Phoenix Full Marathon (3:14.59)

I don’t know how to start this post.  I ran a marathon, I PR’ed and won my age group. 

I should be pleased (I am).  I do know, however, my fitness was a little bit faster than this race showed.  I also know that I finished this race not healthy.  Not a full blown injury but I did have a major issue in my hips and hamstring that lead to a painful finish.

There are a couple of factors that played a part in the “bitter aftertaste” with this race.

  1. My travel the Thursday night before. It left me not fueling accordingly, up for 22 hours and traveling for 14.  I didn’t know traveling made you sore….but it does.
  2. My hamstring became very aggravated around mile 21…not tired but it was in pain. My pace slowed because my stride shortened (not because I was experiencing the “bonk” like last marathon). While it’s tough to say, I lost around 5 minutes of time because my hamstring and hip were in pain.

Enough whining because despite finishing in pain, I did have a 2 minute PR.  I’m truly grateful for a PR but I would have liked to have shown a slightly faster time.

Incase you don’t want to read 1000 words here are cliff notes or a screenshot of my splits:

finish time hollie phoenix

The recap: 

I woke up at 4 am and made it to the bus drop off right on time.  Tim drove me to the start.  I chatted with people on the bus and got to the race start successfully.  The Phoenix marathon had fireworks at the beginning which was unique. With the exception of long bathroom lines, there was nothing stressful before the race. Sacrifices had to be made and I delayered my pink Avalanche jacket, never to be seen again.  I threw it to the side of the road and bid it farewell (I have too many jackets anyways and I paid 5 dollars for that thing…it lasted 3 years).

Before I knew it the race was off.  Unlike my first marathon, my Garmin actually worked. I made the decision to start with the 3:15 pacer.  My original goal was to stay with the 3:10 pacer but after everything happened, I knew it was best to start less aggressive.  I did not want to have an unenjoyable second half of the race (but I still did).

During the first mile, my shoe came untied.  So I stopped and tied it…Spending an extra 10 seconds tying my shoe was not the end of the world (or any world).  My first mile was 7:17.  I chatted with a few guys training for Boston.

Phoenix Marathon

During miles 2-3, were pretty boring.  I enjoyed talking with the pacer and a few athletes around me.  One thing I enjoy about marathons is the amount of talking people do!  (6:50, 6:55).

During mile 4, I went to get water and just kind of left the pacer. I didn’t mean to but I sped up and then proceeded to go forward.  Despite my finish time, I never saw the pace group again.

I took my first gel at mile 5.  I didn’t feel like I needed it but the (fueling) plan called for 4 gels and I’m a follower.  I ran with a few other runners and we formed a nice pack. We talked for a few miles and by the time I knew it, we were at mile 8.  My legs were feeling good and as a whole my body felt good too.  Each mile between 5-13 ranged from 6:50-7:00. I ran the only uphill mile of the race in 7:44.  I wasn’t too upset and I actually passed a lot of people during that mile.


During miles 7-10, I found myself running with a really nice man from Colorado.  He had run multiple 100 milers and wanted to run one more marathon.  We had about the same goals in mind.

I took my next gel at 10.5 and started to focus on the half way point.  I hit the half marathon at 1:34.  This was about where I hit the half in NYCM.  My goal originally was to hit around 1:35 so I was on pace with my original goal.  I didn’t feel tired, my hamstring felt okay and I actually felt really good.  I counted my eggs early and thought I might be able to achieve a 3:10.

Everything after the half point increasingly got worse (I think that means I’m doing marathons right?). Miles 14-16 were extremely windy.  With NYCM, my most memorable mile (in a bad way) was mile 15.  It was exhausting mile up the bridge and I felt sore and tired.  For Phoenix, I was worried about this mile too.  During the Phoenix marathon, miles 14, 15 and 16 were all extremely windy and boring.  I had a no mans land clearing of 10 feet in front and behind.  They were mentally challenging miles and once again, I think those miles were the most mentally draining. I took my next gel around mile 16.  I had planned on mile 15 but I wanted to take it with water.

