Darlington Marathon- A 26.2 mile fun run review!

Running a marathon is a lot like the first day of school.

It’s on your mind for months- for me, all summer long. You look forward to it, but kinda dread it at the same time- and you can’t sleep the night before. You spend hours agonizing over what to wear, and at the end of the day, you leave with tons of new friends.

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I finished survived the Darlington Marathon in 4:15:25, which was way off my goal time of about 4 hours, but with the race-day conditions, heat, and sun, I will take what I can get.

I’ve decided to break the Darlington Marathon recap into two recaps. This post will be a recap of my race, and later this week, you can read my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Clay and I left Charleston Friday afternoon, where we drove about 2 hours to Florence and ate a delicious pre-race meal at Rebel Pie Pizzeria. Rebel Pie is one of his favorite pizza places, and I ate there before my Run Like a Nut half marathon, which I PRed last Fall. The pizza is on thin crust and fairly light, so I knew it wouldn’t weigh me down on marathon morning.

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After our pizza, we headed to Darlington Raceway for packet pick up, where I got my number and took a few pictures with the signs that Fitness World Run Club made for me before heading to Hartsville to Clay’s parents’ house. We stayed with them the night before and the day of the marathon.

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I spent Friday night watching TV and putting my legs up against the wall to help stretch them out and help me relax. It must have worked because I got pretty good rest the night before the race, except for that one nightmare that I overslept and missed the entire thing (does anyone else have the crazy dream of oversleeping on race morning? I know I can’t be the only one). I got up Saturday morning and had coffee and blueberries and cream oatmeal before heading to the start of the Darlington Marathon.

The race started about 10 minutes late and we were off. The full marathoners and half marathoners ran together for about the first five miles, so I talked to some of my friends doing the half. They ran really good half marathons, but I probably should have taken it easier on the first 5 miles and let them go ahead. It’s hard to resist running and talking with friends though. We had lots of cute signs on this part of the course to keep us entertained, and the weather was beautiful. I wore my throwaway jacket for the first 2 miles, then threw it away. Bye bye pink jacket!

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After the half marathoners turned off, things were still good for a few miles. Lots of nice signs, an aid station with Gu and a potty, and some shade. It started to get ugly around mile 13-14, because the course was no longer shaded and at 9ish, the sun was out and it was getting hot. September sun in South Carolina is no joke!

My husband and family met me at about mile 15 at the aid station, and I hugged Clay and my mother in law snapped some photos. I ate another Gu and kept on running while they drove to a future aid station. I kept on pace with around 9 minute miles or just over for awhile, until it started to get really ugly around Mile 20. Lots of people around me were walking, and the sun was high in the sky and bright. By the time it was around 10:00.

I saw Clay and his parents at another aid station and he gave me some water and took a few more pics- he got a picture of my good side this time!

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My mother in law was actually making cups of water up at the aid station and offering runners food and Gu. Turns out, the volunteers abandoned the aid station except for one man, and when my family came along, they decided to help him out until they had to head to the raceway to see me finish.

I don’t know why those volunteers left so early in the day, but I was on track for a just over a 4 hour marathon at this time, so they abandoned ship VERY early.

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Miles 22-26 were the worst. My ipod was dead, but my friend and Darlington High School XC coach Rich rode on his bike beside me and we talked about how good the cross country teams are in Charleston and how much Darlington has improved in the last few years. Rich is a great guy and rode the marathon course checking on runners and keeping us motivated- a big help since there were no signs! He offered me some water as well.

I really wanted to run the entire time, but I ended up run/walking the last 4 miles. My hips were tight, and my pace was slowing drastically from walking (like 11-12 minute miles here). I saw Clay at an aid station and made him give me a massage. I owe my husband- not only did he massage my glutes in the middle of the highway, he also ended up with a sunburnt head. I have tan lines, but I don’t burn as badly as Clay does.

Close to mile 25, I ran through the tunnel for my victory lap on the Darlington Raceway track (all of the races, from the 5K to the marathon, did a one-mile loop of the track to finish in victory lane). I ran past all the spectators, but on the parts of the one-mile loop where people couldn’t see me, I definitely took some walk breaks. I was getting dehydrated and feeling a bit dizzy.

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Toward the end, I heard my friend Chris yell “Here comes the Tiny Terror!” and I kicked it up. That race day adrenaline finally kicked in and I actually had a kick at the finish. I ran through the finish, grabbed my finisher’s medal, uttered some choice words and obscenities, and hugged my family. I’m so grateful for all they did for me this weekend.

