IndyMini-Indianapolis IN May 5 2018

When you run a race that's on its 42nd Annual, you shouldn't be surprised that they know what they are doing! Somehow, I still managed to walk away a little impressed by this race! I guess its because over these past 8 years of running a half marathon a month while completing the 50 states, I started to shy away from the big (overly crowded) city (not very scenic) races and leaned more towards smaller races near State and National Parks that seemed to leave a much bigger impression. But I knew going into Indiana, that my race would obviously have to be on the one and only Indy Speedway!

The IndyMini is the kick off leading to the Indy500 which is held later in the month.

This flat course starts and finishes downtown, runs to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (which yes, is not necessarily the best of neighborhoods to get to), passes through a Gold Mile of Indiana's Fallen Heroes, loops around the track even giving you an opportunity to 'kiss the bricks', and then heads back downtown. Your main attraction for this course is obviously the track.
Located at the Convention Center downtown, expect to pay parking garage fees to pick up your packet! As soon as you walk in the atmosphere gets you pumped as you see race cars and are handed a free race hat! There is a long wall of encouragement and race course stats. They had a jumbotron up above playing a video of the course that you could watch while you waited in lines.

Packet Pick up was seamless and the Info booth was friendly and able to answer my questions. The vendors were plentiful and I actually was able to do some great shopping!

There were some great photo ops including an Indy car (which they moved to the Finish After Party as well)

Apparently there were guest speakers, which I missed. Meb Keflezighi Boston and NYC winner as well as Olympic medal holder, was also the guest runner and even had his signature on the medal!

I found the hotels downtown to be a little over priced (or at least out of my budget) especially once you started adding in outrageous over night parking fees! Because of this, I opted for an AirBnB just on the outskirts of town (aka still walkable to the Expo and Start/Finish about 1.5 miles each way) and I honestly think that was the best deal as I had free parking, but also got to explore the city while on my walk to the race. The AirBnB was also right next to one of the most active streets of the city, MassAve where you will find shops and dining. There also is a Cultural Trail that takes you from park to park within the city to see all the top sites which I ventured on after the race!

Having a little late start near 8a in May, one would be a little nervous on what the temperatures could do. For my pace group, the skies remained overcast the entire course until the very last mile where the sun came out full force. Temps were pleasant in the upper 50s/lower 60s.

Being downtown, parking is anywhere you can find it. Indianapolis seems to want to price gauge drivers, so if you have a car, plan to pay $30 for the day. Other options include bike rentals, Uber, walking.

With over 30,000 runners, one might be a little worried on performance on the course. However once I learned that you not only are designated a Corral Letter and Number, but an actual Start Time for your group, I was quite happy to learn my pace allowed me to sleep in an additional 30 minutes!
Since they had the exact start time of each corral listed I decided to sleep in and make the best of it! I planned to arrive right at my groups start time and just start running! However, I guess I walked a little fast to the start and had an extra 10 or so minutes to spare. That was plenty of time to hit the porta potties, which were not too bad of a line for such a large race. Looking around, I was quite impressed. First of all the line up seemed to go on for about half a mile, but the sound system was awesome and the dj really had us pumped up! There were even beach balls throughout every corral to keep you entertained! As we approached the actual starting line, I noticed this was the first one out of 86 half marathons that Ive seen it with a digital screen!

Like many races over the years, the IndyMini advertised there would be entertainment/music on the course. I always take this with a grain of salt, as I have participated in many (including Rock n Roll) who make the same claim, and I maybe only see about 4 bands in 13 miles. That is not to be said with this race! I very quickly learned that almost every single block (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but not really) was lined with a different band or dj or high school dummers or cheerleaders, or belly dancers or hula dancers or country dosey do dancers (I guess we are in Indiana)!

What also was located on just about every block was the National Guard, instead of a police officers. I dont know why, but that made me feel even more safe participating in this very large race!

All the stations were properly stocked and a gel was passed out as well. I was a little surprised I didn't see any other type of goodies passed out, by the race or spectators.

There were a good amount of spectators and signs throughout the course, especially as you entered/exited the Speedway. However, I am not sure if it was due to security, but the last stretch down to the Finish line was completely empty, not even music, until the very end.

I think this may have been my longest drive ever. I drove up from Florida with a pit stop in Chattanooga (exactly half way). I arrived late afternoon, just enough time to hit the Expo, eat dinner, and get some early sleep.

