Once Upon a Time, I Ran a Marathon

I’m not sure if I’ve ever told my marathon story here. My story was posted on Legally Fit back in September, but I thought I’d share it here as well. Forgive me if you’ve read this before!

Once upon a time, I ran a marathon. Specifically, in March of 2007. I’d gotten into running two years prior and had completed two half-marathons and several shorter distance races. Before I discovered healthy living blogs, I discovered running blogs. A lot of these runners were training for marathons and the idea appealed to me. For some reason, I even though training for one was somewhat glamourous. (Later, I found out that there is nothing glamourous about being tired and hungry all the time and losing toenails.)

The idea bounced around in my head for a while. Atlanta has the Atlanta Marathon which is on Thanksgiving. I knew that I didn’t want to do that one because I usually go home to Maryland to visit my family. I also didn’t want to travel for a race either. Enter the Inaugural ING Georgia Marathon. To my delight, I realized that Atlanta decided to have another marathon, this time in the spring. My mind was made. I signed up.

I followed a Hal Higdon novice marathon training plan. Looking back, if I had done it over, I would have joined a group of some sort. 20 mile training runs on your own are pretty lonesome. But I did it. I followed the training plan the best I could and before I knew it, it was race week.

The race was in the end of March. I’d been training all winter. In the cold. (I might have a different definition of cold as you do, living in the South, but point was, I trained in wintertime.) Like any racer does, I became obsessed with weather.com the week of my race. And do you know what the high temperature was supposed to be on marathon day? 90. After training in 50 degree temps, I had to run the longest distance of my life in a freak heat wave.

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The race started out fine. The first hiccup was around Mile 6. There were “Powerade ahead” signs but no powerade ahead. My mother and one of my friends were supposed to be standing at mile 9. Fortunately, they were and they gave me a cold water bottle which I drank from and handed back. I was still doing fine at this point. After I left them, they agreed to meet me at Mile 11. It had started to get warmer out and at Mile 11, they insisted that I run holding the water bottle. I didn’t especially want to run 15 more miles with a water bottle in hand, but I did and looking back, I’m very glad.

I was fine until about Mile 16. The temps had gotten into the high 80s by that point and I was definitely feeling it. Around Mile 19, I started to alternate walking and running. My mom and some friends were standing at Mile 22 and after what felt like an eternity, I got to them. Later, my mom told me that I did not look good when I got there. I’d been filling up my plastic water bottle any chance that I could, but the heat was pretty unbearable. Maybe if I’d trained in the summer, I’d of been okay, but I trained during the winter and this was March!

My attempt to run pretty much dwindled at Mile 22. I tried to shuffle along, but my pace rapidly decreased into a walk. To make matters worse, I could feel one of my toenails falling off. My mom and more friends were at Mile 24. Just two more miles. Sounds like nothing but at that point, I was seriously considering giving up. My friend Erin made me continue on and encouraged me to finish the race running. She ran the last two miles with me. She was wearing flip flops which gives you an indication of just how slowly I was running.

That finish sign was the best thing I’d ever seen in my life. Only instead of happiness, all I felt was disappointment. I’m not a fast runner by any means and I’d sort of expected to finish the race in around 5-5:30 hours. Nope. Not even close. The marathon took me 6.5 hours. After we went home, I got really sick. Probably some sort of heat exhaustion or dehydration. I couldn’t stop throwing up and just felt awful. My mom went home the next day and that was it, the marathon was over. Months of training went into these few hours and I’d run a crappy race.

Going into it, I was hoping that I’d catch the marathon bug. I was hoping that it would be one of the best accomplishments of my life. But it wasn’t. It took me a long time to get over my disappointment with my time and how the race went in general. It took a long time to realize that so many factors were at play that contributed to it. The heat was unbearable, the course was hilly but, plus this being the inaugural race, they weren’t prepared. They ran out of powerade almost immediately and water shortly after.

Here it is almost four years later and I have yet to run another marathon. But, I’ve run the ING Georgia HALF marathon three years in a row since then. (They’ve since fixed the water/powerade issues). I think that sometimes, as readers of healthy living and running blogs, we see running a marathon as almost commonplace. But it’s not. It took me 6.5 hours and lots of walking, but I am one of those people who has completed a marathon. I have a 26.2 sticker that I earned. After the race, everyone asked if I’d run another one and the answer was a resounding NO. But sometimes lately, I think maybe I’ll give it another shot one day.

Not all marathon stories are triumphant. Not all races go as planned. But do I call myself a marathon runner? Yes, I do.

Thinking of running a marathon this year? How about a half-marathon? If you’re running your first half, take a look at My Ten Tips For Running Your First Half-Marathon that I wrote as a guest post on A Foodie Stays Fit last week.

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