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20 miles were a lot different than I expected.

So finally I ran a 20 miler. I didn’t know what to expect, and to finish was not what I expected at all. I still can’t believe I actually did it. Part of me thinks that little Claude was lying to me, like my nike plus used to, the little cheater, but alas 20 miles down in the books. So I don’t want to toot my own horn and I know some of you run this all the time, but it was a big first for me, and there were a lot of things that happened on the way that I knew I would HAVE to share with you guys.

The night before I just kept telling myself that I could do it. I wasn’t scared of it, and I knew if I had to walk, crawl or slog my way through it, I could at least try. I got up at 6 am and wanted to take off at 6:30. I had a muffin, three shot blok and got my fuel belt ready. I packed in three bloks to have at the 4 miler make. It started off great. I was really amp’ing myself up over it. I kept telling myself that I COULD do it, and I WOULD do it. Repeating something in your head is really helpful. I was going to run an 8 mile loop, a 4 mile loop the opposite way, and then the 8 mile loop that I ran earlier. Each end of the loop was going to pass by my house because I hadn’t had time to get the extra pouch for my fuel belt yet so I was just going to grab my gus from home.

The farthest I’ve ever ran before this weekend was only about 17.6 miles, and there were a lot of breaks in between since I ran the 10k and ran to the starting line and home after. I started off wearing my arm warmers, shorts and a t-shirt. I felt very good for the first 7 miles. I didn’t look down at Claude to see my pace, I just let myself go, and enjoyed the fresh beginning of a new day. I was instantly in the ‘zone’ and every mile ticked down I just though to myself, “Okay, that’s only 18 left, now 17 left, now 16 left.” I ate shot bloks at mile 4, this was of course when a nice old guy was running by me and he said hello. I was half chewing, half choking, half trying to breath and I mumbled/drooled out a hello back. He probably thought I was some crazy freak.

It was during this time when I started to imagine myself running a full marathon. I started to think of what I was going to wear on race day, what it would be like to cross the finish line. I started to think about all the girls I’m going to be running with from San Fransisco and Oregon, and how excited I am to see everyone and what a great weekend it will be. Then I started to think, well this is my FIRST marathon, I feel like I should dedicate this to someone. I thought about making a shirt that said, “In memory/honor or something along those lines, of my Mom.” I thought about putting a picture on the shirt, what I would want it to say. Then I started thinking about this more and more, and I thought about well if I ever make it to Boston, I would much rather dedicate that race to her, or the race I BQ at to her, and I don’t know if I want a shirt with her picture on it, or people to feel bad for me, etc. etc. Then my thought process changed to something else and I forgot about that.

Once I got to 8 miles I had to RACE to the bathroom back at my house. I realized this could be an issue, we are going to have to work on that. Then I got three more shot blok and took off again. While at home I also took off my arm warmers. I felt good on the 4 mile loop still and kept counting down the miles. For the first 8+4 loops I didn’t listen to music and just enjoyed my run, not caring about my pace. There was one spot where it smelled like a heap of dead fish, and another where it smelled so strongly of bacon. I realized I cannot smell things on my run or they make me gag. I thought I was going to throw up during these smelly points. There was a huge 177 mile relay race going on and I would smile at the racers walking or running by and sometimes encouraged them with something random like, “Way to go!” I’m so original, I know. They were running from Santa Barbara to Dana Point in relay teams. That was kind of exciting.

After four miles, I stopped at home and went to the bathroom yet again. I made sure both my ‘home’ stops were only three minutes. I took yet another gu and took off to finish this run. At this point it was pretty hot out so I decided to brave the elements and run without a shirt. That is the only way I’m getting back in shape. If I run without a shirt then I feel like I have to do extra sit ups. :) I grabbed my ipod for this last loop of the run as well because I knew this was going to be where I needed distractions. I took off and was into my run about 13 miles. Then in the distance I saw a huge crowd of walkers on the beach path. I knew this wasn’t just a random group of walkers, but it had to be yet another organized event. I was interested to see what it was again. I got closer and closer, and realized it was the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. After a little research this morning I realized it wasn’t the actual walk, but a Training Mock Walk, but still everyone was wearing pink and excited to be out and walking and raising awareness to breast cancer on this Saturday. It looked like it could be the real walk there were so many people.

Unexpectedly, I all of a sudden felt my heart start to burn with a familiar hurt, and my breathing was hard. This is when I lost it. I started crying. It was mile 14, I had 6 more to go and I was crying while running next to these walkers. My nose was sniffling and I was just looking down and reminding myself to keep going. To keep putting one foot in front of the other one. They were walking against the route I was running and all saw me crying while running along. Though I had my music on I could hear my breathing and it was weird like shallow wheezing.

