Run and Not Grow Weary - Willamette Valley Marathon

by Jodi
Finish line.  That's what satisfaction looks like.
Last year I raced in the augural running of the Keizer Iris Festival Marathon. I wanted to duplicate it this year so I marked my calendar for May 17th and reset my Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) Training Program app, but my training never really got past that point.

There are several things I love about the newly renamed Willamette Valley Marathon.
  • The beautiful course showcases the Willamette Valley.  22 miles of the 26.2 mile course are through idyllic, rolling farmland.  The Cascade Range to the east and the Coast Range to the west hem in this little piece of paradise. 
  • With the exception of three, short, steep hills (64 feet, 89 feet, and 71 feet of elevation), this course is flat or gently rolling.  It's the perfect mix of easy and challenging.
  • Small races are quaint.  It's easy to find your loved ones on the course and make new friends.  Runners who go unnoticed in big races get some time in the spotlight in smaller races. 
  • AFFORDABLE!  At $60 this full marathon is cheaper than most half marathons I've run.
  • The DJ at the finish line got me dancing in the finish area after running a marathon.  There's something to be said about that! I hope he's working the race again next year.
There were a couple of things I'd love to see change for next year.
  • The marathon field of racers is still so tiny.  A larger crowd of racers will spur on greater competition and make the event feel more festive.  If you live locally, please consider this event for your spring marathon next year.  COME RUN THIS RACE!  
  • The course measures long. Last year my Garmin clocked an overall distance of 26.55 miles.  Knowing this, I ran as many of the tangents as possible this year and still finished with a 26.52 overall distance.  I talked to two other runners who finished in the top five and we all had final distances at 26.50 miles or longer. Since the road is open to traffic, there is only so much runners can do to run the "shortest legal route possible."  
  • Aid stations were plentiful on the course so I left my water belt at home, but the first three aid stations I came to only had Gatorade.  The fourth aid station was passing out water.  The volunteers told me they had gone out and purchased it on their own. Apparently I was not the only runner asking for just water.  
  • Racers were promised a post-race pancake breakfast and free beer, but when we got to the food tent all that was left was beer.  The food vendor offered to start cooking again but Curt and I opted to go out to eat instead of wait.  The food and water issues will be easy fixes for next year.
The weather on race morning was perfect for a long run.  Overcast and mid-50's with no rain in sight, so I was able to go with the gear I had selected and didn't have to make any last minute substitutions.
Starting line
  • I bought myself a new race outfit from Portland Running Company and it just happened to be 100% Nike: tank, bra, and shorts.  I started the race wearing my trusty Mountain Hardware Momentum running gloves and my Lulumon arm warmers, but ditched them both by mile six. All my clothing was super comfy and no chafing!  
  • On my feet I wore Experia Thorlo socks and Mizuno Wave Riders.  They protected my feet through another marathon without losing any toe nails or chafing/blisters on my feet.
  • Instead of a visor, I wore my new PDX Carpet wicking headband from Little Lion Threads.  The headband effectively soaked up all my sweat, stayed in place, and gave me some spunky flair on the course.  I'll be ordering more of these for sure. Get yours by finding my talented friend Amber on Instagram or Etsy.
  • My Garmin Forerunner 310XT is super glitchy, but when it's working, it accurately tracks my distance and pace.  The information it provides has made me a smarter, faster runner, so I continue to baby it and coax it to behave for each important run.
Our current life phase is not conducive to marathon training.  My husband Curt is in Year One of a three-year doctoral program in addition to working full time. This spring I added in a second part-time job to my already full schedule of photography, kids, house, etc. Every second of every day is accounted for.  We're sleeping less and working harder than we've ever worked before.  The Lord is sustaining us, but we are weary.

I have been running consistently for months, but doing minimal speed work and no track workouts due to the breathing issues I've battled since June 2014.  Every time I tried to use RLRF to ramp up my marathon training something would set me back. The Marathon got shelved and I was really disappointed.  I didn't realize how much I wanted to run this race.

My friend Paula has been a marathon coach for years.  She knows my current fitness level and my desire to test myself at the marathon again. With only four weeks to train, she coached me through three, progressively longer, training runs.  I was stoked that my running base was broad enough to sustain me through these long runs without completely depleting me.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  They were the perfect antidote for the hectic pace of our current Life Season.

My time on the run rejuvenated me and provided space to slow down and just breathe.  With nothing to prove and only ten days to taper, I registered for the second annual Willamette Valley Marathon. The ever elusive sub 3:30 marathon was part of my pacing strategy, but my goal for this marathon was to run this race for the sheer joy of running.

I chose Isaiah chapter 40 (emphasis mine) to meditate on as I raced.  The chapter finishes poetically:

Do you not know? 
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, 
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
he will not grow tired or weary
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

This marathon would be a picture of what our family is doing each day during Curt's doctoral program.  We are weary.  But our God - who does not grow tired or weary - is giving us hope and strength.  He is enabling us to run and not grow weary.
My loose goal for the race was to run as close to 8:00 minute miles as possible. My broader goal was to start slow and build speed throughout the race.  I was the first woman out of the starting gate. The race was mine to win or lose and that was an exciting emotion.