At mile 17, I saw Adam.  I mumbled something (who knows what?) and high fived him.  I grabbed water.   My hamstring began to feel tight but I choked it up to…oh I’m running a marathon, things should not feel good. I didn’t think the pain would progress like it did.


By mile 18, my hamstring hurt.  It hurt a lot. I almost stopped and stretched but I knew if I stopped, I would not start again.  The issue was annoying from mile 18-20 but it wasn’t painful.  I hit mile 20 and was overwhelmed that I still had 6.2 miles to go.  Not because I was tired but because my hamstring and hip hurt.

I really thought about dropping out due to the pain escalating.  Did I want to stop at mile 20? Doesn’t everyone ask that? I knew physically I had the energy to get through the last 10k but my hip/hamstring was hurting. It was quickly becoming more of a worry. I began to analyze my situation and figure out what felt the best. I realized turns made the pain worse as did a longer stride.  I shortened my stride and proceeded on.  I wanted to accomplish marathon number 2, PR or not.

I hit 21 and took my gel.  5 miles to go (7:59).  At this point I began calculating how much time I had left to the minute.  45 minutes, 44, 42…

Despite having 5 miles to go, I began to focus on the finish.  I thought to myself “no one drops out of a marathon at mile 21”.  That is inaccurate but it motivated me. My hamstring and hip pain was very much there.  It wasn’t altering my stride but it was a very noticeable pain.  If I had felt a pop, tear or anything alter I would have stopped. A 2 month injury recovery was not worth it to me.  The moment I felt I had to alter my stride I would have stopped.

When I hit mile 22, I blindly assumed just half an hour left.  Somehow dividing the race into half an hour then 2X15 minutes made me feel a little bit better.  My pace was slowing and my hamstring was getting progressively worse.  I decided that I might end up walking the race if needed.  I also knew if I stopped running I would not begin running again (8:04).

During Miles 23-25, I just focused on getting to the end.  We had a brief tail wind during mile 24-25.  I remember silently cheering to myself because at that point my hip and I needed all the help we could get.  I stared at the people running in front of me and noticed they were not getting further away and I was not gaining on them.  We were going the same pace and that made me feel better.  I passed several half marathoners who were walking.  I wanted to say “please walk single file and not 5 across” but decided it was too much energy.

The last mile was a blur.  For mile 26 was just focused on “less than 10 minutes to go”.  I repeated that to myself several times.  I was so mentally checked into finishing the race I was oblivious to anything and everything around me.

Thoughts during mile 26:

Who are these people?  Where is the finish line?  Which way to go?  So close, so close so close…OMG…no there is that .2…now so close.  Here I go..they are announcing my name.  Don’t cry, finish like a woman.  They are taking your photo.  Raise your arms, do something…why aren’t you race photo ready…you had 3 hours to think of a good  finish pose…omg just cross this damn line.

Seriously what am I supposed to do?
I’ll settle for bird pose I guess…I mean a Phoenix is a bird right (Absolutely no thought went into that. but I’ll let you think it was planned)

I crossed the finish line in 3:14.59.

Yes it’s a PR but not a PR I’m satisfied with because I spent the last 5 miles dealing with an issue (hopefully not to turn injury).  After crossing the finish line I found my friends and Tim then sat around.  I do remember repeatedly saying (being very dehydrated) that I must find my checked bag so I can get my pants.

Phoenix marathon finish

The awards ceremony was at 11 so we waited around until then.  I was second in my age group and 21st woman overall.  Since one of the top 3 women was in my age category, she was pulled out.  Therefore I was bumped to first.

Climbing the podium
Climbing the podium

Phoenix marathon

To summarize, it’s hard to complain about a PR.  I’m happy that I’m over my stress fracture hump, but I think I was in better shape than a 3:15.  I didn’t slow down because I was tired, I slowed down because I was in pain.  So far I’ve gotten another deep tissue massage and I’m resting accordingly.  I’m happy with a PR but I am leaving with a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.  I’m not entirely sure I enjoy the marathon distance yet but I’m sure I’ll try again at some point.

I’ll write a few more posts discussing final thoughts, fueling thoughts and a comparison of both marathons.  As always thank you everyone for your support.  The love I received race day was overwhelming.

