My very first marathon recap

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

I did it, you guys! I flippin' did it!

I, Courtney P., am officially a marathoner!


Did you guys even know I was training for a marathon? Just kidding. ;)

I ran my first full marathon on Saturday and let me just say, I don't recall ever feeling so proud and accomplished in my entire life (and I felt pretty darn proud of myself the first time I mastered the smokey eye). Those were the most physically grueling 4 and a half hours of my life (all future childbearing aside) and my body wanted me to give up there towards the end, but I DID IT and it was totalllllllllly worth it!

Let me just set the stage for you:

I was obnoxious on Friday night. I had so much nervous energy, I was literally trying to do high kicks in our living room while we waited for trick-or-treaters to come to the door (crappy weather postponed the candy gettin'). Clayton told me to simmer down on more than one occasion, but it was pointless. I was ready to run that marathon and I was ready to run it right that second.

We woke up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning (I had to take an anti-anxiety pill in order to fall asleep) and my boundless energy picked up exactly where it left off. I sang to Clayton while he brushed his teeth and tried to ride Joey like a miniature pony. Did I mention it was 5 o'clock in the morning?

After putting on my brand spankin' new running shorts (one of my favorite big race traditions), I had Clayton take the perfunctory pre-race pictures that I've come to love oh-so-much. And this happened:



(I'm almost thankful that the lighting was so horrible.)

Then we hopped in the car and had a rather uneventful ride to downtown Indianapolis. We arrived with ample time to spare and hung out in warmth of convention center with the rest of my fellow runners while we waited for the race to start. I used the restroom 3 times over the course of 20 minutes because after a lengthy conversation the evening before, I was worried about having to make a pit-stop during the race. The term "adult diaper" was brought up on more than one occasion.


About 15 minutes before the race, Clay and I made our way outside to the starting line. This year they got rid of the giant corral that held all of the non-elite runners, so it was every man for himself. Many people were standing on the sidewalks, spilling out of alleywaysit was a bit chaotic. I hung out near a traffic light and made friends with a lovely young chap who was also running his very first marathon. 

I kissed my hubby goodbye and the second he left my presence, I went from eager and chatty to leave-me-alone-and-stop-talking-to-me mode. My 5-hour playlist was pulled up on my iPod, my earbuds were firmly in place, my Garmin finally found a signal, and I was all business.

It took about 7 and a half minutes to reach the starting line and before I knew it, I was taking my first steps towards becoming a marathoner!

The marathoners and half marathoners run the same route for the first 7 or so miles, then we split off into our own separate race courses. That being said, the first 7 or so miles were loud and people were running in small packs, laughing and talking in voices that seemed awfully loud when you consider we're supposed to be focusing on running, not socializing (why am I so intense?). However, the second the marathoners and half marathoners split, the atmosphere became eerily quiet. People were no longer running with buddies. Everyone was looking down at their shoes and shuffling along at their best possible pace.

In short, all of the marathoners were already miserable.

The first 20 miles were fine. I maintained a great 9:57 min/mile pace and was actually feeling really good! I had a weird stomach issue that kind of felt like acid reflux, but aside from getting a side cramp twice from trying to drink water at an aid station while still running, I had no major complaints.

Then there were those last 6 miles.

By mile 21 I chucked my Gatorade Energy Chews because they were impossibly hard to work out of the packaging and I had sticky red gummy bits stuck to my fingers. I never get that thirsty during half marathons, but I was parched for the majority of the marathon. Even though my body was probably in dire need of the electrolytes and sodium, I bypassed the Gatorade station in favor of good ol' H20 for the last 5 stations and couldn't help but think those little Dixie cups just weren't big enough.

No matter what I'm doing, whether I'm racing in a half or working through a long training run, my hip flexors get tight and sore about and hour and fifteen minutes into the workout. This soreness is normal for me. However, right around the one hour and fifteen minute mark, I'm generally pretty close to being done with my workout or race. I don't generally have another 3 hours to run.

The only goal I had for the marathon was to finish. I wanted to be able to finish in under 4.5 hours, but I wasn't going to be too tough on myself if I didn't make it. Since I've never done anything this physically demanding in my entire life, I had no idea what to expect or how I would feel. I knew what 20 miles felt like thanks to my training, but everyone always says that those last 6 miles is what really gets ya.

I've never walked in a race. I always told myself that it doesn't matter if I don't hit a PR or if I don't have a strong race; so long as I never have to walk, I'll always be a success.

Well, that was before I tried running a full marathon.

The only times I've ever had to stop and take a walk break during a long training run is if my body is sluggish from too little or too much sleep, the temperature is too hot or, if I'm being totally honest, I'm hungover. I've given myself a free pass on all of those occasions because sometimes I'm just not feeling it and I'm tired.

I made it 23 miles and then I had to take a walking break. It wasn't because I was tired or sick or because the weather was too hot (it was actually gorgeous). It was because I was in severe pain. My body was at its limit and I knew it. Each step was becoming increasingly painful and my lower back was screaming in agony. I felt like I was running like a hunched over old woman and despite my stubbornness to never walk, I knew I needed to take a quick break to assess what was going on.

Well, walking didn't really help much. By the time I jogged off to the side of the course and started walking, my legs practically forgot how to move. There was no bend in my knee, and I'm almost positive that I looked like a marching member of the German army. The only thing I had going for me at that moment was that my power walk was still fast enough to pass some runners.

I only walked for about 30 seconds, then I picked it back up and tried running again. Running actually felt better than walking, which was weird, and I ran for another .5 miles or so before my body begged for another break. I truly believe that you mind will win over your body 100% of the time, but after running for almost 4 hours, my body was saying, "You need to make sure you don't hurt yourself." And let's be honest, I ran 23 miles without stopping. That's pretty dang impressive for anyone.

