One hundred thirty-eight thousand four hundred and thirty-five feet.

Forty-six thousand one hundred and forty-five yards.

Twenty six point two miles.

One incredible, rewarding experience.

It’s on many people’s bucket lists, but often the thought of training for such a huge, seemingly insurmountable goal can be scary and intimidating.

But, on the first Saturday in March, many of our very own Fleet Feet runners were able to cross the big one off their list! After about 18-weeks of training; hill work outs, track work outs, long, slow, grueling runs, wind, rain and snow – yes, there was lots of snow – and some sun, miles were covered, friends were made, fun was had and endurance developed.

We caught up with three first time marathoners who culminated their Fleet Feet Sports Full Marathon Training Program by running the Myrtle Beach Marathon on March 5th. Val Nolan, Erin Collard and Kanayo Anekwe shared some information with us about their experience. Check it out below.

What was the hardest part about your marathon?

Erin Collard (EC): The hardest part for me was getting over the mental hurdles I’d put up about the marathon distance…The training and the homework runs had given me the necessary endurance and the camaraderie of my fellow trainees kept me going. Judy, Val, Emily and Ray all went together and kept ourselves upbeat and encouraged! Ray, who ran the half, met me at mile 25 and ran the last few blocks to the finish line. Even Alyssa was there to greet us all at the end!

Val Nolan (VN): The hardest part was pushing through and not quitting, when half through my training, I had an injury to my groin. Even after I took 2 weeks off of training my injuries was not healed. I came back to a 16-mile run that was painful, but with pain medicine, massage and lots of ice baths I was able to finish and continue my training for Myrtle Beach.

Kanayo Anekwe (KA): Ever since the beginning stages of our marathon training program I kept thinking “could I ever finish this and run the actual marathon?!?!” I always knew I wanted to complete at least one marathon in my running career. I knew I had trained hard and I was ready to go (with lots of nerves!).

What was the most rewarding?

EC: I think the camaraderie developed among the program participants is the most rewarding thing. Being out together for 3 to 4 hours on long run days…not to mention getting together to get in homework runs…is challenging, but participants form quick bonds and are very warm and friendly and encouraging

VN: I was very proud of myself when I saw the finish line. I realized that I’m stronger than I thought I was. My amazing friends, Elizabeth and Tomi ran 11 miles with me and it was very important to know they were at the finish line waiting for me.

KA: I think anyone who has ran a marathon would say the most rewarding experience during a marathon is crossing that finish line. One would be happy and joyful when crossing ... knowing that I crossed the line and actually completed my first marathon was a rewarding experience in which I will never forget.

What do you like most about Fleet Feet Sports Training?

EC: The best thing about the training was the coaches and pacers. They are great! My pace group has an especially zany sense of humor (stuffed animals and thumbs up pics!) but Cathy and Alyssa were right there joking back and having fun! Nothing makes a 4 hour, 20 mile run in sub-freezing temperatures easy, but having a group of running buddies who can joke, tease and shout out a word of encouragement during those tough last few miles certainly helps!

VN: The training was great. I made new friends and we made sure to motivate each other, especially on days when the weather wasn’t so friendly. We had an unforgettable 20-mile run with temperatures below zero, snow on the ground and tons of wind, but with great friends and an amazing pacer, we supported each other and got it done. Plus, our amazing coach Alyssa made me believe in my training. She is the best! She always tried to find new, fun and safe routes for our long runs.

KA: I have been pacing with our Winter and Summer half marathon programs here at Fleet Feet for years, but never have I been an actual participant. It is so different on the other side. The people that you run with make it so much easier and not running alone. I feel this has been the best group I have run with in quite sometime. I owe it all to my good friends, and they know who they are, and especially to Alyssa Smith who gave me all the confidence that I could do this. There were many of them in the program who were training for their first marathon as well, so I wasn't alone. I thank all of them for their support to help me get through it.

So, what’s next?

EC: What’s next…hmmm…a few races here and there, some relays. And I’m looking to try out trail running with Cathy. And we will see if peer pressure wins out to have me sign up for another marathon!

VN: I entered the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Lottery and I hope to get in and start to train soon for my second marathon!

KA: My running never stops...lol. The next big race I have coming up is the annual Frederick half marathon, which is another race that is dear to me. It was my first half marathon back in May of 2008. Thinking back then, I never knew I would train for a half marathon but I did it! You can catch me running at a few races within our local area. I'll be helping out with our Summer half marathon program starting in June.

Thinking a marathon might be next up on your least? Or maybe you need to start with a 5K and work your way up to it! Either way (or somewhere in between!) we've got a Training Program that will get you to your goal.

Check 'em all out HERE.

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