It took me several days to write this Chevron Houston Marathon recap. I had a lot to process after this amazing experience in a city I love, surrounded by people who were willing to push their limits.
If you’ve followed my marathon training posts, you know that this was a tough training cycle, especially after my car accident. My last training cycle was a disaster, derailed by a bumpy piece of sidewalk on a dark morning that left me with a sprained ankle just weeks before the Chevron Houston Marathon. This cycle, I worried that my car accident would keep me from achieving this one big, scary goal.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
On Friday, I headed to the Chevron Houston Marathon expo with my coach, Holly. The line for packet pick-up had an extra step: first, you checked in with someone holding an iPad. You had to have your ID and confirmation ready (which I did). It reminded me of going through the first part of the security line at the airport. At least one iPad was malfunctioning, and a lot of people did not have their paperwork. Then, you were directed to where you picked up your actual bib. To get your gear check bag and t-shirt, you had to go into the expo. That was fine by me.
We sampled some trail mix, energy drinks, and in my case, some jerk chicken. Yum. I bought a marathon jacket since it’s my first marathon, along with a 26.2 sticker for my car. (Which, by the way, I got back on Saturday morning. I took this as a good omen. Driving my Toyota RAV4 felt like home to me.)
Saturday, I finished packing and headed into Houston. I had made a reservation at the Marriott Marquis (pro tip: if you want peace and quiet, make sure you get a room either on a high floor or not facing the pool). I met up with some fellow Instagrammers at Ahh, Coffee, then ordered in some pad Thai for dinner. I laid out my clothes: my trusty Brooks Glycerin 15s, Thorlo socks, Rehband IT band tights, sports bra, Texas Beef Team singlet, arm sleeves, ear warmer headband, sunglasses, Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones, and my throwaway sweatshirt.
Sunday: Houston Marathon Recap
Ok, this is the part that really matters: the Chevron Houston Marathon recap. I woke up Sunday morning at 5 a.m. and was so nervous I could barely eat my protein oatmeal and almond butter. That was the fuel I had eaten in training, so I stuck with it. After I ate, I dressed, and I headed to the convention center to check my gear bag.
And then I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses, not great for a day that was supposed to be sunny. So I dashed back to the hotel, grabbed my sunglasses, and barely made it to A Corral on time.
Then I had to go to the bathroom really, really bad. So I dashed into the porta-potties right after the start gun went off, and I crossed the start timing mat with the B Corral.
All that exciting stuff aside, once I had crossed the start line, I was happy. I felt really, really good those first eight miles, even going slightly faster than I had planned. But I wanted to finish strong, so I held back. I stopped to high-five little kids and wave at the Beef Team cheerleaders. Someone had a sign that said, “Touch JJ’s (Watts) abs for power,” so I stopped and petted it. At every single water station, I stopped, grabbed a cup of water, and walked through to the last trash. I had trained to run that way, and I wasn’t going to deviate from that training.
Around mile 9, I had to go to the bathroom, again. I sped up like crazy, head swiveling, looking for a porta-can. I got distracted. Holly started blowing up my phone to slow down. I couldn’t. All I could think about was going to the bathroom. I ran six way-too-fast miles until I reached a bank of porta-cans, then went. Seriously, nothing feels better than going to the bathroom after holding it for nearly an hour. At least I was well-hydrated!
Along the course, I chatted with a few other runners. I had been smiling and singing for literally almost the entire time, and a German guy was amused at my enthusiasm for my first marathon. I couldn’t imagine a better day for running, and a better city to run in. There aren’t words to describe how good it felt to be finally running a marathon, to see what my body could do and celebrate how far I’d come.
I also chatted with this nice guy named Ben, from Michigan. Remember Ben. He’s really important to my story. He’s run marathons before, and he was enjoying the comparatively balmy Houston weather and checking a marathon in Texas off his bucket list.
As part of my plan, I made sure that I smiled and waved to spectators, especially the ones cheering for Beef Team runners. I stopped to high-five a guy in a cool hat, and I also stopped to pet someone’s dog. My time goal on the course was a 4:30 marathon, but my real goal was to mostly have fun. And I did. Crowd support in Houston is phenomenal – if there’s one thing that makes you want to run Houston after reading this Houston Marathon recap, it should be that the crowds will cheer, hold signs, and make you feel amazing. And that the volunteers will cheer for you by name if you get it printed on your bib. I honestly don’t know why any mid-packer wouldn’t just enjoy the experience and scowl the entire time. And yes, I saw those, too.
At Mile 24, I started feeling hungry. Like really, really, “give me all your food” hungry. That was
For the next three-quarters of a mile, Ben ran with me and pep-talked me. “You’re stronger than you think, Christine,” he said. I talked his ear off about my children, how I wanted to show them that the limit didn’t exist, that I wanted to cross that finish line for them. “It’s just around the corner,” he told me. And it was. We crossed the finish line together, and I gave him a sweaty, happy hug. It’s people like Ben that make me proud to be a runner. He didn’t have to pep-talk me through that last bit, but he did. You get to meet amazing people along the course, people who will help you through the hard parts. Complete strangers who somehow become your friends
My chip time was 4:23:43, faster than I had hoped, even with the porta-potty stop. And I achieved my other goal: I had loads of fun and now have a great story to tell.
All the Thank Yous
I’ll finish this Houston Marathon recap with all my thank-yous because even though I did my training runs alone, I didn’t train alone. My husband and kids put up with me during this cycle and supported me, and for that, I’m so grateful. The volunteers, the police, the Beef Team cheerleaders, the crowds –
Last but most certainly not least, I can’t thank Coach Holly enough for everything she’s done, from all the little tweaks to my training in and out of the box, for the nutrition advice, and for the moral support. She gave me the tools to run this race and finish it.
And that concludes my Houston Marathon recap and the recap of my first-ever (and most likely ONLY) marathon. I’m so happy I did it!