Vernonia Marathon: Running To Find Rest

By Tanya

Hello, it’s me. Remember me? I used to write about running.

I had a fast and furious start to my running experience. How can I not, when I have some of the most amazing and inspiring running friends on the face of the earth? However, just as my running experience started fast and furious it also came crashing down in flames.

Why you ask? Many reasons. Mostly just because I’m me and it’s all a part of my story.
If you remember from my past posts I am an “A” type personality who always has to be busy. I like to constantly be in motion making things happen.

It took my first marathon experience 5 years ago to finally teach me I really don’t have control of anything. I had to learn to let go and take each experience for what it was. I learned to trust. Trust in God and seasons of life. Trust that every experience we have good or bad shapes who we are. And trust that God made each and every one of us to be unique and to live for our unique purpose. I was made to run my own race.

In the five years since my first marathon, I have lived in that trust. I tried running again but continued to get injured so I started swimming. Swimming led to some wonderful experiences. I conquered my fears of open water and had an amazing experience surfing. I also conquered my fears of being clipped on a road bike and competed in my first Triathlon as well as some great running and riding events.

I started to dance again and got to perform with my high school alumni dance team, Zumba and dance workshops with my favorite dance instructors and even African dance at my kid’s school!

All of these experiences were what I was made to have in those seasons of my life.

I loved my new routine of running off and on (with a few 10k races thrown in) and cross training with swimming, biking and dancing. My body seemed to do better on this regimen than with running alone. I always hoped to race again, but if it didn’t happen I was okay with that.

Last year I won a free entry from NUUN into the Pints to Pasta half marathon. I knew I’d need a bit more training and probably a new Physical Therapist. Fellow triathletes referred me to PT Chris Ramsey from PACE who is also a triathlete. Chris helped me to identify a big part of my muscle imbalance and FINALLY find ways for me to stretch and strengthen the opposing muscles. I literally had to change my entire running form and start from scratch. It took months but when race day finally came I ran strong and without any pain!

Once my strength and form was on track, I started thinking about the marathon again. Both of my boys are now in school full time so I have more time to dedicate to training. I also realized that if I ran a Boston Qualifying marathon this year, I could possibly run the Boston Marathon right after my 40th birthday. Pretty cool birthday present, not to mention it put me in the next qualifying age bracket giving me an extra five minutes on my qualifying time.

When I ran this idea past Chris, he referred me to massage therapist and triathlete, DJ Deaustria, who works at Thai Massage For The Active. DJ helped me learn to relax my body and gave me wonderful advice about pacing and fueling.

I also talked with some of my experienced running friends and formulated a training plan. I wanted a training plan that did not require more than three days of running and allowed for my cross training. I believe in the importance of incorporating speed, distance and tempo runs into training so I decided those would be my three runs per week. I would use the other two days for cross training and take one day a week off.

I went to one of coach Nikki Rafie’s marathon training talks and she stressed the importance of not over training, quality runs over quantity, and peaking on marathon race day. I knew from my experience with my first marathon that attempting a plan too advanced or with too much running would most likely result in me getting injured.

After all that research I decided to follow the Pop Sugar plan for my marathon training. It was similar to Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 training plan but also incorporated cross training days. My mileage each week was on the lower end. Many experts recommend 50-75 mile weeks, but my average was 25-35 miles per week all the way through my training. Even with the lower mileage I was meeting my goals, not sore or tired as in previous years, and feeling really good!

With my new plan in hand I decided on the Vernonia Marathon. I had heard Vernonia was a good course and since it was close to my house, I hoped to do my long training runs on the trail. Many of my friends were already thinking of running the Eugene marathon, a few weeks after Vernonia, so it looked like I might be running it on my own.

Jodi and I ran the Scio Roaring River half marathon together in early February. I chose to run conservatively at my marathon 8:30 pace the whole time. I was afraid to push it since I was in the middle of my training and I didn’t want to get injured. My race went okay. I met my goal, but it did not feel as easy as I’d hoped. I was afraid to think of maintaining that pace for another 13 additional miles.