I surprisingly woke up feeling really good for this race. Everything about this race made me smile. Everywhere you looked in the city there was another sign about the Indy500/IndyMini which makes you feel welcomed and pumped up. With all the different surprises in the Expo, to the race start, to the course entertainment, I remained happy the entire time. Entering the Speedway was super exciting. Running the Gold Mile with all Indiana Fallen Heros was extremely moving (so much so, I had a mini panic attack trying to breath while running and crying at the same time!) Kissing the Bricks was also a unique experience I just had to do. They even had a jumbo tron recording us doing so! I left my PinkFeet rock at a park outside the Speedway.

I ran by feel, san pacer, and my body and breathing felt great. I even had another runner reach me and said she had been trying to catch up to me because she wanted to talk about my States back bib. I think I definitely would have had a much better time if I did not have to walk during the Gold Mile, but I wanted to give every single picture the proper respect as I passed by. Plus, after I realized all the ages of them were so young, I couldn't stop crying. I am so blessed to be able to travel as much as I do and participate in all of these races for the past 8 years because of them. They helped keep us safe and free and its just so dang sad their lives were taken so early.

I also stopped and waited to kiss the bricks. People were taking their time doing so, as their friends took a picture. But hey, you gotta keep the tradition! I also really wanted to leave my PinkFeet rock on the course, but I felt weird doing so because of all the security. So, I had to stop and pretend like I was stretching and typing my shoe!

Overall though, I feel I ran a good race and definitely finished happy.

Until I realized there wasn't much at the Finish! This really is where the race fell short.
Right after crossing the line, we were handed the traditional race food: bananas, bars, pretzels, cookies. Then we were directed into Military Park and everything was so spread out, you didn't know where to go. There was a band on one side, a dj on the other. I found my chocolate milk (score!) and then the beer tent. But unfortunately the 1 tab on my bib only gave me a 'shot' of beer? Say what? Smallest beer glass ever! They were selling the rest. I then looked everywhere for real food. None. Zelch, Nada. I mean, usually when the race doesn't give you a real beer, they at least have real food. This race basically had neither. They had a huge section blocked off for VIP and another huge section blocked off for 'Race Groups.' I have no idea how you were/are to supposed to be part of either, but it seems they were the ones enjoying themselves. I took the long stroll back to my AirBnB and headed out of Indianapolis.
The medal was unique keeping the tradition of the milk bottle for Speedway winners. I was a little thrown off on having Meb's signature on it instead of a race car driver, but I guess they were trying to combine the two sports.

I really like the design for the shirt, however the fit is wrong. This long sleeve Medium left me with shoulder seams at my neck and sleeves too short.

Indianapolis is a very clean, pedestrian friendly city, full of life, culture, history, and lots of tradition.  The race and city was above expectation and I left Indianapolis a little disappointed I didn't plan for more time! I would highly recommend this race for the experience of running on the track and being part of well managed event. If you are looking for an after party, I would suggest looking more into the VIP experience or joining a club!

If you are driving to Indianapolis from the South, there are some great pit stops along the way!

Since I had a long drive back to Florida, I broke it up with a stop at Clifty Falls State Park in the cute small town of Medora, IN which was about 2 hours South of Indianapolis. I planned to camp, but there is also an Inn if you dont want to rough it. Because of the rain, I spent that afternoon in the Clifty Falls Inn lounge area where I ended up watching the KY Derby with a large group of hikers. After the rain past and the next day, I got to explore the waterfall trails as well as the caves and even found an underground waterfall!. This is definitely a State Park to enjoy!

From there, I headed to touristy town of Gatlinburg about 6 hours from Indianapolis, next to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park is amazing! I rode my first alpine mountain roller coaster, went on the first US glider, and then explored some waterfall trails in the park where I got to see my first Black Bear! A momma and two cubs were right off the side of the road! There are tons on inexpensive motel options, but why not opt for a glamping experience? I found this awesome safari tent on Airbnb just 20 minutes from town !

State #36
Half Marathon #85

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 8 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

DONATIONS are currently being accepted by check only until May 21. 
Please mail to:
Donna Foundation
11762 Marco Beach Dr Ste 6
Jacksonville FL 32224

Welcome to PinkFeet! 
Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

Who is Pink Feet?
(click here to find out more)

Coastal Delaware Running Festival-Rehoboth Beach, DE-Apr 22, 2018

This was the 4th Annual Coastal Delaware Running Festival includes a 5k on Saturday, a 9k, half marathon and marathon on Sunday. Combine Saturday and Sunday and you have one of their Challenges. The 5k is located in Dewey, while Sundays races are in Rehoboth.

