Back in July 2018, the idea of running a marathon didn’t appear on Kari Gravrock’s to-do list. Fast forward a year later and she'd just finished her very first one.

On July 28, she lined up at 5 a.m. for the start of the San Francisco Marathon. Five hours and 40 minutes later, she was at the finish line.

“It was an awesome experience, and what an incredible six months it was to get here,” Gravrock said after returning home to the Yakima Valley. “The transformation is unbelievable, because, at the start of this, I couldn’t run a mile and just a couple of weeks ago, I ran 26.2 miles.”

The Selah native accomplished her goals in finishing the marathon and finishing it in under six hours.

What makes this goal even more memorable for her is that two months leading up to the big event, she cut back on her training due to a nagging calf injury.

With days passing by, Gravrock knew she had to find a way to keep training while also nursing her injury.

“I had not run more than three miles a day in the two months leading up to the marathon,” she said. “So when I got there it was sort of a roll of the dice and see how my body reacts.”

A roll on which Gravrock gambled and won.

It also helped she wasn’t alone. She had gone to compete in the marathon with other women from her leadership group, Mountains and Marathons.

But even with a supporting cast rooting each other on, her biggest obstacle wasn’t the run or the injury. It was her mindset.

“It’s crazy how when you start to think negatively, your desire and motivation goes right out the door,” Gravrock said.

“I could tell whenever I told myself I can’t do this, I got more tired.”

“The first mile took 20 minutes because of the crowds.  Once the people started to spread out I ran an average of 11-minute miles until the last couple that were 12- 13-minute miles as I made my way to the finish.
"I passed a woman on a climb that was pushing her teenage special needs daughter in a wheelchair made for running.  Think of the strength needed!  I’m still amazed by people’s ability to choose a goal and complete it -- or if not “complete it,” be way better off for the effort of reaching for the stars. The human spirit is awesome!”

Try as she did to keep positive thoughts throughout the run, Gravrock eventually developed a problem she couldn't will herself through: she was getting dehydrated. Feeling sick, Gravrock knew she had no choice but to stop and get some fluids in her if she were to continue.

“Once I had stopped to catch my breath and get some fluids in me, I knew I would be good to go”, she said.

For Gravrock, the biggest thing in continuing the marathon was to hold on to those positive thoughts and to keep going no matter what.

“The greatest lesson that I have learned from this is you are the owner of your life and you are capable of bigger things,” she said. “Even if you are tired, exhausted, beat up or sore, you just have to keep showing up. That’s how you make progress in life.”

Progress she delivered on.

With the marathon over, Gravrock initially believed there was no chance of her running another one. But after a couple of days of rest, she thinks she could one day do it again.

“It’s funny, toward the end of the race I thought, 'I don’t EVER need to run another marathon again.' Then, the next day I wondered if I could get my time down into the four-hour mark!” she said.

After the marathon, Gravrock and her leadership group celebrated the only way they knew how -- with a spa day.

“This was a chance for us to pat ourselves on the back and help recuperate,” she said. “It was an incredible experience, and everyone did an unbelievable job.”

A total of 5,226 people competed in the full marathon, including 51 from the state of Washington.

If you would like to compete in the 2020 San Francisco Marathon, head to their homepage as next year’s registration is already up.

Here's a little of how it all looked:

Kari Anna Gravrock's Marathon