I had done the Avon 3-day walk when my mom was still alive my junior year in High School. I had worn the pink gear, I had walked the 60 miles, and my mom (and entire family) were there supporting me through the entire thing. It was a great experience and seeing these women walking was just inspiring and it reminded me so much of my mom it turned me into a wheezing/running/crying mess.

I kept telling myself to suck it up and stop crying, but I couldn’t. It was a weird weird mile. I hate crying in front of other people and I just took some deep breaths and kept running. I remember feeling a tear go down my cheek and I thought to myself, really, REALLY you are seriously CRYING?! Then, just as quickly as I started choking up, I stopped crying and was okay to finish the run. The last 6 miler were good. It was once I got to mile 17, I was hurting, my butt was killing me. I have never even felt pain in my butt when I run at all. I got back to my house and thought about my run. I had completed it, I had broke down in the middle and still kept going. Sometimes that’s all you need to keep going. I took an ice bath and then showered and laid in my bed for some time watching the Penn Relays and the NFL draft.

I think it reminded me so much of my mom and how she would be so proud of me for running a full marathon. It reminded me so much of how many people are affected by breast cancer, and how many people we need to find a cure for. I’m sure people were like WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH THIS GIRL. When you are tired, and running, and crying, it’s hard to breathe.

Doing this run brought so many emotions out, looking back on it now, I would have NEVER expected that something like that would remind me of my mom, none the less make me cry and break down in the middle of a long run. It also made me realize that I can run a full marathon. I was beginning to get nervous and I know the brutalness of a full marathon doesn’t even come until the 20th mile, but you know what, bring it on. If you go in with the attitude that it’s going to be too hard, that you won’t like it, that it’s going to stink, that you’re hurt, that you can’t do it, guess what…

It is going to be too hard, you won’t like it, it is going to stink, you will be hurt and you won’t be able to do it.

I’ve played this mental game with myself, and almost got caught up in it again last night. Sunday after the 20 miler was my scheduled rest day and last night when I got home it was cold. I was exhausted and didn’t want to run, but decided to go out to ‘loosen up’ I planned to run a four miler but when I started I was incredibly sore. I didn’t even realize how sore I was. I told myself that I HAD to do four miles, and that if they were slow or fast they were going to get done, so I ran 2 miles out away from my house so I couldn’t go back after two miles. After the first mile, I had gotten rid of my sore stiffness and was chugging along and knew that I would be fine for four miles. So fine that my last mile was 7:45. I had to allow myself a chance for success.

The two weeks leading up to my 20 miler, I probably put in about 8 miles in each of those weeks. Believing in yourself works wonders. Running is hard, it’s just a mental game of pushing yourself to your personal limit. It’s not easy, but no one ever said anything that was worth it was easy. Allow yourself to succeed.


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  • Reply Marge

    Way to go sister. You are amazing! I don’t know that I could have kept going after your encounter with the walkers. I think it’s amazing the way that running can teach us about ourselves. I’m not running the distances you are but I remember the first time I ran 5 miles, then 7, and it was amazing. Pushing and believing in yourself is all it takes. I can’t wait for your race and to see how you do! …and 7:45 for the last mile of your 4?!?! Heck yes!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:01 am
  • Reply lindsay

    congrats on your first 20! always a big milestone whether it’s your first or 40th. :) great job on the run – you ran strong and pushed through the difficulties in those last few miles. you are gonna rock the marathon!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:04 am
  • Reply Lacey Nicole

    WOW… congrats on your run and this was a great post to read with a few really “hit home” messages.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:07 am
  • Reply L.A. Daze

    Good job on your first 20 miler! That distance is still in the far, far future for me. Lol.

    Thanks for sharing your experience of your encounter with the walkers. It’s ok, we all cry, and i’m sure they knew why.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:10 am
  • Reply *~! megs !~*

    i am in awe of you!! way to take on your 20 miles and finish it! you are going to OWN this marathon!!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:11 am
  • Reply megan

    Awesome! Congrats!

    I have a question about Claude. I have the forerunner 50 (not as hi-tech as Claude) but i was wondering, did you have to calibrate it when you got it? I calibrated mine on a treadmill and now when i run outside i have to take .3 miles off my garmin’s distance. If you did calibrate it… how far did you run? 200 meters? 1 mile? Its all kind of confusing to me.

    Sorry for the plethora of questions :-(

    April 28, 2009 at 10:12 am
  • Reply the gazelle

    way to go! I haven’t done my 1st 20 yet, and I think that’s an amazing accomplishment. yay!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:13 am
  • Reply Alisa

    So awesome!

    I should have warned you long distance running can be emotional, always is for me. If I’m going out longer than 15 miles I always carry tissues b/c the water works are bound to creep in.