Pick up was held at the Convention Center, which had free parking. It was an easy in and out with a handful of vendors to explore. They also provided a free souvenir pint glass in our bag!

The race is held at a time of year where the parking meters are turned off and all parking is free in Rehoboth Beach. There is ample parking throughout the beach town. I arrived early and had front row parking and enjoyed the sunrise over the ocean. We start and finish on the boardwalk. The town has public restrooms which most runners were using the first one they saw which led to complaining that the race did not provide enough bathrooms. However, if you walked just a little further into the Starting area, you would see another public restroom building and then a handful of porta potties behind it. I used the facilities 3x with not much of a wait at all.

There were pacers for this race and we had corral numbers on our bibs, however, there was no way to get into the corrals without having to go all the way to the back and weave your way forward in the tight crowd. I decided since I hadnt done much training this month, it was best for me to stay further back anyways.

They used a pulse start, only letting so many runners go at a time, so I never had a hard time running to my true pace in the first couple of miles.

The course is an out and back that takes you from Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, through the beach neighborhood into the back entrance of Cape Henlopen to the Gordons Pond Trail. It was a very peaceful course with scenic views and peaceful vibes. We spent a large amount of time within the State Park and a good portion was run on hard packed gravel with ample room to pass. I loved the trail and felt the gravel did not slow me down and it was soft enough to absorb the shock, leaving me walking away without being sore.

It was a gorgeous beach day. Clear blue skies and in the 50s. It did get a smidge warm on the return where I wish I had worn shorts.

Gatorade and Water were provided every couple of miles and a GU packet towards the end. One station we hit twice was a Parrott Head station with everyone dressed up and even a guy playing the steel drums!

There were not a ton of spectators on this course except for on the Boardwalk.

I camped at Cape Henlopen State Park which I felt completed my first experience to Delaware. Easily accessible to Rehoboth Beach activities, but remote enough to be embraced in nature. The Park also is old military grounds so there are old buildings, towers, machinery to explore. There are also a good amount of trails for walking or biking. There is a fishing pier and lighthouse over the bay which leads to a great sunset on the water. Theres even a beach to bring your pup! Beware, the campsites are pretty close together without much privacy, so take note on the map and pick a corner/end site.

I realized I never charged my Garmin until I arrived at Start. Oh well, it was probably meant to be, as like I said earlier, lifes priorities were not on training this month.

Me n the pup drove up from FL and made a pit stop in VA Beach to break up the drive and also have a visit with mom. I stayed at First Landing State Park and was blown away by the amazing sunset views on the Bay. We arrived just in time to take in a few miles on the bike as well.

First Landing State Park VAB

The visit with mom on the way to Delaware was nothing of what I imagined. She has been fighting early onset dementia for several years now and she has taken a much worse turn than I anticipated. Her drastic change in appearance, voice, and mannerisms were on a constant replay in my head as  I ran this race. It is such a horrible disease to witness and absolutely heartbreaking knowing there is nothing else that can be done.

I keep battling with the decision of wanting to also run and raise money for Dementia and Alzheimers, but I know that I can not give up on this promise I made to Memaw to run for breast cancer. I have 2 1/2 years left of this 10 year mission to raise funds for breast cancer, but I already know there will be something big coming soon that I must do for mom.

So I wore no pacer, no Garmin, I had no plan. I just ran. I ran slow at times, but when the thoughts would enter my mind again, I ran fast. I ran hard. I ran until the bad thoughts disappeared. I ran what felt so perfect it was like I was floating on air. Head high, shoulders back, feet barely touching the ground, not a thought in my mind. I imagined myself as an Elite winning the race and mom would be proud.

After not much training this month, I surprisingly finished my normal time. I felt good.

After crossing the finish, you are not only handed your medal, but also your Coastal Delaware trucker hat! There was water, some bars, and bananas. There was a truck handing out pizza slices in the parking lot. You then had to make your way into a small and packed Grottos PIzzeria to get your beer, which I believe they allotted 3 tickets, but only gave you two at a time. It wasnt until standing in this line for a while, that I realized there was a whole food buffet as well! More pizza, pasta, chicken fingers, and salad! I heard later that the same food was provided inside without a line.

We received a gender specific Cotton short sleeve shirt. For some reason I do like the decision, but once again, is killed with all the splattering of sponsor logos on the back.

