An Honest First Marathon Review – Tears, Jeers, Fears and the Random Man Who Helped Me Finish

The first thing I want to say for anyone considering or training for a marathon, is you need to take everyone else’s advice with a grain of salt, especially the week before. Everyone has had different experiences, different training and different successes. Don’t let too much advice get to your head.

Some people will tell you to carb up the entire week before the race.

Some people will tell you to bring your own gels, wear your water belt, wear pants, don’t wear pants.

Some people will tell you, you’re going to chafe so bad you will bleed.

Some people will say don’t wear anything new or buy anything new for the day of.

Some people will say you are going to poop your pants.

Some people will poop their pants.

For the record, I did not poop my pants.

Bottom Line: trust your training, listen to your body, and make a plan of action that works for you.

Diet

I chose to stick to my usual pretty healthy diet the week before the race, only adding in more carbs the two days before, but still not over doing it. I couldn’t imagine filling myself up so much the night before the race. For dinner the night before I had a healthy portion of chicken parmesan with pasta, and for dessert some apple crisp. I didn’t crazy overeat. I filled up, and went to bed happy, not hungry, and not bursting.

The most important thing was to hydrate. Drink lots of water the day leading up to the race.

Gear

Ahead of the race, I took my shorts, tank, socks, and long sleeve shirt on a test run. I wouldn’t recommend going with new sneakers or new socks the day of the race, that’s for sure!

The morning before the race I had two main anxieties:

  1. What if I need a gel and the station I’m at isn’t a refueling station?
  2. What if my phone dies?

Going against the advice to wear anything new, I purchased a FlipBelt at the Fitness Expo the day before. After talking with the sales woman and trying it on, I was confident that the belt wouldn’t move, wouldn’t chafe and wouldn’t negatively affect my running. It would allow me to carry the things I needed, without the full weight of a water belt. I planned to carry two gels and my mini external phone battery.

Race Day

The morning of the Mo’ Cowbell Marathon I woke up, lathered on my HER Body Glide (a must for no chafing), laced up, grabbed my Cliff Bar, a bottle of water and hit the road.

I left the house with plenty of time for travel and parking, arriving about an hour before the race.

I paid for a VIP package that included prime parking (helpful but not necessary), a heated pre-race area (great on a cold fall morning), chairs (great to rest your legs a bit before the race), private gear check, (helpful but not necessary), post-race food and massages (I was stoked about these two).

As I did for my previous long runs, I ate my Cliff Bar about 15 minutes before race time.

When it was time to corral up I joined the pace team a little bit slower than my anticipated pace. I intended to stay ahead at my 10 minute mile, and have them behind me as a gauge.

And then the race began.

And I started crying.

I was so excited!

Be advised, crying takes a lot of breath, so try and not be a big baby like I was.

Miles 1-7 flew by. I stayed at a great 9:55 pace.


Mile 8 was the first time I saw my parents, my husband and my in-laws all cheering for me. Signs and matching shirts included. 

I started crying again.

This time it was much harder to catch my breath. Seriously, try not to cry.

I powered on through the half marathon.

That moment when you separate from the half marathon folks and go on the full marathon path is insane. The amount of pride, fear and excitement is unimaginable.

Then it hit me. I have 13.2 more miles. The Mo’ Cowbell Marathon is certainly a half marathoner race. There were many times miles 13 through 15 I felt alone, bored and uninspired.

The moment I felt a lack of inspiration, I remembered why I was running. Not just for me. For Martha and the Hartmann‘s. For Run for a Cure Africa. (Insert me jamming out to Toto’s Africa) #31for31. Women’s health. Breast Cancer awareness. Ovarian Cancer awareness. I couldn’t stop now. I couldn’t be all talk!

Mile 16 I took a little squat and stretch break for about 30 seconds. It felt great and really helped loosen things up a bit.

Then I hit mile 17. My friends were there! With metallic, hot pink boa enhanced signs. BOY DO THEY KNOW WHAT GETS ME JAZZED! Sparkle and feathers! It gave me so much energy I felt like I could fly!

17 through 20 were hard. I just kept thinking, get to 20. You can do it. You’ve done it. Then it’s just another 6 miles! Then I realized how sick it was that I just said “ONLY 6 more miles!”

During this stretch of the race you turn around and head back toward the finish line, passing other marathoners heading in the direction you just came. I felt compelled to tell people they looked great, they could do it, and great job, and they did the same. That little bit of community support went a long way. We’re in this together! Today we all become marathoners!

At mile 21 I saw my family crew again! Their cheers were inspiring, but quite frankly I was ready to be done.

Miles 22-24 were rough. The hardest. Harder than I thought. My cardio was fine, but my legs were burning. I could see my right quad muscle tightening. This chunk of the race really killed my overall pace average. I walked. I stopped to stretch. But I did what I felt I needed to do to finish, and finish healthy.

At mile 25 some random guy, god bless him, grabbed my arm while I was walking and said ‘Come on! You can do this.’ For the rest of the race, until the home stretch, he yelled at me and another woman running alongside him. ‘I don’t know you but I’m proud of you!’ ‘Once a marathoner, always a marathoner! No one can take this form you!’

I’m not kidding.

My own personal last mile coach.

It was weird, but it was awesome.

With less than half a mile left my man coach sprinted ahead and yelled back ‘YOU’VE GOT THIS GIRL.’

As his bloody back (clearly didn’t lube up) faded away, it happened. I saw the finished line. I saw my family. I saw my friends. And I sprinted. As fast as my legs would go. I sprinted. And I crossed the finish line.

Four hours and thirty three minutes later. I finished. I FINISHED!

I finished, and I forgot the only piece of advice I swore I would remember. Look up and smile.

This is me….looking down. AMATEUR! UGH!
I hobbled over to grab my cowbell medal, hugged my friends and family, and hobbled over to the VIP tent where my post-race stretch and snacks were promised.  

To my disappointment the PT tables had been broken down and they were only offering stretches in the main tent area. I then had to wait., on my feet, for twenty minutes for a 2 minute stretch. Not to mention the food in the VIP tent sucked. Bananas. Smoothies. Bread. Literally pieces of bread. And bags of chips.

NOTE for the Mo’ Cowbell Marathon organizers: Don’t call something a ‘VIP Package’ if there is nothing VIP about it besides the heaters in the beginning. I could have just waited inside my car. I didn’t feel special because of your accommodations. I felt special because i just finished a friggen marathon! 

Not even a poor spread was going to get me down!

I’m so proud of what I accomplished. I may have finished 13 minutes slower than I really wanted, but the bottom line is, I finished!

A few key factors to my success:

  • Preparing my full body with cross training and weight training
  • Listening to my body during training and adjusting my schedule
  • Drinking LOTS of water the night before
  • Walking when I had to during the race

I FINISHED! 

Now it’s time to pick my next one 😉

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