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I’m also grateful for my friend PJ who took tons of awesome finish line pictures for me (including some of the ones in this post!), and for my friend Nick. Nick is the coolest race spectator ever- he was at the finish for like 6 hours yesterday to see his friends from the 10K to the marathon finish and support them. Way to go Nick!

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After the race, Clay and I headed to his parents’. After I spent some time in the bathroom (dehydration + heat + hunger is no fun), we all went out for Mexican food and to watch the South Carolina/Central Florida football game. I ate most of a taco salad, then propped my feet up while we watched the second half of the game at Clay’s parents’ house. Fortunately, Carolina won but our quarterback, Connor Shaw, got injured.

After the game, Clay and I packed up and hit Cook Out for milkshakes before heading back to Charleston. The least I could do for my husband was buy him a delicious caramel milkshake. I had an M&M milkshake, and it was quite a yummy post-marathon treat! Cook Out is the best!

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As for today, I don’t feel that bad, considering I ran 26.2 miles yesterday. From what everyone told me, I expected to be incapacitated today! I went to church, brunch, and even did a little shopping at the Tanger Outlet Center, where I bought running shorts. It’s a good sign when you buy running shorts the day after a marathon- it means you don’t hate running.

I’ll spend the next few days recovering from the Darlington Marathon and not running- I’m thinking *lots* of yoga is in my future. I’ll also be back in a day or so with another recap. Happy running!

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61 Responses to Darlington Marathon- A 26.2 mile fun run review!

  1. Amanda says:

    Way to go! I like that you bought new shorts today. I have loved running since I started two years ago but the marathon training program is making it less fun… You previously said that this would be your first and last marathon. Do you still feel that way?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yes, I still feel that way. One and done. I might make an exception for something like a Disney race, but people don’t do Disney races for time, they do it for fun.

      I felt the same way as you when training- and I’ll address it more in a future post. But, I felt like I teetered between an amazing runner and ending up injured. It zapped my energy levels- and that’s probably why I was sick so much over the past 3 weeks when trying to taper. Basically, I’m looking forward to running for fun again for awhile. No time goals or wanting to PR, just for kicks and fun. That’s why I love the sport anyway.

  2. Woohoo!! Huge congrats to you! The sun can be BRUTAL and an energy killer, so way to push through. There is nothing like finishing your first (only?) marathon! And I love that you bought running shorts today– that is definitely a good sign. Best wishes on your recovery. Hope the stairs aren’t too bad!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      The stairs haven’t been bad. Honestly, nothing has been that bad- besides being super hungry today.

      I feel like I usually feel on Sundays after a Saturday long run.

      South Carolina sun in September is brutal. It was overcast for most of my training runs on IOP, and even then, with it being summer we ran in the dark a LOT to avoid the heat.

  3. Congrats Amy! You trained so hard for this race. I too had an oversleeping nightmare the night before my first marathon. I think we a have that nightmare! I am proud of you!!! Great job! Now you got to help me get trained up for Goofy in January!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks David :). Yeah, we gotta get out there and train together again soon. I have a lot of friends who have races coming up so I’m just going to help them train for awhile and not really worry about PRing for a bit. If it happens, it happens. I’m taking the week off.

      • Awesome! I could definitely use the company!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        Come run with us on the IOP one Saturday- I won’t be there for a few Saturdays, though. I’m kinda committed to Saturday runs there unless I’m racing, though.

        But with the cooler temps I really want to run downtown some in the afternoons. It’s finally cooling down to where you can run in the afternoons!

  4. ahellams says:

    Congrats!! I am so happy for you. Enjoy the awesome recovery week and pamper your body!

  5. Stephanie says:

    Congrats lady!!!! You are super duper speedy! I know a 4 hour marathon is well within your sights. I can’t believe you were able to make those stops and talk so much and still run that fast of a marathon and feel so good after!!! Wow great job. Many congrats

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Honestly, I feel like my body is capable of a 4 hour marathon. There were just too many variables yesterday that kept it from happening. The big one being the sun, no shade, and the lack of crowd and sign support in the last oh, 16 miles. No lie, the motivational signs stopped at mile 10.

      Since I trained in summer, in SC, we did our training runs really early to avoid the summer heat, but then the last part of the race, the hardest part, it was over 70 degrees and no shade, in one lane of a busy highway. That’s the brutal part.

  6. runswithpugs says:

    Awesome! Congratulations! Looks like it was a great race, and I love that you got right out and bought new shorts!