I knew I didn’t want to keep training alone so I asked around for someone who could run my long run pace (9:30 to 8:30) and could train during the weekdays. Mutual running friends from the ORRC introduced me to Paul Braghero.
Paul is newish to racing and agreed to train with me as a way to get in some extra miles. Paul joined me on all my long runs after the half marathon. Every single run we did went extremely well. Paul was very supportive of my racing plan. We did two 20 miles training runs on the Banks Vernonia trail at a comfortable pace. Paul continually told me he knew I could meet my goal for a BQ at Vernonia. I was even starting to believe it myself!

I was ecstatic when Jodi and Paul both decided to run the Vernonia Marathon. I knew Jodi had her goal set on breaking 3:30 so I wouldn’t be running with her, but I would have her encouragement before and after the race. Paul decided to run the marathon with me to help me make it to my goal. How amazing is that?! The icing on the cake came when Carissa decided at the last minute to run the Vernonia half marathon. She promised to come back for me on her bike during those last dreaded miles to be my rolling aid station just as I had done for her on a past marathon she BQ’d at. Let me tell you; that sealed the deal for me. I knew then that I had to meet my goal!!

The only concern I had was that I hadn’t really successfully gotten down my fueling plan. I have a sensitive stomach when it comes to sweet things and it seems that every kind of fuel on the market is super sweet. Besides the overtraining and injury at my first marathon, I took all the fuel they offered on the course, became incredibly ill while running, and threw up right after I finished. It took my stomach days to recover.

This time I wanted to fuel smart. Straight water is all that works for me so I chose to carry my water belt and use water on the course if needed. I turn into a human salt lick when I run so I also carried salt capsules to replace my salt. My biggest concern was fueling past mile 18 when my stomach usually starts to flip flop. Getting anything down, especially something sweet would have to be done before that and very cautiously after from then on out. After many consultations with the running community and retail shops I ended up Glucose gummies and electrolyte tabs as well as three honey stinger waffles and a baggie full of dates.

As race day approached I felt calm and confident. One thing I have learned this past year is the importance of rest. I stuck to my training plan and had not allowed myself to over train.  I ran according to my plan and gave myself permission to rest. I was going into this race trained, rested and injury free!

The night before the race I was looking for inspiration and a friend of mine posted this quote on FB.

Yes, indeed.

Because my BQ time was 3:45 I had trained to run an 8:30 pace, which would put me on track for a 3:42:52 finish and give me some wiggle room. Paul had given me a Garmin to track my pace and had written a chart with all of our mile time splits on them. He planned to track our time per mile and give me updates each mile as to how close we were to my goal. 

We knew the course and planned to start close to pace, but would lose some time on the uphill from miles 9-14. We planned to make up the difference on the downhill and then hopefully have some cushion and/or maintain pace on the flat miles from 21 to the finish.

Right before the start of the race we met a very spirited little runner named Lynnette. She was extremely excited to meet fellow runners going for the same time goal because her watch had died. Lynnette had friends coming to pace her at mile 10, but she was nervous about staying on track for the first part.  Lynnette said that she and I must be “sole mates” and asked if she could run with us.

Little did I know how accurate Lynnette’s statement would turn out to be. As we started to run I noticed immediately that Lynnette's and my pace and cadence where almost identical. Lynnette was a machine for the first 10 miles of the race, she stayed right in front of me and was pretty much perfectly on pace even without her watch. It was easy to just match Lynnette’s pace and rhythm with Paul behind us giving us updates that we were right on target.

Right before we hit the hills Lynnette’s first pacer met up with her and they sped up a bit. Paul and I continued to stay right on their heels. We all powered up the hills only losing about 30 seconds off our goal time.


When we got to the first downhill I expected to feel more relief. I started to get a bit discouraged that even going downhill seemed to take effort. My pace was not speeding back up as quickly as I would have liked and Lynnette was starting to pull farther ahead. By mile 15 my stomach started to flip flop - I even had to spit out my Glucose gummy because it was too sweet. I knew I had to get my last waffle in me to have enough calories to last me to finish. I choked it down, drinking the last of my water, and reminded myself to rest not quit.

I would need water to wash down the sweet dates I needed to ingest to give me energy on the last few miles of the race and I did not want to rely on the water stations.

