Category Archives: Marathon

Saucony 26 Strong : Chicago Marathon

Saucony 26 Strong Chicago Team |

I’m back to reality after an incredible time in Chicago over the weekend with the Saucony 26 Strong crew.

Again, I’m kind of at a loss for words. I’ve had two amazing weekends (Rise.Run.Retreat. was the weekend before) in a row filled with powerful women, new friendships and inspiring moments. I can not believe the doors that have opened all because I love this crazy sport called running.

While I would have loved for this to be a race recap, it’s more like a spectating recap. Things on the other side of the course are just as tough!

Saturday morning the whole team finally got together. It was great to reconnect with some of the other coaches from Honolulu, the teams that were in San Diego as well as meeting the new ones. I’m still amazed at how you can know someone from social media yet when you meet in person for the first time, it’s like you are old friends.

We took team photos and then did a short shake out run. And yes –  I ran!!!

Shake out run Saucony 26 Strong |

It felt so amazing! I think I exclaimed those very same words to Morganne and Kendall at least 10 times.

Afterwards, we had a team breakfast and words of wisdom from Sharon Barbano, Saucony’s Vice President of Public Relations.

Saucony 26 Strong - Sharon

Her words spoke to me. Big time. There were chills. There were tears. Sharon is one of those people that looks you straight in the eye and can motivate you to do anything. You know she threw in a few #FindYourStrong moments too.

After cleaning up, I headed to the expo. It’s always fun to see all the gear and just feel the excitement of the upcoming race. And I didn’t have to worry about having tired feet either!

Chicago Marathon Steps

Sunday morning – race day!

Saucony 26 Strong and the Bean  happyfitmama.comPit stop at The Bean before wishing the ladies GOOD LUCK! and heading off to mile 8 on the course.

But first let’s take a bathroom mirror selfie.

Saucony 26 Strong Sherpa Selife |

Grayson, Lindsey, Allison, Erin (not pictured above) and I were on Sherpa Crew duties. Behind every runner is a crew, right?


We had to make a fast get away to make it for Lindsey and Allison’s live news broadcast.


Go Deena!

Deena Castor Chicago Marathon

Before I knew it, Erin and I were up. I don’t know if I was shaking more from the cold or nerves!

Saucony 26 Strong ABC 7 News Broadcast |

Live TV is hard! Especially when the questions that you prepare for weren’t asked, there’s sirens going off all around you. Not too mention cowbells, cheering and clapping. Oh and that little earpiece thing is full of static! But it was also a ton of fun. And I said camaraderie without getting tongue tied – BOOM!

Next stop was mile 23. We saw Kat and  Lauren cruise by looking great.


We were expecting Bridget and Olivia (Lindsey’s cadet) soon after based on their splits. Since Lindsey is injured, I volunteered to jump in and run with the girls for a short bit to check in. Bridget came cruising by all smiles, looking fantastic. But Olivia wasn’t with her. I decided to let Bridget go and wait for Olivia. She soon arrived. She was tired but had a laser beam focus to keep trucking. I wanted to run with her some more but we needed to hop on the train to make it to the finish. BTW – Olivia finished in 3:59:59 – how awesome is that?!?

I wish I had more pics to share but my phone was dying and I still needed it to help coordinate with the Saucony and Competitor people. The finishing area was crazy especially when you are trying to coral multiple people to one spot. My eyes were glazed over by the end of the day after looking at hundreds and hundreds of runners funnel through the finishing area. Spectating is HARD work!

Going into the weekend, there were a lot of emotions. It was another race that I was supposed to be running. Another DNS. Even before I was asked to be a part of 26 Strong this year, I had my sights on Chicago.


Even though I am on my way back to running now, I’ve still got fear and doubt in where my running life is going. Of course I say I just want to run again. But really, I want to see what I can do. I want PR’s. I want new distances to cover. Basically, I want to see what I’m made of. I had so many words of encouragement from everyone. I’m taking those words and moving onward. I’m truly looking to #FindMyStrong.

While I wish my first trip to the Chicago Marathon was one of me running it, seeing the race from the other side of the barricade makes me want to come back to this race even more. It may be next year or the year after. BUT I will be back.

I can not thank Saucony and Competitor Magazine enough for this unbelievable experience. They stuck with me even though I wasn’t able to run the race. Words can’t even begin to describe my gratitude. My heart is full and overjoyed. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Saucony 26 Strong – Chicago


Here we go again!

Last year I had the honor and the privilege to be a coach for the Saucony 26 Strong program. Saucony and Competitor Group chose 13 coaches to guide 13 cadets for their first marathons. We were 26 strong women on a journey of a lifetime.

Running the Honolulu Marathon with Kailey and several of the other members of 26 Strong was unbelievable. I definitely thought it was a once in a lifetime experience. When Saucony contacted me in early April to ask if I would be a coach for this year’s program, I couldn’t believe it. Was this for real?

