Well, I did it! I ran my 4th marathon on Sunday, October 9 in Schenectady/Albany, NY. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was pretty nervous about this race because I was admittedly under-trained. I had run about 240 miles in training and my longest run was 16 miles. I had good reason to be nervous.
Things that were in my favor: I ran the Boston Marathon in April, so I hoped some training maintenance had carried over; I’ve been running pretty consistently; I’ve had a bunch of long runs recently; and I have been eating very well over the past few months.
But don’t get me wrong, I know this wasn’t a smart decision. If I didn’t think I was in decent enough shape to do it, I would have bowed out. But deep down, I just knew I’d be all right.
I woke up the morning of the race a few minutes before my alarm with a nervous stomach. Not unusual for me. I got up, ate a giant bowl of oatmeal, had a cup of coffee, and then started hydrating. I tried nuun for the first time for this race and I’ll write a separate post about that.
I ran this race with my friend Lauren – we ran this race together back 2009 as well – my very first marathon. We headed to the start around 7:45 and immediately got in the bathroom line. We took the requisite pre-race photo…
Then we headed to the start, chatted with a few people we knew, and then we were off! It was a very quick start.
Our goal was to keep our pace pretty easy and consistent in the beginning. The adrenaline and the crowd tend to tempt me to pick up my pace. And I knew that especially in this race, with not much training, that could not happen. Our first few miles were still a little faster than we intended:
Mile 1 – 8:47
Mile 2 – 8:37
Mile 3 – 8:30
Mile 4 – 8:34
My parents were around the 4 mile mark cheering and taking some photos. At this spot, they only really got our backs…
We look like we were chatting away. At this point, we both felt great. And as we should, it was the first few miles. We had a gorgeous day for our race, but maybe a little too gorgeous. The beginning temps were perfect, but as the race went on, it got a little bit hot.
We began to try to slow things down after about mile 5:
Mile 5 – 8:32
Mile 6 – 8:50
Mile 7 – 8:51
Mile 8 – 9:01
When we hit our 9 minute mile, I decided that this pace seemed somewhat sustainable and I wanted to try to keep it there for a bit. I was starting to feel a tightness in my left foot and I worried that anything faster would start to take its toll on my body. We also started taking either water or Gatorade at every stop – which was every 2 miles.
Mile 9 – 9:03
Mile 10 – 9:13
A little bit after mile 10, I took my first Gu at the water stop there. I decided to take it around 10 and 20. My body was needing it at the 10 mile mark and I prayed that the caffeine would kick in quick. From mile 10.5 – about 13 we had a few uphills, and it was starting to get hot.
Mile 11 – 9:43
Mile 12 – 9:41
Mile 13 – 9:52
A little bit after mile 13 we saw my parents again, cheering with a big crowd. My mom snapped a few pictures.
We look so cheery! But I think at this point, we were both really feeling a little weary. We knew we were only halfway with a lot more running to go. We said hello and goodbye to my parents and trudged on. We saw Lauren’s whole family at mile 14 and she decided to stop and stretch a bit. She told me to keep moving.
Mile 14 – 9:33
Mile 15 – 9:03
Just after leaving Lauren and around mile 15, I had to deal with the two most annoying marathon runners. The first was a woman who decided to stop and “turn around because she started out way too fast” and apparently had some issues. She turned around to run with (and to my mind torment) two apparent colleagues. How did she torment them (and everyone around her)? By
singing screaming songs on her iPod and random cheers/jeers every 10 seconds. Literally, she did not stop. She was trying to “pump up” these two guys, but really she was just utterly obnoxious. A huge part of me wanted to tell her to shut up, but my better judgement prevailed. However, I passed two other runners who said I should do it because they had wanted to tell her to zip for a while as well.
Thankfully, I was able to pass the obnoxious girl in about a mile or two and get out of earshot, so I didn’t want to rip my hair out. I made it to 16 and then saw my parents again at 17.
