The first half marathon I ever did, I had not properly trained. I still managed to finish in a decent time (2:15), but I swore to myself I’d never run another half again. Fast forward a year later, and I was running the same half and–what?–enjoying it! Oh, the effect that proper training and support can have.
Yesterday I completed the Atlanta Marathon. I remember my best friend in college, Chelsea, running a marathon our senior year and thinking to myself, “There’s no way in hell I could ever run 26.2 miles.”
It was pretty chilly yesterday morning (definitely not as chilly as today, though, thank goodness). Sean and I got up at about 5:00, ate a quick breakfast, and made our way to Atlantic Station at 5:45. We weren’t in a rush because he was going to drop me off, do some stuff around the house, and then cheer me on as I crossed the finish.
I got into my corral (Corral B! I felt like they thought I’d be fast or something) at about 6:45 and Sean saw me off across the start. I didn’t feel as nervous as I expected (I was visibly shaking when at the start of my first tri) and warmed up almost instantly. The first 10 miles felt almost effortless. I managed to keep a positive attitude even though my GPS was telling me I was going way too fast.
I started my first mile at about an 8:30 pace–way too fast for me. The next 12 or so miles, I was trucking along at around 9:00 miles. I knew I needed to slow down to have enough energy to last throughout, but it was almost like I didn’t know how. I ate a few Shot Bloks (solid calories) along the way and managed to swallow an Accel gel at mile 8 (gels just don’t go down well for me, but I knew I needed it).
Between miles 18-20, I could feel the energy draining out of my body and I knew I needed calories. I had been taking Powerade every other fluid stop and had eaten about half of my Shot Bloks. I freaked out and ate the rest of my Bloks over the next 2 miles and stole some Jolly Ranchers from a roadside table (sorry!). I reached the next fuel station at mile 20 and had 2 Accel gels.
That was stupid. I had loaded myself with most the calories I took during the race within 2 miles. It was all I could do not to throw up on myself. It didn’t help that I kept thinking about slimy gels oozing back up my throat and the multi-fruit flavor of the vomit I’d probably spew (key lime, raspberry, strawberry, cherry mixture).
I knew my friend Amy, an avid runner would be between mile 20 and 22 with a massage stick and water. I kept looking on the side of the road thinking every skinny girl in a coat was Amy. I’m sure people thought I was crazy. I finally found her around mile 22, got a quick drink of water, massaged my calves, and soaked in some motivation. Before the race, she asked me if it was ok for her to come since some people apparently are weird about having other be there for their race. It was like heaven seeing Amy at mile 22. I don’t think I would have finished as strong and with a positive attitude had I not heard her say, “You’re doing so well! You’re on pace to hit your goal!”
I recommend having a cheering section on the later miles during your first marathon. I’ll let you borrow Amy, if you want. 🙂
The final 10 miles were really hilly (my friend Phil, also an avid marathoner, warned me about them). I took a few walking breaks on the uphills to assess where I was physically and mentally. I wanted to run the whole thing, but I’m glad I took walking breaks my first time. Those hills were killer, too! Also, with the run-walk method I finished before a lot of people who spent a lot of energy trying to book it up the hills. In the end, I was glad I conserved my energy.
It got chillier as the race went on, it seemed. I had to put my hood back on and stick my hands in my sleeves. It was a little drizzly out, so that probably didn’t help. I felt the most bad for the police officers at EVERY intersection. I tried to thank as many as I could since they were probably even colder than I was. There were a lot of people who were helping motivate others, which I found inspiring. One man in a Hammer Nutrition race suit was keeping a good pace alongside me for a few miles. We passed a guy with a 3:45 pace tag who was obviously behind his pace. His head was down and he was walking. The Hammer guy jogged beside him and said, “Keep that head up. We’re so close to the end. You’ve got this.” They jogged away together talking for a while. I thought that was pretty awesome. The Hammer guy was also thanking every police officer and volunteer who was there. I want to be more like that when I race next time.
Just as we crossed mile-marker 25, another finished who was walking home said, “It’s just one more up and then you’re downhill and home-free the rest of the mile!” I was glad to hear that! I got back on my 9:00 mile pace for that last mile. Sean was there cheering me on (though I was so focused on finishing, I didn’t see or hear him)!
I crossed the finish line at clock time of 4:25. Not bad for my first time and under my 4:30 goal. I got the coveted marathon blanket, which I now realize is a necessity. I sweat so much that I was shivering until we got home and got me in a hot bath. I was super dehydrated that first hour afterward, so I drank a lot of fluids. I didn’t feel like eating, so I munched on pickles in the bathtub. When I got out, Sean had made me an egg and cheese English muffin. Yum.
I sat around with my cats, took a nap, and was lazy the rest of the day. It was wonderful. Sean and I made brownies and had them with vanilla ice cream. We watched The Hunger Games and went to bed early. After my first half I swore I’d never do another long run, but I can say after my first marathon, I can’t wait to train for the next one!
I’ll post marathon pictures when I get them!