Tuesday, October 09, 2007

my first marathon.


The following is long, unorganized, possibly boring, and more for me than you. In fact, writing this was maybe more difficult than the marathon itself, and I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that it's finally done.

A lot of people have asked me why I wanted to run a marathon. Although there were a lot of reasons, they often escaped me in the midst of training. Somehow in the middle of everything it just became something I did. There were benefits, sure: I could eat whatever I wanted and still be thin, and not to mention the bragging rights. But there was also a lot of time and pain invested in the whole process.

It really started last year when I ran the 10 mile race at the Twin Cities Marathon. It was fun, but at the end I felt like I hadn't been challenged enough. I wanted to do more. And while I realized 26.2 miles is a lot more than ten, it was something I wanted to do at least once, just to say that I did.

In the week before the race, I started to get more and more nervous. I worried about the weather, leg cramps, or anything that would get in the way of me not being able to finish. I'd get anxious at work just thinking about it, and would have to change the topic if it were being discussed too long. It wasn't until Saturday night sometime, when I put on my running shorts and straightened my hair, that I started to calm down. It was an incredibly silly thing to do but somehow it relaxed and excited me at the same time. The marathon was coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it, nor could I control the weather, but it was going to be okay.

And the marathon did come. My friends and I wondered why we were so worried, after all, it was just running. Not a big deal at all! It was so hot and sticky we started sweating at the gates. It didn't take us long to realize that any time goals we might have had were about to be thrown out the window.

For me, the heat was sort of a mixed blessing. Since it was my first marathon, I couldn't think about how much better the weather was elsewhere. And it really solidified why we were there - not to finish at a certain time, but simply to finish. All we had to do was relax, and run. Sure, it was damn hot. At points I said, "We are running in a fucking sauna." So I adapted by pouring water over my head at every stop. I ditched my tank top somewhere past the halfway point. And I laughed when we crossed any splits (for instance, my half marathon split was almost 20 minutes slower than the one I finished in October). Eventually the sun went away and a breeze came out and I felt much more comfortable.

It's hard to talk about a 26 mile run because it's just so long. But overall, it went really well. All of the worries I had that my legs would fall apart...it didn't happen. I even felt like I had a decent amount of energy considering the heat..and the miles. Here's the crazy part - I had a good time. I was expecting portions of it to be really painful, to feel like I wasn't going to be able to finish, or just to have some other mental anguish. And maybe I was just in a continual state of delirium, but I had a really good time. Yes. I had fun running a marathon.

The crowds were fabulous. There were so many people out and in some sections it was like I was completely surrounded by people cheering us on. Some people dressed up, and I even hugged one person dressed as a chicken because my friend dared me to. Others gave out food (bananas, apples, candy, even beer) or were just encouraging (who doesn't like to hear they look gorgeous when they feel sweaty and disgusting?).

During the last six miles, we started to slow down and took a lot more walk breaks. I was okay with this. The end was definitely the slowest part, as evidenced by our splits. But at one point I remarked about how with every step we took, we had run farther than we had even run before. By the time we got to mile 22, 23 it was just a matter of going through the motions to finish. As we descended the hill by the Cathedral to the Capital, the last two tenths of a mile, it was almost as if my feet and my legs were moving but I wasn't moving them anymore - they just kept on going, controlled by inertia. We crossed the finish line just under 5 hours by the official clock, and at 4:53 according to our chip time.

Afterwards there was some recovery - I didn't really feel like eating and felt kind of crappy for much of the day later. The next few days involved walking slowly, cringing as I went down stairs, and lots of sleep.

I've been asked if I'm going to do another marathon, and my best guess is that someday, I will. But I'm not in any hurry.

Thanks to everyone for their support: my family for coming out to cheer me on (and also for sending flowers), Nick, Cassie, Kim, Julie, LaVonne, Niko, countless friends of friends, and everyone who cheered me on even if they couldn't be there.

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