I remember so clearly the day this past January when Greg had finished running his first marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. He looked exhausted (he had a pretty nasty chest cold), but also elated and the emotions he was experiencing were bubbling really close to the surface.
I was so proud of him, and I knew I’d never, EVER do the same. There was no way I was going to run a marathon. Ever. 26.2 miles? Never.
So here is my first marathon race report.
We were staying at a host hotel for the race (Hampton Inn) and so when we checked in, we also reserved our spots on the 5AM shuttle for race day. There was also a 4:15 shuttle, but considering our race started at 6:30, that just seemed like overkill.
We woke bright and early on Race Day, gobbled down our breakfasts (hard boiled eggs, bagels with peanut butter, greek yogurt and oatmeal) and made our way to the bus. We thought we’d get coffee in the lobby on the way to the bus. So did everyone else, apparently, because there was no coffee to be had. Sadness. Much sadness.
The bus ride to the start was uneventful, and we made our way through the crowds to an open area in the town square that would also serve as the start line. I had filled up my water bottles and mixed up my Ultima Refresher the night before, but Greg was counting on water being available in the pre-race area. It was not. We were all really surprised that there was no water to be found.
We joined one of the many long, long restroom lineups and made it through the crowds to find our spot in the starting area just before they started singing the national anthem. Or, most of the national anthem. The sound system kept cutting out, so the crowd (after giggling about it at first) filled in the blanks by singing along. At the back, we didn’t see the video of shuttles launching, and we missed a fair bit of the count down, but we knew to get moving when the people in front of us did!
Now, we optimistically set ourselves up behind the 6 hour pacing group. After all, based on our finish at the Niagara Falls Half Marathon my handy McMillan pace predictor seemed to indicate that would be a pace we could handle. Never mind, that assumes proper training. Never mind that thanks to injury and 6 missed weeks of training, my longest run had been 15 miles. Never mind that Rachael had ‘sprained her lungs’ (her words) in November, and missed a bunch of training, not the least of which was during her BED REST for a week and that her doctor advised against her running this marathon. Greg, on the other hand, was ready to rock.
Never mind all that. We lined up behind the 6 hour pacer and knew we’d be likely to drop back to 6:15 or 6:30.
The first four miles went according to plan. The 6 hour pacer seemed to be going a little fast, but we were doing a decent job keeping up, and we fell into conversations with some of the people in the group. The first four miles of a race are so optimistic, aren’t they? You’re feeling great, running strong… Then: Reality.
Rachael’s lungs started to protest. I was concerned about the pace of the group anyway, and so we opted to fall back to the 6:15 group.
A restroom break later, and we were in the 6:30 group, and struggling to keep up. At this point, we gave up on pace groups and just focussed on staying together and moving forward. When we hit the turn-around point at the 7.5 mile mark, and saw where we were in relation to the 7 hour pace group, we made a new plan.
Just stay ahead of the 7 hour group.
I went through a lot, mentally, in the first half of this race. I will be the first to admit that I am not a patient person. When I’m ready to go, it’s hard for me to slow down. I’d had it in my head that I didn’t want to attempt a marathon until I could realistically expect to do it in under 6 hours. I don’t know why, it’s not like 6 hours is a great time or anything, but that’s just where my mental line was drawn. When I knew that wasn’t going to happen, I had to check myself before I wrecked myself. After all, I came into this unsure that I would even finish.
I knew that every mile after 15 was going to be a victory – the farthest I’d ever run.
My Goofy training plan had 23 miles as my long run that day. 23 miles would also be a victory – back on plan!
Training runs are supposed to be slow. I adjusted my mindset to accept that running this race slowly was ok, and part of the plan.
We had arranged with my dad and step-mom to meet us around half way with some bagels with peanut butter and some tangerines and thanks to the live runner tracking on the RaceJoy app we’d all downloaded, they managed to battle the traffic to get to us right around mile 13. I have never eaten such a welcome treat. We gulped down our food, thanked them and started on our way again.
We got a real mental second wind as a result of the food, running through Cocoa Village. A fellow runner from Facebook running group (Team #runDisney) had asked for suggestions for signs we’d like to see, and of course my first thought was “Don’t Panic”. Thanks for the boost, Leslie!
As we headed south, we started to see some later-timed half runners coming in (the half marathon course was the second half of the full marathon course) as well as some pretty darn speedy full runners. We didn’t see Jeff Galloway again, so we assumed he finished with his BQ time (he did).
I did it—qualified for Boston at the fantastic Space Coast Marathon in Florida! It was wonderful to rebound from… http://t.co/uAHIZzQ0lu
— JeffGalloway (@JeffGalloway) December 2, 2013
I did a little fist pump as we crossed the 15 mile marker, since that marked the farthest I’d ever run. I felt good, probably because we were going so slowly. The wind was still at our backs and we were plugging along taking the beautiful scenery and the lovely homes along the course.
When we hit mile 18, I felt a surge of confidence. Eight miles left? I can do eight miles! We were still trying to keep ahead of the 7 hour group, but becoming less successful in that task. Another restroom stop, and a stop to grab a cracker from a table set out by some neighbours did us in. We fell in behind the 7 hour group and kept their pace for a while.