I am a little disappointed the medal features a building that we never even ran by. I think it is great that each of the medals have a piece of local history on them, but I would have liked something on the half marathon medal that was associated with where we ran.

Gotta love free pictures!

I thoroughly enjoyed this race! Camping at the same state park we ran through, Cape Henlopen made it even more special. The swag is great, the course was peaceful. I do wish the after party was a little more organized with more space, perhaps ON the beach to enjoy the Spring weather and atmosphere? Either way, I think this race does stand up to its motto, "Delawares Coolest Marathon."

State #35

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 8 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

DONATIONS are currently being accepted by check only until May 21. 
Please mail to:
Donna Foundation
11762 Marco Beach Dr Ste 6
Jacksonville FL 32224

Skidaway Island Half Marathon-Mar 24, 2018

Skidaway Island, located right outside of Savannah, is a small intracoastal golf course community that also has one of the best parks on the Georgia Colonial Coast Birding Trail, Skidaway Island State Park.  Located just 5 miles from the Start/Finish line of the Skidaway Marathon, this campground was a perfect compliment to the race weekend. With miles of trails along the intracoastal and into the woods, you will lose yourself in the harmony of birds song. Off road biking is also available along one of the trails that take you to an observation tower for an unforgettable sunset! A variety of birds were easily spotted on our venture: blue birds, red robins, woodpecker, herons, hawks just to name a few, as well as a visit by a deer! Looking for a little relaxation? Visit one of their library stands located in the park and kick back in a hammock! Forget something while packing? No worries, Publix is located right next door as well as a village with shops and restaurants.

The Skidaway Island Marathon and Half Marathon is a small town, small field race, timed perfectly with the Springtime azalea bloom. The circle course keeps you in suspense the entire time as there seemed to be a new secret path around every corner. Golf courses, neighborhoods, intracoastal pathways, and lake views are just a bit of what to expect along the course, all draped with Savannahs well known Spanish moss, oak trees, and dont forget those azaleas! It really was like running in a secret garden!
(unfortunately I was so exhausted race day, I never took any pictures. All these are taken from the campground)

You really couldnt ask for a nicer, more involved race director! Dan was constantly keeping us motivated on Facebook with video teases as the race approached. Emails were plentiful with all the right information. We even got to share our stories and plead for a specific bib number. These stories were shared on Facebook the couple of weeks leading up to race day. It was fun to get to know your fellow runners!

Packet pick up was at Dicks Sporting Good store about 15 minutes outside of Skidaway the day before the race.  Or a pasta dinner was offered at Wesley Gardens Retreat where you could pick it up there.

Parking was a breeze in the field of the Georgia Oceanography Institute just 5 miles from the campground. There were no lines for porta potties and the line up was a simple call out of the corrals and go. (Registration had you separated by times and your bib was placed in one of four corrals)
Pacers were provided for both the full and half marathon. A runners prayer was said and then we were off.

You really couldn't have asked for better weather. Overcast and making its way to the low sixties. I didn't get much sleep the night before and I couldn't get myself to eat before the race, but it had been since DONNA Marathon that I had run double digits so my mind and body were itching for it! I ran my normal 3 miles nonstop and then ran by feel the rest of the way. I felt great until about M9, where I realized I had only brought one Gu. I did not take the gel offered on the course and just stuck with the Gatorade. My legs got tight for about a mile or two, but was able to shake it off the last couple of miles and ran consistent. It was a beautiful course and because the scenery seemed to be constantly changing, the time flew by.

The hydration stations were spaced out much further than normal, but there were warnings of this ahead of time. I decided to not risk it and carried my Camelpak. Full bottles and cups were offered at the tables.

Despite being in or near neighborhoods, there really are not spectators for this race.

At the finish you were provided an energy drink, oreos, trail mix, bananas, and nature bar. After claiming your medal and swag there really wasnt much of a reason to hang out.

Compared to previous years, they really stepped up the quality of the medal, but I wish the medal, not the ribbon, would say the race name not the sponsor name

Instead of providing a race shirt, your swag included an Orange Transition towel, which is very cool. You can use it as a car seat cover, a changing towel, or a regular towel.
Shirts were sold separately if you wanted one for $10
The race utilized RaceJoy for people to be able to track you and cheer you on and there were also
Free race pix posted on Facebook!

This really is a race to lose yourself in nature. To let go of all the stresses in life, even take off those ear buds, clear your mind and listen to Mother Nature calling.

