I. Am. A. MARATHONER!
That’s right, I completed my first full marathon on Saturday and it was amazing experience. I ran a conservative race, and I’m so glad I did, because man oh man, miles 22-25 were TOUGH! I’m so proud of myself, and I can’t even begin to describe what crossing the finish line felt like. The marathon was such a test of my mental strength, let alone the strength of my ankles and feet. Happy to report though, no blisters and no black toenails, AND no tendon pain or shin splints throughout the entire race! The entire time I focused on running what “felt good” and didn’t agonize over every single split like I usually do. I knew after what all I had struggled with the past few weeks that it would be a stretch anyways to hit my goal time, and I had no idea how my feet would feel in my new shoes. I looked at my watch a few times to check the milage, but I wanted to ENJOY the race, and soak it all up, and not focus so much on my times. It was my first marathon after all, and a lot of it was brand new territory! Looking back at my splits, I’m 100% certain I could have gone faster, and shaved off several minutes, but considering my 20 miler was now 6 weeks ago, I’m happy with how it all turned out! They say you shouldn’t set a goal for yourself your very first marathon, but let’s be honest, we all know I wanted to hit 4:30.
Here’s how it all went down!
I ate my traditional pre-race meal of a Totino’s pizza, and a bowl full of Olive Garden pasta the night before that. Don’t judge my tradition, it’s worked for me every time, and you don’t want to switch up what you’re used to eating the night before a race! I laid out my clothes, set out my breakfast (clif bar, banana with peanut butter, and gatorade) put my timing chip on my shoe, and went ahead and attached the pins to my bib.
Saturday morning, my alarm went off way earlier than I’m used to, but I jumped right out of bed and made sure to give myself enough time to eat and digest before heading out. Adam had left to duck hunt two or three hours earlier, so I was on my own. Start time was 7am. I left a little after 6, made one last pit stop on the way, and pulled into the parking lot about 6:20. Luckily this race was just across the river, so it wasn’t a hassle to get to at all. Since the race started down by the river at a park, where there’s only one small parking lot, the race had organized trolleys and busses to drive runners down the hill to the start line and bag check. It was fun chatting with other runners on the bus, and wondering if I was the only first-timer! I noticed several runners wearing their St. Jude Heroes jerseys, and we bonded over that memory from 3 weeks ago. I can’t help but think that things truly worked out for the best though, and by the end of the race I was sure of that.
So, I got off the bus, headed to the porta-potty line, because Lord knows I was nervous, then before I knew it I was lined up ready to start. Thank goodness I remembered to start my Garmin, what a disaster that would have been! I put my headphones in and started jamming to my playlist, and what felt like two second later, the gun went off and the race had begun!
The race only had around 450 runners, so it wasn’t nearly as crowded as some of the larger races I’ve done, which was so nice! I think it’s going to become VERY popular, VERY quickly though because the course was beautiful! Downright gorgeous. Seriously, I would go back and bike it tomorrow. Anyways, mile 1 I ran at the goal pace I trained for, but like I said, I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to worry so much about time, but focus more on how my body felt, and try and keep my feet happy at the same time. I made the right decision, and am so glad I didn’t put that pressure on myself!
The course was very much an out and back, so along the way we’d pass the signs for higher milage, which was a little bit daunting at times. For example, during mile 1, we passed the mile 19 marker. Yikes! But, it was a good mental note to take so I’d remember where each mile was on the way back. It was fun though to pass other runners along the way, and I remember when I passed the race leaders (at mile 8) they were already past mile 11. HA. Let me strap on my jet pack and maybe I can catch up with them!
