Cheered on by Dad and carried by God’s grace… Kelly laid down her first 26.2 with no regrets.

Kelly QuinlanKelly Yatchyshyn — Bernville, Pennsylvania

So here we go… it all comes down to what happens today. Am I ready? Hell yeah, I’m ready. It’s been a long 5 months and lots of training miles, half of them done on the dreadmill. I am prepared for this. I’ve taken all of the necessary steps to get me to the starting line. I’ve trusted the training and the taper. I’ve hydrated all week long, ate healthy, carb loaded and taken all the advice given to me from other marathon runners. Now… it’s my turn.

Marathon day started at 3:15 am. Of course I couldn’t sleep. (Thank God the nerves held off until this point.) It was more excitement if anything. I had everything ready… my iPod was charged, fuel was in the fuel belt, Vaseline was waiting patiently for my toes and feet, my Garmin was charged, clothes, socks, shoes, snot rag…you name it, I was ready.

Note: I even packed my Dad’s lunch the night before because I knew he too had a long day ahead of him. He came in from California for this marathon. He was going to be waiting at the stadium for me while I ran.

After fixing each of us a bagel, Dad and I headed out at 4 a.m. for York, Pennsylvania, home of the Bob Potts Marathon. The race started at 6 a.m. — I wanted to make sure I had enough time to pick up my race packet and use the porta potty. My Dad insisted he go too… needless to say, I’m glad he did. He kept me distracted while driving and it didn’t leave any time to get nervous.

At the starting line, I saw a few other runners I knew. Again, it kept my mind off the long miles ahead. I tried to soak up every second of standing there waiting to start. Some of the most athletic endurance runners were standing right next to me. Little ‘ole me! About a quarter of them were hoping to qualify for Boston 2015 — some of them had already had. Of course, as soon as the horn went off that was the last time I saw them. Haha. That’s alright. It was awesome nonetheless.

My race day was perfect! The weather was spectacular. It was a little cool in the morning and I think the temperatures were only supposed to go up to the mid 70’s. The trail was extremely flat, mostly shaded, and it had the most spectacular views I had ever seen.

During the first 10 miles, I took in sips of water at every aid station and I also took in my energy gummies. After that I was prepared to start nibbling on my Power Bar.

The race was pretty much uneventful up until mile 18. My stomach was starting to churn a bit, and I decided not to eat the rest of my bar. I had gotten about half way through it, and I knew better than to finish it. (Or to take in anything else for that matter.) I had to reserve any room in my stomach for water and Gatorade.

Mile 22 is where the race really began — it was starting to get grueling. I had tried to ignore my stomach issues up until that point, but my lower back was starting to kill me. Really?! My flipping back? Who knew that was even going to be an issue on race day. Whatever… just had to suck it up.

Surprisingly, I don’t remember much between mile 22 and 25. I was definitely starting to feel delirious. I remember passing a couple of aid stations and waiving the volunteers off because I didn’t want any more fluids. I also had to keep stopping every half a mile or so to stretch out my back. It was the only way I could make it through.

The miracle happened at mile 25. I was left begging for my life and negotiating with God in my head. I was SO prepared to walk the last mile, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to finish my first, (and maybe my only), marathon walking. I was too proud for that. Just as I passed the sign for mile marker 25, (and a whole sh*t load of ambulances), a little old man came up on my left and waived me on. In a voice that was barely more than a whisper, he said, “Come on, come on.” He too was barely shuffling along. I said, “I know, I know.” He must have been behind watching me struggle the last few miles — I never saw him until that moment. We didn’t chit chat at all; we were both just trying to make it to the finish. In my head, (there were a lot of voices in my head at that point), I was praying he wouldn’t leave me behind in his dust. He didn’t.

That sweet, kind, older man stayed with me until the very end. In fact, almost as soon as we saw the stadium, they were pointing us to the entrance where we would finish. Right before we entered he asked, “What’s your name?” Once I finally choked out my name I managed to ask him the same question. Funny enough, I knew his name even before he told me. I knew he was going to say Bob.

(He did.)

And that’s when I really started to fall apart. You see, that’s my Dad’s name. And I knew my Dad was waiting for me at the finish line just beyond the stadium walls and only a few yards away, along with my husband and three kids.

As soon as I was able to run my tired, aching, tattered body onto the track I could see my Dad in all his glory. He was proudly wearing his BOSTON STRONG shirt. What an amazing sight for my teary eyes. I could also hear my husband cheering loudly. (I couldn’t see him but I could certainly hear his loud mouth!) I loved every second of it. My daughter, Maddy Mae, had broken all the rules to get down on the field and take pictures. I’m pretty sure she figured her grandfather would bail her out of jail once it was over.

Running through the finish line was a blur. I’m pretty sure my legs did not feel the slightest bit weary at that point. I ran with tears streaming down my face… I even remember someone asking me if I needed any help. (I must have looked like a million bucks otherwise he wouldn’t have asked, right?)

At any rate, someone put a water bottle and a finishing medal in my hand. I don’t even remember — I just wanted to get off the field and hug my Dad. He was the only one who knew how hard it was to run that far. After all, for many years he was a long distance runner…so he knew. He just knew.

I figured it would probably be a little sloppy at the finish line and it was. It was also very snotty. My Dad and I were crying so hard… there was snot, sweat, and tears everywhere. Haha, whatever!  It was glorious! I had just completed a marathon!!! 26.2 miles. I worked my tail off for this and now it was finally behind me. Absolutely NO FREAKING REGRETS! I laid it all out there, and I can now say, proudly, I am a marathoner.

And there you have it. I’m not an elite runner with a sub 3 marathon finish. I’m just an average person who just happens to like a physical challenge. I had something to prove to Kelly Ann Quinlan, from Cerritos, California. It was a bucket list item of sorts… or more like a challenge… to do something that scared the hell out of me.

I have no regrets. Running a marathon does that to you. It changes who you are and wipes the slate clean. It leaves you feeling like you can conquer anything you set out to do, even if you’re just an average person looking to do something that absolutely astonishes you.

I could not have done this marathon without the One who loved me first. He is my Rock and my everything. My faith in God and His unexplainable love and grace for me was truly the very thing that carried me when I could not do it on my own. I am so blessed. And there was not a minute that went by that I didn’t know and remind myself that He was the reason I was even there in the first place.

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Kelly –congratulations on laying down 26.2 life changing miles – and welcome to the MARATHONER’S CLUB! May your journey continue to unfold with ease, grace and a whole lot of magic. Onward! xo

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