A fellow blogger, the dear Meridith from Scoot A Doot was recently contemplating signing up for her first full marathon. I encouraged her in the comments of her blog and she wanted to see a race recap of my first full. As I ran that race, pre blog, I didn’t have one, but promised to write about the experience….so here it is.
So about 4 years ago…in May 2010…I ran my first (and currently, only) full marathon.
I ran the Fargo Marathon in Fargo, North Dakota. It was where I ran my first half marathon in 2007 and I couldn’t think of a better place to run my first full, than the same place where I had so much fun running my first half. As an aside, if you ever want to do a fun, small-ish race, do Fargo. It’s affordable, flat, gives you great shwag and has wonderful crowd support. Oh and did I mention that it is flat. 🙂
I wanted to run a marathon before I turned 30. It was some strange thing that I wanted to do, no matter how injured I was…and yes, I started my training injured. See I messed up my ankle on a pothole in Minneapolis in May 2009, ran a half marathon 6 days later as my injury was misdiagnosed and I was given the go ahead to run. In the end, it didn’t quite heal properly, leading me to some body compensation and thus some major ITBS problems that required 4 months of physio, cupping, massage and acupuncture. Note: in retrospect, I think it was stupid to start training for my first full when I was injured. lol.
I was in good shape when I had started though, and ready to take on the challenge, even with the injury and against my dad’s, a very experienced marathoner, advice. I had decided that, since I didn’t have any running friends at the same goals/pace as me, I would join The Running Room and run with a mutual friend, now one of my dearest friends, Oliver, who was running the marathon clinic at my nearest Running Room location (btw, for those of you who don’t know, Running Room is simply a running store across Canada and a few places in the U.S.).
The Running Room’s training program instructs runners to follow a run 10, walk 1 program, for the entirety of the race. After training that way for the marathon, I realized it wasn’t for me. The constant stops messed with me finding my flow and also made me horribly sore and a far slower runner. The only really great part of doing a clinic at the Running Room was meeting some lovely people, including Oliver.
The training was hard (duh). It happened over winter/spring season in Winnipeg–and when you are running outdoors in a place with -40 degree temperatures, you know it is going to be difficult. It really was all mental–especially since I am not a morning runner to begin with–getting up at 6:30am on Sunday mornings to run 10 plus miles in cold temps was just hard.
I also learned a lot during those sessions. I learned:
- to always take a bathroom break when the opportunity is presented to you on a training run.
- how to run with a group of people (as I have always been a solo runner and still am for the most part).
- I cannot handle any sort of liquid or nutrition during a long run. It causes me to get massive stitches in my side and feel horrible.
- donating blood the day before running 20 miles for the first time in your life is a bad life choice.
- how to pull out the clasp part of a bra from one’s back after 20 miles of chafing and clotting (the answer is warm compresses and something to bite down on as it’s ripped out of your back). I still have the scars on my back from that last one.
- coffee, be it iced or hot, is the best, post run recovery drink, along with a few glasses of water and finally,
- how to trip, fall, roll and end up back on your feet like a ninja without anyone really noticing that you bit it or breaking your iPod, was one of the most valuable.
I think the worst part of the training, for me anyway, was the amount of time it all took. 3-4 hours every Sunday, plus all of the runs during the week, the foam rolling, the physio, the stretching, the meal planning…it took a lot out of me. Especially when I had a rather demanding job in politics at the time. The running was hard, too, don’t get me wrong…but I would’ve been running anyway…it was the lack of “chill time” that I really missed–like having brunch with friends on a Sunday morning, or just one of those days where all you want to do is putter around the house. But I digress.
So now onto the race. It was a miserable day. It was warm, humid, storming and incredibly windy at times. There were floods in the area so the route had been changed to go around the flood waters. I ran without my sunglasses (massive mistake) and my music (didn’t really miss it). I wore a tank top and relatively new shorts…apparently running in those shorts for 10 miles was fine…running in them for a very wet 26.2 not such a good idea. Hello Chaffe monster!
I was running ok until mile 4…that is when my ITBS related knee pain emerged. As the pain increased, I started to get really emotional. I knew my 4 hour time goal was toast if I was feeling THIS much pain at ONLY mile four, and well, I am in THIS much pain at mile 4?! By mile six, I knew I was in trouble and needed an extended walk break. I couldn’t hold back the tears of pain and disappointment anymore. I encouraged my friend Oliver to continue on with the rest of the group (he was pacing us) and I decided to do the best I could and simply aim to finish.
After I calmed down , I embraced the experience and the support of the crowd. I got hugs from strangers, and even some beer and beads (without having to flash anyone, I might add) and people cheered for me and encouraged me throughout the way. I’m sure it was because they could see the pain and disappointment on my face, but the impact of that support was amazing. It made finishing seem possible.
The weather changed multiple times throughout that race…from rainy and stormy to hot and sunny, to windy to the point where it was blowing up the gravel and sand from the just finished winter and blowing it into your face (why I missed my sunnies) and attacking your bare legs. The fact that the weather was so out of control motivated me to run a bit more and shorter walk breaks.
When I got down to that last mile, with the finish line (aka The Fargo Dome) in my sights, I ran as fast as my achy body would allow.
I finished in 4:25:10.
That time was nowhere near my goal, but better than I had expected given how badly the race spiralled. Post race, I vowed to do another marathon, but I would train for it my way. No 10 and 1s.
I have yet live up to my vow as of yet. Unlike my first half marathon experience, when I was eager to sign up for my next race, the Marathon left me humbled, exhausted, mighty sore and not super eager to do another Marathon real soon. That has changed over the past 18 months or so…the desire to run a full is coming back. I plan on living up to my vow, of training for a full and doing it my way – ie no 10 and 1s. I just don’t know the “when” yet.
I promise though, that it will, 110%, happen one day, and hopefully sooner than later…even with my unfriendly to training job. 🙂 Hopefully I will mark this second marathon milestone at a big race like Disney, NYC, Twin Cities or Chicago. I mean, a girl can hope, right?
So as Meridith begins her journey to completing her first full marathon, I wish her happy, safe training and a cool, wind free, wall-less race day.