Foursquare check-ins provide encouragement at first marathon

When I arrived at Howard Wood Field for the start of the Sioux Falls Marathon, many thoughts and emotions came over me.

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Ben Lippert at the Sioux Falls Marathon finish line.

I was excited that the big race was finally here. I was nervous that my previous long run of only 16 miles might not be enough to push me to the finish line. I felt panic after realizing I had left my headphones at home. Weather reports of high humidity had me thinking that the finish of the race would be searing, leaving me sluggish and miserable.

One thing I never questioned, however, was my motivation to finish the race.

I had been training and mentally preparing for this race since January. After nine months of training, it was time to get the newbie marathoner monkey off my back, and push my worries and woes aside. It was time to prove that I could run 26.2, in spite of a mid-summer hip injury that laid me out for six weeks, significantly disrupting my training schedule.

To make a long story short, I finished the marathon. It took me 3 hours, 54 minutes, 54 seconds, but I finished.

I felt great the first 16 miles of the race, but I “hit the wall” as we entered Downtown Sioux Falls. The final eight miles were a battle, but I beat the heat and with the help of my support group, made it across the finish line.

Also helping me along the course, in spite of  my worsening lower-back pain and tightening hips, was extra encouragement from Uber Checkin to keep moving. The days leading up to the race, I created a Foursquare venue for every mile marker along the Sioux Falls Marathon course. Dennis Crowley did the same thing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, until, tragically, the bombs went off. I remember following Dennis’ race on Foursquare and Twitter and thinking to myself, “What a cool idea!”

Setting up the Foursquare venues and adding them to the Uber Checkin application was monotonous, but being that this was my first marathon and that Sioux Falls is quick to navigate, it was ultimately a rewarding thing to do.

I knew that if I didn’t reach the final check-in point, all of my Foursquare friends and Twitter followers would know I didn’t complete the race. This really helped me stay motivated in the last six miles of the race.

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Mile 26 auto check-in via Uber. Almost there!

Never again will I put forth the effort of making a Foursquare venue for every single mile marker along a marathon course, but it was a fun experience.

I received a lot of support on social media during the race and enjoyed seeing all the mentions and interaction that occurred while I was in the midst of running the longest race of my life to this point.

If you are a heavy Foursquare user like myself, definitely give Uber Checkin a try. There is a free version available for iOS. However, I opted to pay for the app (only $1.99) which gives you unlimited venue additions and the ability to customize the Foursquare shout. Pro tip: leave Wi-Fi on for best results. This application is not a battery killer.


Author’s note: Since I made this post, Uber Checkin has created a one-off of its auto check-in service called Uber Marathon. Download it in the iTunes App Store today.

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