For as long as I’ve been a runner, the marathon has been THE ultimate distance.  26.2 is the greatest test of endurance, many runner’s favorite event, and the reasoning behind months of training, sweat, and tears.  I ran my first marathon in 2008, and ever since, I’ve been smitten.  So, when my first 26 miler showed up on my training plan for Lake Sonoma 50, it was a milestone of how far I’ve come in my training and how drastically my mindset has changed in the past few months.

I’ve been slowly increasing the distance of my back-to-back long runs since December, but this weekend was a little different.  For the first time both of my weekend runs would be in the 20’s, and needless to say, I was a little nervous.

Friday morning started with the “Trail Raid”, coordinated by some of the amazing staff at Eventbrite, Strava, and Virtual Race BagsThe SFM team has worked with these great companies who all have avid runners and cyclists, so we decided to get everyone together for a run.  After about 6 miles on the trails with the group, Erin and I kept running down towards Tennessee Valley Trailhead, looped around and made our way back to her car with just under 17 miles on the Garmin.  I only had a few miles left so I headed home and finished with about 21 miles.  I was soaked from the rain and a little tired, but determined to refuel and get out again the next morning.

Trail raid

Fun group of runners at the Trail Raid

After a good dinner, watching a Selena Gomez  Movie, a good night’s sleep and my coffee the next morning, Aron picked me up and we headed to the start line of the Golden Gate Marathon.  On the drive over, we went back and forth between saying “it’s fine, we’ve done back to back long runs before” and “really? a marathon the day after a 20-mile run? this is crazy” but somehow we forced ourselves out of the car and picked up our bibs.

Aron and I at the start!

I met Katie (again) and some new faces at the start line and then we were off!  The first few miles were straight uphill and really tough.  Fighting off sore legs, we keep shuffling along and keeping a pretty easy pace.  We made a few stops at the Aid Stations on our first 13 mile loop and tried to eat real foods- potato dipped in salt and peanut butter and jelly.

After the first loop, we were back where we started and  dreading climbing the big monster-hill again.  We ran up the hill, hating the staircase even more the 2nd time around, and finally made it to the peak.  The rest of the race is a little blurry, but it seemed to pass quickly, chatting with Aron and jumping over rocks and mud.  We finished the race smiling, grabbed our medals and some watermelon and dipped our feet in the ocean to cool down.

Hilly hilly! 4,840' of elevation gain!

Thinking about today’s 26.2, it reminds me of how far I’ve come since December.  What I considered the ultimate goal a year ago is now a stepping stone towards my next big adventure.  I still love marathons and probably always will.  But right now, I’m excited and anxious to see just how much further I can push myself.

Do you use races as training runs?  What’s your favorite distance?