My first marathon…a recap
Dating back to last December I ran my first half marathon in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I had done some training leading into my run but was very much a novice runner. I made a deal with myself in late August that by the end of the year I would accomplish the task. I started running and realized quickly that I had some work to do. I was doing one long distance run a week, no plan on which day, just the idea that I needed to accumulate some volume. More than half of my runs were performed on a treadmill. Like anything it got better with time. 2 miles led to 4 which multiplied to 6 and 10 miles. I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale in December and decided it was time to go. I mapped out my run and headed out, alone. For the first 6.6 miles I was holding below 8:00/mile average. As I turned back to retrace my steps the heat, lack of fueling and hydration quickly became a factor. I remember not being able to escape the sun that lay over top of me. I finished that run in 1:51:43, holding an average mile time of 8:31. It was challenging, but there was room for improvement.
As the new year approached, I started playing with the idea of running a full marathon. Why? Simply because I knew it would be uncomfortable for me to do. I have grown up as an athlete usually sprinting or doing the occasional gym class mile, but I would never consider myself a distance runner. I prided myself on my strength and speed. Since college until now I have trained to become bigger, faster, and stronger.
So why the shift?
Because I am extremely interested in the human body and pushing it to extremes, and because there is more to life than lifting weights. It was time to start my training as a hybrid athlete. I want to keep my strength but challenge my body aerobically. Marathon training seemed like the perfect challenge.
In my mind I planned to run a marathon in the first half of 2022. I did not sign up for anything off the rip because my schedule can become a bit scattered at times. Despite the hectic schedule I had made my decision that I needed this challenge to push my body and mind to feel uncomfortable. With the help of some colleagues, I mapped out my plan…
Sunday: movement/recovery (yoga)
Monday: upper body strength
Tuesday: Speed workout/heavy lower body
Wednesday: upper body strength
Thursday: Lower body
Friday: Total body
Saturday: Distance Run
For 16 weeks (about 3 and a half months) I stuck to this plan…. despite some necessary changes due to schedule and tapering.
I stayed consistent making sure to never miss my distance runs. As the weeks rolled on the volume and time commitments increased. Along the way I ran and PR’d my half marathon time twice. 1:48 and 1:42. I started to see improvements in time and fluidity during my runs. With the marathon approaching I was feeling good. The travel schedule of my job created a lot of fatigue, but I always made sure to get my work in.
I was ready!
May 29th, 2022. Buffalo Marathon day! You could not have asked for a better day. The weather was in the mid 60’s and by the time the race ended we had entered the mid 70’s. The race started and I am feeling great. 3 miles in we have our first water station and I decided to skip over it (since most of my training was done without water). I breezed past the next 4 miles and hit my first water station. As instructed, I walked through the water station and got my drink, giving myself a small recovery as well as a chance to drink the water and my gel packet. The miles continue…. approaching mile 10-13 I still feel strong, I am holding a below 8:00 pace like training. The energy is great. I am reflecting on moments of training alone and how much work and sacrifice have gone into running to get to this point. As we approach 13.1 the half marathoners go left and full marathoners head right. I see my time 1:43. I have multiple thoughts that run through my head. First one being, oh shit this is halfway! The second one being Oh shit! I have another 13.1 to go.
As I approach mile 14, I start to feel my hamstring on my left leg tighten up…. I am thinking to myself there is no way…..I have not cramped thru any of my training. A few more steps I am forced to stop as my hamstring locks up. I crease at the hips to stretch my hamstring. I begin to run again…. quickly the hamstring locks right back up…. I am thinking no way this can be happening. I start to walk and jog…. walk and jog….it begins to get worse. In my head I know I must get to the next water station to get some Gatorade and water to alleviate my cramps. As I approach mile 15, I have hit close to a 12-minute mile. I got to the water station and hit a few waters and Gatorade. I press on…As I begin to run, I start to feel my calf on my right side getting tight. In and out my muscles begin to cramp. Again, I am forced to walk/jog. Working to stretch my calf…nothing is helping….in fact it is getting worse. Both calves are now locked up. I approached the next station and talked to the medics. I let them know what is going on. They handed me some pickle juice and salt tablets telling me this should help with the cramping. I quickly got back to the course and began to jog again. Right away the cramps come back in both calves and hamstrings. I can barely walk, but
I cannot give up. At this moment I start to feel embarrassed. How can this happen? I have done the training. I have fueled up like every other run. I slept decently the night before. It is warm, but I have trained in hotter weather. I am looking for solutions. For the next 5 miles it is a consistent run/walk stopping at each station to get more pickle juice, Bio freeze, salt tablets, clementine’s
, bananas, anything that I can get my hands on. I started to think about my mom. (Last August my mom had a stroke and has been working her ass off to recover. I think about the times I push her and tell her I need her to work harder or walk correctly. Deep down I know she is giving it her best. How can I ask my mom to give me more, but in a moment like this I start to feel sorry for myself? My mom would do anything to be able to walk without a cane again. Inside this moment of reflection, I know I cannot give in.) I start to run. Not at my fastest pace, but at a consistent pace. My body is on the verge of cramping. My muscles in my back are tightening, my legs are tightening, but I did not go this far to not finish. What is six more miles? At a micro level it may have seemed daunting, but at a macro level I have done this before. I started to chip away. Step by step, mile by mile. I am continuing to hit each station along the way to stay fueled and hydrated. I am battling, but I am not going to stop. I approach mile 24 and the end is in sight.
The final two miles. I started to gain some pace again. My last two miles were my best on the backside of the marathon. I see the homestretch. Volunteers and supporters all cheering us on. I have tunnel vision. I am about to complete my first marathon. I am soaking it all in. Did this all go as planned? Certainly not, but that life. I put the work in, but I clearly made some mistakes along the way. As the cheers get louder, I cross the finish line. I have done it! I finished my first marathon. All the time, lonely miles, sacrifice, training, late nights, early morning. I enjoyed it all. Am I proud of myself? Certainly! Am I satisfied? Absolutely not. After giving myself some time to think about it I know I will be back! Until then I have some other goals to attain. When the time does come, I have time in mind. 3:30. Il hold myself to it!
Time to chase something else.
As always thanks for reading.