Mile 16 – 9:04
Mile 17 – 9:02
I was actually feeling pretty good still… even though the photo makes it seem otherwise. Just waiting for the other shoe to drop and the pain to set in. Oh and I said there were TWO annoying runners. Well, the second was really a group of runners. There was an Asian team of runners, whose apparent Captain seemingly kept them all “motivated” by randomly screaming “WHooo HAA, Whhhoo HAA” in an extremely loud voice. The first time he did this, I thought it was a signal that they wanted to pass so I got nervous and moved over. But no, just randomly every few minutes this guy did this and scared the beejesus out of me. The obnoxious woman and the Whoo-Ha crew actually overlapped their stay in my run for about a mile, and I thought for sure I was being punished for something. Looking back, now I think it was the motivation I needed to keep up my pace and pull away from them. I ditched Screaming Lady and the Who-Ha Crew and trudged on.
Mile 18 – 9:00
Mile 19 – 8:57
After mile 18, we moved onto the main road in Watervliet and it was HOT! No shade, running on the streets with traffic, inhaling some awesome exhaust. My parents were there around just before mile 20, and they said they could tell I was totally faking my smile this time around.
Yeah, I was starting to feel the pain. I’ve got my Gu in my hand here, ready to throw it back at the next water stop, which came just after this photo was taken. I downed my Gu and tried to keep my pace up, but it became tough. By the time I hit mile 21, I was running smack into “The Wall.”
Mile 20 – 9:24
Mile 21 – 9:38
Mile 22 – 9:58
I told myself I needed to make it to the water stop at mile 23 and then I would do something I’ve NEVER done in a race before – I would walk. Desperate times people, desperate times. I know myself. I know my body. And I knew that walking may not be a helpful thing for me because I may NEVER start running again.
I grabbed a water and Gatorade at 23 and started walking. It was a strange new experience, and I fully admit I felt embarrassed. I didn’t want to walk. I wanted to run. But I just couldn’t. I hadn’t trained hard, I needed a break. And I knew I needed to do this to be able to finish at all. But it also HURT. Walking isn’t an immediate relief. It’s just a new kind of pain – maybe a little less intense – but still pretty awful. After about 1/4 of a mile, I tried to start running again, and OH LORD, that was pain.
I managed to get moving and told myself I was allowed ONE MORE walk break.
Mile 23 – 9:58
Mile 24 – 10:53
I decided to take my next break around mile 24.4. This time around, I was prepared for the pain, but again not the embarrassment and even anger I felt at myself. I know people walk in marathons. I’ve run a few, I see it happen. But I didn’t want to do it.
As I was mulling over my guilt, one of the guys handing out water said: “Great job guys. Remember, it’s totally fine to take a break right now. You just have to look good from mile 25 to the end.” I wanted to hug him. I knew he was right. I knew that in the thick of this race, out on the bike path with no spectators, it was completely my time to deal with my pain however I needed. I had every right to walk or even stop if I needed to.
I walked for a little bit longer and then decided around 24.75 I wanted to start-up again.
Mile 25 – 11:43
I started running again at mile 25 and decided that was it. I was going all the way to the end running. I had to force myself not to check my Garmin because it felt like it was taking forever. But finally, I could feel the end and knew I’d see it soon. I tried to pick up my pace and push harder.
As I rounded the last .2 miles, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief very close. And every time this happens in a marathon I want to cry. So as I passed the family and friends lining the final .1 of a mile, I fought back my tears and tried to smile. And then I was crossing the finish!!
Mile 26 – 9:40
.25 – 2:10
Final Time: 4:04:59
It was my slowest marathon so far, but I didn’t care in the least. I wasn’t fully prepared and was happy to just finish it without any injuries. Not every race is going to be your best, and not every race will allow you to prepare like you want. But I was extremely proud of my will to power through the pain and finish strong.
And I can NOT say enough thank yous to my family and friends cheering during this race. My parents were literally everywhere, and even at mile 20 when I didn’t want anymore photos and could barely crack a smile, I was still so happy to see them.
And that’s all folks – my fourth marathon is done! Hurray!