In His Words: Matthew’s Redemption Marathon Story

In case you missed them, check out Matthew’s other guest posts:

The Chicago Marathon was the most fulfilling day of my life. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to changing my life and being healthy.  But truth be told, I was disappointed in myself after that race.

Minutes after crossing the finish line, I knew I could have done better.  Both the physical and mental breakdown I had during that race were a product of my lack of training.  Granted, I had some setbacks along the way, but I knew in my heart I was under trained.  I decided I wanted another shot at the marathon to redeem myself, which came in the form of the Rock n Roll USA Marathon this past weekend.

To prepare for this race, I decided to use a significantly different training plan than I did for Chicago.  It had me running six days a week and included weekly speed training sessions and tempo runs.  I knew it would be difficult, but I was up to the task.  Starting on November 15, I spent 18 weeks training my butt off.  Over that time I ran a total of 622 miles, dropped 23 pounds and 4% body fat, and saw my average pace drop by 45 seconds per mile.

side by side

Race weekend came and, once again, my mother was here to support me.  She has been there for all of the most significant moments in my life and she did not want to miss this one either. We both awoke at 4:30am on race day morning and got everything we needed together.  I had a light breakfast, got dressed and collected all of the gear I had packed the night before.  We set out at 5:30am to catch the metro to the start area, which was right by the Washington Monument.

RNR2

I had never felt so calm before a race.  Despite knowing I was about to run 26.2 miles, I felt so good about the shape I was in and the training I had done that nothing made me nervous.  My running buddy Rachel met us outside of my corral about 10 minutes before race time.  I hugged them both and went into my corral, and twenty minutes later I was off and officially running my second marathon!

Start to 10k

After crossing the start line, I immediately felt a tad emotional.  I had to make sure not to start off too fast, so I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it.  After my usual three miles to feel fully warmed up, I really started to feel good.  I ran with a fluidity that I hadn’t experienced in the past.  I was smiling, taking in the sites of the city, and actually having fun.  The hill just before we hit Mile 6 looked to kill most of the other runners, so I just put my head down and charged right up it, my quads burning the whole time.  I knew my Mom and Rachel would meet me around this part of the course, but we missed each other.  I didn’t let it deter me and hit the 10k mark at 60:43.  I was pumped.

10k to Half Marathon

This was my favorite part of the run and I was now keep a comfortable pace of 9:30.  To say I was in a zone would be a complete understatement.  During this stretch I knew I had a couple groups of friends who were cheering on runners.  I saw my friend Caroline around Mile 7 and then a group of friends at the water station near Mile 9.5.  I was so pumped to see them I actually ran UP their stairs to give them all a high five.  Here I was running a full marathon and I did some steps along the way.

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Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and when I passed the 10 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw that I had PRed!  I then picked up the pace a little more and charged toward the halfway point. The marathoners split off from the half marathoners and the road became like a barren wasteland.  I saw my Mom and Rachel for the first time on the course, gave them a high five, said “Gotta go!” and hit the half marathon marker at yet another PR of 2:05:54.  I was on a roll!

Half Marathon to Mile 20

During my first marathon, I had a physical breakdown just after passing the half marathon mark.  This time was so much different.  I continued to barrel through at a 9:30 pace and just felt like I could do anything.  13, 14, 15, 16, the mile markers just kept ticking away.  However, there comes a time during the course of running 26.2 miles where your body just runs out of energy and that time finally came for me at Mile 17.  I had run without stopping for seventeen miles in a time of 2:43:34.  At that point I knew that I was already a shoe-in to beat my Chicago time, the thought now became “by how much?”.  Over the next 3 miles I took a GU and walked a short portion.  I knew a person in the band at Mile 20 and he gave me a high five as I passed.  I then saw my Mom and Rachel for an embrace and another pair of high fives.  20 miles down in 3:16:54.

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Mile 20 to the Finish

This was the most difficult portion of the race for me.  My pace slowed significantly but I still did not let that break me.  I ran the majority of the way and took a GU at Mile 21 to give me the extra energy I needed to finish strong.  I dug so deep to keep pushing forward.  There seemed to be more hills during this portion of the race than the rest of it.  That seemed so unfair!  With less than a mile to go I came into what seemed like a straight away portion of the highway.  I saw RFK Stadium in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before I would cross the finish line.  I ran as hard and as fast as I could the rest of the way, never stopping.  I managed a 9:00 minute pace the last half mile and burst across the finish line giving it every last ounce of energy I had to give.  For the second time, I became a marathoner.

second time

I was winded, I was hurting, but nothing could have dampened just how good I felt about what I had just done.  I collected my medal and gave it a big kiss.  I had earned that piece of hardware and it felt so good to feel it around my neck.  I walked very slowly through the finish area festivities, seeing all of the elated runners along the way.  I knew many of them had to be feeling as amazing as I did.  As I met up with my Mom and Rachel, finally, we all embraced in a moment I will never forget.