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  1. I know it’s not exactly the time you wanted but I am really proud of you. Circumstances leading up to the race were not only not great, they were exhausting!! You had every excuse to run easy or drop out but you paced yourself properly early and were cautious when pain started to hit. It took me three tries at the marathon before I felt like I “got it”. You did an amazing job! Congrats on your PR Hollie!!

    1. I guess I will have to run another one to get a good idea right? Thanks for your support Kris (and thanks for putting up with my whining 😉

  2. You still kicked ass. I know the feeling of the bittersweet victory. More so than anything I hope that your hammy is ok–I think I strained my VMO minorly, so resting it completely this week (as planned anyway). I think that this course was challenging because of the monotony of it, but I think it was a fair course that was a good test–like hey, I might be downhill for a lot of me, but let’s through some wind at you! Either way, rest up and good job.

  3. to quote the movie Real Genius “Then I’m happy AND sad for you”

    Which sums it up – you should take great pride in how you have come back from your injuries to get a PR … but ending up the way you did has to be really disappointing. I just hope it doesn’t turn into an actual injury.

  4. I think you ran a really great, smart race, Hollie. You had a lot to deal with and decisions to make on the fly, and it sounds like you made the right ones. AND still pulled out a hell of a time, IMHO. Congrats!

    My theory on the hamstring–the travel hell that led up to it. Lots of sitting doesn’t do the body well, in my experience. While I love to travel to races, I’ve found that all of my best races are those closer to home b/c traveling can just take a lot out of a person.

    You are a stud.

  5. Nice race, Hollie! Traveling to races is definitely tough. I laughed when I saw Kris’s comment – three tries to “get” the marathon – I think it took me about eight – you’re way ahead of that – keep it up!

  6. I really hope that hamstring/hip issue clears itself up soon. I’ve had similar problems and it can be pretty painful until you get all the muscles working together properly again.

    I think it’s totally reasonable to have mixed feelings about a race with a PR and a podium finish. It’s a great, strong performance that you can be proud of, and it sounds like you are. But you also feel like you could put together a better marathon, which I think most athletes understand.

    p.s. I love that top you ran in.

    1. Thanks Victoria,
      It was a last minute decision when I realized I didn’t have a top to race in! It’s from New Balance!

  7. I really enjoyed reading your race recap, Hollie! I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for you to not stop. I know I fought to stop during both of my marathons, and always tried to hold off as long as I could – but I eventually did and it *always* felt worse to start up again. Really proud of you for finishing so strong, especially considering your circumstances. I hope the hamstring is treating you better and that you’re enjoying your time off. Wedding time!!!! 😀

    1. I think a lot of people fight to stop. I guess it’s not stopping that matters. Thanks Allison, sadly my hamstring doesn’t feel much better but it’s still only 5 days later. I was hoping the rest would help by this point though!

  8. I have had that same thought- for the love of God, please get out of the way if you’re going to walk. Its happened countless times, but I’ve never vocalized it. There should be a support group for people like us.
    I think you did a fantastic job holding it together as your race plan unraveled a bit. Most people probably would have given up and started walking at that point, but you did a good job of self-talking yourself through a tough spot. There will be plenty more opportunities to run a fast marathon 🙂

    1. Walkers and young children that cut us off Anonymous…that might be a little lengthy though.

      1. Pete and I have a fake support group for ourselves called MCAP (middle class angry people)… well actually it was him and some of his buddies that started it before I came into the picture but I quickly joined in. It’s sort of like whenever you get really irately mad at anything that isn’t really a big deal (like people who don’t put grocery carts away, people who use the 10 items or less line when they clearly have more than that, etc). I was thinking along the lines of a sub-group middle class angry runners or something…

  9. Congrats Hollie!! Finishing a marathon is a win enough, but any sort of PR should be celebrated! It might not be any time soon, but you will start to love it!

  10. I think considering you ran in a lot of pain at the end, you did a bloody good job! I agree with other commenters saying that you ran smart. You could have blasted it and achieved a faster time but who wants to be limping home and then not able to run weeks after? And one race does not define you, you know what you’re capable of and this race just didn’t do your training justice. Onwards and upwards!