I walked for another 30 seconds, all the while having a pep talk with myself. I said, "Courtney, you may walk another 10 seconds and then you are RUNNING these last 2 miles. I don't care what you do the second you cross that finish lineI don't care if you throw up or pass out or cause a big sceneyou will be RUNNING across it."

Not to be super hokey or sappy, but that's when I knew it was ride or die time. This moment and this experience was something that was fully in my control and nobody else's (which is a looooot of pressure!). I trained for this race for three months. I sacrificed my time, my body, and my sanity to get to this point and there was no way I wasn't going to put forth my best effort to complete this marathon to the best of my ability. I owed it to myself. I deserved to run across the finish line.

And I did. I booked it those last 2 miles.

I passed people who had lingered ahead of me for miles. Bodies were shutting down (some runners hit the dreaded "wall") and people had been walking since mile 10, but I was going to finish strong even if it killed me.

This has been my third time running the Monumental in any capacity and my favorite part of the race is making that final left turn before running to the front of the State Capitol building. Crowds of people gather to cheer on the finishers and nothing beats turning that corner to see the finish line and that race clock.

Just as I was about to run that corner and sprint to sweet, sweet victory, I saw my mom, nephew and oldest sister, Shannon.

Oh, hey Mom!

It was just the boost I needed to cruise across the finish line and put a big check mark on my bucket list next to "Run a full marathon".

I wanted to finish the race in 4.5 hours. I came in at 4:25:50. :)

Finishing the race was a whirlwind. Three different photographers grabbed me and asked for my picture with my medal (which I hadn't even gotten a chance to look at). People thrust food into our arms and congratulated us left and right, but I was in a total daze. The laser focus that carried me through the last of the marathon was now set on finding my husband.

Just a few moments later, I spotted his sweet bearded face in the crowd and with what little energy I had left, I ran into his arms ... and just cried.

And I think that's why people do this. I think that's why runners put themselves through the physical and mental torture of rigorous training and get up at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to run 20 miles while it's still dark: We do it for that surge of emotions that crash over you when you've accomplished something this monumental. (Heh. No pun intended.) It's a lot of self-satisfaction, it's a lot of pride, it's a lot of confidence and heck, it's even some relief that it's over (until we decide on our next big challenge). We did something really, really hard and we did it on our own with nothing but our own will power and self-discipline; we did it with nothing but the strength of our legs and lungs.

And I'm not saying that to sound boastful. It's the truth. Anyone who sets a goal and then completes it should darn well acknowledge what they did and give themselves a major pat on the back. Nothing worth having comes easy. And this marathon? Was not easy.

After the race I said on several occasions that I am never doing this again. Honestly, I was saying that weeks before the actual race, too. I was not a fan of the time commitment and there were many times that I didn't believe the pain and exhaustion was worth it, but I also should never say never. Because you know what? The second you cross the finish line after running 26.2 miles, you realize it was totally worth it.




I kind of love how bouncy my pony tail looks in this pic.
One of the top 10 moments of my life.

Do I want to do another full marathon in the next year? No way. In the next two years? Probably not. In the next three years? Who knows? I have zero aspirations of doing another full any time soon, but I really don't think it's fair to guess how I'll feel in the future. Maybe training for a full will be a bit easier if I do while I'm NOT moving into my first house and starting a new role at work.

But my first love is the half marathon and I'm already planning my next one: Spring, baby! :)

After the race, Clay and I had our typical celebratory meal at IHOP. Even though I wasn't nearly as famished as I thought I was going to be, I had zero problems eating a stack of pancakes. After chugging a bottle of water and a carton of chocolate milk at the race, I asked our waiter to bring me the world's largest Diet Coke because I had been off the stuff for a few weeks and was going through withdraws.

Our waiter did not disappoint.

That night, I laid on the couch because there was really nothing else I could do. Normally my post-race soreness doesn't kick in until the next morning, but DANG! Getting in and out of the booth at IHOP and trying to fold myself into the car on the ride home was painful. The only comfortable position I could manage was laying flat as a board on my back.

On Sunday morning, the soreness was even more palpable, and I took Joey on a few long walks to keep the stiffness at bay. Walking wasn't really problematic (it actually felt really good), but when we started walking down a small hill at the end of our street, I almost yelped out loud. Downhill is NOT your friend after a marathon.

Today is Tuesday, and I am happy to report that any lingering pain and discomfort is down to a dull roar. Last night I was able to do a very small cross training workout that was easy on my joints and knees, and I think working other muscles in my legs is what really started to alleviate the pain. I'm going to walk again tonight and hopefully I'll be ready for a super short jog on Wednesday. I've read that getting back to running after a marathon is all about slowly reintroducing your body to the motion.

Before I sign off and let you get back to your regularly scheduled Tuesday night programming, I just want to give a quick shout-out to my amazing husband who deserves his own medal for being my biggest fan and biggest supporter throughout this entire marathon training experience. Clayton has never missed one of my races and even though I'm sure he's mentally tuned me out from time to time, he's always willing to listen to me cry, vent or whine about running. He's rubbed my thighs and aching feet on countless occasions and every time I have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. for a race, he does, too. From the 5ks to the half marathons to this weekend's first full, he has always been waiting for me at the finish line with a big smile on his face. Medals and PRs pale in comparison to the biggest award of them all: Having someone to run to.

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4 comments

  1. Congratulations Courtney!!! I can only imagine how that felt to cross the finish line. This post had me in tears. So so awesome!

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  2. Well done lady! That is one awesome achievement and what a dang good first marathon finishing time! YEOW!

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  3. Congrats, girlfriend!!!! Every time I read one of your posts about a race you've done, it inspires me to put on my running sneaks & hit the road!

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