(This is probably not an exciting read … But I want to get it down for myself.)
This past weekend I ran my first ever marathon. I don’t know how interesting it will be to read about this because really it all boils down to one basic idea: it was tiring.
On the actual race day my girlfriend and I were parked and at the race area 30 minutes before the start of the race. We jumped in the very long bathroom line and did not finish (and all we did was pee!) until 4 minutes before the start of the race. From there we rushed to the starting area for our respective races (her the half, me the full) only to realize that we had read the maps wrong and that the two races did not start together.
Without my glasses I looked for fellow marathoners by squinting at any chest that walked by me, where most runners place their bib, and this felt as awkward as it sounds. The marathon bib was a greenish color, the half was purple-ish. Eventually I spotted a fellow marathoner who knew where to go. This unfortunately involved crossing the road that the half-marathoners were currently running on (a real life game of Frogger but instead of the risk of getting run over I just ticked off a lot of runners).
Finally I was at the marathon area, which had already started. I was with the 6 hour pace people so I ran much too hard the first three miles to catch up to the 3:45 group (my goal was at least 3:43, which would allow me to beat my dad’s time of 3:44).
The starting gate frustrations allow me to feel a bit better about not meeting my goal because it offers an excuse. In the end it is my own fault that I did not meet my goal.
Sometimes I feel like the key to exercising is the removal of readily available excuses. If you plan to work out at 5:30 pm but work keeps you til 6 pm, it is very easy to push off the work out to the next day. Likewise, if the start of a race is thrown off it can be liberating for me because it gives me an excuse to not meet my goal … This is good because I tend to stress myself out too much, and sometimes I don’t run naturally like I would on a training day (I have to brag about this – my furthest training run was 20 miles and I did that at an 8:03 pace).
In the end I finished in 3:53:33 according to my phone, but I think 3:59 for the official time. The reason my phone time and official time are off is because I did not run the most efficient route (the way you see real marathoners run), so I had extra mileage and my chip started before I crossed the starting line (due probably to me running through the half-marathon area).
I know it is good that I was able to run a marathon, but when you train for months to do something and in the end you fail to meet your goal you can’t help but feel disappointed.
If I could go back and do this run again, or if someone is reading this and training for a race with a goal in mind, I would suggest that you don’t dwell on the goal too much. I think it ended up hampering me. I started to think my dad’s time was unrealistic around mile 15 which only made the last 11 miles much tougher because I felt defeated. Starting at around mile 18 I ended up stopping and walking frequently, which I had not done in any of my training runs (generally I stop and walk to snack or drink during a run and that’s it). I think the fact that I felt so defeated led me to doing this, because the run lost a lot of meaning for me when I felt like my goal was no longer in sight. (The bad part is, in looking back at my splits after the fact, it was definitely still in sight I just can’t do math when I’m dog tired. It reminds me of that scene in The Right Stuff where the training astronauts struggle to perform simple things when deprived of oxygen.)
I had one or two training runs where I felt defeated by the run itself, but this was by far the worst. My bad attitude certainly hampered my effort, and made stopping and walking only too accessible. I didn’t feel like I gave it a good effort for those last 8 miles, which is at this point the most frustrating thing to me. In the end I ended up picking up my pace just so I could make sure to be under 4 hours.
One thing that is nice is how many runners around me would say nice things. I can be pretty fickle about that during a run, you have to have the right touch to say something and it be encouraging rather than annoying (in my opinion). “Hang in there buddy!” or “you got this!” can be encouraging or irritating. Don’t ask me for tips on how to do this, because I never say anything out of the fear that I’d be one of the annoying ones.
I know at some point I will be more pleased that I was able to run this. It gives me a kind of odd sense of pride to know that I was able to do something that killed a man. (Although who knows how accurate the story of the first marathon really was, and also apparently he had just finished fighting a battle so he’s got that on me, and I had Gatorade to boot …)
Unlike Pheidippides, the supposed first marathoner, I did not finish the race by having sex with the ground.
My girlfriend asked me about my favorite part of a run – for her it is the starting gate. Being surrounded by all of those people with so much energy is energizing and she feeds off that feeling. For me it is the finish. I try to really push myself when I run so it’s like I’m hurling my body against a wall. Sometimes I can break the wall and while it hurts a lot, it’s worth it because I overcame this huge obstacle. Other times the wall is too strong and I end up slamming against it to no avail, coming away bruised from the attempt. The positive part from the failures is that I can learn from them.
I did manage to learn one thing from this marathon: if I am running a race (normally they are not so long that I have time to think this much) and I realize I’m not going to hit my goal, I need to focus on the math and form a new goal that is realistic but still keeps me pushing myself. During the run I lost sight of my goal and ended up dwelling on having lost that. In the future I need to stabilize the situation (this next mile at X time) which might allow me to regain some confidence and get back into fighting form.
If you read this and feel like you should say some positive affirmation type things to me, it’s ok. My mind will recover just like my body, and maybe one day I’ll run another marathon. But if not, that’s ok too, because you know what? That was really freaking tiring.