I ran the Charlotte Marathon

I ran the Charlotte Marathon

Ashley Mahoney at mile 21 of the Charlotte Marathon. Photo: Joe Schindel

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I ran the Charlotte Marathon, and it hurt like hell.

Running 26.2 miles on crisp, sunny November day through the streets of Charlotte sounds ambitious and fun until mile 22, when your hips hurt so much you would give anything to curl up in a ball on the side of the course and say, “I’m done.”

Now I’ve done this three times, and unlike the first time, I know how much it will hurt. Yet I keep coming back, and I even dream of running an ultramarathon, which is anything over 26.2 miles. Crazy, I know. Why would anyone willingly put themselves through pain?

Running is my safe space.

Even when it hurts, it’s where things make sense. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep moving. Even when the pain is unbearable, press on. Call it a metaphor for life.

I ran Charlotte for the second time less than three months after my mom died from colon cancer in 2017. With every mile, I kissed her ring and punched my fist toward the sky.

  • A few years later, the stone fell out. The week of the race, I took to Twitter to ask if anyone could recommend a good jeweler to reset the stone. Countless suggestions poured in, and the next night, I walked into Perry’s Diamonds & Estate Jewelry. We communicated via text before I arrived, and I explained the significance of the ring.
  • Jason, the jeweler who fixed the ring, is a runner as well. When he came out, he looked at me and asked, “the marathon?” With a lump in my throat, I nodded. Within 30 minutes, the ring was fixed and clean. When I asked how and where to pay, he shook his head and said, “just come back and tell us how the race went.” My heart burst with gratitude.

Mom wasn’t a runner.

But you should have seen her running up Graham Street in 2015 during my first marathon. Graham Street was the halfway point, where the half marathoners and the marathoners split. I saw Dad standing outside the ballpark, pointing up the street, and there she was, running up Graham Street telling me to keep going. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and entered the unknown.

This year my sister ran up Graham Street with me.

Across from Bank of America Stadium, there she stood. Dead center of the course, encouraging me down the final stretch. “I’m your comedic relief,” she said beaming as she teased me she would kick my butt. “If you kick my butt, I will fall over,” I huffed.

Running, for me in many ways, is a solo exercise.

But it also reminds you how much you need people. The second I saw my sister and brother-in-law, I found the extra juice I couldn’t dig up around mile 23. Seeing my Axios family in NoDa at miles 17 and 21, and the police officer who clapped the entire time it took me to run up the final hill on mile 24 gave me a necessary push.

  • A friend ran the half marathon and waited for me at the finish line. Another made sure my boyfriend, who is just over four weeks removed from knee surgery, stayed in one piece, while they cheered from multiple points, and every time I saw them, my legs felt a little lighter and I knew I could do this.

Thank you, darling humans, including everyone I flew past in pursuit of the finish line.

  • Running marathons is hard. Love makes it bearable.

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