I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I ran a marathon on Saturday. It's very surreal to me. A year ago I was definitely one of those people that admired marathon runners but had pretty much decided I would never actually run one myself. I just didn't even have it on my radar as a goal I wanted to accomplish for myself. I was a runner (well, short distances), but the marathon wasn't something I aspired to do.
Things really changed in the last year. I got the running bug big time in the spring, and just wanted to get out there and run all the time. Then I met Jen, and heard about all her race experiences, the desire in me started growing to try distance running and do some races. Training for my first half marathon was a cool experience and I loved the feeling I got when I finished. Still, one of the first things out of my mouth after I finished was, "Never let me run a full marathon". I was content with 13.1 and didn't think I'd ever do twice that distance.
I think being injured and not being able to run for a while over the summer made me appreciate running a lot more when I had a chance to do it again. When I got back to running and signed up for my second half, I loosely said that I might continue on and keep training for a full, but that I would see how things went and didn't commit to the idea of a full marathon right away. I was surprised to find myself doing pretty well on my runs longer than 13 miles. I knew once I got up in mileage that this was attainable and that I could run a full marathon. The rest is history...
So now that I've had a little time to think about it, here's some things I learned from running my marathon that I'd like to pass on to you.
1. Bio Freeze sample packets are awesome. Get them now (I got some from my chiropractor), bring them with you on the run, and shamelessly stick your hands down your pants and spread that stuff all over when your muscles start aching. Best Decision Ever...
2. If you like running with music, download some new stuff, change up your playlist, and use it for some of the race, but not all of it. I wanted it at times, but at other times it was nice to listen to the sounds of the race and have short conversations with other runners. My friend also enjoyed me singing certain songs to her, and it got us both cracking up (Humpty Dance anyone??).
3. HYDRATE. I learned the hard way that ESPECIALLY at the end (last 6 miles) you can not miss a water stop, even if you think you're fine. I skipped the one right before I got my charley horse/calf cramp around mile 21 and wonder if I would have cramped up had I not skipped the water. It cost me a couple minutes dealing with that fiasco.
4. If you have spectators, it's cool if you can stop and interact with them for a couple minutes. I think the benefit of seeing them and interacting with them outweighs the time you lose doing it and you can still keep it relatively quick. Have them bring you something to eat or drink (my mom brought me oranges and Gatorade). It really raised my spirits for the remainder of the run and I think they liked feeling like they were part of the experience.
5. Ice yourself after the race. I didn't do this because of all the excitement, lack of access to ice, etc... and I think it probably would have helped me to be less sore in the days following the race if I had iced my legs. I stretched a lot, but icing probably would have been helpful too.
6. Do what you can to fuel your body. I think fueling is an individual thing, but I'm one of those lucky runners that basically can eat just about anything with no stomach issues while running. For me, I felt like I couldn't over fuel, so I ate breakfast, took 4 GU's (one ever 5 miles or so), and also ate some Sharkies and Sports Beans in between GUs. My advice is to figure out what works for you during training and do that for the marathon, but try to keep yourself adequately fueled. I don't think I really ever hit "the wall" other than my charley horse issue (which was really a hydration issue) and it was probably because I stayed so well fueled.
7. Try to have fun. I ran with a buddy (which is great if you have the chance to), listened to fun music, sang, interacted with people, and smiled. They say marathons are mental, and I think going into it happy and excited and keeping your spirit in it helps immensely. It did for me.
The biggest surprise to me was that running a marathon was not as bad as I thought it would be. I wasn't in tons of pain, I didn't hate it, I didn't want to give up... I actually had fun, which most people said I wouldn't. I found the experience to be really cool and actually enjoyed myself through pretty much the entire thing. I think it had a lot with the fact that I was prepared and had a good attitude. I had the training to back it up and the mindset that I could do it. Those are important components.
If you are wondering if I would do another one, the answer is yes, I would run another marathon. BUT, that said, I definitely am shifting my focus to other things now (ahem, namely trying to have a baby), and I think doing another marathon is something I'll revisit someday if I want to but not pressure myself to do. I know that the training is difficult and extremely time consuming and I just don't know if it's something I'll want to do again if/when priorities in my life change. If you followed my journey, you know that it was tough to do all the training, and also difficult to stay injury free. I have no idea how my body would do training for a marathon as I get older and probably even more injury prone. I wouldn't rule out running another marathon if I have the time and desire to do it though. I just don't know that I will have the time or the desire when I have a family and life gets crazy.
For those of you that have considered the marathon and aren't sure if you should do it or not, I say go for it. It was completely worth it to me to do the training and accomplish the goal. I can't think of too many other things I've done in my life that I'm quite as proud of as this.
I'm really glad I ran a marathon. As a person that has let go of certain dreams and sometimes felt defeated, it made me feel like things I previously had thought were unattainable were possible, which is so cool. I think it's a life experience worth having if you are a runner and want to see what you can do.