I wanted to run a marathon.
Now I’ve completed two marathons.
Life comes at you fast. In November 2022, I finally accomplished my goal of running a marathon. I finished with a time of 5:04:32, which isn’t bad for a first marathon! I felt great. I finally did the thing! I didn’t have much time to celebrate because I had already signed up for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2023, so I immediately started getting ready again. Little did I know, it would not be that simple. Before we delve into all of that, let’s start with the Seattle Marathon.
I was ready. I knew I was ready because I’d been training all year by slowly increasing the distance of my long runs each week. I’d hit my fair share of speed bumps along the way. Knee pain led me to a physical therapist who worked with me to improve my stride and focus on stretching and/or strengthening certain muscles to help support my knees on the long runs and helped develop a plan to maintain a decent pace throughout. My original plan when I set out to run a marathon was to run the actual 26.2 miles before ever entering an official race. Do the thing before actually doing the thing. I wanted to know if I could do it before putting myself out there in public. But multiple sources warned me not to put that much strain on my body. I learned that a marathon is a traumatic event for the body, one that takes multiple weeks to recover from and can hinder your immune system, so it’s not worth it unless you’re running in an actual race. I was instructed to do a maximum of 20 miles before a marathon and that the adrenaline would carry my body those extra 6.2 miles after. So I ran 21 miles before tapering off in the weeks leading up to the marathon.
On marathon day, I woke up around 3 AM to get ready. My physical therapist, who has lots of race experience, advised me to stick with whatever pre-run routine I’d been following for my long runs. Well, since my long runs are almost always on a Sunday, they fall on day two of “cheat weekend” where anything goes with my diet. It’s my opportunity to reward myself for a long week and load up on energy for the multiple hours I would be running. As such, I would often fuel up with a box of Entenmann’s donuts and multiple cups of coffee–so, that’s what I did before the marathon. The race started at 6 AM, so I allowed myself an hour and a half to get ready, make a pot of coffee, relax with some youtube, and fuel up. Then, once I had sufficiently loaded up on carbs, sugars, fats, and caffeine, I headed to Husky Stadium in Seattle to line up at the starting line.
It was mercifully dry that day, after raining hard the day before, but we weren’t out of the woods as far as the weather goes. Because of the previous day’s rain, it was quite cold out. The coldest it had been that season. I was bundled up with leggings, a short-sleeve under a long-sleeve under a jacket, and a pair of gloves. My headphones covered my ears, so those were warm, but I was chilled. I wore my winter coat and blasted the heat as I drove to the stadium, hoping that my body would absorb enough warmth to carry me through until the sun came up. As I headed to the starting line, I saw a broad spectrum of people–from those bundled up even more than me to people wearing shorts and a tank top. I took my place amongst the crowd as I waited for the signal that the race had begun. Then, suddenly, we were off. But it wasn’t the instantaneous zooming you would picture. No, there were far too many people for that. I’m sure near the front there were plenty of zooms to be had, but not in the middle of the pack, where I was comfortably nestled. Though, all was not sunshine and rainbows (it was a chilly pre-sunrise morning, after all), because right after we started moving, I watched a girl get knocked down to the concrete. Had someone not been diligent enough to help her up, she very possibly could have been trampled. But after that initial mishap, it was smooth sailing for me for approximately 13 miles.
Around the halfway mark, the course took a turn–one that I’d learned was a new addition this year–we left the safe haven of the city of Seattle and took a detour onto the WA-520 bridge. This bridge was 3 miles of pretty straight concrete that declined as you approached it and inclined as you were getting off, all of which was over cold Lake Washington. We were buffeted by harsh late fall-early winter winds coming straight off the lake for 6 miles (across and back) before returning to the University of Washington campus from whence we originated. But that only left us with 19 miles under our belt and about 7 more to the finish line. Unfortunately, that’s when I hit my wall.
Those winds took a toll on me, and I started to slow down. I changed my strategy from running non-stop to alternating between running and walking, depending on how my body felt. This killed the 10-minute/mile pace that I was trying to maintain for the duration of the race and eventually led to me finishing with a pace of 11:35/mile. I later learned that miles 19 and 20 are where the dreaded “wall” hits most runners, and I was just another victim. It was around this time that I started having thoughts that I’m starting to become familiar with–as they repeated themselves at around the same distance during the Disney Marathon.
“Why am I doing this to myself?”
“There’s no way I’m doing another one of these.”
But I was going to do it again. I knew I had already signed up for another marathon in about a month and a half. And despite the negative energy swirling around inside my head, I pressed on. I did as much as possible–walking and jogging until I found the motivation to push through to the end. I followed some fellow runners during the final mile, trying to match their pace as best I could. As we approached the stadium once again, there were people with supportive signs. Signs that weren’t meant just for whomever they were there to support, but with general words of encouragement for the broader audience of masochists who put themselves through such torture. One kid even had a sign that said “hit for a power-up,” which I did.
Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over.
I crossed the finish line and received my medal, some water, and a space blanket. A professional photographer asked if he could take my photo with the medal. I obviously let him. Then I met my family in the stands, took some time to catch my breath, and grabbed some more pictures, then I wanted to get the heck out of there. My legs were exhausted and weak, so I asked my dad to us home. There’s a McDonald’s by my place and that was the first thing I ate–it was delicious! A couple of hours of rest, and we were off to the next adventure!
I knew I had to start prepping for the Disney World Marathon, which was only six weeks away, but my physical therapist had warned me to at least take a week off of running to allow my body to recover. I did as she asked, but I was unfortunately forced to rest longer than I had hoped. Because about a week and a half after I successfully completed the Seattle Marathon–my first marathon–and four and a half weeks before the Walt Disney World Marathon–my second ever marathon–I received another first: my first positive Covid test.
We’ll get into that, and the Disney World Marathon, in the next blog!
THE WORLD IS YOUR BURRITO!
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