I highly enjoyed this race weekend. Knowing how involved, energetic, upbeat, and friendly the race director is, makes getting ready for the race even that much more exciting! The course is absolutely beautiful, but they also paid attention to every little detail to make it interesting and not just running down a road. Having the State Park right next to the race made it for a perfect race weekend to spend some time and enjoy nature. For a small town race with big scenery, make sure you have this one on your bucket list!


Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 8 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

DONATIONS are currently being accepted by check only for April. Please mail to 
Donna Foundation
11762 Marco Beach Dr Ste 6
Jacksonville FL 32224

11th Annual DONNA Marathon-Feb 11, 2018

The DONNA Marathon is the only National Marathon that raises money for breast cancer support and research. Monies raised from registrations and donations go towards the Mayo Clinic for genomics breast cancer research and Donna Foundation to help women in financial need during times of treatment. Fundraising is not required to race, but the reward of doing so is well worth it! (see Fundraiser Experience Below)

The DONNA Marathon weekend is so jammed packed with something to do for everyone in the family besides just the marathon! There is a 10k and 5k in Downtown Jacksonville on Saturday, a half marathon, marathon, and 5 person relay on Sunday, a Bobby Trap Challenge if you would like to do both days, and if that is not enough, there is a 110 mile that runs all day/night on Saturday and finishes with the marathon on Sunday!

Have a friend or family member that is not a runner?! That is OK!...there are endless opportunities to Volunteer all weekend as well and still be part of the fun! Can't volunteer or run? That's okay too, just step outside and join the thousands of people that line the entire course, dressed up, yards decked out, horns and banners spread out, music blared out, and yoot n yollerin at all the runners! That's right, this is one big block party of a race you don't want to miss!

This is also the most beginner friendly marathon course out there! Pacers are provided for both the half and full marathon and utilize the Galloway run/walk program. You have a 16 minute mile allowance for the full marathon and a 32 minute for the half! You Too can be a marathoner!

If you register as a Fundraiser Experience, you pledge to raise a certain amount of money and you are rewarded with some great perks! Keep bringing in the donations, and you receive even more incentives such as:
-VIP Packet Pick up at the Expo
-Fundraiser Hat
-VIP Start Line parking pass
-VIP Finish Line parking pass
-Fundraiser Experience tent at the Starting Line
-Fundraiser Experience tent at the Finish Line with catered food and drinks!
-VIP cocktail party at Marriott Sawgrass with Donna Friday night
-VIP Dinner at Mayo Clinic with Donna Saturday night

The two day Expo is held downtown Jacksonville at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. It is a pretty massive expo with all kinds of vendors from health fields, running stores, Mayo Clinic doing testings, local shops giving away goodies, photo shoot opportunities, boards to sign on and much more. There was even a grab bag of diamonds from Beards Diamonds and hand drawn caricatures by Kurtis Loftus this year! Packet pick up was a breeze for us this year, we had a pretty good system down with the experience of picking up 4 friends bags. But be prepared, the later it gets, the place gets busy! Don't forget to track down Donna herself as well as Jeff Galloway at their own booths doing meet n greets!

The race used a new app this year via Active Experience, in which your friends and family can 'track' you as you run. Unfortunately there were some glitches with it not being compatible with Android to Iphone or vice versa. Previous years Race Joy app was so much better and more interactive with race cheers and pace alerts. Hopefully they will switch back.

"26 miles of Smiles" is what Donna calls this race and she is absolutely right! I have run 82 half marathons in 34 states, and this is definitely the most Community involved race I have ever run! I just absolutely love how not only are the runners involved in helping raise money and awareness for breast cancer, but the neighborhoods really support it as well and do all they can! It really is like one big parade of celebration of how much this race has done for the Mayo Clinic breast cancer research department and The DONNA Foundation to help women who can not afford their treatments! Complete neighborhoods are decked out in pink with huge signs saying 'Welcome.' Survivors stand there and wave, saying 'Thank you for running!' People bring out their music and bands for entertainment. You can't help but smile the entire time!

The course starts at TPC Sawgrass and runs through four beach communities (Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach) before heading back to Ponte Vedra, but takes a turn over the Intracoastal to end appropriately at Mayo Clinic, where much of the donations support!

This is a flat course with just a couple minuscule inclines on the second half and then, yes, a bridge in the last mile, which makes it very representative of the breast cancer journey! When you are completely worn down and do not think you can go any further, you are hit with another challenge! You must put on your game face, look ahead to the future (finish line/Mayo sign in the distance) and stay focused, and you can get through anything! Before long, you have completed that struggle, and it is an easy homestretch to Finish Breast Cancer!