  7. Nice job on your 26.2 fun run. It’s always a successful race when you can walk away injury free and buy new gear the next day. I know you said this was your first and last marathon so I’m glad you got what you wanted out of it and good luck with recovery and training afterwords. 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Hollie! Yeah, that was another thing, I’m glad I don’t hate running now! But, I really didn’t enjoy the distance. So, I think I’ll just help my friends train for their marathons, since I like doing longer runs, and not do any more marathons for myself.

      Good luck with your NYC training and with all the moving and travelling, I know your training has had its ups and downs but I am confident you’ll do well.

  8. Amy says:

    Congrats, Amy! Yay for finishing a 26.2 fun run in the SOUTH in September! I am sure it was super hot! Those last few miles are always the worst, no doubt. I am glad you got to go out and walk around today-that will definitely help with recovery. I bought some really great running shorts on sale today, too!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Haha, well I don’t really know how it feels to run outside the South!

      It was pretty hot- not hot for the south, but hot for running a marathon! There’s a reason why most southern marathons are November-February!

  9. emarie24 says:

    Congratulations! I think finishing 26.2 miles is awesome! And to me, 15 minutes isn’t a ton with that many miles. But I’m not really a runner, haha. You did it though!!!!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You are definitely a runner! But you’re right though, 15 minutes really isn’t a ton. I mean that’s less than a minute per mile off my pace. Lots of people’s times were a bit slower, usually you can look at the results as a whole and tell if the course was super hard or if the conditions were bad. When I saw my results compared to everyone else’s I definitely was not disappointed. I feel bad for those out there in the heat longer!

      • emarie24 says:

        I think it’s awesome! I want to run a half marathon! Maybe I’ll come out that way to run one sometime! None of my friends run and I want to run one with somebody!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        You should! I think I will be pacing the Charleston Half Marathon in January. That would definitely give you enough time to train. Plus in Charleston, you are guaranteed a really awesome post-race meal!

        I’m not sure what time I’d be pacing, but TrySports provides pacers for it and that’s something I always wanted to do, so I already told them I was up for it.

      • emarie24 says:

        I don’t even know what that means! Do you just run with people or something that are around your pace? I will look into it! I’ve only gone 6 miles at the most so far and I’m really paranoid about going too hard and hurting myself, so I’ve been taking it slow! I wonder if January would be enough time to prepare!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        You would definitely have time to be ready for a half in January if you’re already up to 6 miles. You have 3 full months to prepare, and you don’t have to run 13 miles when training for a half (although I *highly* recommend running that race distance before race day, plenty of people run up to 11-12 miles and still finish successfully).

        A pacer carries a big sign with the pace on it (for the first few miles) and wears a special shirt to let people know what pace they are running. For example, let’s say you’re trying to run the half marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes. You would find the 2:15 pacer and just run close to them the whole time and you’d know you would finish within your goal time.

      • emarie24 says:

        Oh! That’d be awesome! I will look into it! I love Charleston so it would be fun to go there again!

  10. Congrats, girl!! That’s so awesome. 🙂 Great time, especially with the race day conditions!

  11. Steph says:

    Nice job! Don’t be too disappointed with your time, just enjoy the accomplishment of a marathon =) It was definitely a little early in the season for a marathon, so finishing in hot weather is especially impressive. Also, it sounds like Clay wins a prize for husband of the year!

  12. KrisLawrence says:

    Ahhh, I am so happy for you. I was waiting for a Race Recap and was thinking of you Saturday morning. Congrats Marathoner! Your time, even though it was off, is fantastic. Consider the race temps, it looks like you ran in ALL sun and you even stopped to take pictures and spent some time walking. The first marathon is always the toughest and I predict that if you decide to run another marathon you will PR huge. That finishing picture is fantastic. Again, Congrats!! You’ve been working so hard for it, now enjoy that post-marathon recovery period.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I stopped to be in pictures, but not take em! There wasn’t much on the course to take pictures of, haha. I did stopped completely a few times to speak to my family, hug them, etc. I love my family and the seconds lost doing that were worth it for them.

      First time running any distance is tough. I’m sure if I did another marathon I would beat this time- I’d pick one in a cooler month and also a better course. I really like shorter races more though because I like racing a lot (that was one thing I didn’t like about marathon training, I couldn’t do as many shorter races).

