In His Words: Matthew’s Marathon Story

Hello readers, this is Matt writing to you again. You may remember my In His Words story featured in back in September. In that story I spoke of my intention to run the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2012. The responses to my story and the requests to hear about my marathon experience were enough that I asked Beth if I could do a follow-up piece for you. She was more than happy to feature it and here I am again.

There are many experiences in life that no matter how prepared we feel, we cannot be 100% prepared for.  The marathon and its 26 miles and 385 yards is most certainly one of those experiences.


Race day is always such a special day for so many reasons.  No matter what the distance or how many races I have done, my emotions always seem to be all over the map.  The marathon was no different for me.  My 4:45am wake up call came and I jumped out of bed.  I was so excited to run my first marathon.


I had my pancake breakfast, showered, stretched and got dressed to leave.


The Chicago Marathon is a very well-oiled machine I’ll tell you.  It was nearly a 2 mile walk to my gear check area because there were three different gear check areas depending on your starting corral. My mom came with me as I got my things in order, stretched a bit, and dropped my gear off.  She gave me a big hug and off I went into Corral L around 7:45am.

It was time.

Standing in my race corral, surrounded by 45,000 other runners was really a breathtaking sight. As we inched toward the start line I found myself becoming more and more serious.  Gone were the days where I could train.  Gone were the days where I could daydream about this moment.  And gone were the days where I was not a marathoner.  The moment had come to actually do it.   At around 8:15am, I blew a kiss to the sky (something I do at every race for certain loved ones no longer with me), started my Garmin, and was off.  It was official, I was running my first ever marathon!

Start to 10K

As I began to run, a huge smile crept over my face.  I just kept thinking “I am running the Chicago Marathon.  This is so cool!”  The 10K distance went by in a blur.  The streets were lined with thousands and thousands of spectators.  That, coupled with adrenaline, had me feeling so good.  I hit the 10K mark in 1:05:48, feeling fresh and confident.

10K to Half Marathon

This might have been my favorite stretch of the race.  I knew going into the race that I would see my friends Jon, Steph, and baby Samantha (people I consider true family) at the Mile 7 marker.  I saw them right where they said they would be.  They jumped up and down and screamed when they saw me and we shared a hug.  I gave baby Sam a kiss, took a photo with Jon and Steph, and was off and running again.  It was such a boost to see them.  Miles 7 through 10 flew by as I was feeling great and knew my Mom would be waiting for me around Mile 10.  As I approached I saw her and my friend Jillian. My mom started jumping up and down like I knew she would.  I got a hug from both of them and a “You got this.” from my Mom and off I went. As I crossed into double digits and hit the half marathon marker I felt so good.  I passed the halfway mark at 2:20:19, ahead of my projected finish time, and figured if I kept at this pace I would be just fine.

Little did I know…

Half Marathon to Mile 20

This was, by far, the most lonely and challenging part of the race for me.  As I passed the Mile 14 marker my body began to do something it had never done in two years and nearly 1000 miles of running … it began to breakdown.  My quads began to violently twitch and spasm.  At first I thought it was a temporary setback and pushed through it the way I had pushed through everything else along the way in life.  The pain became so intense that it forced me to begin walking and, eventually, come to a complete stop.  I was so unprepared for something like this, as I had never experienced it before.  To look down and actually see my muscles spasming to the point that it nearly buckled me was scary.  I did what I could for the next two miles knowing my Mom had said she MIGHT be at Mile 16.  Well, Mile 16 came and went and I couldn’t find her.

At the time it was crushing.  It may seem odd for me to tell you that in a field of 45,000 runners and almost 2 million spectators that I was lonely, but I truly felt that way.  For a split second I thought “I still have ten more miles to go.” but immediately stopped that line of thought.  I made a tough decision and decided to lay down the fierce competitor in me.  The race became about finishing and not about time anymore.  When I finally got to the Mile 20 marker I saw my Mom and she knew something was wrong.  She gave me a tight hug and said exactly what I needed to hear. “Do what you have to do Matthew.  I love you.”  It was then I decided not to seek medical attention because I knew there was a chance they wouldn’t let me back out to finish.  I was willing to risk permanent injury to make this dream a reality.  I was finishing this race … by any means necessary.

