I Ran a Marathon and It Didn't Suck
I’ve always been afraid of the marathon – the distance for one and the amount of dedication required to finish it. It didn’t help that every time (really, just the two times) I had ever finished a half marathon, I had to drag my body to the beer garden and openly questioned how people ran double the amount. I also had never really trained for anything and doubted whether I could commit to this lifestyle change.
When I got invited to join the Nike Women Marathon Project, I responded yes almost immediately. Coincidentally (or not, if you believe in that kind of stuff), I had been mentally preparing myself to run a marathon in 2019. So when the team at Nike Los Angeles told me that I could be one of 40 women to train for and run the Chicago Marathon in October 2018, I knew that this wasn’t the kind of thing you said no to, and I was in a place in my life where I really had no reason to say no other than my total fear – which luckily for me has never been a good enough reason to say no to anything.
When I went to meet the other girls from the team, the first person I saw was Tay and then, Mariah – I remember the relief I felt in that moment. Then, found out that there were several of us from KRC in the project: Jenna Kruschel, Vanessa, Ruby, Jenna Crawford and Andrea Escobar. We did our first run as a team on Jenna K’s birthday, which felt special, and even though none of us really knew what we were getting into, standing on that car, I knew we would be fine because we had each other. It was everything because it was always bigger than just any one of us – we were never running the marathon just for ourselves.
We had set workouts with the team 3 days a week – strength training on Tuesdays, speed workouts on Thursdays and long runs on Saturdays. The other days we could fill in with aerobic workouts of our choosing. The team physically trained together twice a week, which made showing up so much easier. We all know accountability partners help – try having 39 of them. Plus, these women were my living inspirations. I literally watched these girls run through IT band inflammation, crazy work schedules, being full-time moms, hip injuries, shin splints, a torn meniscus, even a broken toe.
I pulled my calf the second week of training, and it bothered me to varying degrees until about week 10. At first, it was incredibly isolating and frustrating. Now I think it provided me with the ultimate lesson: I was sad and in the gym alone, instead of running with my team, and asked "Why am I doing this?" In that moment of frustration and reflection, I realized that my intention was to show myself that I really loved myself enough to see this through. This setback – any setback – is but a moment. My reason for committing to this marathon is forever. Eventually, I had a few amazing runs – the ones that remind you that you can do anything – and from then on, I knew I could handle any discomfort that came my way.
Every week, we pushed further and further. Some highlights (or lowlights depending on who you ask): the day we ran a half marathon on steep trails, the day we ran 14 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the evening, the day we hit peak at 20 miles. The beauty of being a beginner is that we were constantly being tasked with workouts that we had never done before and still accomplished them. What else could my body do if my mind just decided it can?
My body changed. I leaned out in ways I honestly thought I wasn’t capable of and felt way stronger by week 6, despite the nagging pain in my leg. But mainly, when I recall this journey, I think about how much I’ve grown mentally, how much more open a person I am, how much more confident I am, how much more vulnerable I’m willing to be, how much I appreciate myself and deserve all the good things in the world, how much I appreciate others, how strong love is.
A side note on love: This is love. These are my friends. This is my family and has been for two years now. It’s hard to explain how special Koreatown Run Club is, but let’s just say, I show up to run to see my friends, and the running is just what we happen to do together. Every week, these people would tell me they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, I and the other KRC girls in this project received almost 20 video messages wishing us luck the day before the marathon, and some of the club even flew out to Chicago to cheer us on. Seeing them on the route at mile 13 and 25 was the highlight of my race, and as the memories of the day I ran the Chicago Marathon fade, I’ll never forget how special it is to have people in your corner and what it meant to me to have them there.
Words by Andrea Aldana
Photos by John Jefferson & Kyle Miyamoto