I looked at my watch too much in the first four miles, constantly adjusting and readjusting my pace to hit an 8:00 pace.  It bugged me so I stopped checking and just trusted my body to settle into the pace it wanted to run. My breathing was labored too - something blooming in the air was triggering it - but fortunately by mile five I was out of the Allergy Zone and back to breathing normal.
Photo credits to Curt.  Not only does he look hot in tights, he knows how to ride a bike and work a camera.
Curt caught up to me at mile six on his bike.  He gave me some water and stayed with me the rest of the race.  He rode alongside offering love, encouragement and support to me and the other runners on the course.  When I got tired, he prayed for me or quoted Bible passages about strength and endurance.  I could cry just thinking about how he loves me so specifically and intentionally.  What a gift from God he is to me.
I think this was around Mile 15.
At mile ten, I started getting twinges of pain in my left hip and glute. With 16 miles to go, it looked like it would be a long, painful race.  Curt prayed and asked God to take away the pain.  As soon as he said "Amen" the pain disappeared.  I never had a twinge of pain the rest of the race!  How cool is Jesus?!?

The next twelve miles were a breeze.  I hit my stride, found my zone, and settled in for the ride.  I made it to the turnaround right on schedule for a 3:30 finish time.  The second place woman was maybe 3/10th's of a mile behind me and she looked strong.  If I wanted to win, I could not slow down.  Mile after mile clocked in at an eerily similar pace.  I felt strong, and in control of my body and my pace. It was exciting and a little surreal.
Clover fields at Mile 21.  I was getting tired.
Mile 22 took me back into the rolling hills portion of the course.  Nothing about the last four miles of this marathon was easy for me. My legs were fatigued, clear evidence that I hadn't logged enough long training runs.  My breathing was labored again because I had run back into the Allergy Zone.  

It was so tempting to let myself slow down or give up mentally.  I've done that so many times in the past and I did not want that to be the story of this race. I told myself,  "This is not supposed to be easy.  What you are doing is hard and that's why it hurts.  Every step takes you closer to the finish.  How bad do you want a sub 3:30 marathon?  How bad do you want to win this race?  Just run 8:00's! Run and not grow weary."  And then I prayed.  A LOT! 

Curt could tell I was feeling the effects of the distance so he ramped up his encouragement.  He told me I looked strong and confident.  He said he believed in me and knew I could finish strong.  We've been married 17 years and he still makes me swoon.

I held my race pace for mile 22 and 23.  And then that darn nausea hit.  It seems to happen in every marathon I run.  My gut shuts down and wants to start vomiting.  I am a total baby when it comes to puking so I slowed down to keep it at bay.  Mile 24 was 26 seconds slower than race pace.  BOO!

Mile 25 was rough.  It was time to eat one last gel and my stomach was still rolling.  I stopped running and walked through my snack break, forcing myself to swallow every last drop of the gel and take a big drink of water.  Mile 25 was 64 seconds off race pace, but I immediately had more energy.  I was able to run Mile 26 just 22 seconds slower than race pace, and continued to gain speed into the finish.  

At that point I knew I was going to win the race.  Most of my running friends are faster than me.  I'm definitely at the slow end of the fast crowd.  To win a marathon two years in a row is unfathomable to me.  My watch told me that the last three miles ruined my sub 3:30 finish time, but I didn't waste any time being sad about that.  I was seconds away from shattering my old PR and qualifying for Boston again! I stayed in this race mentally from the first step to the last.  I never let myself quit.  God truly helped me run and not grow weary.  All of this was cause for celebration.  Thank you Jesus!

It was exhilarating to see the finish area come into view, hear the music blaring, and see Curt waiting for me.  I used the little bit of energy I had left to sprint through the finish.  My official finish time was 3:31:43 - an 8:05 pace for a 26.2 mile course.  My Garmin measured the course at 26.52, giving me an average pace of 7:59.  The "7:59" was the icing on the cake.  A total dream come true.

seriously GIANT smile on my face!
We came home to homemade signs (made by my daughters) lining the street from the entrance of our neighborhood all the way into our house.  Seriously!  I don't deserve the life God has given me.  Thank you precious girls.

Marathon Number Six is in the books.  It wasn't easy, but it was so worth it. Thank you Willamette Valley Marathon for another memorable race.  Hopefully I'll be back again next year.


Mile 1: 7:54
Mile 14: 7:17
Mile 2: 8:02
Mile 15: 7:44
Mile 3: 7:48
Mile 16: 7:45
Mile 4: 8:03
Mile 17: 7:45
Mile 5: 7:44
Mile 18: 7:55
Mile 6: 7:49
Mile 19: 8:14 (third hill)
Mile 7: 8:01
Mile 20: 7:57
Mile 8: 8:13 (first hill)
Mile 21: 7:57
Mile 9: 7:49
Mile 22: 8:00
Mile 10: 8:02
Mile 23: 8:04
Mile 11: 7:51
Mile 24: 8:26 (nausea)
Mile 12: 7:40
Mile 25: 9:04 (walked to eat last gel)
Mile 13: 8:09 (second hill)
Mile 26: 8:22

Mile 27: 7:30
TOTAL: 26.52 miles – 3:31:44 – 7:59 pace


  1. Congrats on winning the race again and achieving a PR, too! To win a marathon once is a big deal - I can't imagine winning one twice!

    1. Thanks Tia! It was pretty surreal and really fun to share the experience with my husband. We all know this is not a typical marathon winning time, but it felt good to run strong and be a part of something that hopefully grows much, much bigger and brings in the fast crowd!