Picture of Hi I'm Suzy, the host of Run Lift Mom!

Hi I'm Suzy, the host of Run Lift Mom!

Run Lift Mom is an audio podcast uplifting women and guiding mothers through their fitness journey. Episodes feature expert interviews in the topics of running, strength training, and motherhood.

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Lessons from the Chicago Marathon with Mandy Carter


This is a Run Lift Mom podcast interview about lessons from the Chicago Marathon with Mandy Carter. Here are some key points from this conversation:

  • Running is a sport you an come back to in different seasons of life

  • The running community is one of abundance and encouragement

  • Don’t stay in your running high or low for too long

  • Turn frustration into determination and set new goals

Favorite Quotes from this episode: 

  • The running community challenges you to another level

  • As we better ourselves, we can encourage others to better themselves

  • There is power in the pavement!

  • Running is a great teacher

  • Just keep showing up. Keep trying! It’s such a gift to be able to move. If you have the ability don’t waste it.

Show Transcript

The following is a transcript from the podcast episode. I’m including it for those of you who prefer to read and so you don’t need to take notes while listening- they’re all here!

Who is Mandy?

Suzy: All right. Welcome Mandy Carter to the run lift mom podcast. I’m so jazzed to have you here today. How are you?

Mandy: Thanks for having me. I’m doing great.

Suzy: I want to jump right into things, Mandy we’re of course going to discuss specifically your Chicago experience. Well, let’s back up the bus and tell me a little bit about your background as a runner.

Mandy: The label of runner is one that I still struggle with, but I have two different starts with running. I have a pretty typical background where I wasn’t athletic at all growing up and kind of fell into running.

Here and there in college, my roommate would convince me to run and go out once a semester get so sore I would never want to try it again.

I got into it legitimately I’d say right after I graduated from law school and started to work in a desk job and felt like I was just sitting still all the time and found a local run group, Godiva Track Club in Durham, North Carolina.

They had a couch to 5k running group and joined that and had a really good experience there and became friends with a few of the other members of the couch to 5k group.

We decided to kind of see it all the way through to a half marathon and we did the, the Raleigh rock and roll half marathon at the time, so trained really quickly all the way from “couch” to a half marathon.

And then I dropped it. I dropped it all.

Kids a career change, move to Charlotte, all of that, and just didn’t really move my body for about 10, 11 years.

And after my second son, I just really didn’t feel like myself at all and was fortunate to find a really great community at a local gym. They had a run club that was starting and they had a goal to work toward a half marathon in a few months.

So I signed up for that half marathon but life happened.

I kept up with the running a bit. I didn’t really prioritize running and had to drop from the half to the 5K at that same race event.

And I came home that night and I was so frustrated with myself because I was proud of myself for seeing part of the race through, but I really wanted to do the half marathon again. And so that night I found. , race just a few months out, which happened to be the Raleigh rock and roll half marathon again, , and signed up for that.

And it was in March..and never stopped running after that!

Running community

I kind of became addicted to races and fill up my calendar with race after race, after race and all of that blossomed into. plenty of half-marathons since then and a few full marathons.

Suzy:I think that is so relatable to just when life happens and we have to take a break.

I’m glad you mentioned that something that sticks out to me is that you seek to that community first in both seasons, the first time that you got into running, as well as that restart.

Can I just ask you to expand on , why is having a community so important?

Mandy: I am kind of a loner by nature. I really recharge on my own and it’s hard for me to seek out community.

There’s something about doing a common event together and sharing common interest that is really empowering and motivating.

You get the accountability built in and just sharing space with like-minded people is great.

Love the running community, both online and in person, because you’re just challenged to another level.

There’s always going to be someone who’s a bit better than you, but for whatever reason, runners are of the breed and of the nature where they are so giving in their advice and in their encouragement and really just wanting the best out of you and in from you.

Community in the fitness space, the exercise space has, has been just a real surprise and a real treat and joy for me to get involved in because it’s, like-minded people and as we’re bettering ourselves- we want others to better themselves.

It’s a really engaging and addicting group!

Suzy: It’s one of those, you can’t compete against me if I’m cheering for you kind of communities!

Mandy: Yeah. Here’s the thing:

I’ve had feelings of not belonging running space, but a lot of it is self-imposed and in my own insecurities about where I am in my abilities as a runner.

By and far, everyone is there, just wanting the best to get out of themselves and out of others.

When you move and you realize the power of movement, you want everyone to experience it.

Suzy: I reached out to you originally, not just because you had a really unique mindset experience with Chicago. So talk to me a little bit about why you chose that race and what training was like.

Mandy: So Chicago, I applied for the lottery back in 2019; I think I applied before I finished New York.

New York was my first marathon and it was an amazing, surreal experience. And so I think kind of riding that high, the applications for Chicago opened and I applied. Knowing that I wanted to go through the process again.

