My first marathon -The highs, the lows and what’s next?

Well.. I did it.  I signed up for my first marathon, I trained for it, and I finished it.

And it was much harder than I ever imagined.  I guess I never really understood what it’s like to keep running when your body is telling you that you’re done.  It’s truly a case of mind over matter.  Even in the two training runs where we covered 20 miles, I always felt pretty decent along the way.  And when those runs were over, I could go on with my day whether it was working, driving kids around, you name it.  That was not the case after Sunday’s 26.2.

The morning sure started out fun.  As we were standing at the starting line, my friend Tzivia (a seasoned marathoner)  reminded me that a marathon is just something to do between breakfast and lunch.  I still smile when I think about that.

But truly, I am so grateful I started running a few years ago and for so many reasons, including the fact that it’s brought such incredibly inspiring people into my life.

The pre-race time spent hugging and laughing with my friends could not have been better. And I brought my video camera just to keep me occupied, so I wouldn’t be so nervous.

But then it was time for the camera to go off, the starting horns to blow and the journey I had trained so hard for, to begin.

Off we went.  The sun was shining. It was beautiful for the start. Not too hot and not too cold.  We cruised through miles 3, 4, 5 and on.  Check out how happy I was as I passed my family and dear friends at mile nine.  Thank you to my friend Lisa for shooting this video.

Yep, I was feeling like a million bucks, ready to stay in front of the 3:40 pacer.

Then I hit a hill somewhere after Lake Nokomis (I don’t even remember where exactly) and I started cramping in my right hamstring.  I had never run with cramps before.

And to think I still had double-digit miles ahead was almost more than I could bear.  But I know what causes cramps: dehydration.   That’s when I realized my attempts at drinking while running up to this point obviously weren’t working.  I wasn’t getting enough fluids.  I was going to have to slow down and drink more.  There was no way I was going to be able to continue at the same pace.  Off went the 3:40 pace guy slowly out of vision.  Off went my fantasy of 3:40-3:45 finish.  And I was totally cool with that. At least I was still running.

Between mile 16 and 17, my friend Laura spotted me.  She must have noticed that I wasn’t doing so hot.  She came running up behind me with words of encouragement, reminding me to run tall and strong. Her unexpected presence at that moment was like a gift from above.

Then I saw the Mile 17 Markers and thought “Awesome” another opportunity to get Powerade and water.  But it was a big psyche.  All they were offering at this milestone was Gu.  I felt like crying, except I was so dehydrated I don’t think my body could have produced a tear.

Somewhere along this stretch, the extraneous noise was also starting to get to me.  I’m the person who never runs without music. And when I hit the Tarrytown banner and party at mile 10, I got chills from all of the energy. It was unbelievably awesome.

By mile whatever teen, the noise was starting to wear on me.   I actually turned off my iPod and picked up my pace a little just to get away from some of the blaring music along West River Road.  I don’t want to say I am not grateful for everyone who was out there cheering, it’s just interesting how you mentally reach a certain point where you just need to focus on each step and everything around you starts to distract you from your mission at hand.

My friend Linda happened to be standing right at the beginning of the bridge to St. Paul. Her wave and smile helped get me over that hump.

And when I saw the blow-up “Wall”,  I reassured myself the key to finishing was going to be my friend Julie’s advice to walk through each water stop.   And so I did, grabbing a Powerade and three waters (2 to drink and 1 to pour over my head) at each stop.

What started out as nice weather, started feeling uncomfortably hot.

I had planned to take my third and final Gu at this point.  But the idea of trying to get it down nauseated me. I also tried taking a few bites of a banana and that didn’t go so well either.   Then the gal in front of me pulled out her Sports Beans.  And I was disappointed I didn’t bring mine.  I typically used them on the super hot training days and I guess I didn’t think the heat would be a factor.

Oh well.. I had to move on so I just started repeating to myself,  “Get ‘er done, Get ‘er done, Get ‘er done.  Walking would hurt just as much as running at this point, and it would only extend the length of discomfort, keep going!”.

And for those who left notes on Facebook, I thought about each and every one of you as well. You were in my head telling me to keep going.

Thankfully, I also saw a few more Dasher Splasher friends between miles 21 and 24.  You know who you are.  Just seeing your smiles gave me extra fuel.

Then I saw the downhill stretch to the Capitol and finish line.  That may have been one of my favorite moments of the whole race. Crossing the finish line ranks up there too.

And I actually thought I felt pretty good until I stopped running and walking.   Then it hit me.   All of the sudden I got light headed and my legs became so sore I could barely walk.

I just wanted to lie on the grass and curl up.

That’s when my friend, Tzivia appeared like a fairy Godmother.  She crossed the finish line a few minutes earlier than I did and she was by my side ready to take care of me.  You would have never guessed she just finished a marathon with a PR.   After getting me chocolate milk, and other salty treats… she could see I was still weak. So she called my family, grabbed my marathon finisher shirt and made sure I was escorted safely to the medical tent.

Spa Treatment

At first I was embarrassed to be taken in a wheelchair to the med tent, but I got over that quickly.  The place was hopping, but the service was extraordinary.  I felt like a VIP as a sports trainer fed me soup from a straw while a physical therapist stretched my legs. Of course, they asked how the marathon went.  I laughed about PR’ing the half.  The guy next to me chuckled and said he did too. And look where we both ended up.  Next to each other in the med tent.

So what’s next? the doctor in the medical tent asked me how many marathon’s I had run. I told him this is my first. He asked if I was going to do another one? I said, that’s like asking a woman right after child-birth if she is going to have another baby.

Then it was time to give up my lawnchair and get back on my feet for the half mile walk to the car.  Dear hubby and dear friend Jill helped me each step of the way.  Hubby just kept saying how good the walking was for me.  I just kept thinking, “Are we there yet? I’ve already run a marathon, do I really need to walk another half mile to the car?”

Then later Sunday afternoon when I started to feel better, the controversy arose about my time.

From the beginning I joked that I just wanted to beat my hubby’s 1997 marathon time of 3:58:46.  That was his first and only marathon.  Well, if you go by my chip time I beat him by more than 2 minutes with a 3:56:32 .  But he says since they didn’t have chip times or chips for that matter back in 1997, we should use my clock time of 3:59:38 to compare.  And in case you don’t know us, this is all in good fun. But because our times ended up being so close, it may provide just the fuel I need to run another marathon.

And 48 hours after the race, I am already starting to feel much better. And the idea of running actually sounds appealing, not awful.

So if I am ever to sign up for another marathon, here are a few things I would do differently.  I have no regrets about how I ran my first marathon, but I think I could run my next one smarter.

  •  I’ll take a few more walking breaks to hydrate in the first half.   I think just three :30 second slow downs to drink could have helped me feel 100 times better.  I think I would have gotten more water in my body as opposed to just little sips. I’m only guessing here.
  •  I’ll pack my pack my sports beans.  Just because they taste good and they make me feel like I’m hydrating.
  • I’ll add a third water bottle to my belt.

I thought maybe there would be this huge let down after training so hard for something and then realizing it’s over.   I’m not feeling that yet, just a sense of “okay, that’s done, what’s next?”

How about you? How did you feel after your first marathon?