Here’s the course map, with a little explanation from yours truly:
The whole route is along the River Trail, a really pretty paved trail system that goes through several parks, all along the Arkansas River, over the three bridges, and really is a beautiful scene. In fact, the Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian only bridge in North America! I trained on the River Trail a lot, so I knew the course well. Adam and I have even biked the whole thing in the past, so I wasn’t surprised by anything too bad! I did however, forget about a few hills near the bluffs, but still managed to survive! So, as you can see, the start was at the red arrow on the map, and it went all the way down to the purple, all the way back, then into Two Rivers Park for a 6 mile loop, then back to the red arrow. It’s pretty neat to think that I’ve run from west Little Rock essentially to downtown Little Rock and back! The course crossed the Big Dam Bridge at mile 1 and 18, the Clinton Bridge at mile 9, and the Two Rivers Bridge at miles 19 and 26 (approximately). There were two other smaller bridges on the trail as well, one of them I swear was a swinging bridge and I thought I was going to lose my breakfast running over it with everyone, I’ve never felt it shake like that before!
Ok so, mile 1 was along a flat stretch between the Two Rivers Bridge and the Big Dam Bridge, and then you get to Big Dam Bridge and immediately go up a steep and stready incline, then across and back down the other side into North Little Rock, and from there, the race was fairly “flat” until the next bridge downtown, the Clinton bridge. This was miles 1-9ish, between the bridges, then when we crossed over the Clinton Bridge at the Clinton Library, we ran around a turn-about, then went back up and over the Clinton Bridge and back along the same trail then back up and over the Big Dam Bridge. Going back was miles 9ish-18ish. My half marathon time clocked in around 2:05, which wasn’t bad, but felt comfortable. I definitely ran the first half extra smart, since I had no idea what miles 21-26 would entail! I know I could have hit right under a 2 hour half time, but I also knew I would tire out too fast!
Running back up the long arm of the BBD at mile 18, was probably not my favorite part of the race, but I tried my best to run all the way up it and not stop! I’ve run BBD a thousand times before, so I knew just one more time wouldn’t kill me. I felt pretty great throughout this chunk of the race, the only pains I felt were around mile 17 when my arches started to hurt some. I think I hit a mini wall at mile 17 actually, for some reason it just felt extra tough. I shoved my hand in a big bowl of salty potato chips at the closest aid station and soon felt better 🙂 Oh! Back at mile 8, I had just run through an aid station, and must have glanced away for a second, but I rolled the fire out of my right ankle and I thought surely to God I had sprained my ankle. It scared me because it literally rolled all the way right and all the way left, and I tried so hard not to tear up it hurt so bad! I was so frustrated that that part of the route hadn’t been cleaned off or anything and there were tons of little sticks and twigs on it. I must have stepped the right way on a twig or a rock or something, and holy moly it hurt. I didn’t stop though, and just told myself “that didn’t just happen, you’re fine, that didn’t happen, deal with it later!!” (It was a little swollen last night, but I think we’re good now, just tender.) I just laughed and thought, “the things I have gone through to finish this stupid distance!!” It’s not really stupid though, don’t worry 🙂
Around 19 and change, the route looped back right by the finish line, up and over the Two Rivers Bridge, and into the park for the final part of the race. I’d always heard that the race doesn’t really start until you pass mile 20, and that is beyond true. I glanced at the clock when I ran by and it said 3:13, so I knew if I pushed it enough making it back in at 4:30 would be cutting it really close, especially since I wasn’t hitting 10 minute miles exactly. (GAH that kills me to say, but the marathon is just such so different I can’t beat myself up about it! Stop it, stop it!) The winners of the race were already finished by this point, how crazy is that!! Whew, it makes me tired just thinking about it!
Miles 20-26 were all through the park, on the same paved trail system. It was basically a giant loop, so you could look ahead and see quite a ways, and sort of mentally map out where you were going. I don’t remember “hitting the wall” at mile 20 like everyone says, but I think I hit it more somewhere between miles 21 and 22. I remember grabbing some animal crackers, going full steam ahead, and then BAM, MAJOR slow down. Some serious self-pep-talking took place right about now. I started telling myself to just get to mile 22, then just get to mile 23 because then all you have left is a 5K. Somewhere along mile 23 or 24 I grabbed some peanut M&M’s and pretzels and oh my goodness, I have never tasted candy so good!!! Like for real, M&M’s have never been as amazing as they were right then in that moment!! I remember stopping to walk for just a second just so I could grab a good swig of water, and when I started to run again it was like every single bone in my feet and ankles were screaming at me. Definitely MUCH more painful to stop and walk than it is to just slow down your pace. When I saw mile marker 25 it was game on! There was a girl up ahead of me and I was determined to pick her off, then finish this last mile as fast and as best as I could! I gave it everything I had left, which was hard because by this point I realized I had to pee, (ha! 4 1/2 hours will do that to you! “don’t pants your pee, don’t pants your pee, don’t pants your pee”) and as I approached the bridge one last time I was ecstatic to sprint to the finish and see Adam! I smiled one last time for the photographer on the bridge, (oh gosh, can’t wait to see that fake grunt on my face) and then ran down the other side, heard the announcer say my name, saw Adam, high-fived him, then high-fived Santa (???) then crossed the finish of my first MARATHON! HOLLER!
**THANK YOU Tia, for taking these two pictures!!! You guys, go check her out, she ran a 2:59!!!!**
I got my medal and stopped to get my chip timer clipped off, then may or may not have leaned over to cry a little bit. It was an emotional time, ok?? Adam came over and gave me a huge hug, we took some pictures, I ate a hot dog and a bag of chips, then I noticed I was freezing and we headed to his truck!
I’m so beyond proud of myself. I finished in 4:32:37, and ended up placing 2nd in my age group!
Considering my 20 miler was 6 weeks ago, I had to re-train and re-taper in 3 weeks, mentally re-prepare, deal with that tendon crap, buy brand new shoes and order new orthotics, I’ll take it!! I was honestly surprised when I came over the bridge and saw 4:31 because I was so worried I had let it fall closer to 5 hours! God is so good, and I still hit my goal time! My A goal time was ~4:30, B goal time was ~4:45, and C goal time was anything under 5 hours. Whoo hoo!! I keep reminding myself that YES I could have gone faster, and YES I’ll always be hard on myself, and YES there will always be someone who’s faster than you, but this was MY race, and MY time, and I ran what MY body was capable of in that very moment, and I couldn’t be happier.
I used my Sprigs Banjees wrist band, and ate a Clif Shot Blok or a PowerBar Energy Blast every ~3 miles, and drank a sip of water or gatorade at almost every aid station. I never felt like I was going to pass out, never felt woozy, never felt like I couldn’t breathe, never felt like I was on the verge of a heart attack. You know, all the scary things they tell you about the dangers of running a marathon. Cardio wise, I felt like I could run MORE than 26.2, but physically I know 26.2 was about all my feet and ankles could take.
and then, I REALLY nailed this one…
I jumped for him…but he missed it. So we’re left with this fun gem!
So how am I feeling today? The day after? Holy mother of Earth, I am SORE. I even cleaned the whole house today for fear of having to sit down and get back up. Thank goodness we have a one level house, because walking down the steps outside today before church juuuuust about killed me. I almost didn’t want to go to sleep last night because I knew the impending doom that would be upon me today. I’ve been taking Ibuprofin, drinking lots of water, and will hopefully build up the courage to foam roll in a few days. As for now, that sounds terrifying. It all hurts so good though, and every pain is worth it. Even if I’ve now perfected the Silly Walk.
Thank you X’s a million to everyone who has encouraged, supported, asked, texted, called, ANYTHING, leading up to and after my race. It really means the world to have a support system, and even if you can’t possibly conceive why I would want to run 26.2 miles at one time, just the fact that you congratulated me, or asked me about my marathon at some point, means more than anything.
Would I do it again?
Yes. At the right time 🙂
I’m a marathoner, ya’ll!