Running a marathon has been the most rewarding and most difficult thing I’ve ever done. In high school, I had always been quite the runner, but even a half marathon seemed like a daunting challenge, so I never thought I could run a full.

While I probably should have trained more than just two or three long runs a couple weeks out, and I definitely should have taken seriously the fact that the race is called “the toughest road marathon in America,” (it’s no joke people!) you could say I’m hooked for sure and can’t wait to race again. Boston, here I come!

26.2 miles definitely takes some time, whether you listen to music, talk to some friends, or use the time to reflect, all runners can relate to these 7 stages of race day:

1. I'm winning!

I definitely should be questioning why I’m in first place right now. I didn’t do 6:30 miles on my training runs, but race day is definitely the day to experiment, right?

2. How do I slow down without exposing myself?

Ok so maybe I shouldn’t have started out so fast. But I can’t let these people around me know that, so I guess I’m rolling with it.

3. I'm killing it right now

I feel so good. The sun is shining, people I don’t even know are cheering me on, I see a mile marker coming up. I must be at, like, mile eight by now, right? Wait, does that say three miles?

4. Halfway there, that's sort of close right?

I’ve been running for an hour and 35 minutes. Maybe I should have been less ambitious and signed up for the half marathon. That finish line sounds pretty good right now.

5. I probably should have trained for this

Raleigh doesn’t have mountains, guys. Why did I think it was a good idea to sign up for the Blue Ridge Marathon? It is literally named after a mountain range.

6. I thought the wall was a myth but boy was I wrong

Yup, this sucks. I’ve listened to the same song what feels like 20 times, the cheeriness of the people cheering is starting to annoy me. My legs hurt. I’m only 17 miles in, and we are starting the climb up the mountain for the second time.

7. Bring on the food

So now that my legs aren’t moving anymore that was actually a pleasant experience. I got a trophy, there’s a tent full of food, and now I’m lying on the ground with my dog. Maybe I’ll move soon, but probably not.

I feel unqualified to compare running a marathon to giving birth since I have not done the latter, but it sounds fairly similar. You tell yourself you’re never going to do it again, but eventually, you forget all the pain and before you know it you’ve signed up for your next race.