was trying not to cough for fear of freaking out other racers on this tightly packed bus. ‘No, I’m not sick anymore. I’m just getting over a really bad head cold that has me coughing up a bunch of phlegm  Don’t worry, it won’t get you sick.’ 0_O As I sat talking to a nice older guy who was running his first marathon, I remember thinking how small the seats on this bus seemed. Or had I just gotten bigger, hmmmmm…

At the arrival at the start area, I had the opportunity to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law (Dan’s side). It was really nice to have family there and be able to cough freely. 😉 At this point I also ate a Nature Valley granola bar, the rest of my banana and the rest of my plain gluten free bread slices. FUEL UP!

When it was time to line up, there were no corrals for specific finishing times, so I just picked a pace group slower than what I wanted, to help me not speed out of the start too fast. I honestly can’t remember, but I THINK it was near the 4:15 pace group? With fighting a cold all week long, I had no idea what to expect. I had let go of my hope of finishing under 4 hours, but knew that I could still PR from race 2 (4:17). I mean seriously, I stopped during race 2, took off my shoe and sock and sat on a big rock to call Dan to come get me. It wouldn’t be that hard!! The cannon went off and the front of the pack started moving! ‘Keep it slow. Keep it calm.’ I told myself. I crossed the start mat and hit the start button on my Garmin.

Immediately I could tell I was going uncomfortably slow. I was breathing totally fine, was totally relaxed and was focusing on my Chi Running form. I was also passing everyone. I looked at my watch just to make sure I wasn’t having a false sense of calm; common at the race start. Nope, I was right where I should be – even a little slower than my normal training run warm-up pace. It helped that it was all downhill… 🙂 I soaked in the view of the desert, the city in the distance and the sounds of runners all around me.

COUGH! COUGH! COUGH! HACK! Oh crap.

For the first 6 miles of the race I was coughing and hacking up lung goo. But I was still passing everyone. I passed the 4:05 pace group… then the 4:00 hour pace group… then on the uphill at mile 5 I passed the 3:55 pace group. I couldn’t believe it. At this point I just decided to go with the flow. I thought, ‘enjoy it, if you blow up later, you can deal with it then’. I didn’t let fear or doubt reach me. I just lived in the present moment and I felt great in the present moment.

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I’m pretty sure this was around mile 6.


I didn’t look at my watch the rest of the race… at least not until the very end. I didn’t need to; the mile markers were enough and every now and then people around me would give it away. 🙂 Besides, that’s not how I ran anymore.

Once the coughing stopped, I seemed to forget I was ever sick and just ran the race. I walked through every single water station (14 total) while drinking two cups of water – most of the time they were only a 1/4 to 1/2 full. Every station that had bananas and oranges, I would take at least one banana (they were cut into a bite or two). THAT was amazing. I took 2 of my Carb BOOM energy gels; mile 9 and mile 21. I also had to ask for Vaseline at this station because my lips were cracking apart. They took a little longer than I would have liked, but that’s ok, it helped.

You can see the spikes in the blue lines are my water stops.

You can see the spikes in the blue lines are my water stops. The green is elevation change.

Once I hit mile 13.1 and ran under the start archway for the half marathon, I hit the lap button on my watch. It was at this point that I said to myself, well, you are almost done – you are halfway there – only 13 miles left – just do it. Push it. Give it what you’ve got. I was still passing people and still feeling great despite the cramp/pain in my right hip flexor area; but I just tried to breath into it, relax it the best I could and adjust my form. When I made it to the 10k start, I hit my lap button again on my watch and told myself I could just coast in at this point. I wanted to conserve my energy because I knew what was coming in the final 6 and especially that last 3 of those 6. The wall. I could see people all around me hitting it and I didn’t want to be there. Been there, done that (See race 2 above!). So, I changed my stride to small rotations, with little heel pick-ups. It worked. I kept on cruisin’.

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My splits for the 13.1, “give-it-more” section and the “cruise control” section. 🙂

In those final miles of the race where doubt would start to raise it’s ugly head, I would quickly smash it out. I’d say, “That’s not gonna happen” or “It doesn’t matter” depending on the negative thought. I just refused to let myself go there. Instead of thinking, “WOW. I have to run a whole half marathon still?” I said, “WOO HOO! I’m halfway there, so close!” And in the last three miles, I kept saying, “IT’S ONLY THREE MILES!!!” Versus, “I have 3 miles. That’s so far. I’m so tired. WHY ISN’T THIS OVER YET?!” I even remember thinking, “It’s better than being sick and on the couch!”

