The marathon is in the bag, done, finished, conquered, and survived. I went to Los Angeles this last weekend with a stomach full of trepidation and a head full of anxiety. I walked around all day Saturday actually wondering what have I done. I in no way felt prepared for the adventure I had signed up for, and by adventure I mean insane attempt to run farther than I had ever made my body run before. It was quite simply the hardest thing I have ever done.
My doubts were not helped by the severe back pain I had all week. I threw absolutely every trick in my bag at it in hopes of making the pain go away. I had a massage. I put medicine patches on it. I stretched. Took a few bubble baths (don’t judge me. I like bubble baths). By Saturday the pain had subsided enough that I thought I could do the marathon on Sunday.
Then Sunday came and I was shocked at how nervous I was. When I took off running I had no clue what the final result would be. I learned a very valuable lesson early. The LA Marathon is crowded. I could have taken one of the higher starting times based on my half-marathon results but I choose to start back in the pack. I like to pass people when I am running. I was afraid if I started with people who ran my pace I would burn myself out early. This worked in my half-marathon. It did not work here. There were so many people I don’t think I got into my regular running stride until mile seven.
This is not a good thing for me. I pay a lot of attention to my mechanics because of my back. I could tell I was running a little awkward with all the slow downs and speed ups as I tried to get around people. Next time, I start towards the front and rely on my GPS watch to set my pace.
I also learned that I am a very good half-marathon runner. When I hit mile 13.1 I felt relaxed and good (despite the awkward start). I do remember having the thought, “damn it! I am only half way there.” When I hit mile seventeen I still felt good but I began to realize that I might have overdone the hydration. I had been so worried about dehydrating that I forced myself to drink. I could feel the water slapping around in my stomach. Next time, I am going to drink when I am thirsty.
Mile nineteen came and I made my next mistake. I didn’t know the course as well as I should have. I thought I was done with hills. I felt good and decided to push a little harder. It showed in my mile time. I ran mile nineteen in nine minutes. Then I hit a hill and my legs started tightening up. When I pulled into the water station in mile twenty I slowed down to get a drink and I felt the muscle in my upper back thigh completely cramp up. It was an agonizingly bad cramp. I have never had a cramp here and didn’t have any clue how to get rid of it. Fearing I would be unable to finish the race I stopped, stretched, and tried to massage it out.
The cramp went away and I started back on the course but the last six miles were agonizing. The leg felt like it was going to cramp back up the whole way. I slowed way down trying to control it. At this point I went from trying to nail a good time to making sure I completed my first marathon. When I crossed the finish line the first thought which entered my brain was, “I am never going to do this again.”
It was an interesting feeling walking around at the end. I was happy but not as happy as I thought I would be. Honestly, I was really annoyed at how slow I was over the last six miles. I couldn’t stop thinking about the course and all the mistakes I had made. In short, I was a little annoyed with myself. It wasn’t until two days later that it really hit me, I had run a marathon. 26.2 grueling miles of body torture. A feat most people will never accomplish. I got a little happier at this point.
It also didn’t take me very long to back off of my own words “never again.” I knew this wasn’t true. Hell, I knew it almost as soon as I thought it. This is why I spent so much time analyzing what I had done wrong. I wanted to run another one and I wanted to do it better. I signed up for the LA Marathon as a way of forcing myself to push farther than I thought my body would go. So I did it again. I signed up for the Seattle Marathon in June.
I know a few things are going to have to change though. I am going to have to transform myself. I need to get leaner and stronger. I need to make sure my core can handle the workload. It’s time to stop carrying any extra fat. I am going to have to make my body into something it has never been. A lean, mean, running machine. I will never be super fast at running a marathon. At this point I have one goal. Finish it in under four hours. I have a half-marathon time of 1:50, so I know it is possible but I am going to have to be a different person. Eat better, exercise better, stretch better. I like being competitive with myself. I am excited by this challenge. I have no idea where it will take me. Well, that isn’t true. It is eventually going to take me back to the LA Marathon next year. After that, who knows.