The marathon is over. I ran it in 4hrs 24 min and 43 secs. A bit slower than I had hoped, but not too bad considering my very limited running experience. The race was hard (both physically and mentally) and frustrating at times. But it was also fun (at least parts of the first 20 miles). As you can see from the table below I started a little slow, picked up speed (though still not as fast as I would have liked) and then pretty much sucked it from miles 20 through 26. The last .2 I actually ran rather quickly (at least compared to the previous six) and passed a good number of people.
My troubles began when I first got to downtown. It was chilly and I was glad I brought my sweatshirt. I stood in line for about 40 minutes to use the bathroom. I’m glad I did I seriously needed to settle my self down if you know what I mean. From the number of men I saw peeing along side the course (as early as 2 miles in) I’m guessing they needed more bathrooms. Just a little tip: If you can hold it 10 miles or so the lines pretty much disappear. After the “settling down” I headed up to drop off my sweatshirt at the clothing drop. But I didn’t have a bag. Apparently you have to have a bag. Another lesson learned. Luckily among the 13,000 folks getting ready to run I bumped into Bill (one of the two people I know who ran) and he through my stuff in with his.
My next problem was really kind of big. At first it didn’t seem to make any difference where I started as my time was counted until I crossed the line, not when they fired the gun. But as I got stuck behind and between a bunch of folks running much slower than me (about 5:30) it dawned on me how everyone lines up. Fast runners near the front, slower runners progressively further back. The first several miles were spent trying to maneuver around people who were going quite a bit slower than I wanted to run. I was amazed by the numbers of people just throwing their gear (gloves, hats, shirts) on the road as they got warmed up. One note to the marathon folks: Don’t fire off fireworks (lots and lots and lots, they were still going off when I crossed the line at just over 4 minutes) at the start. I was hacking sucking in gobs of smoke and I wasn’t the only one. Good way to start a 26.2 mile run, inhale smoke, have asthma attack, cough and hack.
At about 5 miles I had a good blister going. By 7 miles it hurt bad enough I pulled over and took my shoe and sock off, readjusted both and got back to running. It was frustrating to see the 4:15 pace group go by after I had passed them a few miles back. It took me another 5 miles to catch up to them again. I stayed ahead of them until about mile 22. That pretty much broke my spirit. But I’ll get to that later.
Along the way I was surprised by the number of folks cheering. More than that I was surprised by how much better it felt and how much energy it gave me. Even better was when someone would cheer you by name. Each runner’s first name is printed on the bib in about 1″ high letters. If I were to do this again I’d probably put my name in 2″ high letters it felt so good to have someone cheer me on personally. Of course the french fry guy, who was holding a sign saying “don’t worry you’ll ketchup” along with hordes of other dressed up spectators were a big help too. I saw a lot of the same people every 3-5 miles as they hopped up the course as the person they were cheering passed.
I had a big surprise at about 15.5 miles. My family. They didn’t need my bib to cheer me by name. And Wesley was the only person on the whole course to give me a kiss. It gave me a huge boost seeing them there. Next time (yeah, there’ll be a next time) I’m hoping that with the kids a bit older Amber will be able to hop around the course to see me more than once. If not, I’ll need them more at say 21 miles instead of 15.5.
Miles 21 to 26 were not good. Up until that point I had been feeling pretty good, but I really lost my momentum then. I started getting water just to have the excuse to walk for 25 or 30 steps. Sometimes I’d have two cups at a station. Thats 50-60 steps. When the 4:15 group passed me (I could hear the crowd cheering them on as they approached) I slowed even more. Clearly I was losing time at this point and wasn’t going to make my goal. My pacing had been off since the start because my gps was way off (by a mile at mile 10) and I had pressed too hard (the gps said I was going slower than I was) and now I was out of steam. Next time I’ll use a pace card instead of the gps.
By the time I got up the last hill and I hit that 26 mile mark my mind just clicked in. I’m not sure where it was before, but it wasn’t thinking “I can run this thing and fast”. It was thinking more “I can’t stop or people will make fun of me. Boy this hurts. Where is that water station? This is a long way. Ow!” Even writing this I realize I’m using referring to my brain as it, as if it were separate from me. I should be saying “I was thinking”. But that isn’t how it felt. I felt like my mind and body were separated. It was all I could do to keep my body going and didn’t have time to keep my mind attached and doing what I wanted. But I digress. By mile 26 I realized I was going to finish. I kicked it up and passed about 40 people on my way to the finish. I was actually sprinting. Clearly I had more in me that I wasn’t getting during miles 21-26. Keeping your mind and body working together is critical. Next time. Any way, it felt good to run fast again after 5 slogging miles.
It will be a while before I run another marathon. I think I’ll need two years of regular running to really be able to do my best. I’d like to be able to qualify for Boston. To do that I’ll need to cut more than an hour off my time. I think I’ll be able to do it, assuming I keep up the running (not at training level), run a few more long runs (to get used to “the wall”), and remember a few of the things I learned:
- Write your name in big letters so the crowd can cheer you “personally”.
- Use a pace chart rather than gps. Your stopwatch can’t get blocked by tall buildings or trees.
- Lineup ahead of the pace group running your goal time.
- Stay focused, don’t let your mind get the best of you
- Use the bathroom before the race regardless of how long the lines are
I’d put off writing this post for a couple of reasons. The marathon has taken up so much of my time over the last 5 months that it seemed like I needed to write something important. Plus I had heard from others that finishing their first marathon was a transformative moment. I certainly didn’t feel that way. When I was finished, I just didn’t have to run any more. It didn’t give me the resolve or self confidence to do anything new in my life. For me I guess it really was about the learning to do. The regular, disciplined training schedule meant more to me than the race itself. So I was having a hard time writing something that didn’t seem negative, that had the right weight about it and gave all the people that have been supporting me that “good for him” feeling I thought they deserved. I even made a mind map (be glad I didn’t use it, a post using all that information would have been at least twice as long as this.
What’s next? I hear that a lot. Well one of my friends that ran the race with me thinks we should do a triathlon. It appeals to me. The nice thing about a triathlon is that you can actually practice the full length of each leg. You can practice by doing a 15 mile bike ride or 800m swim for example whereas running a full marathon distance is too risky for most runners (due to high injury rates above 20 miles). I probably won’t be doing a triathlon this summer, due to the bloody high cost of bikes, but I am going to start swimming. I picked up some goggles and swim jammers (think boxer briefs only made out of spandex) and now I just need to get up the guts to go down to the pool and look like I’m drowning. For now I’m just resting. The rule of thumb is to rest 1 day for each mile you raced. So for me that is almost 4 weeks. Then I’ll work in slowly with some short runs until I work back up to a comfortable mileage (I like 8 miles personally) a couple times a week. I’m hoping to add to the runs a couple swims a week and maybe lifting weights 2 times a week or so. Why so much? I like to eat candy.