The Day I Turned 30 {And ran 30 miles}

By Meg - 8:41 PM

4 or 5 years ago a friend asked me to run a 50k with her. I told her she was crazy and no thank you! 30 miles?! Nope. Not this girl. Every year since she's asked me to run it and I've said no way every time. 

Except this year.

This year when I saw that the race was being held ON my 30th birthday I thought... why not? 30 miles on my 30th birthday seemed like the perfect way to celebrate. (I later found out that the race was actually 31.1 miles but whats one more mile right? haha) My friends and family thought it was kind of weird to want to spend 6 hours running for my big 3-0 but it seemed perfect to me. I made the decision the beginning of the year around March, so it was a long but amazing year of building miles and training every weekend. I ran the Philly Marathon at what I deemed the peak of my training and then took a week off and ran a 20 miler 2 weeks before the 50k.

So the morning of my birthday I woke up before the sun started shining on my 30th year and headed down to First Landing State park for the longest run of my life. The forecast was constant rain but also uncommonly warm temperatures for mid December. Philly was legit freezing temps so I was struggling to switch gears from what I had worn for Philly to now a close to 60 degree race with rain. I walked around with a rain jacket on at the starting line but finally decided to ditch it 10 minutes before the start because I figured I would rather be wet than hot. 

I was super intimidated walking around before the start seeing several obviously experienced and serious "ultra" runners. It was a small race, only about 300 people, and it seemed like everyone knew each other and were a part of an elite club of ultra runners! I heard them saying things to each other like "So are you going to go for it today?" (it being winning the race!) and there I was all by myself, just hoping not to die! haha just kidding, I was pretty confident in finishing, I just wasn't sure what that would look like and I knew for sure I wouldn't be in the front of the pack.

The first .75 miles was on pavement so it was an easy out and back as we got started. There wasn't much room on the road so you kind of just had to run with who you were behind. That wasn't a big deal though because I wasn't in a hurry. Once we hit the Cape Henry trail you could hear everyone's excitement, it felt like the race was really starting once we hit the trails. Missy (who ended up not being able to run the whole thing with me after all because of an injury!) met me at the aide station at mile 3 and ran with me on the main Cape Henry trails! It was so good to see her face! When the course turned off to the side trails for a few miles it helped keep me motivated to know she was waiting for me back at the main trail.

The side trails were way more difficult than I thought. Lots of hills, roots and even a downed tree in the middle of the path that we had to climb over. The rain made the trails really muddy and the wooden bridges super slick. I lost my footing few times but I never actually fell, which was a huge victory! 

The first 15 miles I was still running in a group of a few people. It was hard to pass anyone on the side trails because it was pretty narrow in some places and actually could've been a little dangerous. So again I just ran a long with who I was with. It ended up being a good thing because I almost missed the orienteering punches you were supposed to punch your race bibs with! me and 3 others ran right past it! It was marked really well with bright orange ribbons but I guess my head was down concentrating on not tripping so I totally missed it. Thankfully the group behind us saw it and called out to us to come back! There were plenty of opportunities on the main trail to move ahead of people if you wanted. I passed a few people but I wasn't running fast by any means!

There were two aid stations but since the course was two 15ish mile loops you passed them 4 times on each loop. You could hear the volunteers cheering a minute or 2 before you actually reached the aid station and it was incredibly encouraging. The aid stations were different than the other races I've ran where people just run right through them, drinking water and tossing cups without stopping. This time people were actually stopping to eat sandwiches, chips, pretzels, etc. It was weird for me at first. I grabbed some pickle juice and Tail wind the first time I stopped at the aid station and just kept going. The second time I stopped I drank a little chicken broth and the sport jelly beans I had brought for myself. Unfortunately I must've eaten them super fast because I ended up with side cramp that had me walking on and off for a mile. When I reached the turn around point around mile 16 I was able to stop and grab the bag I had left for myself. Again, it was a little weird because I've never stopped to change anything during a run! But I needed to change my socks, dry my feet and reapply some vaseline because my feet were soaked so I sat down to do all that and ate a little PB&J while I did. I was surprised at how prepared I was for all of this since I felt like before the race I wasn't even sure what was going to be happening and if there was even going to be a chance to change anything! Thankful to God for that small blessing.