    20 miles is quite an accomplishment.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:15 am
  • Reply girlrunningaround

    What an awesome post! Way to go! Great run and great job taking the time to really appreciate it.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:17 am
  • Reply Sarah

    Congrats on your 20 mile run…that is just awesome!!!!! The furthest I have done so far is 10.

    I got all choked up and started crying once at the start of a race. My brother had just been deployed to Iraq and at the start of the race they said a prayer for the troops. I was all choked up and fighting back tears for the first mile or so. :)

    April 28, 2009 at 10:20 am
  • Reply Kelly

    Wow. Okay now I’m a little teary eyed. I’m a runner (trying to be) because my mom was a runner. She would have been so proud that I’m about to run a 1/2 and signed up for a full…I really really enjoyed you sharing your 20miler story. Thank you.

    And, way to go on 20miles. I’ll get there too, eventually. :D

    April 28, 2009 at 10:22 am
  • Reply Jeri

    Great job on the 20 miler!! You’re a rockstar.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:22 am
  • Reply Tara Gibson

    WOW.. so impressive girl! Believing in yourself is all it takes!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:24 am
  • Reply Nessa

    You are amazing for defeating that 20 miler, absolutly amazing!!!.. you inspire me to start running again,i think i need the therapy back in my life.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:28 am
  • Reply J

    Congrats! 20 miles is an amazing accomplishment.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:29 am
  • Reply PDawg

    I’m so glad that you’re so willing to talk about how hard this is, realistically. I’m glad you’re not just ‘oh look at me, I ran 20 miles.’ What an achievement! Wow. Like I said the other day, I’m just starting out, but I wanted you to know that it means a lot to me to know that it continues to be a mental game. It helps knowing that running continues to be a challenge, and that you can overcome it. Thanks so much for sharing your story, especially so much about your mom and running for her. Awesome!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:30 am
  • Reply Mrs. M

    Wow! That is so incredible! You were able to motivate yourself no matter what!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:30 am
  • Reply Amy

    Great job!!! Woo hoo!

    I’m the same way with smells on long runs… I’ve seriously thrown up on runs before because of smells. Blech.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:32 am
  • Reply Marlene

    We had a speak at my running club recently, an Olympian, and she said “Anything worth doing is hard to do.”

    Way to rock your 20-miler! You’re going to kick marathon a$s.

    Sounds like quite a moment with the breast cancer walk. Glad to hear you were able to pull through it.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:32 am
  • Reply ShutUpandRun

    YOU did it! Great job. 20 miles is such a long way to go. Thanks for sharing your adventures along the way.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:36 am
  • Reply PunkRockRunner

    Great run report & don't sweat the crying stuff.

    I listen to music during my long runs & marathons and ALWAYS breakdown crying at some point between 20 & 26.2. Most of the time the lyrics of a song will push me over the edge and I just start sobbing.

    Keep up the great work!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:37 am
  • Reply X-Country2

    “really, REALLY you are seriously CRYING?!” Yes, I’m sitting here at my desk crying just reading your story. :o)

    26 is a long way, but it’s a small step further than 20. Yes, your mother would be extremely proud.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:39 am
  • Reply runjen

    Great post!! Congrats on your run! You are amazing!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:40 am
  • Reply runningcommentaries

    Great job on your 20 miler! I don’t think getting emotional is at all strange. After my first 20 miler I went to the movies and cried like a baby through the whole thing for no reason. And, after the 2nd one I ever did I cried and cried and cried when I finished– for no reason.

    You will rock the full marathon. And have fun out there– you only get your first marathon once.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:44 am
  • Reply Amy

    This is so inspiring! THANK YOU for sharing your run with us. I think it’s beautiful that the Avon Walk reminded you of your mom. There’s no shame in crying! I think we all would do the same. I’ve cried on runs for no other reason other than I was exhausted, but you had something a lot more special going on.

    Great job on the 20-miler. I look forward to reading more about your training leading up to the marathon.


    April 28, 2009 at 10:47 am
  • Reply Chad in the AZ Desert

    Awesome job on your first 20-miler! That is an amazing accomplishment. It really is something how having all that time alone on the run will make you think about so many thing and go through so many emotions. To me, that’s one of the best parts of long distance running. Great job!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:48 am
  • Reply Cindy

    wow, great job!! it really is as much a mental test as anything, isn’t it? and you really conquered it. i wish my mom were alive to see me run my first marathon too. i’m sure we’ll both be thinking of our moms during those 26.2 miles.

    April 28, 2009 at 10:49 am
  • Reply Tara

    Amazing job on your 1st 20! great job on pushing through and staying strong. I had my 1st cry last week during a run and it’s such a humbling experience and to keep going is what it’s all about! Great job on your 4 miler last’re last mile was soooo speedy!