Honolulu Marathon mile 25 |

You never will forget your first marathon.

This year all 13 teams will be running the Chicago Marathon on October 11. It’s quite funny that my running partner in crime, Sarah, had been trying to convince me to run Chicago with her all winter long. When Saucony contacted me to ask if I would be a coach for this year’s program, of course I immediately said YES! I’ll go anywhere! And then I found out it was Chicago. Obviously, it was destiny!
To have all the teams running the same race this year, is going to be amazing. We truly will be 26 Strong.
Saucony 26 Strong |


Say “Hello!” to my new cadet, Marina!

My name is Marina, I am 33 years old and live in New Hampshire. I am married to my super tolerant, supportive husband, Jordan and together we have two awesome kiddos and one crazy dog, Archie (my running buddy)! I graduated from University of New Hampshire with an Exercise Science degree and currently work part-time in the Diagnostic Testing center of a hospital. I grew up watching my mom run regularly, but never began running myself until my mid to late 20’s. Running a marathon was something I had thought about, but never had the guts to try on my own. Given the opportunity to have a coach guide me through the training for a  marathon was something I could not miss out on! I am most looking forward to challenging myself and learning ways to improve my running to complete 26.2 miles!!
Marina Saucony 26 Strong Chicago

I’m so excited to be along for Marina’s first marathon! We got to know each other about 5 years ago when we both were new mama’s trying to figure out what the hell we were doing. She’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet and is just completely real about everything. While she’s nervous about the distance and how to fit in all the miles for training, I know she will do great. She will find her strong and it will be marvelous.

I can’t wait to say the words, “Marina, you are a marathoner!”

The Story of My Boston Marathon DNF

Boston Marathon Finish LIne |

By now, you all know that I got my first DNF during the Boston Marathon last week. Hands down one of the most horrible days of my life so far. I can look back at it now and actually laugh at how the events unfolded. This stuff seriously only happens to me!

So let’s start from the beginning. Grab some coffee and a snack. For having my race cut short, this is a very, very long post.

(Side note – this post is also very word heavy and picture light – my phone battery died early on that day).

Sarah and I decided to hire a car service to take us straight to Hopkinton from our houses in New Hampshire rather than making the trek into the city for the buses from the Common. We got a few more hours of sleep and didn’t have to worry about parking, etc. When the swanky black Lincoln pulled into my driveway and the driver opened my door for me as I wore my fanciest throw away clothes, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it must have looked to my neighbors. Our driver was awesome. He kept telling us we were crazy and couldn’t understand why we would want to run 26.2 miles.

Since all the exits to Hopkinton were closed at 7 a.m., our driver had to drop us off right on I-495. Sarah and I could not stop laughing as we walked past the state police officers who directed us to take a right at the bottom of the exit to find the shuttles to the Athlete’s Village. We looked like refugees with nothing but the clothes on our back and a small bag of food. Of course, just at that time it started to downpour too.

Refugee runners |

We continued to walk along the empty street. It was very strange to see no cars or people except for military/police. We stopped at a Cumberland Foods gas station to use the bathroom. Never pass up an opportunity to NOT have to use a port-a-potty! There was only one car parked in the lot – a black SUV full of guys in camo – I think I saw one with FBI on his back.

The guy working the station was so nice to give us huge heavy duty trash bags to protect us from the rain. They were much better than our standard kitchen bags we had brought along. Again, we couldn’t stop laughing at the oddity of it all.

As we continued walking, we came upon a group of state cops. We asked where the shuttle was. The guy looked at us like we were nuts – it was in the direction that we had just come from on the other side of the interstate. We should have taken a left rather than a right. We were 1/2 way to the Village so we just kept walking for about another 3/4 of a mile.

The Athlete’s Village was bumping. A huge tent, music, potties everywhere and just an excitement in the air. We found a spot to sit on our trash bags and just veg for a bit. Sarah didn’t have much time before her wave started. I tried to stay off my phone as much as possible. My battery had been draining really fast lately so I wanted to make sure I had enough for the whole race in case I needed it at the end (foreshadowing – I needed it way before then!).

athlete's village

Sarah’s wave was ready to go. After hugs and good lucks, she was gone and I was alone with my nerves as I people watched. (She went on to have a GREAT race and finish in 3:35). Thankfully, Laura, Jill and Rachel were on the way from the Commons so I’d have company soon. Laura and I had agreed to run with each the day before. She didn’t have any time expectations and wanted to help me try to achieve my goals. I was excited to not only have someone to run with, but a chance to hang out with Laura and just talk IRL.

