I ran my first Marathon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

About a year ago I was sitting on my sofa watching the news coverage of the Chevron Houston Marathon. As I watched the runners crossing the finish line I couldn’t help but feel inspired by them. They set a goal, worked towards it, and accomplished it. I made the decision then and there to sign up for the 2019 marathon. Before I tell you about my training schedule and the actual marathon, let me give you a little back story about my history with running.

The Backstory  

Let me start off by saying that I used to HATE running. I hated it so much that I signed up for band in middle school so that I wouldn't have to take any physical education classes- therefore I would not have to run. 

During my first two years of college I did a lot of sitting and eating and not a lot of working out so the freshman fifteen quickly turned into the sophomore thirty. The summer after my sophomore year I decided to do something about my weight gain and so I turned to running. I woke up and would head out for a three mile run about four days a week. I couldn't immediately run three miles without stopping, but I worked my way up to it throughout the course of the summer. At this point I still hated running but I saw the weight coming off so I kept on doing it. 

Fast forward to my last semester of college, I was so ready to be done with all of the homework and studying I had to do so for my elective credits I decided to sign up for a running class. You heard that right, I took and received college credit for a class where all I did was run... and I signed up willingly. I still didn't like to run, but in that moment I liked that for at least one class I wouldn't have to read until my vision went blurry or write until my hands were numb. I just had to run. 

After college I would go on a run here and there but for the most part I avoided it. Anytime I would see some uptick in my weight I would turn to running to get me back on track. 

It was the year of my wedding when I decided to start going to a 5:30am bootcamp four days a week in which two days were solely dedicated to running. I'll be honest, when I signed up I didn't know that all I would be doing was running two days a week, but nonetheless I stuck it out. During the five months leading up to my wedding I didn't miss a running class. Something strange also started happening... I started enjoying it. The class instructors were great. They paid attention and gave me pointers on my running form and they encouraged me and pushed me to run faster than I'd ever run before. It also helped that I was surrounded by lots of nice people who were also very encouraging. One of the instructors also told me that I should sign up for a half marathon because I was a good runner. I thought "Me? Yea that'll never happen." 

A few months after my wedding we moved to a different neighborhood and I stopped going to my morning bootcamp. I kept working out and going to other classes at my new gym and for the first time in my life I missed running. Thankfully our new neighborhood is right off of a running trail so I quickly added running back into my life. As the new year approached I was thinking a lot about what goals I would set and with my bootcamp instructors words still in the back of my mind I decided that I would sign up for and run a half marathon in the new year.

So the new year came along and I was fully prepared to sign up to run the Houston Half Marathon in January 2019. But then watching the news coverage of the 2018 Marathon and seeing so many people complete the full marathon I changed course and decided to shoot for the moon! 

Marathon Training 

Over the course of a year I went on 147 runs which took 103 hours to complete for a grand total of 624 miles. What those numbers don’t show is that I spent a lot more time mentally preparing for every run. On the good days I thought “I can do this!” and on the bad it was more like “What was I thinking signing up for a marathon? I’m not a runner. I’m not going to be able to run that distance.” I’d made a deal with myself when I started training to make no excuses, so even on the bad days I laced up and hit the trail. 

When I started my training journey the farthest I’d ever run was six miles and that was a struggle for me. With a year to prepare for the marathon I decided to slowly work my way up to different milestones. I'd gotten an Apple Watch for Christmas and downloaded the Nike Run Club App. The App lets you set your goal and creates a unique training schedule for you. With the App and my first 10k race scheduled, I started training. 

I ran my first 10k race on February 24, 2018 and it was brutal. I distinctly remember being at mile four and cursing myself for thinking that I could run a full marathon when I was having such a difficult time running 6.2 miles. I pushed through my self doubt and finished the race at just under an hour. 

After the 10k race, I continued my cycle of setting a goal for a longer distance and training for it. I did this to get to 15k and then to the half marathon distance. 

I ran my first ever half marathon distance on July 15, 2018. It took me almost two and half hours to cover 13.1 miles and it was the hardest physical and mental activity I'd done to date. I remember being so incredibly sore and wondering if it was even possible for me to run further. 

For the next month and a half I kept running but didn't have a set goal since official marathon training started on September 17.

The training plan that I decided to *mostly* follow was Hal Higdon's Marathon Training: Novice 1.  I say mostly because through week nine of marathon training I was cross training two to three days a week and running three days a week instead of the four running days prescribed by the training plan. From weeks ten through eighteen of training I stopped cross training and would run three days a week. I did this because the long runs were wearing me out and I needed more and more rest between training sessions. 

Weeks ten through fifteen of training were the worst. You'd think that going from running 15 miles to running 20 miles in six weeks wouldn't be a big deal, but for me it was. At the time I was hitting a wall at 15 miles and it took so much mental effort to finish the 16 mile, 18 mile, and 20 mile runs. Not to mention that I started experiencing symptoms of sciatica the week of my 18 mile run. 

My first attempt at running 18 miles was cut short. I started having a dull lower back pain that spread down my leg to my foot. My foot started to feel numb. I stopped running at mile seven to stretch in hopes that it would feel better. I ran two more miles before calling it for fear of an injury. During the next couple of runs I continued to experience those same symptoms. I wanted to see a sports doctor and the one I found didn't have an opening until after the marathon so I took a couple of days to rest and decided to get new shoes. 

Some rest and new shoes seemed to fix the problem! I am the worst at keeping track of how many miles I put on my shoes and I am sure I'd needed new shoes for weeks if not months before I actually got a new pair. I sure won't be making that mistake again.

With my sciatica symptoms gone, I finished off my training strong.

I ran my first Marathon! Chevron Houston Marathon 2019

I ran my first Marathon! Chevron Houston Marathon 2019

Race Day 

Finally on January 20, 2019, all of my training was put to the test. I was nervous and excited to be on the race course surrounded by so many amazing people who had all trained to reach the same goal, including my dear friend Andrew Palmer. We were finally within hours of reaching our goals and having something to show for all our hard work. When I crossed the starting line I couldn’t help but be emotional. I was now one of those runners I looked up to just a year before. I was someone who’d set a goal, was actively working towards it, and I was absolutely going to accomplish it. 

The energy of the crowd and spectators was contagious. I had a permanent smile plastered on my face for the first ten miles of the race. My family and friends where near mile seventeen of the course so getting to see them kept my spirits high. It was at mile twenty that I started to feel the dreaded wall sneaking up on me. I no longer had my family to look forward to seeing and I was entering a distance that I'd never run before. Self doubt crept in. Could I run 6.2 more miles? Would I have to stop and walk? Would my legs cramp up? For a few minutes I questioned if I would even finish the race. Then I decided to change my mindset. I started reciting running mantras to myself. "I think I can. I think I can." "It doesn't matter how slow you go as long as you don't stop." "She believed she could. So she did." "One mile at a time." "It's supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would do it." "The body achieves what the mind believes." Those mantras got me to mile twenty four. It was at that point that I decided to dedicate the next two miles to my grandparents. I said prayers for my grandparents that have passed and said a prayer that my last living grandmother would be around for years to come. I thought about all the wonderful memories I have shared with my grandparents and about how if they were there to see me they would be telling me that I could do anything I set my mind to. 

The last quarter mile of the race went by in a blur. The crowds were cheering and the finish line was in sight. I felt energized and ran the last distance with the biggest smile on my face. 

I finished my first marathon in 4:30:15. Even more important than my race time is that I went from thinking "Me? Yea that'll never happen." to proving that I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I ran my first Marathon! Chevron Houston Marathon 2019 I ran my first Marathon! Chevron Houston Marathon 2019

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