  11. LOL i want to know the story behind the first podium picture? That guy looks like you just said something hilarious. Do tell. But really- finishing a marathon on a pulled hammy sounds awful- i hope that it’s feeling better by now!

  12. Awesome job Hollie! So glad you stuck it out despite the hip and hamstring pain. Any idea what was causing your hip pain. I am fighting left hip pain lately, but want to get myself through the Newport News Marathon. Wondering if it is just insufficient strength training in my case.

    1. Thank you Steve. I don’t know about my hip right now. I went to the chiro and they popped some stuff but I haven’t had any relief yet. Hopefully soon.

  13. Congrats!!! I understand PRing but still feeling disappointed – it happened to me and it sucks. But you ran a smart race and an AG win is awesome! LOVE your shirt. Love love love.

  14. I think this shows how prepared you really were, that you still crushed this race even w/ all the epic travel fails and hamstring issues. I hope you are at least a little happy about that part!!

  15. Congratulations Hollie! You are hardcore and did a great job. I hope the hamstring issue won’t be an injury and will work itself out with rest and recovery. You ran a smart race and you have a lot to be proud of, even if your time wasn’t everything you wanted. A PR is always nice and you were smiling and happy in the pics.

    I still don’t understand why they want anyone who just ran a marathon and won an award to climb onto a podium… that just looks painful!

  16. Regardless of this minor setback, I still find you to be an amazing runner and I know you’re going to have your marathon that is executed the way you want it to one of these days. You overcame so many different setbacks this summer/fall/winter and you still PRed, which is a huge accomplish in and of itself. I hope you’re able to get your hamstring squared away and that you enjoy the recovery time!

  17. Great job fighting through ’til the end!! I ran this race too, I also ran a PR that I’m not quite happy with 🙂 Good thing you didn’t start with the 3:10 pacer, he ran quite a few miles at <6:40 pace, yikes.

    1. Oh wow, at one point I was below a 3:10 finish time and wondered why I hadn’t seen him. I guess that makes sense!

  18. A marathon is truly a journey and every one is different and leaves you with a new lesson. It takes an extraordinary amount of mental toughness to overcome the normal physical pain of the last few miles, let alone additional pain from injury. Yet the spark that will someday drive you to sign up again for another marathon to go for a new PR is evident in your blog. “Yes it’s a PR but not a PR I’m satisfied with…” 🙂 That is the seed of the decision for the next one, whenever it is. Maybe it will be one I’m running, too! Congrats, again, on fine race! It sure was fun to meet you and Mr. LOLZ in person, finally, as well.

    1. I am so glad we got to meet up too Kevin! It was one of the highlights of my trip. I will eventually run another marathon and hopefully I finish injury free this time. 🙂

  19. Wishing good things for your hamstring! I completely relate to being happy but also discouraged/worries about the pain. Overall though, an amazing accomplishment! Marathons are tough and I’ve always been in some sort of pain after mile 20. Love your photos too!

  20. When I raced either SeaWheeze or Rock’n’Roll Van (I can’t recall) I had to yell at people walking 3 across because no one would get around them. I’m that person and I’m not even sorry.

    Moving on….
    I hope you hammy starts to feel better soon.
    I always love how rational and realistic you are about your body and your races.
    I ran my first marathon with a glute that kept cramping and it was horrible and awful, but I pushed thorugh since I knew it wasn’t an injury, but it made the last half really not so fun 🙁

  21. WHOA!!!!! Awesome job!!!!!!!! Maybe not quite the time you were hoping for but that can be attributed to the hamstring/hips…the fact that your body didn’t physically feel dead is awesome! I will definitely say that each marathon has gotten progressively easier for me…as far as pain and recovery go :). Rest up! Great job!

  22. Congrats Hollie! And you’ll get the ultimate PR you are after in time but this is still a PR nonetheless and think what you went through to get to this point. I remember battling those injury issues during the summer months and look at you now! 🙂

  23. It’s understandable why you are a bit bitter over the race.. but overall, amazing effort and race.!!! Good job girl 🙂

  24. You are such a badass! Every PR is a PR, and now you can go into your next race knowing how much better you can do with no hamstring pain. To run such a fast time for only your second marathon is absolutely incredible – congratulations and good luck!!

