This race will always be so special to me. It was half marathon number 22, state number 18, but most importantly… my second half marathon pushing my cousin Martilee. (Our first race together was in Iowa!) I signed up for this race months ago (as usual) and asked my aunt Vanessa if it would be okay if Martilee could also race. She loved the idea, of course assuming Martilee stayed healthy enough. Martilee has Rett Syndrome, which has stolen so many things from her, including her ability to walk. There have been many races that I’ve ran for her and raised money to fight against Rett Syndrome, and I plan to continue to do so until there is a cure.
Race morning showed up a little warmer than I’d hoped at close to 70 degrees before the start, plus fairly decent humidity levels. This race wasn’t about me though, so I didn’t have any specific time goals going into it. I also knew that Martilee and her jogger were close to 130 pounds… but luckily this race in Omaha was fairly flat, unlike Des Moines!
Martilee and I lined up in the corral right around the 1:50 pacers. I was hoping that we wouldn’t have to dodge around too many people in the beginning of the race. We headed out on the run and found one of the few hills of the race right away! The sun hadn’t fully risen yet, so the race was still a nice temperature. My training had been going really well leading up to the race (I hired a coach in mid July) and I was feeling good about starting the race in the mid to upper 8 minute range. When running on any of the flats, Martilee and I could keep a nice pace without feeling like I had to put too much extra effort into the run.
The course was an out and back, along a nice wide road. About half the race we were only allowed in one lane, and the other half of the race we had the entire road blocked off just for us. I was really grateful for this as it was a little more crowded in the beginning than I expected and Martilee and I had to navigate around other runners quite a few times. We tried to be as respectful as we could and not get too close to anyone’s heels. But it can be really hard to navigate a heavy stroller!
After the first hill right at the beginning of the race, it stayed fairly flat for awhile. Even though the course was mostly flat, it had a few false flats which were almost worse than the hills because you could never seen when they were ending! I’m sure I felt them more with the stroller than I would have without. Around mile 5 we went by this beautiful little park before entering a northern suburb of Omaha. There weren’t too many race spectators so far, but this is where most of them were, including our family! It was so nice to see everyone and hear them all cheer for Martilee. She was off to a great start and running really well for the first 5 or so miles!
At the turn around for the half marathon, the full marathon runners kept going straight. The nice thing is this narrowed down the amount of runners by about half! It was also really neat to see everyone else still heading out to the turn around point and how many of them cheered for Martilee and told her how awesome she was doing!
After we saw our family the last time (until the finish) around mile 7.5-8ish the race started to get a little rough for me. The sun was up, the temperature was warming up, and Martilee was starting to get heavy. I was getting tired… and needed to dig deep to finish the race. This is when I started talking to Martilee. On the uphills, when I was walking, I talked to her. I told her how many miles we’ve ran, how many we had left to go, and what an awesome job she was doing. So many people passed us on these hills and offered help or amazing words of encouragement.
The race continued on, back the way we came. The police were amazing at blocking all the intersections and keeping us safe the entire race. The volunteers were also amazing with offering water and heed. I had my own bottle of Gatorade, so only took water to help keep me hydrated through the race.
We made it through the last few miles, running when we could (on the flats), sprinting when the opportunity arose (hello, downhills and giggles!), and walking when we needed to (up hills… ugh!) We continued to pass people and have people pass us. Spectators cheered for Martilee and she continued to be my motivation while I continued to be her legs.
The last part of the race was a lap inside the baseball stadium at TD Ameritrade park. Once we entered the park to make our last loop we could hear so many cheers for us to finish strong. It felt amazing to hear everyone cheering for her and us! Rett Syndrome… you're going down!
We finished the race, got our medals, and then someone from Channel 7 news in Omaha asked if she could interview us! I called down Martilee’s parents so they could give approval and then also assist with the interview and give more information than I may be able to give. I often feel like I need be doing more for Rett Syndrome awareness and feel so blessed when an opportunity to share Martilee’s and my story with so many people comes along. You can watch the clip here.
Once the race was over we waited for the awards ceremony. Martilee ended up taking first in her age group and came away with about a minute PR over our last race together! We finished in 1:57:52 (8:55 pace). I’m hoping we can run another race together again soon. I’ll continue to be Martilee’s legs for as long as needed… but I have so much hope that there will be a cure for Rett Syndrome soon. I’ll keep running for her and with her because I know someday she will get to run with me. I’ll keep going #untilshecan.
Nebraska is now finished, and Maryland is coming up next!
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