I dare you to run a marathon & not have it change your life. Read Ambassador Deanne’s story from her first experience running a full marathon at the 2018 Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate. 

I turned 40 in June of 2018 and I decided I wanted to conquer the marathon in 2018 for my 40th year!

So in 2018 I did it and wow, what an incredible journey!! I ran some pretty remarkable places. You have to get creative when logging 20 mile training runs.

I am still kind of in disbelief but I am a marathoner!!

I logged lots and lots and lots and lots of miles training for this marathon.

I did not begin my running journey to become a marathoner. That was never on my radar. I also never really planned to stick with running after my wedding either but here I am 5 years later still logging the miles.

Asheville Marathon Weekend was highly anticipated and did not disappoint.

I worked the Expo on Friday. Had an AMAZING night at the Pre-Event Dinner where I sat with and enjoyed dinner and conversation with the guest speaker Mirna Valerio!! Mirna is seriously an amazing public speaker and her story is so inspiring!! She is so humble that I am not sure she fully realizes how inspiring she really is. She is one tough (hysterically funny) badass runner chick spreading her passion everywhere she goes!!

Saturday I worked the Expo again and then met up with fellow runner girls at Vinnie’s Italian Restaurant in Asheville.

I stayed in Asheville at the DoubleTree Partner Hotel the night before the Marathon. I highly highly recommend it. It just makes everything so less stressful for me!

I have learned in my training that I need to wake up 2 hours before my long runs and this included the marathon. I got up super early, got dressed and had a small breakfast.

I had coffee, half a banana and half of a plain bagel!

I was so uncertain about what to wear. The weather seemed mild, cool but not cold. That morning as we headed out of our hotel room I decided immediately that I needed to go and change. I went back in, took off my skirt that I had planned to wear and put on my tights. I just was not sure how the skirt would do for me for 26.2 miles. I DID know for certain that the tights would do great because they had already held up on all of my other training runs. I have run in skirts or shorts before for half marathons but this was different. This was a FULL. I am so glad I did change I had no issues at all with my clothing choice. I did end up taking off the long sleeve shirt at about mile 22 and ran in the tank the rest of the way!

I also decided that I would carry my Nathan Hydration vest for the marathon. I debated this briefly but opted to go with and I am glad I did!! I actually wasn’t initially worried so much about hydration; I knew there were great water stops along the course. I was most concerned about my fueling plan for the marathon. I had been following a very specific plan for my nutrition and I wanted to make sure I didn’t steer off plan. I found however that I needed a lot more water than I think I would have taken at the aid stations. It was much warmer than it had been in my training runs and so I sipped on water about every 10 minutes. This pack has been great and I will continue to carry on my long runs! Life saver!!

Somehow I was not nearly as nervous as I typically am before a race. Usually I am fraught with emotion, nerves, adrenaline rushes, and bouts of fear. This time I felt fairly calm. I think this is the result of having so many incredible training runs all of which were beautiful and calm. I also think this is the best trained for an event I had ever been. I even missed one training run but I felt ready. I also did not set any lofty time goals which alleviated any self-inflicted pressure too.

My goal was to finish and that’s what I did!

We drove onto the estate and parked and I went to meet up with the other Ambassadors for a pre-race photo. We then headed down to the start line and we hung out there for just a short time and then the crowd started to form and move toward the start line.

I thought briefly that I would start out with the 5:15 pace group. I asked the pacer what her plan was and she responded that she would be running a 3:1 interval. I had trained with a 5:1 and I decided I would stick to that plan. I ran fairly close to them for about 4 miles but then fell back and settled into my own comfortable pace.

The weather was perfect, clear skies all day!

The first 11 miles were gorgeous as always.

At around mile 11 the marathoners split off from the half marathoners. There was a brief moment around mile 5 that I thought to myself “If this is too hard I can always drop down to the half”. I actually do not know if that is an option or not, I didn’t even consider that during any of my training. I was immediately disappointed in myself for thinking that and right away responded to that naysayer in my head with “no that is not an option“.

As I approached this turning point I had the sudden realization that I was doing this!! I saw a girl I knew working the turn and shouted to her “decisions decisions”, half joking, pointing back and forth between the two ways and she quickly shouted back to me “You’ve got this, marathoner’s turn left!” I cried… I’m crying again as I recall that moment. I hadn’t anticipated the magnitude of the turning point. The point of no return. The point in the race that I make that decision to keep going and not give up.

It was in this moment that I gained great strength. I took a deep breath and committed to the finish.

This portion of the course is a portion of the property I had never seen. It felt as though I was sneaking into a secret forest, land less traveled, and it was spectacular.

Just a bit before mile 13 as I ran up a hill I saw two pigs to my left and I said hello. They perked up and called to me to come take a selfie! LOL! Seriously in that moment they seemed to be rooting for me (pun intended lol).

Miles 13 – 20 were pretty great. I felt good. I felt strong. The scenery was AMAZING! We ran through the Biltmore Countryside and Vineyards.

I ran the Dam Hill at around mile 16 or so.

At mile 20 I cried again. 20 miles was the furthest I had ever gone before.

I acknowledged in that moment that each step I took from there to the finish would be new for me. I knew that I was pushing myself beyond what I knew into the unknown.

I saw THE wall!! I cried more! I totally broke through and then kept on going.

The hardest part of the race for me was at about mile 21. We come to a crossroad just below the finish to run out away from the finish and then back. This was the longest 5 miles of the race! In part this could be because I had never run that far before and in part it was because I was so so close yet running the opposite way!

The day had warmed up quite a bit and I stopped for a minute to peel off my long sleeved shirt. It was 61 but I swear at that point it felt like 81!

I was so happy to see some familiar faces out along that stretch cheering the runners on and encouraging me.

At around mile 24 I met up with a friend from Fleet Feet and chatted with them a bit and then pushed on ahead!

Mile 25-26 was the hardest. It was a long stretch that I could see and even though I was so close I felt so far away. I have realized this “thing” about myself that I plan to somehow work on (once I figure out how). I am finding that in almost all of my distance races I pull back during the last mile. I ran that mile 3 minutes slower than my average pace on every other mile. I walked A LOT of that mile. In hindsight I feel like I easily could have pushed myself just a bit harder and I typically feel the same way about each of my races. I slow way down in the last mile and I know I still have it in me to run on. Maybe it’s actually that I don’t want it to be over just yet.

With less than a mile to go I caught up to another runner girl and talked to her a bit. She shared with me that this was her second marathon and I shared that it was my first! We talked and laughed and I cried some more lol!! As soon as we could see the finish we decided that together we would sprint in! I am not sure if I pushed her or if she pushed me but I sure am glad we found each other!! We congratulated each other and went on to find our people.

I got my medal and a blanket and headed to grab a beer.

I sat with friends to cheer on other friends to the finish and we decided to stay to the very end to cheer on the final finisher. What an incredible experience that was as well!! That final finisher, more badass than anyone else!! What a joy it was to be there to cheer for that!!

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” ~ Kathrine Switzer

I rang the PR Bell, had a Jello shot and we grabbed more beer.

It was the greatest day!!

After the race we grabbed pizza at a local hotspot Mod in Asheville and headed home.

The Asheville Marathon is incredible and will be one that I will run forever and ever!

Asheville Marathon truly was an amazing experience. I love everything about this event and now after having run the marathon I love it even more! I highly highly highly recommend the Asheville Marathon!!

Join me in 2019 as I run the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge!! I’m super scared and super excited!!! I hope to see you there!