My First Marathon

One week ago, I was lined up with more than 7,000 runners waiting for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon to begin. Some were listening to music, bouncing around, or starting to shed the sweats they layered for the start line. I was doing yoga, per usual, in  the little space I carved out for myself, and couldn’t help be intimidated by the people around me.

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Should I have worn a garbage bag over my torso? (A question I never thought I’d ask) I wondered what they ate for breakfast, or if I should have gotten to the corral sooner.

I was distracted from these thoughts when the emcee asked who was running a marathon for the first time. I threw up my hands and cheered, and tears came to my eyes.

When is the last time you did something for the first time? Whatever doubts I had about the next 26.2 miles were nothing compared to the intrigue of the unknown. I told myself, this is the last time you will run a marathon for the first time. You will compare any future race to this one, so you need to make this experience exactly what you want it to be.

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Whether you’re interested in running a marathon, or want to be the best cheerleader for someone else taking this challenge on, here are my takeaways and some of the best advice I received-

1. My fanny pack of love notes: On one of my long runs, I thought about a gratitude practice I could have during the race. I landed on asking friends and family to write notes with words of encouragement or anything they’d like me to read during the race. It took a bit of vulnerability to request this from others, but I’m so glad I did.

I had just over 26, and was able to open a note each mile. I would ABSOLUTELY recommend it, and can’t imagine this race without that ritual. Each mile marker, instead of thinking about how many more miles I had, I was excited it was time to open another note. I can’t thank my note writers enough!

2. “Just have fun and don’t be nervous, it’s not like you’re going to win!” This was 100 percent accurate, in fact, here’s who won, by literally running twice as fast as me. Truly, my number one goal was to have fun. At some points in my training, this seemed like a very unrealistic goal. But just like how my idea of fun being getting up at 6 am for yoga, or planning a great carpool, I had a blast running this marathon.

I was smiling ear to ear for 90% of it (here’s a hot take- what if the race was only 20 miles??) and because winning was off the table, I paid attention to my pace but not my time. That meant stopping to talk with and take selfies with the amazing cheerleaders that navigated closed roads and big crowds to watch me. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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Friends, Ingrid and Cyrus, mile 7
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Family friends- Taylor Ann, Owen (who ran out to hug me), and not pictured, Josh! Mile 10
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The soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Finlay!! The kisses from Lola were a game changer. Mile 13 and Mile 21
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My boyfriend and his wonderful family who visited for the weekend! Mile 17.5
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This put some pep in my step- Meeting our Senator at mile 24!!

3. Be flexible with your training: Enter the race with curiosity rather than a rigid plan. There will be surprises along the way, and this mindset will help you be present to embrace the happy ones— the INCREDIBLY enthusiastic dad that ran alongside his daughter, yelling, “ARE YOU SEEING THIS? LOOK AT HER GO!!!!”— and it will help you patiently assess the uncomfortable ones— like a stomach ache for the first 3 miles from a bigger breakfast.

Rather than reacting to this, I noticed it, and thought logically about where it could be coming from. Throughout training, I didn’t each much before my runs, which was more of a bad habit than best practice. I told myself the ache had to go away as I burned calories with each mile, and it did! Rather than going into a downward spiral about how I shouldn’t have tried something new, I postponed eating any gels until mile 7 because my body had enough fuel. You are always in control.

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Not the end of the race, or even a mile marker, just a really spirited street 🙂

4. “When something starts to hurt or get tired, think about how amazing your elbows feel. Notice the wind blowing in your hair.” This made me laugh when I first received it, and when I opened it mid-race. I can tell you one thing about a marathon, your elbows will not fail you.

I often tell my yoga students to notice everything they are doing, the space and strength they are creating, because it’s so easy to notice what we can’t do. That’s what I love about this- there is beauty in every moment.

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I loved this view crossing the bridge from Minneapolis to St. Paul

5. Lastly, carry a mantra with you. This was great advice from another yoga teacher, and I have another friend to thank for the mantra I chose. Inspired by Irene Fernando’s TedTalk, I borrowed the phrase “why not me?” If 7,000 runners are going to finish this race, why not me? If someone is going to make it up this hill, why not me? If there’s going to be someone that has fun for 26.2 miles, why can’t that person be me?

Rather than stemming from competition, this mantra reminded me that all of the strength, endurance, focus, positivity, and passion I needed to complete this goal was already within me. P.s. this question drives Irene to take on amazing challenges and make an impact in her community- you can learn more here.

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If you said encouraging words once, if you tracked my number on the race app, or followed me around the Cities on race day, thank you for being a part of this journey. While I can’t run a marathon for the first time again, I’d be very surprised if it was my last.

Mother’s Day- Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

I love Mother’s Day for reminding myself and others to reflect on the powerful and supportive mothers and mother figures in our lives. For my mom, that was done through bridging our Minneapolis-Milwaukee gap with a phone call this morning, and a card en route (and taking its sweet time if I may say). But this year, that’s not all this holiday means to me.

While my mom will always be the Queen of my Mother’s Day, today, I was also reminded of the powerful and supportive female-driven communities I am a part of and have access to. For me, the last week was like a drum roll to Mother’s Day.

inspireSunday afternoon brought me back to my sorority chapter house for our monthly Executive Council meeting, on which I serve as the Philanthropy Advisor. While the meetings aren’t known for their brevity; for me, the time flies. I become consumed by the energy in the room and the vibrant conversation– the main topics and the side conversations I can’t help but start.

This time, I was most struck by the impact the chapter women have on our community. There are collegiate women serving the country through National Guard, they are in the marching band, orienting new students as welcome week leaders, and running student groups across campus. While it’s no longer our key phrase/slogan, I was reminded of the words, “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” I love this phrase, this mission statement for not being an if; then. It’s absolute. It’s not a goal, it’s a reality in this very moment.

The next night, the External Affairs team at Comcast offered me a seat at the Girl Scouts: Women of Distinction dinner and benefit. Once there, my guilt set in as I realized the breadth of this organization; and while I was able to rise under the preset of “once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,” I knew elementary-Sarah didn’t even skim the surface of the opportunities available.girl scouts

I heard similar values I associate with my sorority being echoed by Girl Scouts ages 16 to 70. GIRL now stands for Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader. I can only imagine how my outlook, experiences, and priorities would have shifted if those were elementary-Sarah’s guiding values. If that was how I described myself, and even more so, if that was how I described the girls around me.

Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, shared her own story of refusing to choose between earning the baking and science badge, and pursued them both. Despite being told by a college counselor, “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she went on to be one of the first Hispanic female rocket scientists.

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Thursday, I was invited to fill in for a coworker at the YWCA luncheon, and didn’t even check my calendar before accepting. By attending, I was able to sit at a table of driven Comcast women and listen to speakers from all different walks of life speak to the impact YWCA has had on them. ywca1.jpg

After Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” perfectly welcomed her to the stage, Kim Nelson, former Vice President at General Mills, shared this powerful sentiment with us,

“My hope for my daughters, for all of you, and for myself is that each of us wake up everyday and live as women of power. Confident, courageous, and intent on empowering ourselves and others to change the world for better.”

medal1.jpgThe week ended with two sponsored events of Jessie Diggins, the Team USA Gold Medalist Cross Country Skiier. Even though I was taking my self-proclaimed job of photographer and videographer very seriously, I couldn’t help being in awe of the number of girls cross country ski teams that came in, together, to meet their idol and inspiration.

They were poised, and prepared with great questions of how Jessie reaches new goals. They sought advice and soaked in every word she gave them. These girls struck me as the type to describe themselves and each others as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

I saw first hand, they’ve been inspired. They will impact the world.

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