Water and Gatorade, GU, and first aid stations are in endless supply along this course! Besides what the race provides, SO many neighbors set up their own 'fuel' stations. You will find Popsicles, pbj sammies, bananas, oranges, candies, extra waters/gatorade, mimosas, beers, jello shots, (I think a friend even told me they found Fireball?!)You name it, its out there!

Fundraiser Experience parking was a breeze and we were right next to the entrance gate of the Starting Line Village! The Village was pretty big with lots of tents throughout giving food, drinks, sunscreen (its Florida!), gear check was handled by UPS and was a breeze, and there were endless amounts of porta potties! WQIK Djs were there for entertainment as we waited.

The race uses a Pulse Start, which means you line up wherever and with whomever you want, and they only let a certain amount of runners run at a time so the course does not get overcrowded. There is a new countdown and celebration (pink confetti) start with each group and your time does not start until your bib crosses the mat.

I lined myself up with my friends this year in the back, as I was not going for time and did not want my PR pacer to intimidate me.

If you have been following me, then you know the past couple of half marathons, I attempted to run 13.1 nonstop, as it had been about 3 years since I last did so. I finally did it in January and continued the rest of my training without walk breaks, which I had never done before. Every day, every training run I was becoming a more confident runner knowing that I am finally consistently running nonstop. I had found the 'runners high' like never before. My lungs didnt hurt, my legs didnt hurt, my mind was clear, and my feet were in a magic rhythm of their own. I decided that it was finally time to attempt 26.2 miles running nonstop! I know that that was a huge goal and possibly quite unrealistic, but since The DONNA is the only marathon I run, this was my only/first chance to see how far I would go! Anything beyond 13.1 would be a new record for me, but I definitely went into race day saying and feeling anything is possible! Its like the quote, 'Aim for the moon. If you miss, you'll land among the stars!"

We had a brutally cold training season this year, which I love and run the best in, but as the race day approached, temps were definitely sky rocketing! I was already on an amazing high going for this extreme goal, I decided this was also the perfect opportunity to push myself even more....

...Ever since I began running, I would be so envious of the Elite females running in just their tank tops. I have always been so overly self conscious of how much stomach jiggles when I run, so I always said 'one day, when I get my stomach in 6pack shape.' Well, this past summer, I had had enough. All these years I let myself overheat, feel miserable like I am sweating to death while other runners around me seem so cool and confident in their bras. One a hot stagnant trail run, I said 'screw it' and I took my tank off. And it felt amazing!! I felt pretty comfortable because I basically was in the middle of the woods with just a handful of other runners and no spectators until the finish. I came home after that race and did my training runs in the dark in my sports bra all summer. It was just so absolutely freeing....and so COOL! I was finally not overheating!! I no longer cared about my stomach. It was more important to feel comfortable temperature wise so I could compete and run my best. So, early Fall, I ran my next half marathon in just my sports first true race where I had TONS of runners running towards me, seeing every aspect of my jiggle. But I just held my head high, smiled, and felt the cool breeze on my skin. Who Cares?! I am no longer holding back!

So as DONNA race day came and it was predicted to be upper 70s, I said, this is it. It is time. I ran The Inaugural DONNA 11 years ago saying 'one day' I will run 26 miles nonstop and 'one day' I will run in my sports bra. Well, that one day was going to be today! I am running DONNA in my bra and I am pushing myself the furthest that I have ever. I bedazzled my bra to read 'BADASS' because you know what, I finally found that 'badass' inside me! And it was appropriate that my friend showed up to the start line with some bright sparkly lipstick. Never had I ever worn lipstick for a race, but today was going to be the day!

On the way to the race, we stopped at my newly laid DONNA brick at Oceanfront Park in Jax Beach that my boyfriend purchased for me after last years race (bricks are still being sold/paved for donations here). I thought it was appropriate to start the day reminding us of the quote I engraved on my brick "She believed she could, so she did!" Me, about to go on a distance adventure I've never done before running nonstop, another friend about to complete her first marathon, another friend that just received 3rd place the day before and wrapping up her weekend with the Booby Trap Challenge, another friend that really did not train much due to sickness and just life, but knew it was in her to 'be the finish,' and another that had been sick but still had the courage to show up (and PR!).