It was right then, around mile 16, that we got to the long bridge. My friend Michael Allen was taking pictures for ORRC and as we ran by Paul mentioned to Michael that I needed water. Michael had a bottle of water so Paul double backed, grabbed the water bottle, and helped me refill my belt water bottles. What lifesavers!! I was good to go!

We had a bit more downhill ahead of us until we reached the dreaded flatlands around mile 20. One weird thing about me is I like to close my eyes while I run. I know, it’s not the smartest or most safe thing to do, but it calms me. So for miles 17-19 I closed my eyes as much as possible, relaxed and just ran.  I settled into a good pace, gave myself a pep-talk and ran towards the dreaded flats. I was in such a groove that I didn’t notice we had passed Lynnette. (Apparently she came down the last hill too fast and got a cramp which slowed her pace considerably).

At mile 20 I was feeling pretty good; even better when Paul told me that we were about 30 seconds ahead of our goal time. As we entered into the flats I just kept telling myself to maintain. My only experience with running past 20 miles was my first marathon where I bonked at mile 21 when no matter how hard I willed my legs to run they would not pick up speed.

This time as I hit mile 21, I felt like I was slowing but when I looked at my watch I was pleased to find it continuing to say I was holding an 8:33 pace.

For the next three miles every time I’d look down at my watch and it would show anything above an 8:33 pace I would will myself to pick up speed. It was at this time that I heard someone keeping pace with me breathing pretty heavily. I assumed it was Paul but when I looked over it was not Paul but another runner we had met around mile 20 named Adam. I looked back and could not see Paul! (Apparently Paul started to overheat and get light headed so he took the pace down a notch at that point).

We were getting closer to mile 24 and I did not have Carissa or Paul to encourage me. It was then that Adam said to me “You’re doing great. Just a 5k left to go. You don’t even have to put your shoes on for that!” I love our running community!!

I continued to drink my water and eat my dates. I would have waves of nausea off and on but they would not last long. I was feeling pretty confident that my fueling was going to last and I was not going to bonk this time.

Just as I passed mile 24 I saw Carissa coming towards me on her bike (did I mention she just ran a 1:33 half marathon!) Carissa gave me a quick update that she had seen Jodi and she was on her way to running a 3:20 marathon! Carissa said it didn’t take her that long to catch up to me so I was doing great!

She asked if she could tell me what time I was on target for and I said “No”. She said “Okay then let’s play a game. How about you go pass that runner ahead in the green. I know you can do it”. 

In my mind I became Carissa. I remember her stamina when I paced her to her BQ on my bike a few years back and I ran with that same resolve. I passed the runner in the green, then the one in the pink and so on until before I knew it we were at the end of the trail and I just had to run up the road through town and one length of the track.

It was then that I really started to pray. I was not even looking at my watch anymore; I just wanted to finish as strong as I could. I looked up at a church I was running past and the sign read “Just do your best and Jesus will do the rest”. Okay then, I thought - I’ve done my best now Jesus you take over from here.

As I was approaching the high school I heard Carissa yell “Hey Paul, you’d better not pass her!” and Paul yell back “No way, I’ll make sure no one else does either!” Yay! Paul was back.

As I stepped onto the Banks track I saw Jodi’s smiling face. She yelled “Come on T, you’ve got this! You look so strong. Just 400 left to go!” This time I became Jodi in my mind powering through a track speed workout. I picked up the pace. “Just 200 left”, Jodi shouted and started running next to me in her flip flops (did I mention she had just completed a 3:18 marathon!!) and she prayed over me “You can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives you strength”. I closed my eyes (YES, I DID!) and ran with all that I had.

As I came closer to the finish I could hear my friends and family yelling my name. I looked up as I crossed the finish line and the timer read 3:42:15. Yes! I did it! A Boston Qualifier and 2nd in my age group. Of course I did have a little help from my friends.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of my friends and family mentioned and not mentioned in this post who believed in me and gave me tremendous inspiration, encouragement, and support. I love you all!!

Pace That Mile
Overall Time
3:41:55 – Check out that pace! One of the fastest of the race.  Thank you Jesus!
3:42:15 = 8:29 average pace


  1. Well done T! Well done. So proud of you.

  2. I loved reading about your race Tanya! Nice job. I'm so excited for you!