Running My First Marathon: The Good, The Bad & The Wall

My First Marathon

This weekend, I ran my first full marathon. This time last year, the most running I did was to the pantry to get another cookie. I wouldn’t call myself a runner, but after 850 miles, I guess I am a runner by default. I don’t hate running as much as I used to; it now ranks above going to the dentist and 8-hour staff meetings. After running my first two half marathons earlier this year, I wanted to complete the Beach Cities Challenge (run all three Orange County races) and earn the extra golden clam medal (so.many.jokes.). My running buddy and I decided that since we’ve finished two half marathons, we should try to run a full. After all, what’s another 13.1 miles? (A LOT actually).

[RELATED: Half Marathon Training Tips For Beginners: Confessions of a Non-Runner]

A few days before the race, I got an email from the race organizers that they were expecting a heat wave that weekend, and this race was probably not the best to try for a PR. Not an issue, as my goal for the race, was to cross the finish line AND have all ten toenails intact. (Of course, as soon as I started, I wanted to beat the 4:15 mark, darn you competitive nature). My running buddy and I had trained all through the summer, and only one run was really bad; it was an 18-mile long training run, it was 8 degrees outside, and we almost didn’t make it. I’d done a solid 22 mile run during training so I was confident that my training and the adrenaline from the race would cancel out the hot weather. (It didn’t).

I’m happy it’s over and that I didn’t die, though, at times it certainly felt like I wasn’t going to make it. Now that it’s a little check mark off my 40 by 40 List, and I’ve declared that I’d never, ever run another one, here are some thoughts into my first marathon experience.

 

marathon-pre-raceMarathon Pre-Race

No matter how many times you use the restroom before (five times), you’ll have to go again as soon as the gun goes off. At least the porta potties aren’t as bad in the beginning.

I take half my extra strength 5-hour energy, set my Nike+ App, and we’re off!

Mile 1

You’ll have the urge to run faster than your regular pace. DON’T DO IT. It’s tempting because the adrenaline is pumping, you’re fresh, and there are hundreds of people running around you. It’s crowded and uncomfortable. The best thing you can do is to keep your pace at this point. The people will thin out soon enough.

Mile 3

I’m not sure I feel the effects of the 5-hour energy and I’m tired of having it in my belt, so I drink the second half. I don’t ever drink caffeine so that should last me through the rest of the race, right? Um…wrong.

Mile 6

Wait, what? Mile 6 already? Shoot, I could run another 50 miles. I feel great! Some guy is offering us donuts on the side of the road…I hate saying no to donuts, so I promise myself that I’ll get one after the race. And pizza. And ice cream.

Mile 11

Temperature is about 80 degrees already, and I’m eyeing the half marathoners who’ve just split off with envy. They only have 2 miles to go…I still have another 2 miles and another half marathon to run. No worries, I still feel good, my pace is on point, and I’m passing the 4:25 pacer with ease. The crowd has thinned way down and so it’s just me and the road ahead. Maybe I’ll run a bit faster and skip the next walk interval.

(Tip: Don’t do that and drink more water).

Mile 16

It’s getting really hot. I’m getting tired. Only sleeping 4 hours the previous night is catching up with me (I had to work). I went from stopping at every other water/electrolyte station to accepting one cup of each at every station. Knowing that I had to keep hydrated, even if that meant braving the disgusting porta potties, I continue. No ma’am, I don’t want that donut, but thank you for offering. During a walk interval, I switch my music to something faster, and since I’m on my phone, I update my Facebook status (because it may be my last post should I not survive this. I’m more tired than I’d admit at this point).

first-marathon-tips

I give in to the energy gels they keep handing us. Originally, I wasn’t going to take any more energy lest I get a stomach ache later, but I’m starting to feel a bit low and a bit emotional.

Mile 18

Every marathon runner I know says they hit “the wall” somewhere between mile 18-20. I refuse to believe it and I keep telling myself over the pounding EDM music in my ears that I will not hit the wall and that people only hit the wall because everyone is telling them that they will hit the wall. I.WILL.NOT.HIT.THE.WALL.

Mile 20

I hit the wall.

Mile 22

I tell my running buddy to go on without me. The sun is burning my back. It’s 90 degrees at this point. The sunblock I put on at 5:30 am is non-existent now at 9:45 am. I’m walking more than I’m running, and all I want is the damn banana they hand you when you cross the finish line. I refuse to take another energy gel and the stupid Nike+ app keeps informing me that my pace is slowing. I hate every song that comes on, and I’m hungry. And grumpy.

I am feeling a bit light headed at this point and no matter how much water and electrolyte drinks I consime, I’m not sweating anymore. That’s probably not a good sign. Luckily, there are spectators with buckets of ice. I grab handfuls and put it down my sports bra. I’m never running another marathon again.

Mile 24

I want to call my boyfriend and tell him I quit. The marathon and half marathon tracks meet again, and there are more people around me. We are all walking, and all look exhausted. We are starting to hit the downtown area again, and I force myself to run the length of every stoplight – which is about 100 yards or so. Just two more miles to go…

Mile 24.3

This is the longest mile ever.

Mile 24.5

How am I still running mile 24?

Mile 24.7

Where the hell is the mile 25 marker?! Did I miss the mile 25 marker?!

Mile 25

Okay, there it is. Just one more mile, I tell myself. I am starving at this point, and I have no energy left. There are two energy gels in my pocket, but I don’t want them. I want the banana. I should run, but I want to finish strong, so I walk a bit faster. My legs and butt are burning, and I hate this song. I hate my life.

Mentally, I keep telling myself that I’m doing great; You’ve got this, girl! You’re awesome! Almost done! You’re gonna be so proud when it’s over.

SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! I feel bipolar at this point, and I never want to hear EDM music again.

IMG_9016Mile 26

Yes! Only 0.2 miles to go. That’s it. I should be able to see the finish line, but I don’t. The crowd thickens, and I force myself to run. I turn to the guys next to me and say, “Where the f**k is the finish line?!?!” I am assured it’s around the corner and down the hill. It’s the longest 0.2 miles of my life. I run pass everyone, still with no energy, but a renewed sense of purpose. My legs are burning, and I just want the freaking banana and some cold water. And to not run anymore. Ever.

 

Finish

I cross the finish line and make sure to smile for the picture (looking at the photo afterward, it was definitely not a smile – more of a dazed look). Where’s my banana? I look everywhere for one as people are handing me medals and bags and drinks. I just want the banana, which is finally handed to me at the end of the line. I stop right in my tracks, put everything down in front of me, people behind me be damned. It was the best banana ever.

My final time was 4:34:12. Not the time I (unofficially) wanted, but I accomplished my original goal – all ten toenails still in place.

My official "place" in comparison to everyone else. 685th place. Wahoo!

My official “place” in comparison to everyone else. 685th place. Wahoo!

The Next Day

Even after a few shots of Glutamine, I’m still walking like the Penguin from Gotham. I hang my double medals up on my board with the others and plan my next marathon because that’s what we runners do.

Hey, it’s better than a trip to the dentist.

Hanssie
Hanssie is the Communications Director for fitted. In her free time, she runs marathons to get medals, counts the days until her next cheat meal (as well as her macros), rescues big dogs and blogs about the divorced life when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and follow her on her various social media sites (below).

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