  25. First, congrats on the PR and second marathon finish!

    Second, the fact you won first in your age group is ANOTHER victory in itself! So, congrats again!

    Third, you can a 10k with hip/hamstring pain which is AMAZING. 6 miles with not just a “niggle” but an OUCH shows you are mentally tough. It’s hard for people to just get through the time it takes for the belt to slow down on the treadmill when they are dealing with pain, but you went 6 MILES! You’re a TOUGH girl!

    So, so proud of you!

  26. First, you are AWESOME, and I hope you’re resting and healing up. That being said, I totally understand how you feel about the race: happy with the PR and podium finish, but not totally satisfied because you know you could go faster. But don’t discount the PR and podium finish. 😉

  27. One word… AMAZING!!! You may not be entirely happy with the results but I think you are inspiring!!!!
    I hope the hip and hamstring are not too serious and you recover soon! Xo

  28. That picture of you finishing is great. It says, I just kicked ass, yet that race kicked my ass. Way to go!

  29. First of all, you rock! Congratulations on a PR! Secondly, I have many of those same thoughts at the end of a race- especially the “I had so much time to think about a finisher pose and now I don’t know what to do!” Congrats again! 🙂

  30. I still think you’re freaking epic, girl! I couldn’t ever imagine being disappointed with finishing a marathon, but that’s because the thought of running one at this point just blows my mind… and I do know how frustrating it is to deal with something that’s out of your control and holding you back from performing the way you want. You still rocked it, though. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you that your recovery goes well!

  31. Congratulations Hollie!! You ran a PR and even though it wasn’t your dream PR, you should still be proud! You were so smart about your race and I hope your hamstring feels better soon!! Lots of rest 🙂
    Loved the recap and the photos!! Enjoy your weekend and know that you really kicked BUTT on this race!!

  32. Dang girl! First of all, I am so, so, sorry you had hamstring issues. I can only imagine it must be super frustrating to know you had more to give but couldn’t. That being said, I’ll reiterate what you are so sick of hearing, Congratulation oh my gosh how amazing!
    I think the most impressive part is you performing so well given all of the obstacles you faced that day and the days leading up to your race! Seriously I am going to think of that when I’m moaning about stupid things like racing in the rain.

  33. Sorry I am so behind on this Hollie! But firstly congrats! a PR is a PR, and it was still a whole marathon, which is always an accomplishment! However, I know how that feels to be not quite happy with it, and you know I definitely hear you with the hamstring thing…..please make sure you get it taken care of, it becomes a major pain in the ass (in every way) if you do not get it taken care of. I honestly found active release was the best thing for my hamstring, I am doing a post on it on wed, so you may find that helpful, if you need any more thoughts on that, let me know. Many of my friends allowed theirs to become chronic, and it never goes away. Anyway, back to the race, the fact that you did not let that mentally destroy you is impressive, and how hard you have committed to your training is impressive. You should be proud, and things will continue to move forward for you 🙂 Oh, and I found complete rest made my hamstring worse….so lots of easy running may come your way. Sorry if this seemed like a preach….just wanna help you, and not end up where I did!!!!

  34. Hollie, I think I recognize you from Daily Mile! Are you friend with Kai on there? I had no idea you had a blog. This made my day! Congrats on the PR, and you gotta change your PR on the sidebar now. Nice job. 🙂

    1. I do have a dailymile and I’m friends with Kai, I just don’t use DM a lot right now. I’m glad I could make your day 🙂

      1. Ah, so it IS you. I’ve always admired your mileage. I’ve been on DM forever (since 2010!!!) but I keep a super limited number of friends on there because I get too overwhelmed. Gah. K, nice meeting you. Have a good one!

  35. I appreciate your honesty in writing this.. I have never felt satisfied with my performance after a marathon, and it’s hard to put out there. Everyone says “but you finished a marathon! Be proud! blah blah!!” and I get that. Of course, I’m going to be one of those here and now, you are amazing and that’s a hell of a finish! Congrats on your PR!

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