The whole time in the Village, it wasn’t raining at all. The wind had picked up, but I was bundled up to the max and felt comfy. The girls finally arrived and we made last minute stops at the potties. Before I knew it, we were walking the 1/2 mile to the starting line. I finally ditched most of my throw away clothes but at the last minute kept on a long sleeve 1/2 zip over my tank. Best move ever especially now knowing what was going to happen 8 miles down the road.


I had no idea where the starting line was until the crowd started moving forward faster and eventually I crossed over. I guess it was time to start running! And that also meant, bring on the rain. I was warned it was going to be packed, but it was REALLY packed. The first 3 miles were very congested. I really didn’t want to waste energy weaving around runners, but there were so many different paces (including walkers) that it was hard not to. I tried to stay to the left and was able to find a little bit of a clearer path that way, although I did encounter some elbows and just generally running into people. I kept laughing each time I’d glance to see if Laura was still around. She was hard to miss in her bright orange poncho – she was like a running flame!

By mile 3, things had cleared out a bit and we were able to settle in. Things were going along great. The crowds were fantastic. People cooking out and the smell of beer was quite strong in spots. Out of nowhere, around mile 6, I got a sharp, intense, shooting pain in my left ankle that radiated down into my arch and heel. I started to hobble. And panic. I told Laura and we stopped so I could walk and stretch it out. That did nothing. It just hurt – a lot. I couldn’t get up on my toes and I couldn’t put weight on my heel. I tried to land with my foot flat, but even that was like having a knife dig into my arch. The panic intensified with each step. WTF? Why now? It’s so early in the race. And why isn’t it going away? My thoughts swirled – I can do this. It will go away. You can run/walk if needed. But the more I hobbled, the more I realized the truth. I couldn’t continue this hobble for 18 miles. If I did, I’d either be really, really hurt later or be hypothermic.

We both spotted a med tent at mile 8. At this point, we both knew what I needed to do although I couldn’t really voice it. To drop out of a race in front of spectators cheering in shitty conditions, runners persevering through the tough day, and volunteers sticking it out, was one of the more miserable moments of my running life. I felt (feel) like such a failure.

I held it together until the second that I gave Laura a hug and told her to run on without me. As soon as the EMT took my arm, I broke down. I became a blubbering, freezing cold mess. I guess that’s the look of realizing a huge dream wasn’t going to happen and my heart being completely pulverized into a thousand little pieces.

SO how do you find your family when you are in a point to point race and are clueless of what town you are even in? Here’s where the real fun began…

From mile 8, four other DNFers besides me were loaded into a van that then brought us to a big school bus about a mile away. On that bus there was at least an additional 20 or more DNFers. Our final destination was the big med tent at the finish line. Enroute I got one frantic text out to Ron that I was a DNF. My whole family was at the aquarium still since it would have been hours before I would have been close to mile 25 where they were hoping to spectate. We nailed down a meeting place at the Hynes Convention T before my phone battery died.

Once we got to the finish line, we were given another mylar blanket and basically told “See ya!” if you didn’t need any further treatment. A volunteer told me to walk around the tent to get to Boylston St. and then I could just walk up to my destination. One little problem – I was at the finish line and there was no entry at that point. Somehow I managed to end up in the VIP finish line area and a woman handing out medals assumed I had was one of them. She yelled congratulations! as I hobbled my way towards her. She tried placing a finishers medal around my neck. I mumbled that I didn’t finish and started taking the medal off as I started to cry (again). She refused to take it back and I refused to keep it. In the end, she won. I just wanted to get away from all of it. So now I have a medal that I didn’t earn. I hate that I have it. I want to send it back.

It took forever to get to our meeting spot. There were so many road closures. My foot was throbbing. I was limping. So many people who were congratulating me on my finish that I stopped even saying anything or acknowledging it. I know they were just being nice, but it was like getting kicked in the stomach every single time. I wanted to ditch the mylar blanket so people would just leave me alone, but it was the only semi-warm thing I had. I borrowed random strangers phones to try to get in touch with Ron again.

I finally made it to our meeting spot and stood against the wall, waiting. And waiting. And having more people congratulate me. It was agony. After about a 1/2 hour of waiting, I made friends with three Mass Transit Officers. They got me a chair, water and tried to keep me blocked from the wind so I could stay a little warmer. I used one of their phones to call Ron two more times. They had got turned around on the T and ended up having to walk to find me.

When they finally showed up, I burst into tears. I just wanted to go home, take a warm shower and go to bed.

Everything happens for a reason. Do you know how many times I’ve been told this in the past 9 days? Whatever the reason is, I hope it’s a damn good one. I’m still pissed. I’m still upset. But it’s getting better. That’s the beauty of time. It heals. But I’ll never forget the events of my first DNF and my first Boston Marathon.

I may never know why this happened.

What I do know is that I am not done running marathons.

What I do know is that I am most definitely not done with Boston.

I will run across that iconic finish line rather than posing for a picture.