I wouldn’t say I hit a wall. I will say that my lack of training caught up with me. My legs felt fine. They could keep running. But other parts of my body weren’t used to that distance, and I could feel the start of two unusual things. One, a pain in my foot by my right ankle, the other was a pain in my knee. I attributed both to the angle of the road and the distance. At mile 23, I apologized. I was going to have to walk the last 5K or risk a real injury. We watched the 7 hour group pull away and I tried not to take it on as a failure. Greg said he’d just use the last 5K walking as a time guide for his Dopey in January – it would give him an idea of how long the 5K would take him if he just walked it.
Let’s just say it took 50 minutes. Not great. I’ve never been so happy to see a mile marker. Hello, Mile 26!
We all agreed to jog out the last .2 miles. I really liked the finish for this race. They had the course doing a loop around the square where we’d been waiting pre-race, through some columns. Greg and Rachael wanted to do a jumping photo for one of the race photographers. I said my usual “absolutely not”. I knew any jump I attempted would end with either me on my ass, a sprained ankle, a torn muscle or just plain old terrible cramping in my calves. Not a chance. Not .1 mile from the finish line. (For the record, Rachael almost met one of those fates as a result of her jump. I won’t say which, but I will say “I told you so”.)
As we approached the finish line, I saw that we’d be finishing at the same time as some dude on his own. I almost grabbed everyone to hold us all back so we could get a clean finish photo of just the three of us (later Greg said he almost did the same, and Rachael said she didn’t even see the guy). But we didn’t. And so…
Notice my lean. I’m trying to get a clear shot of just me for the race photographer.
As we crossed the finish, I noticed my dad, stepmom and their dog standing just beyond the finish (that’s dad’s photo) and I waved saying we’d be by shortly. First, medals and our finisher towels (I was so excited about my towel!). Oh yeah, and turn off the Garmin! (oops!)
Official Time: 7:06:37 (Can I blame this time on the fact that we didn’t get to have our morning coffee?)
I gripped that towel and had a moment. I’m not a cryer. I didn’t allow myself the tears that I felt welling up when I was about to finish my first half marathon because it interfered with my breathing. But this was different. I couldn’t stop the tears if I tried. I was happy, proud, disappointed, frustrated… it was so complicated. Mostly happy, though. We did it.
We went straight to the beer truck, took what they had left (who drank all the Yeungling?!) and then over to the pancakes. That’s right. I gulped a beer, rolled up a pancake and scarfed it down, then hobbled over to the family. While I was talking to them, more finishers were coming in. Technically the race was ‘over’ and everything was being packed away. Some finishers had to grab volunteers and ask for their medals, which seemed a bit shabby to me. They seemed low on marathon medals at that point, and they ran out of towels.
Also over – the shuttle buses back to the hotels. We were very thankful that we had a ride with family, otherwise we’d be scrambling for a cab.
So there it is. My first marathon. I’m glad I have another one lined up, because I am not entirely satisfied with how this turned out. I accept why it turned out the way it did, but I have higher expectations for myself.
How did I feel the next day? Differently than I thought I would. My legs didn’t feel any worse than if I ran a half marathon hard. That surprised me. My foot and knee, on the other hand? Not great. Really painful, actually. I’m trying not to have Peroneal Tendonitis. The knee is recovering faster than the foot, but they’re both improving. I tried a little light jogging yesterday, and it told me I need a bit more time to recover before I put any real miles in. I’ll be seeing a physiotherapist later this week.
And what did I take away from this whole experience overall?
ENERGYbits kept me going:
The night before the race, I made 7 little baggies of ENERGYbits portions (30 bits per baggie, along with 2 Endurolyte tabs). I took those bits every hour on the hour, without fail. I really felt a difference after I took them, and I will be making these prepared baggies for every race I do from now on. I had tried, in the past, to just put a bunch of ENERGYbits in a baggie with the thought of taking a handful when I needed them, but it was so much easier and cleaner to open one baggie at a time. If you want to try them for yourself, use IRunonWater on checkout to get 30% off your order!
Have back-up goals:
You can be the most well-trained, hyper-prepared person in the world, but sometimes the day just isn’t going to go your way. You have to be able to accept the race you’re actually running as opposed to wishing you were running the race you’d planned for. Rather than become despondent, it’s healthier to have another goal to shift to.
Listen to your body:
If it hurts, determine why it’s hurting. Is the pain manageable, or is it an injury forming? Use this information wisely. Are you hungry? Take your fuel. Even if you’re not scheduled to fuel for another 10 – 15 minutes. You could really be crashing by then. Pack extra and use it.
Try not to obsess about the weather:
I was really wasting a lot of energy worrying about the expected heat. Up until the day before, they were calling for 88 degree heat when the humidity was factored in. That freaked me out. I don’t do well in the heat. In the end, I shouldn’t have worried. It was downright balmy that day.
On another note, I wore my brand new Garmin 220 for this race. I will be using it for a few more runs before I attempt to review it, but it seemed to be off from the marked course early on, and increasingly so as we ran. I expected we would over-run the course, and I suppose that quarter mile is well within the realm of that possibility, but I’d like more data before I review the thing.
But it did give me this neat-o data:
Would I run the Space Coast Marathon again? Debatable. I would run the Half, for sure. I haven’t yet fallen in love with the marathon distance, and you get the same medal whether you do the half or the full. We’ll see how I feel after the Goofy. I may or may not still need to prove myself.
The insane expo aside, I liked the race. The on course support was, thankfully, very good. If we’d finished earlier, I’d even get a beer that I actually liked at the finish… Yeah, the half’s looking better and better.
Did you run the Space Coast Marathon, or Half Marathon? How was your experience?
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I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.