RNR1

They were both so proud of me and it felt good to know that I had that kind of support, not just for that day, but in my life in general.  My mother’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow into the person I have become and without her support I really don’t know where I would have ended up in life.  I certainly would not be a two-time marathon finisher without her that is for sure.

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Having had some time to process the entire experience I came away with a few thoughts. First, no matter how hard you train, running a marathon is hard.  There is no getting around it, but completing it will change your life forever.  Second, the marathon is so much like our lives.  You have ups and you have downs, but you ultimately learn how to get through all of those times to come out better when all is said and done.  Lastly, and most importantly, it taught me that I am STILL capable of so much more than even I think I am.  That applies to all of you reading this too.  It is so important to always believe in yourself and never sell yourself short. Ever.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read another of my stories for you.  I truly appreciate all of the comments and support.  In closing, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Chicago Marathon – 5:24:45
  • Rock N Roll USA Marathon – 4:24:03

Redemption at last.



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20 Comments on In His Words: Matthew’s Redemption Marathon Story

  1. Gina
    March 20, 2013 at 9:49 am (1 year ago)

    An hour PR not even six months later??? Wonderful! How inspirational:-)

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 21, 2013 at 10:02 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks! It took a lot of hard work but it was worth it.

      Reply
  2. Pam
    March 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm (1 year ago)

    What a great story – huge congrats!!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 21, 2013 at 10:07 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks Pam!

      Reply
  3. Lauren
    March 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm (1 year ago)

    Congratulations!!! What an inspirational story!!! You took an HOUR off of your time!!! You even beat Oprah’s marathon time, which is quite an accomplishment! What training program did you follow?? I am signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon, and any insight into training is much appreciated! :D Way to go again!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 21, 2013 at 10:35 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks Lauren! I, too, will be registering for MCM next week! As far as my training program was concerned, feel free to drop me a line (mfrates@gmail.com) and we can talk about it! :)

      Reply
  4. brenda
    March 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm (1 year ago)

    Got me all choked up!!! How wonderful!! I feel so happy for you!!!!! Congrats!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 21, 2013 at 10:24 am (1 year ago)

      You and my Mom had the same reaction! Thank you so much for reading!

      Reply
  5. Deb
    March 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm (1 year ago)

    Great story! Loved reading it!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 21, 2013 at 10:17 am (1 year ago)

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  6. robin
    March 20, 2013 at 9:39 pm (1 year ago)

    FANTASTIC JOB!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 21, 2013 at 10:09 am (1 year ago)

      Thank you!

      Reply
  7. Bob
    March 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm (1 year ago)

    Now that is impressive! I’m really happy for you. You earned it!!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks a lot Bob! I sure did earn it!

      Reply
  8. Debby H
    March 21, 2013 at 10:49 pm (1 year ago)

    WOW!!! That is so inspiring!! THank you for sharing!!

    Reply
    • Matt
      March 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm (1 year ago)

      You’re very welcome Debby!

      Reply
  9. Amy Dvorak
    March 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm (1 year ago)

    Wow…amazing!! I’d love to hear about how you cut so much time!

    Reply
  10. Evi
    March 23, 2013 at 8:11 am (1 year ago)

    Wow Matt- can’t believe you shaved off an hour, that’s amazing. Especially in such a short time period. So glad you found running to inspire and push you! Cheers on the Rock ‘n Roll and wishing you the best for future races!!!

    Reply
  11. jennyinarizona
    March 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm (1 year ago)

    Wow, congratulations! Truly inspiring.

    Reply
  12. PJ
    April 4, 2013 at 5:55 am (1 year ago)

    Amazing – inspiring – simply awesome!
    The dedication commitment & resultant transformation of your body, mind & self is just phenomenal. I hit goal at Xmas 2012 & have been experimenting with maintenance since (this is my 3rd time hitting goal – so maintenance IS MY marathon :-), but I look forward to setting new fitness goals to keep me on track in future. Congratulations again!!!!!

    Reply

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