I like big race because I am a back of the pack runner.

I like to still have people around me when I finish, so I usually go for the bigger races and the bigger events.

So got in and then we know what happens after that: the world shut down.

Is this thing on?

Mandy: I participated in the virtual event for 2020. Then, for 2021 there were still a lot of questions about is the race even going to happen.

I never really allowed myself to get excited about the race because I always felt like it was just not going to happen!

Once we started to see some of the other world majors happening like Berlin and London happened before Chicago, I started to get a bit more comfortable, but still here in the US a lot of big races were being canceled.

So, I just always trained. I kept training, but I trained with the idea “this is not going to happen”.

I thinkI just didn’t allow myself to get excited about the race and that affected me going into the race, even up until the week before the race.

I remember talking to people and saying, I don’t know if I should go- just not excited about the event at all.

That affected me for sure. Going into the race and because in contrast it to New York, I did nothing.

In New York, I had researched everything about the city, watched virtual videos of the race course, everything just to prepare before the race.

With Chicago, Suzy, I didn’t even look at the course map until we got a handout at the expo. So my preparation, my mindset was very different going into Chicago versus New York.

I didn’t have the excitement!

It’s gettin’ hot in here

I had trained all summer here in North Carolina with the heat and the humidity.

And I remember on several of the just long miserable summer runs, I would just think to myself, “it’s going to be cooler in Chicago because I mean, it’s October. It’s Chicago!”

Well, joke’s on me. It was not cooler in Chicago that weekend.

Now, I am and the type where I will stalk the weather as soon as the 15 day forecast is available and so started to stalk the weather forecast. You’d see these (warm) temperatures and be like, “ah, that’s not right”.

The closer we got, it just kept getting warmer and warmer. So weather was going to be a factor.

I had to adjust my mindset and remind myself “you’ve trained for this”.

The event itself had kind of a colored warning system, green, yellow, red, and going into marathon weekend. The race was placed in yellow status, which was kind of less than ideal conditions. So, you deal with that.

You’ve accepted that for what it is, but on race day during the race, I think I was probably about a third of the way through, they changed the course conditions to red status.

So that was another kind of. Struggle for me to get the, the notification came through by phone, which came through my watch that the course was now in the red status.

And then at every aid station, they changed the flags from yellow to red. So you had kind of this visual change from the colors of, of yellow to red and of course, red.

I was always worried about the black change next, because I know that they have stopped that race before. And I knew that I was in the back of the pack. I didn’t want to be pulled off the course.

Suzy: Yeah. I want to say in 2007 is what you’re referring to. In 2007, they stopped the race.

And if there’s someone listening that’s like, “well, so what if the temperature’s raised? Like what, what’s the big deal? Why is she even worried about this?”

The reason why Mandy is talking about this caution and that alert coming through on her watch being such a big deal it’s as temperatures and humidity and that kind of thing, it becomes harder for your body to cool itself down.

So then you’re getting in the territory of worrying about like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, etc

And so I just want to make that clarification. Like you said, this is a race that has had a history of running out of water, which is what happened in 2007 and then stopping the race.

Mandy: Yeah. Yeah. And so they, they did communicate with us about they were going to be some misting stations.

I think there were sponges, , at different parts of the course. I never grabbed those but I knew to sun is my kryptonite, direct sun. I don’t know why it just cripples me.

And I knew that it was not a shady course and the good Lord above blessed us with cloud coverage for the first part of the race, which means it was still humid but not sunny.

The cloud kept the sun away until probably around mile 21. And then the sun came out and it came out in full in full force and kind of baked me there.

Here comes the sun

Mandy: But I’ve never seen so many people at the eight tenths or just walking or it, it was, it was warm, but , everybody’s dealing with the same weather. It’s not bad weather just for me or difficult weather.

Everyone was dealing with the same thing. And, so again, back to that community…

…”let’s just get through it” mindset!

In fact, there were a lot of mindset hurdles to get through!

The people showed up that the city of Chicago showed up. They were very loud and proud to have the race back in their city.

The race did a great job of keeping us safe, both at the expo and through the race experience but the heat did affect me.

I had cramps in my right quad for the first time ever. And I had tried to be as proactive as I could. I took a salt pill in the starting corral, carried a water bottle with me, water and Gatorade at every water stop.

Salt pills and salt tabs with me on the course, and I still had three different instances of my quad seizing again, which I’ve never had before.

That was fun. I think every race I do, my body does something different that I’ve never experienced before.

And so it was the cramps this time, but we made it through. I had a pace band on, cause I did have a time goal. And after that first walk for a bit after my quad I remember taking my pace band off and throwing it away and knowing that that time wasn’t gonna be possible,

I kept telling myself, “be proud of what you’re doing. You’re out here. You’re gonna finish.”

I never had a question. Not finishing. I’m pretty sturdy and I’m stubborn and I know I’ll finish, so that, wasn’t the question. It was just, when am I going to finish?

