I did it! On Sunday, January 15th, I ran 26.2 miles to complete my first ever marathon! The race itself had its highs and lows, but I can only look back on it as being a great experience! The soreness I’ve felt the past two days is everywhere, but it was worth it and of course I’m already thinking about when I can do another one.
First, I’ll do a quick recap of the Week 16 training – not much to say – lots of icing, foam rolling, and rest, plus two very easy runs of 30 and 20 minutes, respectively, on Wednesday and Saturday:
On Friday my husband took me to the expo downtown. It was very slow when I went, at 2:00 p.m. on a workday. I imagine it was MUCH busier on Saturday, but I was glad to be there when there wasn’t a crowd. I got my T-shirt and race bib/timing chip, then walked around for about 10 minutes looking at the vendors.
Jeff Galloway was there!
The expo had mille marker signs to direct you through the vendors, so I had a photo op:
I spent the whole week leading up to the marathon trying to eat a decent amount of carbs, protein, and good fats. I’d read several articles that warned not to wait until the night before the race to “carbo-load” because it would be too late by then.
On Saturday night we went out and I had spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian restaurant, then I got all my stuff together and was in bed by 9 with the alarm set for 5.
When the alarm went off, I was NOT thrilled… I’d woken up several times through the night and felt really tired. I also knew it was really cold outside and dreaded the thought of standing out in the cold until the race started. My attitude was not the best first thing in the morning! I had to force down a bagel with peanut butter, because even though I was NOT hungry, I knew I NEEDED the fuel.
My wonderful husband got up too and drove me to the race site and dropped me off around 6:20. Our plan was for me to text him when I hit Mile 20 so that he could make his way to the Finish Line and be there when I ran in. My parents also came in to town, so they were going to head to the Finish Line with him.
I sat down and tried to keep warm and people-watched for a little while until they opened the corrals. We were at the State Capitol building for the start.
I got into the corral near the 4:30 (10:18 minute/mile) pacer, hoping that I could keep up but sure that I’d eventually lose them when it came time to stop at Porta-Potties and whatnot. I took my first PowerBar Energy Gel 15 minutes before race time. I’d used both Gu and the PowerBar energy gels during training, and I’d found that my stomach handled both fine, but the PowerBar version is thinner and easier to get down. Gu is just too thick sometimes.
Mile 1 was congested and slow, no surprise there. Bunches of people got in between me and the 4:30 pacer, and there was lots of weaving around. I spent the first 5 miles focused on keeping the 4:30 pacer in my sights and eventually catching up with him. We were with the half marathoners until about mile 5, at which point we split up. It was a weird feeling that first time, following the “Full” signs instead of the “Half” signs.
I was keeping up with the 4:30 group pretty well in these early miles, and honestly the first 10 miles went by very quickly. If this had been a half marathon it’d have been a piece of cake for me. The weather was very good and the course was changing rapidly in the beginning.
I took my second PowerBar Energy Gel at the Mile 9 water stop, and since I’d stopped to do that, I had to speed up to try and catch up with the pace group again. I kept trying to tell myself to run my own race, and not push too hard just to keep up with that group. In the beginning it was hard to do that.
At the 12-mile marker, I stopped to use a Porta-Potty for the first time, and I lost the pacing group for good at that point. I might have caught up with them if not for…
At around 12.7 miles, guess what came along? I heard a train blowing its horn as I rounded the corner, and I thought, surely there’s not a train coming through the middle of this course? Yep. Several of us waited about 3-4 minutes for it to pass. Yuck! It was a good chance to stretch though, I guess.
I thought prior to the race that passing the 13-mile marker would be a little demoralizing in that if I had been doing a half-marathon I’d be done by then, but instead I was only halfway done. I didn’t really notice it at all though, and felt focused. Porta-Potty stops became frequent – I felt uncomfortable throughout the race, and since there were water stops and Porta-Potties at every single mile marker, I stopped several times to try and regain my comfort, so to speak. I stopped again at Mile 13.
Mile 14 started the last long stretch that would take us basically in a loop to where we’d come back down these same streets again on the way to the Finish Line. It was mostly residential, but the residents in these areas really got into it. The spectators for this race were just great – there were so many, even at the end in the waning miles, and they’d force me to smile and wave which helped mentally.
I took my third PowerBar Energy Gel at Mile 16, and made a pit stop again at Mile 18.
I was feeling pretty tired by Mile 18, and I just kept focusing on getting to mile 20, at which point I could text my husband and have only a 10K left. I was pushing myself to stay under a 10-minute/mile pace to try and make up for all the lost time caused by the Porta-Potty stops and the train. I still held on to a faint hope of catching the 4:30 group, but it was pretty much out of reach.
I had never run longer than 20 miles before, so I just had to take a picture when I saw the Mile 21 marker. Surreal! Another pit stop was made.
I took my fourth and final PowerBar Energy Gel at Mile 22. I was intrigued by getting to this mile, as I’d read many people say Mile 22 was where they hit “the wall.” I don’t think I ever really hit the wall though, even though the last 6-8 miles were just a continual struggle and mental battle. I kept thinking “Only 7 left, only 6 left, only 5 left…” I was desperate to get to the finish but tried to stay positive. I kept thinking about getting to MIle 23 and only having 2 miles left to get to the Mile 25 marker, which my husband and I had seen when he was bringing me to the race start.
I made my FINAL pit stop at Mile 24, and then decided to truck it for the last 2 miles. At the beginning of the race we’d had to come up over this overpass with a rolling climb, and we had to go back over it right before getting to Mile 25. What a challenge! Maybe a Louisiana version of “Heartbreak Hill” (since we don’t have real hills!)?
For that last mile, I couldn’t help glancing at my Garmin every minute or so, counting down the mileage to the end. People were walking down the sidewalks telling us, “Not much longer! Seriously, we’re not even joking!” Mile marker 26 was a sight for sore eyes…
Coming in to the last 0.2 miles, I saw my dad, then my husband, then my mom taking pictures. I almost started crying and got a big smile.
As each person crossed the finish line the announcer said his or her name and where they were from. It was a great feeling!
Chip Time: 4:40:16. My goal had been to finish under 4:45, and even though I didn’t complete my (realistic) dream goal of 4:30, I was very pleased. Especially considering all the stops I had to make and the train.
My body was immediately sore and it hurt to stand or walk. We had to walk several blocks to the car, and then we headed to a burger place to eat. I have to say I had LITTLE appetite. My stomach had been put through the ringer during this race. I ordered a hamburger but could only eat a few bites. My stomach just wasn’t ready. I ended up taking it home and eating it later. I did get a chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s about an hour after trying to eat that hamburger, and was able to drink those calories.
I can only come away from this with positive feelings. Of course I am itching to do it again and beat my time, which I think I can do no problem. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that I ran a marathon, but I did!
I was really thankful that my parents came to see me finish and took us out to lunch, and my husband has been amazing throughout this whole process. For all of my long runs that required ice baths at the end, he’d go and get the ice for me and whatever else I needed. He woke up way earlier than he’s accustomed to in order to get me to the race site, and he drove me around afterwards getting me ice and a milkshake and movies and whatever else I wanted. I love my husband and family!
Here are some race photos from the official photographer that I bought: