On Sunday, September 30th, a little before noon —I feel in love with marathons.
But let’s back up a bit. On Saturday evening, I took a quick plane ride up to Elmira (where the race was), and killed the 30 minutes in the air by writing down some notes to remember on race day…
After getting picked up at the airport by Laura and Brad, we tried to find dinner. Howeveeer, the small town of Corning pretty much triples in population on marathon weekend, so the three restaurants that take up the town had huge waits. We opted for a just-as-delicious trip to Wegmans, and then fell asleep at our hotel to the sounds of Spirit of the Marathon in the background. (But actually.)
I kept waking up in the middle of the night (WEIRD racing dreams) and then abruptly greeted my “friendly” alarm so I could have enough time to eat something, change, freak out a bit, and get down to the start.
The walk to the start was BEAUTIFUL, and I was soaking in the surroundings while simultaneously worrying we’d miss the start. (Rookie racer=not knowing that bag check-in takes 2 seconds.) We still made it to the line with a few minutes to spare, and since this was a small race, the atmosphere was super relaxed. There wasn’t even a gun…the announcer just casually said “alright, well…go!”
And so we did.
My race strategy was this: Go out slow. Very slow. After six of so miles of 840’s-9 minute pace, speed up…just a bit. By mile 10, bring it down to low 8’s. Then for the last 10K, kill it.
I pretty much was having an internal argument with myself the whole entire race — but especially the beginning. Jocelyn told me over and over and over not to go out too fast. (One of my huge issues, I suck at pacing sometimes.) She warned me I would feel like I was walking, but to just TRUST it was the right move. So I stuck behind the 3:45 pacing group for the first 10K. Half of me was on cloud-9 (cloud 4.5?) but I literally felt like I was jogging and wanted SO badly to speed up. My thought process went something like this:
“This is ridiculous. I want to speed up.”
“Jocelyn will kill you.”
“I feel too good. I can maintain sub 8-s the whole time NBD..”
“You’re an idiot. You have HOURS to go and your legs will get tired.”
“Jocelyn will kill you.”
“After the 10K you can speed up a LITTLE. Then at mile 10, fine…go. Haul ass.”
I kept this inner-dialogue up for pretty much the first 10 miles, which (luckily) happened to fly by. The scenery was beautiful, the crowd quaint and lovely, and the weather near perfect (high 50’s). I went through the 10K in 52:30ish (8:30 pace, still a little fast) and then dropped my pace down to 8:20’s until reaching mile 10. Then, I went.
(Keep your head up, Laur!)
The hardest part about your first marathon is you really have no idea how to run one. I quickly learned races that distance take experience — they take knowing how your body is really going to feel. Since I was injured, my training was thrown off and I only fit in a few long runs before a pretty serious taper. I had little to no idea how my legs were going to react to the distance at the pace I was going — would I get tired at mile 15? Mile 20? Never?! Should I speed up since I was feeling good, or still conserve? How the heck do I know how fast to go without “hitting the wall”?! Or do I just push through it?! I was pretty much a mental case throughout the entire race, wondering when my legs would start to “feel it” and when this would get ridiculously hard. I still had no idea if I was going too fast or too slow. I needed to shut myself up.
I went through the half in 1:50. Exactly where I wanted to be. Now I just had to pick it up a bit and maintain. It was at that point that I realized I could BQ (Boston Qualify).
I was ecstatic.
Aside from my back-and-forth case of the crazies, I was also overjoyed. My body felt amazing and I was thinking about how incredibly lucky I was to be running and feeling as strong as I did. I looked at my surroundings and saw hillside after hillside of amber leaves and misty ponds — I was in my element. (I also had gatorade all over my shirt and gu stuck on my hands, meaning I was a literal mess, and therefore doubly in my element.)
And then at mile 14, I started to cry. Yep. Marathons are super emotional, and most people I talk to say they shed a tear or two. I started thinking about everything else in my life: my life in Brooklyn, my job, and an incredibly tough relationship I ended only a few days before. I thought about my friends who inspired me to run this, and were there for me every step of the way. Then, I thought about my dad who was waiting at mile 20 to run with me.
For miles 10-20, I kept my pace a bit lower (wavering between 7:50-8:10), until I was introduced to mile 18. That’s when my legs finally started to say “oh hello, I’m actually very very tired. Let’s stop.” Rather than going into freak-out mode, I counted down the steps until I would hit mile 20, so I could find my dad and then magically everything would become easier. Right?
At mile 20 I didn’t see him. My mind was going crazy and my legs were exhausted. I knew this was the point I had to speed up — it’s why I went out conservatively! — except…I was just really, really tired. My premature expectation to BQ was fading fast, I was an emotional mess, and for the first time the whole race… I wanted to give up.
I finally found him around mile 21 when the goin’ was reaaaal tough, and I shut off my music and basically spurted out “THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE.” He immediately picked up the pace to where I should have been (7:50) and I told him to just talk to me. He started asking me questions (what’s this, a talk test?) and since I could barely respond, I put my music back on while he ran beside me for another mile. (Actually, he ran pretty much in front of me…at this point I was having trouble breathing and was cramping all over and was very, very, very cranky.)
At around mile 23 I was all on my own again. I told myself it was a simple 5K to the finish and I just needed to compose myself. I looked down at my watch and saw that I probably wouldn’t hit 3:35 (BQ time) and… I was relieved. The LAST thing I wanted was to feel disappointment crossing the finish line, and I knew I was still running the strongest I could. So I stopped caring about time or pace. I just dug deep and tried to toughen up as much as possible.
This is where the race truly starts.
Those last three miles were a blur. I barely remember the scenery, my thoughts…anything. I do remember feeling like I wanted to throw up and curl myself up into a little ball on the side of the street. Instead, well, I kept running. I shut off my watch. Focused on form. Breath. I just wanted to finish…and finish strong.
I crossed the finish line and all I wanted to do was sit. Lie down. Throw off my shoes. Pump nuun into my veins. Instead, I kept walking and stumbling around, chugging water, catching my breath, and composing myself. I found my dad and basically hung on to him so I could stand straight. I was exhausted, I was in so much pain. I was so, so, so incredibly happy.
(+1 to the Wineglass Marathon for giving out bottles of champagne…)
Looking back at it, I think I ran a near perfect race. My first half was in 1:50 and the second 1:48. I negative split like I wanted to, and I didn’t go out at a stupid, crazy pace. I also had a freaking BLAST (despite my crazy inner-dialogue) and was smiling for most of those 26.2 miles. I didn’t stop once (a silly goal, but a goal nonetheless) and I broke 3:40 — the goal I set back in the spring when I registered for the race.
But this “near perfect race” would absolutely NOT have happened without all the amazing on and offline support I had. From my nuun family to my greatist family, to my family-family and closest friends…..getting to that starting line was because of all of you. And a special thank you to my dad, who pushed me through those hardest miles and was the reason I was able to break 3:40. And the outpouring of excitement and congratulations after I finished? Overwhelming. Words can’t express how much it all means to me. So thank you.
I still have a lot to learn. Back in January, my longest run up to date was a mere eight miles, so I still consider myself a total newb. But now that I’ve caught the marathon bug, I have time to really learn how to train best for my body — to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And with that, let me announce I just registered up for the Eugene Marathon in the spring (thanks to some very-convincing nuuners) which I’ve been told is a magical, magical course! I’m excited to get serious about training, become more familiar with those long runs, get a better feel for pace, and be confident when I get to the starting line.
Boston, I am coming for you.
Posted on October 5, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.
This is such a great story 🙂 I am so glad you found your dad and that he was able to roll with your crankiness. I am SO glad you didn’t go out too fast!!!!!! Smart girl 🙂 Huge congrats on such a fabulous running of your first MARATHON!!!!! Wooo HOOOOOO!!!!!
THANK YOU tons. and then some. (: (:
I am so so so so so proud of and excited for you. You absolutely KILLED it, and you did it with a huge smile on your face! Thank you so much for letting me be with you to share in the experience – that was one of my favorite marathons of all time, and it’s because I got to do it with you and Brad 🙂
thank YOU for being the one that got me into this whole “marathon” thing…i kinda love it (:
CONGRATS!!! I am so proud of you, and this was such a great recap. Not that I would have expected any less on either count. Now, when can I buy you a drink?
thank you dear! and..don’t you live/work two blocks from me?? drinks whenever/wherever/always. I’ll get you back after marine corps!
your pictures just brought back a huge wave of emotion for me (i haven’t read my recap in a year) and i LOVED it. what a smart, smart plan. you know more than me and i’ve done 5! and seriously, all thoughts that ran through your head are so true-i’m glad you captured all that on here. a great pace to come back and learn. i am so excited for Eugene! will discuss more IN PERSON IN A FEW WEEKS!! EEEEEEEKK!!!! 🙂 SO FLIPPING PROUD OF YOU! seriously. major race envy-in a good way. xo
i am going to dig for your recap RIGHT now! soooo much good stuff happening in the future!!
