My first full: Twenty six point two

There was a time just a few years ago when running for one minute without stopping was a big deal for me. On Saturday, Nov. 7, I ran for 4 hours, 51 minutes and 45 seconds (mostly) without stopping.

I was pretty calm heading into race day. I had a game plan to set out around an 11:30 pace and chip my way down from there. I thought if everything went amazingly perfect, I might be able to run close to an 11:00 average. I hit that for my 20 miler but those last 6.2 miles were such an unknown. I had no idea what to expect or how I would feel when I got there.

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It’s a little painful to start out so slow, especially when you have people flying by you in those first few miles. But it’s so important to run your own race, particularly when you are in it for the extreme long haul. I ended up going out a little faster than planned but stayed calm and didn’t push my pace too hard too early.

My first emotional moment of the day came in mile 7 when the half marathon splits and the full continues up Fall Creek Parkway. In the past, I always felt like it thinned out once I was alone with the half marathoners but that was nothing compared to how small the crowd was once it was just the full crazies.

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After the halfway point, I let myself pick up the pace but kept in mind how much farther I still had to go. I used the same mental strategy I have during my previous races. Rather than getting to 20 miles and then thinking about the distance I have left that I’ve never ran before, I got through the first 6.2 miles and then focused on the fact that I had already ran the distance that was left. During each remaining distance, I would think about my training run that was the same distance – how I felt, how I paced it, how I got through it. I don’t know if that makes sense or resonates with anyone reading this but for some reason it helps me so much more than thinking about it the other way around.

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I was really surprised how solid I felt when I finally did reach mile 21 and beyond. I continued to chug along. At that point, my goal was just to get to Meridian Street and hang on until the end. I did end up walking a little bit in the last mile – something I somewhat regret now but also realize it’s pretty awesome to not have walked until that point so I shouldn’t be that mad.

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There are no words to describe the feeling of coming down the final turn from Capitol onto Washington. They changed up the finish line chute this year and it ended up being a little longer with more people cheering on each side. It was absolutely incredible and the second emotional moment of the day. I surprisingly had a lot of energy and gave a strong final kick to cross the finish line with the biggest smile plastered across my face.

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Final stats:

  • Weeks completed: 18 of 18
  • Number of runs / total miles: 68 / 444.2 (only missed 4 runs total)
  • Number of crossfit workouts: 30
  • Most interesting run: Race day, obvi
  • Race day stats: OH HEY NEGATIVE SPLITS!!!
    • 10k – 1:09:55.2 (11:15 average)
    • Half – 2:26:34.3 (11:11 average)
    • Finish – 4:51:45.5 (11:07 average)

The #runMelrun crew
I could write an equally long post just about the amazing people in my life who have supported me through this journey. I was inundated with messages wishing me luck the week of the race. I didn’t expect or ask anyone to be out there and was so overwhelmed by how many times I had friends and family on the course cheering me on. I wasn’t sure if I would want to see anyone – if things were going bad or I was too in my head – but every time it gave me a boost of energy. These people gave up time on a Saturday to hang out on random sidewalks around town to see me for a total of 30 seconds while chasing after this really dumb goal of running 26.2 miles. I am forever indebted to them.

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What’s next?
As with winters past, maintaining my base will be a big goal. I’m signed up for the Derby half again in April and may get some shorter races on the books between now and then (the inaugural Winter Warmup was fun earlier this year!). But I’m also excited to get back to crossfit and lifting heavy shit again.

The obvious question is whether I’ll ever do another full. I can’t say I’m itching to do one right away but now that I’ve done it, I know I can do it again. It’s no longer this big, scary, holy shit, impossible thing. And as much as I don’t want to say something like this is easy… overall everything went really well for me during training, on race day and in recovery.

And if I can run a marathon, anyone can! Seriously. I do have a freakishly self-driven personality but besides that, here’s a few things it’ll take to get there:

  1. Time. You can’t go from zero to 26.2. So you train for 18 weeks. You give up your Friday nights because you have to get up early to run Saturday morning. You run when you would rather sleep. You run when you would rather drink. You run for several hours and then you sleep and then you drink. Your time is dominated by your training.
  2. Mental toughness. You have to be able to push through the wall when your body wants to do nothing more than not run and it’s incredibly easy to just stop. You have to will yourself through those last miles and focus on how proud you will feel when you finish. You can and will finish but you only if you’re willing to go to a place that completely ignores logic and every instinct your body has to shut down and quit doing this crazy thing (running a ridiculous amount of miles).
  3. Patience. The saying “it’s a marathon not a sprint” is of course very literal in this case. You are never more in tune with your body than you are training for a marathon. You know exactly how your body feels at different paces. You go out extremely controlled and conserve your energy because you have a long way to go. It’s not easy but it will help you finish strong. And you have to be patient about trusting your training plan. Four months is a long time to work for one day of racing but again, you can’t go from zero to 26.2.

Follow my journey to my first full! Previous updates: Week oneWeek fiveWeek nine, Week thirteen, Week seventeen.


4 thoughts on “My first full: Twenty six point two

  1. Very nice synopsis of the mental and physical aspects of training and running a full marathon. You faithfully stuck to and trusted your training plan and it delivered with a great race day performance. Oh, you also may gladly break our tie of one marathon each if you desire.

  2. Pingback: Rowing is the new running | Melanie Woods

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