And so I remember telling myself throughout the race, “hold your head high, be proud”. When I crossed the finish line, it was way longer than I anticipated, but I was proud and I was happy.


, and I. , did not really look at my time, , try not to focus on that. Just try to again, appreciate what my body could do. I appreciate that I was able to finish that distance and that I was still, , upright and moving. , and then a couple of days later, that’s when I kind of went to the basement with my feelings.

And also just with my reflections on the race, , I don’t know if it was just a lack of sleep. I didn’t sleep well in Chicago or right when I got home, but I really just went into the basement with my emotions about it and started feeling, , or really just beating myself up about, , why didn’t you run more here?

Why did you walk more? Why did you let the sun affect you? Like you did? And just, why do you keep doing this? I know I’ve had, I’ve had a race goal or pay school, I should say for the last two marathons that I’ve done and I’ve not met it with either one. And. Being, , as, I don’t want to say slower runner, but being a, a runner that takes a bit more time than others, , I’m taking a lot of time away from my family to train.

And so I just went to this place of why, why keep doing this? , if you’re just not seeing the progress when , it counts on race day. , so I. Setting those emotions for awhile. And I think until I finally got a good night of sleep and, , , still kind of go back to that place, but. Really did take some time to reflect on what happened with the race, , and, , learn from that experience and, and move forward with new goals.

, because I do, I do want to keep going with this. I do believe that there is more in me. There is untapped potential in me and, and that’s, what’s that, that is what keeps me coming back to running is just this idea of, , This, this challenge and this. Again, I guess, untapped potential inside out. I want to see what I am capable of still.

And I want my kids to see that as well, ? Yes, I do take time away from them, the train, and sometimes it’s a longer time, but I want them to see me go through the process of setting these big, crazy goals and, and, , they get to see the good, the bad and the ugly too. Back from, , , challenging training run or, or a positive training run.

I want them to see me go through that process and I hope it encourages them and encourages others that, , I’ll keep towing that start line and keep giving it my all.

Suzy: I’m glad that you brought your kids up because you are modeling healthy behavior for them.

But then you’re also modeling that every time you try to do something that you want to do in your heart of hearts, you’re not always able to do it. T

hat is so, so relatable. I’m curious, so you’re feeling all the feelings and you’re in the basement, as you said, bad self is talking to you.

Did you allow that to go on for a certain amount of time? Was there a point where you cut it off or did you let yourself kind of come out of that?

Mandy: Yeah. , I, I tend to be the type to, if I hear a bit of negative criticism, I’ll draw out all of the positive. And so, there was a comment that was made by someone that I was traveling with, who said, “oh, a thousand people finished behind you!”

And for some reason it wasn’t intended to be negative, but I took it that way just to think about, oh, out of this big race, look at how close I was to the end! I kept marinating on that comment, just kind of over and over again.

And I did sit in the ugly parts for a good few days.

I’d say, until I got some good sleep and I think the sleep gave me some perspective and kind of turned the frustration into determination and “let’s go- let’s set some new goals. Let’s get after it.”

…but I tend to sit in the emotions for a while, a few days to a week.

That’s just kind of part of my process, but I think that time for reflection and evaluation is, is beneficial because it allows refinement of future goals.

Nothing’s wasted- I learned about Chicago. I learned, I probably need to allow myself to get excited about things.

I need to figure out how to break through it and push.

I get to a point sometimes I think in races and runs where I get scared about not having enough at the end. And so I’ll hold back and I need to figure out how to take it to that next gear at and just leave it all out on the table.

And so I think that’s what I want to focus in on now is kind of embracing that fear, pushing the boundaries.

I know I can trust my body. I’ve seen the distance. I know it can do the distance.

So, so now let’s figure out how to really push within that distance. And that’s what I want to focus on next.

So I hope that helps someone listening, that’s maybe been through this, maybe they have attempted a race and not achieved the outcome that they had hoped.

Suzy: I hear you loud and clear Mandy, I love what you’ve done in terms of, “okay, what’s the lesson here?” and “what can I change or adapt moving forward?”

You mentioned that you are continuing to run and challenge yourself and using this lesson moving forward, where can folks connect with you?

Mandy Carter? Oh yeah. So I hang out mostly on Instagram. So I’m on Instagram and The Mandy Carter is my username, so that’s kind of my little corner of the internet where I share the running part of my life.

Suzy: What would you say your top takeaway was from this experience?

Mandy: Just keep showing up. Keep trying! It’s such a gift to be able to move. If you have the ability don’t waste it.

There is power in movement and

There are lessons from the pavement that translate into so many different areas of life.

Running is such a great teacher and I’m just grateful to be able!

That’s kind of my mantra for running and there’s a lesson in all of it.

Connect with me

Until next time, I hope you’ll drop me a line or come hang with me on Instagram.

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