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Downtown Mesa, mile 21.5 – I take ceramics class right down the street!

When I was about to turn onto the final stretch of the course, I decided to look at my watch. To be honest, I don’t remember what it said, but I remember I started to cry because I KNEW for certain I was going to come in well under 4 hours. Then I immediately stopped those emotional tears because I still needed to finish this sucker up! I turned the corner and cranked up the speed. I didn’t care how far the finish was, I didn’t care! I just wanted to get there faster. I knew it wasn’t more than a half mile. The closer and closer I got, the more people I saw and the more cheers I heard.

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Dan was cheering me on from the sidelines at the finish! I told him multiple times, “I’m running this race for me. Just be there at mile 22 and the finish. I’ll do the rest on my own.” He listened. He’s awesome.

Then I saw the finish line and just gave it everything I had left in me. I heard the announcer say, “CorEEN Green is coming in for her finish!” And I huffed and puffed and fought back tears and crossed that mat and burst into tears. The medic at the finish asked if I was OK and I said, “I’m SO HAPPY!!” and we both started laughing.

Then I heard Dan yelling for me saying, “You CRUSHED it love!” and I replied with, “That was the easiest marathon I’ve ever run!” LOL I was so happy. Then they snagged me for my finishing pic.

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At this point I’d like to THANK everyone in my life who is so supportive of my crazy running hobby. 🙂 I know the week before a race I become very disconnected and don’t like to talk much; that couldn’t be more true this race. I needed this personal victory and I was very focused on making sure I did what it took to make it happen. The good news is I’m back to normal right after the race! haha

One final thought…

During my soul searching I took a hot yoga class. At the end during relaxation pose, the instructor said, “Feel that sense of calm you now have and take it with you as you go through your day and practice non-violence towards yourself.” It took me by surprise, because I thought she was going to say, “…towards others.” I was so mean to myself when I didn’t finish both those marathons how I wanted to finish them. As humans, we really need to treat ourselves as we treat others. I would never say the things I said to myself, to anyone else.

Without knowing this, my mom said to me a week before the race, when she found out I got sick, “Well honey, what advice would you give to yourself?” I love my mom.

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20 Responses to Phoenix Marathon Race Recap

  1. Adrea says:

    I really admire the determination that runners have. Very inspiring!

  2. Jenni says:

    I’m crying reading this, literally tears down my face. So proud of you, THank you for sharing your awesome journey. ((HUGS)) jen

  3. Christine Ashton says:

    Corine,

    Thank you for sharing the details of your latest marathon in comparison to your previous ones! A lot can be learned from each experience! It makes me want to run more.

  4. Corine, So glad you documented this race with a thorough retelling. I love reading your personal observations. What a great experience!

  5. emmarossruns says:

    Wow, what an inspirational post – well done!!! I’m going to bookmark this and keep rereading it over my last weeks training for the London Marathon. I’ve started Chi Running too and it’s helped so much with my running and (touchwood) I’ve been injury free so far……
    You must be so proud

  6. dbarber3 says:

    Beautiful!!! So inspiring! Makes me want to try a Marathon now 🙂

  7. Amy English says:

    I am so excited to hear and read your running adventures. I can totally relate, and am so glad that you had such a positive meaningful race!

  8. Thomas says:

    great post very inspiration and I have to read it again 🙂 thanks

  9. Daisy says:

    love reading your post it really inspires me! very well done,i cant run for ten minutes without being outta breath,ive been trying though

    • Don’t give up! Trying is half the battle. Something I usually tell my friends or anyone new to running, is to slow down and shorten your stride. Many people new to running (I was no exception to this) go faster than they really should. Food for thought, it may help. 🙂

  10. Thank you for your recap! While I am not even half as speedy as you (well, I hope I am at least 70% as speedy as you), this is inspiring. To see you never gave up and when you did #3b, you KILLED it! Aweosme and congrats. I am signed up for Phoenix as my first full. So excited!
    http://www.runningwithSDMom.com

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