I was still feeling pretty good when I headed back out for the second loop but I could feel my quads getting tired. I was super thankful that Missy waited around for me to come back to the main trail and ran one more stretch with me before going home. She waited around for about 30 minutes each time I  left her, just hanging out in the rain, until I got back to her. She's seriously the best. Right before she left when I hit the side train, at around mile 18, I did have to stop and walk a little. I still had a half marathon to go so I tried to come up with a strategy. On the side trails I decided I would walk the uphills and run the down hills and flats and then run when I got back on the main trail for the entire length. This worked out really well until mile 25. My Nike App was a little off so it said I was coming up on 26.2 and I couldn't believe I was about to pass the marathon mark and just keep going. I was so proud that my time was only 4 minutes slower than my Philly time, it really boosted my confidence and kept me running until I got to the aid station and they had a mile marker that said 25 miles! I was a little bummed so I fueled up and walked a bit on the main trail. I knew I had to keep going so I decided to run for 2 songs and then walk for 1 song. Surprisingly this really helped. 

The longest part of the race was getting back on to the main Cape Henry trail until I reach 64th street. It was only 1.1 miles long but it seemed like it took forever! My family had texted me telling me that they were at the finish waiting for me and I started feeling like I was so close but so far away! I was ecstatic as I passed the last aid station at 64th street and the volunteers were still there cheering us on! I texted my family to let them know I was close.

Only 2 miles to go! 

I ended up running the last 2 miles with a guy who would walk and I would pass him, then I would walk and he would pass me. We went back and forth like this, encouraging one another as we would pass until 2 of his friends came running towards him cheering for him! He stopped to walk and I pushed ahead wishing someone would come and get me! haha I needed something to help me finish strong and my theme song for my year came on "the break up song" by Francesca Battestelli about breaking up with fear! It brought tears to my eyes and I kept running. I came around another turn and saw my friend Melissa standing on the trail cheering for me! I was so surprised, I had no idea she was coming down to the finish line and I screamed when I saw her! I knew the finish line was close! I kept running. A few steps further and my sister, cousin and their boyfriends were standing there cheering! They joined Melissa in running behind me... I was excited but dying for the finish line to come in to view. I started to hear a little more noise and around another turn Mark and the girls, my parents and Erin were holding a sign for me! I stopped to give hugs and kisses and then they joined my little entourage as I broke into the clearing to cross the finish line. I squealed again as I saw my friend Sydney standing at the finish getting video of me finishing!

Ahh!!! I finished! I ran 31.1 miles in 6 hours and 24 minutes. Mark said later that everyone was staring as I crossed the line because there were so many people running with me and cheering and yelling. The nobody from the starting line who knew no one and was finishing 13th in her age group (out of 37) had a crazy group following her and cheering her on. I'm so thankful to God for that moment! I'll cherish it forever. I'm so thankful for my family and friends coming out in the rain to wait for me to cross, to run me to the finish line, and to be genuinely thrilled for me.

My man. My girls. They put up with a long year of mommy being gone running on Saturday mornings. and they waited in the freezing cold in Philly and the rain at home to see mommy reach her goals. I couldn't have done it without their support.

Some of my tribe. <3

After the race we went back home for a little after party where Mark and Erin suprised me with having the house all decorated for my birthday!

I ate soup and cheesecake and all the yummy things they had made for the little party because... well... 31.1 miles makes you a little hungry!

My legs were achy and I was a little tired, but overall I felt so good and my heart was full of joy.

So thankful for being healthy at 30. So thankful for completing the goals I had set. So thankful for my family and tribe supporting me through it all. So thankful for the grace of God evident in my life in all of these things.

Turning 30 isn't so bad when you have people like this to do life with. <3

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