It was already hot the first mile and was forecasted for 75 degrees, sunny, and 100% humidity. Thankfully, being a block off the ocean most of the course gave us some awesome breezes throughout the day which always reminds me that Memaw is with me! It stayed overcast for the first 23 miles and then the sun came out in full force.

Most of us separated as we lined up to Start as we all had different goals. I had to remind myself, "slow and steady wins the race" which brought me back to my first marathon when I bought a shirt with a turtle that said that. The first 13 miles were the most fun I have ever had at this race! The sunrise was amazing as we took off and it took me a full mile to realize it was my new glasses that was making everything so PINK!

To stay slow and loose, I took the time to wave and say 'Thank you' to all the spectators lining the course! I was not watching my Garmin, instead I just ran by effort. I was amazed at how easy it felt. I appreciated all the decorations, banners, chalk designs, bubble machines, posters, and puppies! Oh there were so many puppies!

Around M9 I passed Donna and Tim and they boosted my confidence saying how great I looked-lipstick still on and all! Around M12, I passed Jeff Galloway, who if it wasn't for this man's run/walk program, I would have never had the courage to become a marathoner! I had then passed the half way mark! My previous half marathons that I had run nonstop, I walked through the water stations to drink. However, this time, I did not even do that! Even at 13 miles, I had set a new record for myself! I was feeling Badass!

At M14 I realized my quads were so tight, I was worried they would cramp up. I had flashbacks of a charlie horse I had in my hamstring one year that almost took me down to the ground, and I couldn't move for a few minutes. I tried to get out of my head and stop focusing on it, but the miles 14-17 are pretty isolate. Where did everyone go? There were not a lot of runners, nor spectators. All I knew was that my boyfriend was waiting for me at M17 with a bag of goodies that would hopefully help the cramps.  My quads started to feel like the muscle was going to rip open through my skin. I knew I still had 10 more miles and there was no way that I wanted to put myself in a position to not even be able to finish the marathon.

I finally made it to him and without thinking I just started walking. It was time. My boyfriend tried to motivate me to not walk, but it was okay. I was happy. I had made it past 13.1! Was it as far as I thought I would go? Probably not. Do I think I can go further? Absolutely! But was today the day in this 75 degree heat? Nope. And that was okay. I am still a Badass for having the confidence to attempt it. I am still a Badass for actually running 16.5 miles nonstop in my sportsbra!

He walked with me for a bit as I put on the BioFreeze and took my bag of goodies of chips, pickle, and bite of Snickers (GU always starts to make me nauseated around this point) and he then handed me a Kindness Rocks rock that he had found with a pink heart on it as he was waiting for me! I was overcome with emotion. I knew right away that my angels were with me and were proud of my Badass accomplishment!

He ran with me a bit as he made his way back to his car to head to the Finish Line and it took me back to my first marathon when dad and his friend ran with me at M20 to keep me going. I have had so much love and support in my life on this breast cancer mission the past 11 years!

Up next was M18 and my work aid station. Every year I get enough volunteers to man a water station, so that my employer donates a grant! I ran through the station to make them proud, and one of the girls yelled out 'You are doing it!" At first I was a little disappointed as she didnt realize I had already had a walk break and only made it to 16.5, but then I realized, "I AM doing it!" I have done 82 half marathons, 34 states, and raised over $66,000 for breast cancer!!!! When I say it out loud, sometimes I dont even believe it myself! Is this really my life?! Yes, yes it is! Ask me 11 years ago if I thought I would be a marathoner? I'd say hell no. Ask me even a year ago if I really even considered myself a 'runner' and I would be unsure, as I always take walk breaks. But ask me this year....and I will say "hell Yes! i AM a runner! i AM a marathoner! and i AM a Badass for doing this 11 year journey and raising so much money!" So I decided to run/walk the rest of the course celebrating it all!

I stopped at about three aid stations M20, M22, M24 to put on more BioFreeze. The cramps would subside for a bit, but would come back. "Slow and steady" said the turtle. The sun came out in full force around M22 and all I wanted was for it to be over. "Slow and steady" said the turtle. I made it to the bridge of the last couple of miles and I could finally see the Mayo sign in the distance, but I somehow had to manage to run a bridge with bricks for quads! I looked up and saw the top of the bridge once again jammed packed with Zeta sorority girls cheering me on. I smiled and knew after that, it was just a home stretch to my friends and boyfriend waiting for me at the Finish!  Slow and steady I crossed that Finish Line as a brand new confident Badass Runner!

