She didn’t finish her run on the 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium.
She didn’t get an official Illinois Half-Marathon finisher’s medal.
But Mariah Burt couldn’t be more proud of the half-marathon run she did through Champaign and Urbana last weekend.
Yes, last weekend. A week after the Illinois Marathon races.
Burt wasn’t able to run the Illinois Half-Marathon after becoming ill the day before the race. She was determined to run the distance, though.
So she measured out a 13.1-mile course, combining her 10-mile training route with portions of the Illinois Half-Marathon course. And she ran it a week after the official race, with the support of her husband, who provided her water, Gatorade and granola bars every three miles, and her running partner, who ran the last mile with her.
“I had to finish what I set out to accomplish,” Burt said. “It wasn’t a question of whether or not I would run the half-marathon. It was when I would run the half-marathon. I’m not a quitter at all. I had trained so hard for it.”
Burt had never been a runner before last year, when she moved here from Chicago to take her first teaching job, as music teacher at Carrie Busey Elementary School.
To combat the stress of adapting to a new place and a new job, she joined a gym. Then she got involved in a challenge at Carrie Busey to see which teachers could adopt the healthiest lifestyle by Spring Break.
She began running in November. At first, she couldn’t run more than two blocks without stopping to walk. But she worked up to running 2 1/2 to 3 miles by January. And she and her running partner, Noelle Stinson, a first-grade teacher at Carrie Busey, began training for the half-marathon.
“I’d never done anything like that before,” Burt said. “At first I hated it. It was so difficult for me.”
The cold weather aggravated her asthma. But within a month, she loved the training.
She and Stinson planned to run the half-marathon together. (They won the school’s healthy lifestyle challenge, by the way.)
On the day before the marathon, Burt tried a new place for lunch. She thinks she got food poisoning, because she felt fine until 3 p.m., when it hit her. She vomited every half hour throughout the night. By morning, she hadn’t slept and was so dehydrated, she could barely stand up.
“I wanted to run it so badly. It was so disappointing,” Burt said. “The thing that was even more disappointing was I felt I was letting my running partner down. We had been morally supporting each other. I felt really bad she had to run by herself.”
She planned right away to run her half-marathon anyway. She thought about taking a half day off and doing it the following Monday, but she was worried she might feel too bad to come in to work later, and she wanted her husband to be there to support her.
So she decided on last Saturday, May 8. The day was much cooler and less humid than race day had been. But it was very windy. Friends urged her to reschedule, but she didn’t want to wait anymore.
“I was really pumped to do it, but it was really hard to run by myself,” she said.
Burt carried her bib number for the Illinois Half-Marathon with her in a fanny pack, and while she was running, she imagined crowds of people lining the streets, cheering her on.
Her husband served as her water station, and Stinson met her for her last mile.
Burt was overjoyed to complete her run.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it was a really positive experience,” she said.
Part of the reason was the support she got, particularly from her colleagues at Carrie Busey, including Stinson and PE teacher Wendy Starwalt.
Starwalt had some of her students make a medal for Burt, with the date, the distance she ran, and the weather conditions on it. Starwalt also gave Burt a necklace of plastic feet she uses for her PE students, to mark how many miles they’ve run.
Burt had three goals for her half-marathon: to finish it, to run it all, and to run 12-minute miles. She did the first two, and she averaged 14-minutes miles on her run last weekend.
Although it took her longer than she’d hoped, “I wasn’t disappointed. I finished it and I ran it, and those are two big accomplishments,” she said.
She’s planning on running another half-marathon.
“It’s become something I really love,” Burt said of running, “and I’m going to do it for the rest of my life now.”