  13. Terri says:

    I enjoyed running with you, Amy, but so sorry I didn’t think to reinforce my Marathoner Mantra to you- negative splits! The half was a very nice course and Center Rd., which wasn’t a part of the marathon course, was my favorite. You should consider running that next year. Congratulations on a great run!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I don’t think I could’ve negative split even if I started out slower. There was no way with the sun and lack of shade- because I’m not used to running in the direct sunlight like that. The heat and lack of signs toward the end just zapped me!

      I’m still happy with my time. I really did the best I could with how much I could train and the conditions I had that day. I mean, how many people even finish a marathon, you know? .

      • Terri says:

        Absolutely! I don’t know about you guys running the full, but we halfers also had a headwind on 151, along with the sun in our eyes. Not the flat and fast course it was intended to be! Still, a huge accomplishment to complete a marathon with a great time too!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        We had that too. The headwind was hard along with the beaming down sun- and also, we were on 151 later.

        The car exhaust on 151 and trucks whizzing by didn’t help either!

  14. Kara says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! So proud of and happy for you…you are so awesome and I hope you are feeling amazing! This is such a huge accomplishment.

    First…that pizza looks sooo good!

    I ALWAYS have dreams that I can’t get somewhere or that I miss a race. So annoying!

    I CANNOT believe volunteers abandoned an aid station!? What the heck? It’s so nice of that man and your family to stay. Good people!! Not to mention your wonderful husband…a massage during a race sounds fantastic!

    Your training was obviously great since you felt good the next day (and bought running shorts, haha!) Way to go, girl!!

    Next question inevitably is…will there be another marathon in your future? 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      The answer to the question is no. I enjoyed the long runs with my training partners, and I learned a lot about myself training.

      However, I did not enjoy the distance itself for a race. No one is forcing me to run a marathon, and you don’t have to run marathons to be a real runner. Now, I can say I did the distance and it’s not for me. I plan to stick with shorter things.

  15. spectacuLAUR says:

    I couldn’t imagine running a marathon in southern heat yesterday. The sun is definitely brutal up here so I can’t imagine what it felt like down south. I’m so proud of you for finishing! It doesn’t matter how many walk breaks you had to take because, in the end, you just completed your FIRST MARATHON. Congrats! 😀 😀 😀

    PS. I really hope someone took a picture of Clay massaging your ass because it would be HILARIOUS!

  16. Congrats on completing your first 26.2!! That is fantastic achievement regardless of your time. Heat can play a HUGE role in your bodies performance on race day – good for you for toughing it out!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thank you! Yeah the heat and sun were pretty intense. I am not sweating about the time, I got it done and completed a marathon and that’s what really matters :). And besides, it’s not a bad time for a first time marathoner!

  17. allieksmith says:

    Congrats on your HUGE accomplishment Amy. I love that you just set your mind to it and did it! I have loved reading your weekly recaps, and hearing all about your training. I knew you would do well–your time is amazing–heat or no heat!

    I am pretty sure my favorite part of the post is either the picture of your sign or the fact that Clay massaged your glutes in the middle of the highway. TRUE LOVE right there!!

    I can’t wait for the next recap! Well done Tiny Terror, well done!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks girly. When your spouse massages your ass in the middle of the road, you know you’ve got a keeper. I’m sure Jimmy would do the same for you. Glad you enjoyed reading my recaps too.

      I may post some other workouts and details the next time I truly train for a race, but for right now I’m just going to run for fun and not focus on pace for awhile :). I do love reading about how people train for them, there are as many ways to train for a marathon as there are marathoners!

  18. Woot, congratulations Amy! You did so so well, a great time, and you were battling epic heat. Gahh those kind of temperatures and relentless sun can take so much out of anyone, and I think it was a good idea you walked part of the race. Sounds like tasty post-race food too… the milkshake the day after might have been my favorite though. Clay made a good flavor choice!
    That’s ridiculous that people left from volunteering early! Like you said, it’s not like you were taking 8 hours or whatever to finish the marathon, you were rockin a good pace in fact. Anyway, that was crappy but so nice of the family to help out!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, we went by for milkshakes later that afternoon. I wouldn’t have wanted that immediately after the marathon, but it sure tasted good about 4-5 hours after! I feel like I could drink another, but I guess that will be after the next race, lol. I definitely can’t do that stuff very often.

      I really didn’t want to eat lunch after the race. We had Mexican and it was fine, but my hunger kicked in more yesterday, I ate a lot yesterday and even today. The heat probably killed my hunger Saturday!

      I have an amazing family. Hands down.

