So, I ran a marathon two weeks ago.
My first full marathon.
Before I started training, the farthest I had run was several half marathons and even those were often difficult for me. But, I wanted to complete this goal and become a marathon runner. I wanted to push my body to new limits and I wanted to test my mental strength and my abilities as a runner.
Tapering the 3 weeks before the marathon was harder for me than I thought. Running my longest distance of 20 miles and then immediately taking 2-3 weeks off and allowing my body to rest before the marathon seemed unproductive. I still ran 4 times a week; only much shorter distances of 4-5 miles with my weekend long runs being only 10 or 12 miles. My legs were restless, my confidence waned and my anxiety increased immensely during this time.
But then it was marathon week and my focus shifted. I concentrated on making sure EVERYTHING was packed for my run, finalizing our travel plans and researching food all over Cincinnati to ensure I could eat what I needed to in the days leading up to the race. I was so incredibly anxious the days before the race; I had no idea what to expect and the unknown of those last 6.2 miles was really getting in my head.
On race morning, the weather was ideal; a perfectly cool 42 degrees with a finish temperature of 60-65 degrees. I was able to convince the Starbucks in our hotel lobby to toast my gluten free bread that morning and I successfully went to the bathroom (this is a big deal for runners). All signs pointed to a great race day!
When I entered my starting corral, or “pig pen” as the Flying Pig race crew called it, I was amazed at how many people were running this race with me. Granted, the full marathoners also started with the half marathoners and the relay runners, but still- I had never attended a race this large. It took 8 minutes for me to get to the start line after the first gun went off, and I was only in the 3rd corral. There were still 6 corrals of runners behind me! Then they sent our group off with Bruno Mars’ “Happy” blasting over the loudspeakers; and just like that, I was running my first full marathon.
The first 2 miles were cold and my heartrate was higher than I wanted it to be, but I pushed back the negative thoughts and told myself to ease up, slow my pace and allow my body to heat up. Sure enough, it did and I ran the next 20 miles right on pace. My dad and husband were tracking me with the Flying Pig’s race app along with Race Joy- which allowed them to see exactly where I was on the course, my current pace and projected finish time. This allowed my husband to meet me at mile 14 to swap out my fuel/fluids and still make it back to the finish area on time to see me cross the Finish Swine (another great pig pun).
Along the course, I was surprised to see the crowd support and all of the spectators who came to watch us run. There were water stations and portable restrooms at each mile; even during the 3 miles we ran along the empty freeway! Each mile also had snacks, volunteers and spectators cheering us on and holding hilarious homemade signs (“Worst.Parade.Ever.” was my favorite). Some folks even offered unconventional refreshments such as tequila shots or beer. Several bands performed live music along the course and there were a ton of fun, hosted events to keep us entertained the entire way. I soaked it all up; I took in everything, I gave as many high fives as were offered to me and found myself enjoying the whole experience.
As I passed mile 20, I realized I hadn’t hit the dreaded wall yet. But at mile 21, I felt it hit me hard. Between mile 21 and 22 I was running alongside a fellow first-time marathoner named Nick and we started talking. He was also beginning to struggle so we chatted about the run, discussed our families and complained about our body pains. We kept each other distracted for the rest of the race, counting down the remaining distance each half mile, tell each other; “only 4.5 to go, only 4 miles to go, only 3.5 to go,” etc.
There were times when I looked down at my watch and realized my pace was deteriorating quickly and I wanted to push myself harder. I had explained to Nick that during training, my last 2-3 miles were always my fastest and he encouraged me to take off and leave him behind. But my legs felt disconnected from my body. My mind was telling my feet, hips and knees to move but they weren’t responding. I was stuck in dreaded auto pilot, in a slower pace than I wanted, unable to stop and unable to go faster. So I stayed in the pace my body allowed and just kept pushing along.
Nick had completed the half marathon for the Flying Pig the year before, so he knew where the finish line was. As we got closer, he told me that we would see two rolling hills and at the top of the second hill we would be able to see the finish line. As we crested the top of that last hill, there it was: FINISH SWINE in big black and white letters. I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring down my face, I lifted my hands in the air and I screamed with joy. That’s when we started sprinting. The faces of the spectators became blurry as we ran as fast as we could down that hill and all the way to the finish. No finish line has ever felt so rewarding to cross; all those months of hard work had paid off. I completed a marathon!
Once we stopped running, we were wrapped in Mylar blankets while the volunteers put our finisher medals around our neck. Nick gave me a big hug and we thanked each other for the support and the company. I spotted my husband and I ronically, my husband and Nick’s wife and kids were standing just 5 feet from each other.
Those last few miles was one of the hardest things I have ever done; there were so many times I wanted to stop running and just walk. But I knew if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start running again. I ran a full marathon in 4 hours and 58 minutes; just under my goal of 5 hours. I never walked once, and I’m proud of myself for that.
You never know what you are capable of until you are faced with a challenge. I doubted myself a lot more than I should have during this entire process. Running this marathon pushed me to physical and mental limits I didn’t know I had and I surpassed them all, one step at a time. I’ve always been a runner but now I am happy to say – I am a marathoner.