The Finish was extra special for me this wasnt just about me, but about my boyfriend finally being able to be part of The DONNA, after a year long, long distance relationship, he finally moved to Jacksonville. For him to finally witness this race; to see firsthand what this huge part of my life is all about. To share in the celebration of the race that has made me the person I am today. He has been so supportive and understanding in all my travels and training and phone calls trying to explain the race. It just finally felt right. To complete an awesome goal, cross that finish line, and be able to hug him to celebrate!

 We celebrated in the VIP Ruth Chris tent with mimosas and steak! He also came prepared with flowers and his own batch of freshly made shrimp for all of us! We then headed over to the Fundraiser Experience tent and celebrated with other VIP fundraisers with corn dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, and fries, as well as Fireball and beer! After our celebration, we made our way back to the Finish Line where we waited for our friend for complete her first marathon! It was fun to cheer on the very last runners, as the course was closing!

Afterwards, of course we jumped in the freezing ocean, then headed to the pool and hot tub for some relaxation. Ice cream cake was to be had in the morning! :)

Gender specific long sleeve shirts turned out great this year. I love the color and beach design

I didn't really know how I felt about the new medal at first when it was being advertised, being completely different from our previous years design, but once it was in my hands, I quickly fell in love with it and felt like a true gold medalist! AND IT SPINS! That just makes it that much more fun! I also love that they made the marathon medal larger than the half marathon medal.

When I was first asked 'Why' I wanted to attempt running 26 miles nonstop, I knew right then, it was the perfect goal for me. The past couple of years, I have felt that something was just missing in my running. The speed wasn't improving (although I've been doing more technical courses) and I just wasn't feeling like a 'true runner.' (I know. I know. I'm ridiculous.) But we all have something inside us that drives us. But sometimes we lose that momentum, or even lose the reasoning why, or lose the understanding of what it really is that even drives us? When I would walk away from a race feeling defeated because I didn't PR, I was always reminded, just remember the 'real' reason why you are doing this. Yes, that is true I race to raise money and funds for breast cancer, but it wasn't enough. And I've learned over the years, running has so much more power in life in creating who you are as a person. I just knew something was just missing for me.

As I explored my irrational reasoning of not being a 'real runner' it took me back to my very first half marathon, the DONNA Inaugural. I went into it with a friend and we walked a TON. I mean a ton. I knew right away I had more in me. I signed up to run the full marathon the very next year. And I did it! I finished that first marathon with the 1x1 run/walk Galloway program. But I felt like I had more in me. So the next year, I decided to forget the 1x1 and see just how far I could run without walking. I ran 6 miles nonstop for the very first time ever! I had no idea I could even do that! But I knew right then, I had more in me. The next couple of years I finally worked myself up to run the full 13 miles nonstop. It hurt. I never really felt like I had more in me. So I settled. I said I would always do the run/walk for the full marathon.

It took 7 years of me doing the same thing over and over; of just 'completing' the half marathon every month. If I PRd, great, If not, 'Oh Well.' I justified it with, 'I finished.' I focused on speed and PRing the marathon and that worked for 7 years, and then the day came when I finally did not PR my marathon time.  I tried not to beat myself up but I couldn't shake this nagging feeling of (gasp) not being good enough. Was it really just the speed? I couldn't help but think there was more. Something was definitely missing but I didn't quite know what or why I felt this way or what I needed to do to not feel this way.

That is when I realized as I pushed myself again to run the half marathon nonstop this year, I had never changed the focus. For so long I just allowed myself to do the same thing month after month, year after year. I never gave myself a new challenge. I wanted speed. I tried for speed, but when it didn't come, I would just shrug it off. I wasn't feeling that adrenaline, that excitement to do something new. To have a new purpose of the race. It had been too long since I pushed myself as hard as I could, passed my limits, to see what I was truly made of. And so I did it. I set a new goal of running 26 miles nonstop, and although I did not reach that goal (yet), I crushed my old record and most importantly I found out what I was truly made of....a Badass Runner! I finally have reconnected with that Runners High and I can confidently tell myself, "You ARE Doing It Melissa!"

Being a 'Streaker' of The DONNA Marathon, I am highly biased of this race. HOWEVER, running 82 half marathons in 34 states, I am frequently asked what my favorite race is, and I honest to God can truly say, it is The DONNA. The crowd support of the course is beyond what words can describe. It is as if all the angels come together that one day and say Thank You for everything you do! It is an experience you will never forget!

Marathon #9-5:17
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