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Elizabeth registered for last year’s Distance Challenge (Full Track) after having just run her first 5k in years. Don’t think you’re ready to #DareTheDistance quite yet? Read on:

Back in high school I ran track and cross country and used to think “I should make it a goal to do a marathon before age 30.” Once I got to college, I found it hard to stay active and keep up the running without being on a team. I had periods of time over the years where I thought, “I should run” and I would go for short runs (less than 3 miles) once or twice a week, but it would never last more than a month. Last year I moved to Austin and in an effort to run again, I signed up for Race for the Cure. I was finding it hard to fit in here and through the magic of google, I found ARC’s website and the Distance Challenge. With the “marathon before 30” dream in mind, I made a pact with myself that if the 5k went well, I would sign up.

The 5K went well and I joined ARC and signed up for the DC that night. The following Saturday was my first run with Coach Al’s Ship of Fools. Not knowing my pace, I started with the 10 minute group and ended up far behind the 10:30’s. Eventually I caught up on a downhill and made it 6 miles, the most I had run at one time since my last 10K over 13 years prior. The following week was the 80’s 8K, and though I struggled up the hills I was able to finish without any issues.

The Run for the Water made me nervous. Going from 5-6 miles to a 10 mile race felt like a big jump. Over the next few weeks I continued the Saturday long runs with the Ship and happily joined the 11 minute pace group. The leader at that time convinced me to go for a 12 mile run when I wasn’t sure if I could even make 8. The encouragement and support that I got was amazing and kept me going. I met several members of the ARC at breakfast afterwards and told them how nervous I was for the 10-miler. I heard “Don’t worry, you’re going to rock that 10 mile race!” and the same person who said that was at the finish line as I ran through.

I started to get more comfortable with the 11 minute pace group, which was usually just me, the pacer, and Sage. Then the 11 minute pacer went on to do faster runs, so I stepped in and became the 11 minute pace group leader. As training continued, every other week became the longest run I had ever done. By the time the Decker Challenge came, I had enough endurance to finish my first half marathon.

By the end of the year a few more people had joined our pace group. On one 18 mile run I heard someone behind me talking about her visit back home where it would be cold with possible snow, and I thought “that sounds like where I’m from.” It turns out Cari grew up in the next town over from me back up in Massachusetts. Needless to say she became a close friend. How can you not become friends when you run together 3-4 hours every Saturday morning? The 3M Half Marathon in January was a lot of fun, and the best part was seeing friends cheering us on at different points during the race. Cari was there at mile 7 and the Coach and a group of Fools were near the 11 mile mark. I was determined to beat my previous half marathon time and with their support I came in 5 minutes faster than my Decker time.

Finally, it was time for the Austin Marathon. Cari, Sage, and I met up at the start of the race, all equally nervous. For me it was my first marathon, for Cari and Sage it was their second. I suggested we pretend it’s just another group run to stave off the daunting mental image of 26.2 miles. The first half went by easily with the 3 of us staying together and keeping our pace. By mile 17, I started to get really tired and had to walk, while I watched Cari and Sage continue on. I thought “that’s it, I don’t know if I can make it” but as I continued I saw them stopped a little further up to stretch, waiting for me. We kept going as a group, until Cari and I were both feeling the wall at 20 miles. We encouraged Sage to go on, that we’d be right behind him, and the two of us continued together stopping now and then to stretch. At mile 25 my resolve came back, “no more walking from here to the end.” With the support of the ARC and my running friends, I reached my goal and finished the Austin Marathon!

It’s not easy going from zero to marathon in 6 months, but it is possible. I hope that if any of you have a goal that seems unattainable, my story will inspire you to go for it. The Austin Runner’s Club is an amazing group of people who will inspire you, push you, and support you every step of the way, and the Distance Challenge is a great way to build up to a first marathon.

Thank you for sharing your story, Elizabeth! We hope you find and join another awesome run club when you move back to Massachusetts and keep challenging yourself.