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I Ran the 2020 Austin Marathon – and Here Are 3 Things I Learned

Ten years ago I ran my first half marathon. On the way home, my then-fiance asked me when I planned on running the full marathon. My feet ached, ankles and knees throbbed, calves locked up, and my back was killing me. I kindly told him where he could stick his marathon suggestion.

Yesterday, I ran my first marathon. It took ten years, marriage, grad school and two little boys to decide I wanted to do it. Running the marathon is probably the hardest thing I’ve done. Yes, childbirth was painful but I was blessed with two boys in a serious hurry to enter this world. Plus there is no will power needed in childbirth. The baby is coming; you have no choice. I had 26.2 miles to “choose” to run. Uber would have picked me up at any time! Each hill seemed like a cruel twist of fate. I finally crested the last of multiple hills on Enfield only to watch the half-marathon group turn off for their final stretch (and listen to everyone yelling “Your almost there.” I was not even halfway.). And final hill at mile 25.75? That one was a serious kick in the pants.

All that said, I’m glad to have completed it. I learned a lot yesterday. I made good training choices and not so good training choices. These are the things I learned…

First, consult and listen to an exercise professional. Yes, I’m an exercise professional. No I didn’t listen to myself. I even had some fantastic grad school classes focused on training for events like this. While I knew what to do, I didn’t plan it out well enough. Training is key; consult a professional, make a plan and stick with it.

Austin personal trainer Rachel Ross running the 2020 Austin Marathon.

Secondly, have an amazing support crew. I didn’t have a training group. In fact, I managed most of my runs by myself. I did have a friend who ran with me for the second half of my training runs over 18 miles… huge help! But what made the biggest difference the day of the marathon is that I never went more than 2 miles without a familiar face, high fives and words of encouragement. Between my fabulous husband, kids and parents, Carrie Keith and daughter and Mendy Dimanoff and amazing client Dawn Skinner, I was fully supported for the last half of the marathon. Every time I wanted to quit, I had one of them in my ear (or Dawn riding next to me on her bike). And a barrage of text messages flooding my watch telling me to not give up. I will forever be grateful for their willingness to give up an entire Sunday morning to follow me around the course.

Third, practice Pre-hab not just Re-hab. I have a history of issues in my right foot/ankle. Post-gymnastics injuries in my former life lead to five foot and ankle surgeries. Over years I’ve developed a less than perfect walking and running gait that has further led to a decrease in ankle mobility and a constriction of blood flow to my second toe. Last year, a few cold days landed me in the ER with a swollen purple toe with black spots underneath. I was constricting enough blood flow to kill tissue in my toe. I finally connected with a podiatrist who was able to pinpoint the issue. New orthotics were ordered and PT prescribed to increase my food and ankle mobility and change my walking/running gait. Twice per week I’d spend $100 for 10 minutes of hands-on mobility work from a PT followed by 50 minutes of exercise.

The exercise I could do by myself in the gym, but the mobility I could not. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to keep it going. I mentioned mobility and scar tissue therapy to our massage therapist at BodyBusiness, Wendy Gaspard, LMT. I realized she could be my solution. Instead of spending $100 per week for 20 minutes of massage and mobility, I could spend half of that for 30 minutes for the same therapy! Within weeks, my feet were singing her praises. Before I started consistently meeting with her in October, even my shorter 6-8 mile runs would lead to foot pain, knee pain, IT band and glute tightness and low back pain. By November, I was up to 14 miles within NO JOINT SORENESS! I couldn’t believe it. As I type this, my calf and quads ache. But most importantly, my feet and knees don’t. Muscles get sore, a completely natural side effect of running 26.2 miles. I fully expected this to happen. My biggest surprise is that my toes, feet, ankles and knees feel great.

For those of you who believe that Wendy Gaspard, LMT is gifted at relaxing massage, you are correct! But if you believe that’s where her skill set ends, you are sorely mistaken. Wendy understands the anatomy of the body. She can help prepare you for and fix you after all of life’s challenges be in running marathons, standing all day in 4-inch heels, sitting in front of computers for endless hours, or chasing rug rats around from sun up until sundown. If you haven’t had a massage in the last six months, I can guarantee your body is in need. And you’re lucky it hasn’t broken down on you yet!

I cannot thank my entire support system enough. They put up with my long weekend runs, my aches and pains and occasional grouchiness from overtraining and my wanting to quit the day of. I really do look forward to doing this again. Marathon #2 will be different. I have learned things and I will conquer.

About the Author: Personal Trainer Rachel Ross

Rachel Ross is an ACSM certified Personal Trainer who has been training since 2004. She specializes in lifestyle changes including nutrition and exercise, sport conditioning, and small group training. Clients who train with her can expect a fun and challenging workout geared toward your specific goals. We will utilize a variety of tools including weight machines, stability balls, weighted medicine balls, and kettlebells as well as your own body weight to achieve your desired level of fitness.

When she’s not working with clients at BodyBusiness, Rachel can be found chasing after her two boys, maintaining an active lifestyle, running, reading and traveling.