    You’re going to GREAT at SD!!!!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:57 am
  • Reply maria k

    great job! you will never have to run 20 miles again – until the marathon : )

    April 28, 2009 at 11:01 am
  • Reply sian

    Way to go – you are my idol – I will try to conquer 20 miles one day… your site

    April 28, 2009 at 11:03 am
  • Reply Heather

    Great job on your 20 miles! You will do awesome at the marathon.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:04 am
  • Reply aron

    YAY danica!!!! you did amazing on your first 20, i still remember mine like it was yesterday :) awesome, awesome job. cannot wait to meet you in SD and be there for your first marathon finish!!!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:05 am
  • Reply mak'n Changes

    What an emotional journey! I am so happy for you!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:08 am
  • Reply Nicole

    Running is SUCH a mental game! Its crazy. If your in the right mindset, you can do anything– but once your attitude goes sour, your out of luck.

    7:45?!? GIRL… you will BQ in no time! I realllllyyy wanna come out to cali and run this summer…. ughhhh!

    You’ve inspired my attiude and i’m gonna think of this post at my 1/2 on saturday! Thanks! You ROCK!

    P.S. i still need a name for my baby g…

    April 28, 2009 at 11:09 am
  • Reply Lucky in Love

    What a great post! You are an incredible runner and such an inspiration. You mom would be so proud of you for doing what you are doing.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:16 am
  • Reply Angry Julie Monday


    My run coach ran a 20-miler every Sunday before Boston. I don’t know how she did it, but she did.

    She told me that during a marathon, she dedicates every mile to something. Something she is thankful for, someone who inspired her, etc.

    Part of running is getting your style, groove, etc. Finding out what works for you, what doesn’t work.

    I’m sure that Avon walk brought up a lot of memories of your mom. But just think about what you have accomplished.

    Keep up the good work, you are doing great!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:26 am
  • Reply Sharneysrun

    Great job, Danica! It sounds like it was an emotion filled run and you DID IT!!! You will be totally impressive with the marathon :)

    April 28, 2009 at 11:27 am
  • Reply LyndsAU

    you go girl!! you are amazing!! 20 MILES??? That is a serious milestone!! So proud of you! Maybe one day I will be right there with you girl. hugs!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:27 am
  • Reply Running Through Life

    Congrats on your 20 miler! Thanks for sharing your story.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:28 am
  • Reply Candice

    Wow, what a great post. It really hit home for me having just ran my first full on Sunday. Running is such a crazy thing really. It is SO mental and so emotional. The second I turned the corner and saw my mom and the finish line I just started bawling. I didn’t even see it coming, but once I got started I couldn’t get control myself! Running is such an amazing experience. I know that you are going to totally rock the full! The way you finished out that 20 miler shows your determination. Way to go girl!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:28 am
  • Reply Joey

    Way to go on your first 20! You will be great when you run your marathon!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:29 am
  • Reply I Love Your Whole Face

    The 20 mile run is by far the hardest. It is smooth sailing from now on. You should be so proud of yourself!!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:33 am
  • Reply Jesse

    Congrats on your first 20 miler. Now that you’ve got that one down, I bet 26.2 with crowd support the whole way will be no problem at all!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:54 am
  • Reply Billy Burger

    Great job Danica. There is no right or wrong way – whatever helps you make it through those 20 and beyond is what you need to focus on. The bathroom issue is something I’d try and figure out though. Assessing diet, trigger points, etc.

    Without having set foot on the starting line, no doubt mom’s already very proud of you. Congrats again on the distance PR. Sorry I won’t be there to see you kick butt in San Diego though!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:57 am
  • Reply Niki

    Very inspiring post! Great job on the 20 miler! You ar awesome:)

    April 28, 2009 at 11:59 am
  • Reply RunToFinish

    i get really emotional sometimes during long runs.. I think it’s probably like the adrenaline and you have time to THINK.

    you did it, isn’t that just an overwhelming feeling!! I love it!!

    April 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm
  • Reply Ashley

    First off, I started tearing up when I read about your break down. I can only imagine the emotions you were feeling at the time and I’m sure the women that passed you completely understood where you were coming from, without even having to exchange words with you.

    Secondly, you are a rock star for running 20 MILES all on your own without a buddy or team to keep you going! That is awesome! I don’t think I ever would have made it through a long run without a buddy with me.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:16 pm
  • Reply The Shabby Princess

    You rock!!! I have never even come close to 20 miles, but, every milestone is worth celebrating (heck, I’m just proud of myself for sticking with my half marathon training plan and running 8 miles on Saturday), so, congrats!!! You will kick that full marathon’s booty!

    April 28, 2009 at 12:32 pm
  • Reply chartley8

    Congratulations Chic Runner! Way to tell the story…like I was really there! (and feeling the pain…boo) You are a machine. Chet

    April 28, 2009 at 12:38 pm
  • Reply Bob Hazen

    Great run – Great story. Running always brings the best out of a person.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm
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