Some of you may know that on June 19th, I completed my first marathon. I’ve tweeted and Facebooked about it, and even wrote a haiku about it yesterday:
Marathon complete. | I trained. I ran. I conquered. | Doubters: try again.
Since Saturday, I have had a few people ask for a recap and my insights to my training and during the race. Friends, enjoy:
If you follow my blog, you will know that it was my ‘New Years Goal/Resolution’ to run in and complete a marathon. I was aiming for the Twin Cities Marathon in October, but was convinced by a very persuasive friend named Kenny. During his birthday celebration in January, New Year’s resolutions were brought up. Upon mentioning my marathon goal, he states ‘you should run Grandma’s with me!’ After responding with ‘I want to take more time to train, knowing the next few months are sure to be busy.’, Kenny gives me ‘the look’ and states ‘c’mon, friend! You should run Grandma’s with me! It will count as your birthday present to me.’
I was guilted into signing up to do Grandma’s Marathon.
Training began soon after on the treadmills of L|A Fitness. One issue: I hate treadmill running. It is safe to say that I did not run for too long each time on a treadmill, or even get to L|A Fitness, as my life schedule prevented me from doing so.
Once the weather became accommodating, I started to run outside. While this was easier, I never logged the ‘long runs’ for marathon training. I am willing to admit that my longest run occurred the week of Grandma’s Marathon of 4.5 miles.
Yes, a marathon is 26.2 miles. I understand the math.
My thoughts on such a plan, called ‘plan A’: I was concerned with my pace, which is common for first time marathon runners. if you start too fast, you will burn out quicker and decrease your chances at a strong finish. Remember, it’s not a sprint… 🙂 I thought if I would get my pace down in 3-4 miles, I could replicate that throughout the race.
And that plan worked perfectly, until mile 11.
From the start to mile 11, I did not stop to walk once. I had my 10:15-10:30 minute pace going very well. I never felt winded, tired, or worried about finishing. I actually became more confident as I passed each mile marker. Inexplicably, I chose to walk through the 11th mile water stop. This is where trouble started to brew. I felt my legs be more wobbily than at any time during training, which sent me into a mental panic.
I walked through the water stop, killing time until I chose to run again, wondering if I could run to the halfway mark, let alone the finish. I had to switch to plan B: walk through each water stop, and run in-between. That worked until mile 14, which was the first time I chose to go to the bathroom. I sat down, mostly to get a break. Looking back, getting in a sitting position was the dumbest thing I could have done, other than choosing this particular bathroom, for there was no soap, or toilet paper. Bathroom break: cancelled.
I was running my little heart out crossing the 15th mile marker when something awful happened in my left quad. It felt like something blew up in there, causing the two quad heads by my knee to have little strength remaining. I stopped to do numerous stretches, thinking it was a cramp. Whatever it was, I was unable to run at length the rest of the race.
Hobbling my way through the next two miles, I was looking for a medical tent to get it inspected. I did not think I could continue; I was ready to quit. Lucky for me, there was no tent at that point. There was no way I was going to disappoint those supporting me in Duluth or back home. There was no way I was going to make any doubter of mine correct. I had no choice but to continue; I can heal later.
I went to plan C: power-walking. I knew I could do that around 4 miles per hour, which put me (at the time of injury) around a 5 hour 30 minute finish. I did not have a serious time goal, I just wanted the medal. As long as I finished under 6 hours to qualify as a finisher, that’s all that mattered to me.
At mile 20, I clocked in at 4:14:15, which put me near the estimated time above. I kept power-walking and running when I could (usually downhill). One benefit of being injured was being able to enjoy the scenery that Duluth provides.
Mile 23 comes by, and my friend Britni was there to cheer people in our group on. She tells me one of the guys is only three blocks ahead of me. My mind said ‘go get him!’ My body said ‘don’t even try.’ It was disappointing, but my goal of finishing was still in tact, and still my priority.
Finally, after 5:42:11, I finish Grandma’s Marathon. Everyone else in our group had finished before me, which allowed for everyone to see me finish. It’s a surreal feeling to run down the final stretch, hear your name called, and hear the final beep from your chip over the timing pad on the finish line. Mission: accomplished.
Reflecting on the whole experience of training and the race, I know I can do more and do better. That’s why I will be running Grandma’s Marathon next year, and hopefully another marathon before then. Don’t assume I am addicted, but knowing that I can and will do better is too great of a draw for me to ignore.
Thanks to all who supported me, sent me good vibes, and had faith in me to do this my way. I brought home a medal, which a little piece goes to you. I hope I did not disappoint.
Next time, I’ll train harder, be stronger, healthier, faster, and will not disappoint.