Yesterday, I lied to my wife. She asked me if I was a little bit emotional when I crossed the finish line at the Eugene Marathon and I told her I wasn’t. It wasn’t a total lie, however. Because by the time I crossed the line, I had pretty much gathered my shit together. Back at mile 25 when I finally KNEW that I was going to make it, that’s a different story–yes I was a little emotional. More than a little emotional. I got choked up when people cheered my name, when the little kids stretched out their hands for high 5′s, and when I made the final turn and headed for home on the historic Hayward Field Track. So honey, sorry I lied, I was little bit emotional–but not at the finish line.
When I got to the finish line, I wasn’t feeling so hot either. I must have had this glassy eyed stare because some guy actually made me talk to him before he’d let me leave and get my medal. He asked me if I was OK and I ignored him. So he asked again, a little bit louder so that I knew it wasn’t an optional question. This time I snapped out of it and muttered something in the affirmative. He placed my cool astronaut blanket around me and then he let the cute girl put the medal around my neck.
I’ve been struggling with writing this section for a day or so. How much information do you guys want? I could write every detail, or I could just keep the minutiae for myself. If you get bored, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.
The day was perfect for runningÂ—chilly temperatures, slightly overcast, calm winds. T and I got there in plenty of time to stow our gear, hit the head, line up for the national anthem and take off on our journey through the great town of Eugene.
Here were my goals for the day:
- Finish the race
- Finish under 4 hours (one of my fitness goals for the year)
- Meet my Runners World calculated goal of 3:48 (based on my January half marathon time)
My race plan, coordinated my Pam, was very simple. I was going to run mile 1 at 10-15 seconds slower than my race pace to allow myself to warm up for a bit. Mile 2 was supposed to be 5-10 seconds slower than race pace and the rest of the day was to be at race pace (8:42 min/mile.) Along the way, I would alternate between water and gatorade at each aid station and I would eat 3 shot blocks per hour.
The plan worked great. Miles 1-10 were no problem. I ran mile 1 in 8:55 but struggled to stay slower than 8:45 for mile 2. By mile 3 I was relaxed and settled into my groove and ready to hit 8:42 for the rest of the day. Somewhere around mile 5, I felt a slight little twinge in my right hamstring that freaked me out a little bit. In fact, it freaked me out a lot. It was there all day but never got any worse. I was thankful for that.
I had a lot of time during those early miles to ponder just how far I was planning on running that day. Those thoughts didn’t help me at all, and even though I was running fine, I didn’t feel good in my mind. I wonder if other newbie marathoners feel this way as well. I was able to hit my paces, my body was relaxed, and I just kept running.
Right around mile 10, the half-marathon course splits off from the full and things really started to thin out. There were about twice as many half-marathoners so I no longer was battling for space on the course and that was a good thing. Earlier on, there were definitely some crowded spots where I had to slow down. But maybe that was a good thing for me.
As I crossed the half way point at 1:52, something amazing happened. I was overwhelmed with this feeling of contentment. Nothing hurt, I wasn’t dwelling on the fact that I still had another half marathon to run. Everything just blurred into the background. I could hear my breathing and my feet striking the pavement. I was focused. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been that focused. I tuned out all distractions and just went for it. I hit my paces and fueled at the aid stations and then bam, I was at mile 19.
Things started to get a little bit interesting at mile 19. I started looking at my watch more often. It was starting to take more effort to maintain my pace. If I didn’t check my watch, then I would slow below my pace. It was at mile 19 that I had my first little chat with my head. I told myself:
- That the “WALL” wasn’t supposed to come until at least mile 20.
- That I’ve run this far beforeÂ—3 times in fact.
- That there wasn’t any reason to be slowing down yet.
My mind believed me and I picked up the pace. I also put on my music at this point and it seemed to help me out as well.
Mile 20 came and went, my pace was still strong.
Same with mile 21 and 22.
Mile 23 was my wall. But this wall turned out to be pretty flimsy. Maybe it was made out of cardboard, I don’t know. I wasn’t feeling very chipper anymore, and my pace slowed a bit. I also was feeling some pain in the top of my left foot and outside of my ankle. In fact, this is the sorest part of my body today and it’s more than sore. It’s very hard to walk on it. It was at this point that I had a serious conversation about how little I had left to run. I told myself that there was no reason for me not to accomplish ALL of my goals for the day.
My mind bought into the pep talk and allowed my body to keep running. At mile 24, I was still coaxing my body along, but at mile 25 I could smell the finish. I picked up the pace to the best of my ability and headed for home. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 46 minutes and 51 seconds. My pace for the day was 8:40 minutes per mile.
For a different perspective on how I handled my first marathon, check out Pam’s version.
So now it’s been over 24 hours since I finished the race. I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I’m walking around (stiffly) with a huge grin on my face, internally telling myself that I’m awesome. Maybe even saying out loud when I’m at home. I’m really happy that I was able to accomplish this goal.
The Bad & The Ugly
But my body is wiped out. I can barely walk today. I’ve got blisters all over my toes. I’m sure I’m going to lose at least one nail. My left foot is really sore but I think it’s just a bruise some place. There’s not a part of my body that isn’t sore. Even my arms are sore–who knew you used your arms when running? Honestly, I’m really surprised at how much more sore I am from racing 26.2 than I ever was from just running 20. I didn’t think it would be that much differentÂ—but it is.
Would I do it again? Well let’s just say that I haven’t committed to it yet, but I am leaning more towards “yes” than “no.” Now that I know I can do it, there’s a part of me that wants to know how fast I can do it. We’ll see where I go from here. For now, I’m going to rest and recover. We’ll think about where I’m headed next in a few days.
Take Home Message
So there you have it. I FINISHED A FREAKING MARATHON! The guy who used to weigh 60 pounds more than he does now, who used to struggle to run for more than a few minutes at a time, who hated the way he looked, the way his clothes fit, and the life he was living in front of his kids. Yep, that guy (me) ran 26.2 miles on Sunday. And he did it a full 11 minutes faster than his goal.
Why do I bring that guy up? Because if that guy can do it, then so can you! It doesn’t matter what your “marathon” is. If there’s something you want to do, then make it a priority and get it done. Don’t quit, don’t stop fighting. If you keep telling yourself you’re strong, then one day you’ll actually believe it. How do I know this, because that’s what happened to me.