I signed up for the Glass City Marathon in Ohio back in December of 2014 because I was excited about buying a new pair of running shoes—interesting motivation, right? Given the relatively mild weather we had been having at the time, training for a spring marathon seemed like it would be a relative walk in the park compared to training for my first marathon during the winter that introduced us to the Polar Vortex.
Boy, was I wrong.
After mentally kicking myself through another brutal winter of sub-zero temperatures and far too many runs completed on the treadmill, I was boarding a flight back home to Michigan with dog and running gear in tow for the big race.
One of the perks of running Glass City, which winds its way through the streets of Toledo, is its close proximity to my hometown in Michigan (just 35 minutes away). This means sleeping in my own bed and knowing that I won’t have to worry about whether or not my hotel will serve breakfast early enough or if I can find a decent cup of coffee. The marathon is capped at 2,000 runners and is run alongside 300 relay teams and another several hundred half-marathoners (for the first 8 miles, anyway)—which offers a slightly less stressful start to your 26.2 compared to a race like Chicago or NYC where you’ll run with 40,000 of your “closest” friends.
Acquaintances who’ve run the race before told me it would be a mostly flat, fast course, and that was a dirty, dirty LIE. Okay, not really a “lie” per se, but the course has a net increase in altitude during the first half and it never really registers that it’s a net decrease in elevation after that. Many runners who sign up for Glass City do so in hopes of qualifying for Boston—I was one of them—and the weather was ideal for making the attempt, but it became clear to me around mile 23 that that just wasn’t going to happen this time around. The 3:35 pace group left me in the dust after the first mile (my watch clocked it at around 8:00 when we should have been 10 seconds slower), so I hooked up with another girl who was chasing unicorns that day. We stuck together and stayed on pace until mile 21 or 22 when she had to drop off due to an old injury flaring up. From there it was easy for me to hit the wall . . . my saving grace being my best friend who was waiting for me with her fiancé around mile 24, and ran with me long enough for me to tell her several times over how much pain I was in and motivate me to pick up my feet to get the thing done.
When I finally crossed the finish line at 3:36:45 in the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl Stadium, it was all I could do to waddle over to the nice volunteer who gave me my medal and grimace at the lady taking pictures. There were congratulatory hugs all around from my family who promptly whisked me toward the truck and recovery french fries on the way home. They whisked me away so promptly, in fact, that I had no idea that my new PR had been enough to place me second among women ages 20-24. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself about having missed out on my BQ by less than 2 minutes, when I got a message from my aunt congratulating me on having won an award. And, well, you guessed it, we turned right back around and I have some shiny new (appropriately glass) bling to motivate me to keep chasing unicorns.
danielle prielipp lives and runs in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @thesweetdee