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Inspired Living

FIT Project (Savannah, GA Edition)

Sarah Stanley

FIT Project Savannah, Ga. Edition Race date: Nov. 5, 2011

I barely left the West Coast (LAX), spent 40-ish hours in Colorado and then jumped on another plane for the East Coast. WHEW.

I had an EARLY flight (5:30 a.m.). To make matters worse, I was traveling on a standby ticket and get this - LEFT MY TICKET AT HOME. How's that for a Thursday morning? I had to wait to get it which meant I missed my flight. Thankfully, Southwest Airlines rocks and I was able to get a direct flight. However, I did have five hours to kill at the airport so I slept on the floor. Oh the fun we have!

After flying to Jacksonville, Fla., I had to make the 140-mile drive up to Savannah, Ga. I got to Savannah just as the sun was setting. Whirlwind.

I met up with friends for dinner and a walk around the town squares. We walked past Paula Dean's restaurant and the smell of fried food turned my stomach. It was a challenge to find a healthy meal in this town! I ended up eating a burger sans bun with extra lettuce. And longed for a bowl of veggies!

Savannah had a lot of ghost tours, but we just walked around. Saw the bench where Forest Gump said "Life is like a box of chocolates." Savannah was a very clean town and enforced a no heckler policy.

Friday was spent wandering, expo-ing, relaxing and having FUN. It was the first Friday and that meant fireworks! We watched them from a hammock by the water front. It was awesome.

Race morning came early. And it was chilly. It was 35 degrees at the start. Perfect. I was pacing David (who likes to run fast at the start). It was a challenge to hold him back.

I was really excited to run another marathon. My last long race was Sept. 25 (VT50 miler). Today was a benchmark for me - if I felt good I would sign up for BIG race. Stay tuned for the verdict!

Last evening, Land Shark was handing out Land Shark hats. I got one and David and I both wore them during the race. Little did we know they would be such a HUGE hit! And I mean HUGE.

Like I said, I was pacing David. I kept trying to rein him back. The first half of the race doesn't really matter how fast you run it in if you can't run the back half. But I was going to try my best.

The course was not all that scenic. We did get to run through a few neighborhoods and outskirted the downtown area which was nice. The best part though? THE SPECTATORS. They were fantastic! I've run all the "big marathons" (NYC, Chicago, Boston, Marine Corps Marathon) and the spectators at Savannah were awesome. They packed almost the entire 7-8 mile stretch. And they SCREAMED when they saw my Land Shark hat. It was awesome. I made a mental note to wear it at every race!

Soon we reached the point where the half and full course parted ways. Always an interesting feeling :). This stretch of the course was out on a highway. The sun was out, but it was still cool. Thank God, because if it was humid, this part would have sucked. Highways aren't fun to run on as it is!

We reached the halfway point and David began to tell me to go on ahead. I wanted to stick with him a bit longer, but by the next mile I knew I should go on ahead. I was feeling really strong. So the Land Sharks parted ways.

There was a group of guys who were cheering someone running my pace, because I was able to partake of their cheering four times. It was great. They ADORED my hat. By the third time I saw them, they were yelling "Land Shark! Land Shark! Go girl, go!" Thank you!

Mile 17 (?) was also awesome. It was Savannah State College  (I think? Some college) and they were out in full force. From manning the water station to do high fives to a cheering squad, the energy was amazing. It was a GREAT boost!

One thing I try to do when I am running a marathon is call out of words of encouragement along the later miles. Or when passing a mile marker. "Look guys, 18 miles down!" Today was no exception. I shouted "Mile 18 folks! Great job!" Two guys responded by saying it was their first marathon. I encouraged them and told them they were doing awesome.

Mile 20 and only 6.2 miles left. I yelled out "10K left! Single digit miles baby!" Not only does this encourage me, but those around me too. Love it.

Soon, the course was back on the highway and we were running on a slant. And not just a slant, but the wind was ferocious. You need to keep your head up when you run, but the wind was not making it easy. As we runners leap-frogged each other we made remarks about the wind.

Soon, Mile 24 was finished. I yelled out "2.2 miles to go!" The course had a gradual uphill the last mile. And don't forget the wind giving us extra work! Thankfully, my Land Shark was holding on for dear life and it provided great encouragement the last miles.

Soon, the finish line was within hearing distance. And then sight distance. I ran strong to the very end. 4:16. I felt great and knew my "reward" was on.

I was in the finish area and a older lady tapped me on the back. I turned around and she told me thank you for the encouragement and inspiration I provided on the course. She didn't even know me! How's that for a positive impact? I think it rocks!

After shivering under a space blanket, drinking some water and getting some food, it was time to head back to the hotel. For a shower.

I have to say, I felt absolutely great. It is awesome to be able to finish a marathon and not feel like you ran one.

Another race down. Three more in the series to go. To God be the glory!

So what was my reward? By signing up for another 100 mile ultra marathon. This will be my second one. I'm not naive about. Just because I've done it once, doesn't make it any easier. But I am excited to run another one. Yep. Another 100 freaking miles. God help me!