  19. That is a fabulous marathon time, regardless of being off of your goal- you should still be proud of that time. Glad you have great support from your family, that definitely makes a world of a difference.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thank you :). Yeah, I’m proud of it, a year ago I never would’ve imagined even running a marathon, so just doing one is a huge accomplishment.

      The reason I did this race was because I could have my family there. I wouldn’t have wanted to be out there on that very lonely course without them!

  20. Congrats! It may have not been your goal, but that’s what makes running so great. You never know what to expect! You did it and that’s what matters. Plus you’re able to walk which is a bigger bonus! Milkshakes sound amazing post marathon run!
    Looks like you had a great support system with you!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Oh definitely! That was one delicious milkshake, too. I don’t usually eat/drink things like that but I don’t usually run marathons, either ;). So, it was a nice treat.

      I really don’t feel too bad today, but I still think I will take about a week off running. I trained for and PRed a 10K just before I started marathon training, so my body just needs a break. Not sore, but still very tired.

      I can’t wait to get back to speedwork with you guys, I like the shorter/faster runs a lot better than a marathon!

  21. Wow! Way to go Amy!!! Congratulations on finishing a great time considering the heat and sun and “run/walking” the last few miles! Wow! You are awesome!
    And yay for shopping more running clothes! You deserve that reward! Here’s to more races Amy! 🙂

  22. CONGRATULATIONS on your first full marathon! I’m definitely excited for you.

    Hey, that’s a good tip for putting legs on the wall. My knees have been achey lately, and when I have the gas money, I join my parents when they have salmon for supper… the omega 3’s, I believe, are what help with the pain. But maybe trying some new leg exercises and relaxation techniques will help, too. I’ve been getting into exercising again, and I want to continue but I don’t want to let a little knee muscle pain keep me, you know?

    Cook Out definitely sounds delish! I’ve never heard of a watermelon milkshake, but they have it on the menu. I imagine the ice cream would give it the creamy taste!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      They have watermelon during certain months. I’ve never had a watermelon milkshake. I guess I drink a legit milkshake maybe 3 times per year, lol. I usually go for cookies and cream (then again I almost always go for anything cookies and cream flavored). They’re all over NC and SC. Southern thing.

      I highly recommend putting your legs up the wall. It’s very relaxing and it just makes you feel better. When you get up (slowly) your legs definitely feel a little different. Also spread your arms out to open your shoulders and chest a bit. Very relaxing!

  23. Great work for a first marathon. I think you did amazing. Cannot wait to hear you recap the entire process.
    I cannot believe everyone abandoned the late aid stations except one guy, so glad he stayed. It’d be horrible to be a slower runner and show up to find nobody there.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Well, it was just that particular aid station. There were people at the others. But, it’s dangerous for it to just be one guy so late in the race. And it was just him after my inlaws left it.

      It wasn’t just the slower runners… I mean I was on track to finish in just around 4 hours and those volunteers were gone. They missed the majority of the marathoners because most people were more in the 5 hour range (it was a hot day and lots of first timers were at this marathon).

  24. LilMysNinja says:

    You’re are awesome. 🙂 Congrats on completing your first marathon! That pizza looks deelish. And I agree, there’s nothing better than having your family and friends there to cheer you on!

  25. Kate says:

    Oh my gosh! I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. So, so glad I finally saw it!!!! You are one amazing woman. Congratulations and bask in the glory of what you accomplished. That’s incredible.

    I had the missed the start nightmare AND the walk at the end when I didn’t want to. You’re a marathoner, and it’s amazing.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks girly. Yeah, I didn’t like having to run/walk the last few miles, but oh well. The pace of them wasn’t too bad for having to run/walk them. If the conditions hadn’t been so bad, maybe i could run a whole marathon without stopping. I don’t think I’ll be finding out…

  26. Way to go AL! A 4:15 is an excellent time, especially in the warmer weather! It’s unfortunate that the organization could have been better (volunteers going MIA, lack of signage…) but hopefully they know to improve for next year.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks, yeah I just posted a review about more organizational parts of the race. I thought I owed everyone more than an emotional recap, you know? I hope they will improve on some things because it has a lot of potential as a race and also potential to bring the community together for an active cause (which we really need people to come together for here in the South…)

  27. Oh wow, congrats Amy!! This is such an accomplishment and you should so proud. Props to you and your sweet husband!

  28. Great running, and congratulations on the first marathon! You should be very proud, it’s a major achievement!

    I also dream about missing races, so you are definitely not alone there.

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