Mile 20 to Finish

They say the real race begins at Mile 20.  I can’t really vouch for that, but I can tell you I learned a lot about myself during those last 6.2 miles.  My quads were still spasming but I began to figure some things out.  I shortened my running stride and was able to run easier than walk.  I ran/walked (more like a shuffle) the rest of the way.  I was able to put together a 10:45 pace when I did run and felt pretty good.  I saw the the “1 mile to go” sign and decided to run that last mile.  As I turned the corner past the Mile 26 marker and saw the finish line it dawned on me … I was about to finish.  After 5 hours, 24 minutes, and 45 seconds, I raised my arm to the sky and crossed the finish line.  It was official.  Matthew Frates had become a marathoner.


In the weeks since then I have had some time to really think about the whole experience. While training for this took place in 2012, the real journey toward this moment started back in 2010 when I decided to get my life together.  As much as this race for was for me, I realize now that it was as much for those I hold close as it was for me.  I received an overwhelming amount support along the way and I know I would never have achieved all that I have without it.  I was fortunate to not only have my Mom there, but four of my closest friends as well.


I will never be able to truly express what that meant to me and I know that no matter where my life takes me I will never forget this experience and everything they contributed to making it such a success.  26.2 miles is a humbling distance and the experience of running it taught me many things.  The most important thing it taught me is that no matter what life throws my way, I will never again think or feel that I cannot do it.  I am a marathoner and no one will EVER be able to take that away from me.  Thank you so much for reading my story.

18 Comments on In His Words: Matthew’s Marathon Story

  1. Nicole G
    November 1, 2012 at 9:06 am (8 years ago)

    What a great race recap. I had a similar experience with my first marathon — I did every thing the same during the race that I did in training, but by mile 18 I was off to the side of the road puking my guts out. By then my legs were also practically lead so between my stomach and my legs I had to mostly walk the last 6 miles or so. I finished in 5:48, way slower than I had hoped, but regardless of time, no one can take that marathon accomplishment away from you! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks a lot Nicole! Sometimes I think that the running gods gave me the unexpected on purpose to remind me of just how humbling the marathon really is and how I should always respect it. Either way, we finished and that is all that matters. 🙂

  2. Gina
    November 1, 2012 at 10:59 am (8 years ago)

    That’s true! You ARE A MARATHONER:-) I ran the Mankato Marathon as my first on 10/21/12 & also had a back burner time goal, but made it about the experience and finishing. I’m sorry that you had the pain & it was different then your training. Did you do any serious damage? Hoping not! If you’re interested in my race recap it’s here:

    Thanks for sharing your stories!

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm (8 years ago)

      Gina, congrats on finishing your marathon! To answer your question, no I did not do any permanent damage. I was just really sore but thankfully all my soreness went away by Day 4 after the race. Loved reading your race recap!

  3. Janice
    November 1, 2012 at 11:27 am (8 years ago)

    Felt like I was there right along with you! Great recap!! You are an inspiration!! I would love to do a half but I just don’t feel like I’m competitive enough.

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm (8 years ago)

      Never tell yourself you aren’t competitive enough. You CAN run a half. Always believe in yourself Janice. Always. I do 🙂

  4. Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio
    November 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm (8 years ago)

    I cried the whole time reading your post. Congratulations Matt!! Incredibly proud of all you’ve accomplished!

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm (8 years ago)

      Haha. Ashley, I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. Thank you for your congratulations and you too should be proud of what you have accomplished (I checked out your page). It was a pleasure sharing my story with you.

  5. Daphne
    November 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm (8 years ago)

    Awesome awesome awesome!! Way to go!!!

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm (8 years ago)

      Thank you!

  6. Brittany
    November 1, 2012 at 11:05 pm (8 years ago)

    This is such a wonderful and inspiring story 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks so much Brittany. Glad you enjoyed it and glad I could share my story!

  7. ADR
    November 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm (8 years ago)

    Awesome post Matt! I am planning to run the same in 2013 (I started a blog to write about my journey) so it was really close to home for me. Thanks for sharing and congratulations!

    • Matt
      November 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm (8 years ago)

      That is awesome! It was an amazing race and I will do it again before my racing career is over. You will enjoy it immensely.

  8. Vanessa
    November 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm (8 years ago)

    Came to this site for the delicious recipes and getting more than I bargained for. Loved your story – thank you for sharing.

    • Matt
      November 5, 2012 at 9:05 am (8 years ago)

      Thank you very much Vanessa.

  9. robin
    November 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm (8 years ago)

    Youre AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

    • Matt
      November 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks Robin!


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