YOU ARE AMAZING!!!! Seriously, amazing. EXTREMELY impressive FIRST MARATHON! 2 years ago (or whatever) that WOULD have been a BQ! And I would kill for your time by the way, and I’ve done 3 marathons. So YOU ROCK. I believe 100% you’re going to kill Eugene and rock that BQ!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
you are tooo kind. thank you so much!! Eugene is going to be EPIC.
Oh Laura, this was truly a wonderful recap. I love reading/hearing the details of what thoughts are running through someone’s head during a race. Maybe it is a wee bit selfish, but it makes me feel a little more ‘normal’. Marathons are a total emotional rollercoaster, a mind f@*# if you will. You did PHENOMENAL! I am really, really excited to see how you do in Eugene. I AM SOOOO jacked to experience that with you!!! Happy recovery, and looking forward to hearing more about your experience in real life during NYCM weekend!
a mind (*$&#*$& is right! now i know i’m not alone…phew. THANK you so much, see you soon, and i’ll keep those hamstring-healing powers coming your way!
I love race recaps and yours DOMINATED! You did so so so amazing Laura–you’re very first and you ran like a pro. So inspired!! CONGRATULATIONS!
ah thank you jess! I never know how to write these things without boring people to death. now all i need is some more WODS in my life.. (:
I absolutely LOVED your recap! You seriously rocked your first marathon. A negative half split?! That is execution that I dream of! I am so excited, happy, proud for you!! I am also glad you loved it so much because I seriously think you have BIG things ahead of you at this distance! With the experience in the race and in training, you are going to blow that BQ away in Eugene! I am so happy that I will be able to be there to share it with you!!! Until then, savor every moment of what you accomplished in your first…it was truly awesome!!
ahhh thank you so much Corey. LOVELOVE. So excited for Eugene, and NYC next month, and more. Keep killin it as that 70.3 approaches!
Holy cow! I am seriously impressed. 13.1 was a HUGE struggle for me – I cannot imagine running twice that. I love that your Dad ran with you for a bit – that’s amazing that he was able to do that, and it’s such a great memory to have. This makes me wish I were running again… Napa marathon?! Congratulations on this incredibly impressive accomplishment Laura. 🙂
napa marathon!! Do it! When is it? I’ll totally be there. So jealous of your westcoast home headquarters. And I am emailing you back shortly! (:
Here are all my random responses to your post (in no particular order….):
1. Your Dad can run a 7:50 pace? Go, Uncle Jim!
2. CONGRATS! You are so amazingly fast- apparently it skipped my branch of the family tree.
3. I am so happy you fell in love with marathons. My first and only was a horrible, miserable, rainy experience, so I don’t think I will ever do one again.
4. I SOBBED at this finish. As in, broke down and wept hysterically. And I was all alone, so everyone was starting at me, with concern and pity. Strange how the human body reacts, isn’t it?
5. If you don’t come visit when you are out for the Eugene marathon, I will disown you as cousin. (Okay, maybe not, but you had better visit!)
6. If I can get up to speed, what do you think about me running the last half of Eugene with you?
1) he is speedy!! thank goodness…
2) THANKYOU. And you are fast too, come now! dont you have a faster half-marathon PR than me? (:
3) Do one again. For me. We’ll do it together.
4) So emotional. I would have cried at the end but I was focused on finding a bagel.
5) PROMISE. I have many months to figure out logistics. Please don’t de-cousin me.
6) Absolutely. Unless I can convince you to sign up for the full…
Fantastic marathon. Fantastic recap. Can you pace me through NYC like you did for cow harbor? YES?! YES!!! I need all of your secrets. You knocked this one out of the park on the first try. Also, please tell me how you loved it — I have never loved one and always feel physically broken when it is done…like i may never walk normally again…
Am I allowed to?? I will absolutely run part of it with you!!
It sounds like you kicked butt! It was amazing of your dad to come out and run with you at the hardest part. ❤ I wish I had parents like that!
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