Author’s note: I’m not a professional or formally educated in any fitness field. This is a story of the way I approach running and what has worked for me. Please consult medical and fitness professionals before choosing to take on the challenge of running a marathon.
It all started in September 2014. One of my newest and closest friends in Austin told me about the time she and her dad ran a half marathon together and then he went on to run several marathons. I thought, “13.1 miles is SUPER far, but I’d get a medal for running it and medals are cool.” That day we signed up to run the Austin Half Marathon together and I started training.
Running (especially racing) can be very addicting. The feeling of crossing the finish line and getting a medal ends up being worth the pain at miles 10-13. You almost forget how much pain you’re in when you get a medal. I ran a few races every year until until February 18th, 2018 (my 4th Austin Half Marathon). It hit me that I was just burnt out on running after finishing the race. It was time to take a few months off… Until February 28th when I got notice that I won a lottery entry to the New York City Marathon.
*Cue mild panic.*
I took 2 months off and started trying to train on my own; and to be honest, I was struggling. I happened to run into my friend’s mom at Target and she mentioned that my friend’s dad runs with a running group in Austin called Rogue Running. He had nothing but good things to say AND he qualified for the Boston Marathon (the mecca of all marathons to many) with their training methods. I was sold instantly and signed up the next week for their Fall Marathon training program.
Rogue has a variety of offerings, but the program I signed up for included a running schedule, a small group run on Tuesday evenings, and a “supported” (aka water and people on the course to help if something happens) long run on Saturdays. I count my first day of my running with Rogue as Day 1 of marathon training, which was Saturday May 5th, 2018. My friend’s dad was at my first run and did the first half of the run with me, which eased a lot of my stress. My first small group run was the Tuesday after. Not going to lie, I was much more nervous going into my first small group run. Some combination of not knowing anyone and not knowing what to expect gave me a large amount of anxiety.
I trained all summer in the Texas heat – running a minimum of twice a week between my two runs and doing other runs or other workouts on off days. In retrospect, I wish I stuck to the running schedule Rogue gave me because this lack of training set me up for some big pain later on. By October, my long runs were upwards of 22 miles and my short runs were 10 miles. I’ve never been a particularly fast runner, so these long runs were very long in the Texas sun.
I flew up to NYC a few days before the race to see my family, pick up my race packet, and settle in. The NYC Marathon is a point-to-point race, meaning you start in one place and finish in the other (versus an out-and back or a loop). What’s different about this race compared to others that I’ve done is that I had to wake up SO. DAMN. EARLY. to get to the start. My start time was 11 AM, so I have to wake up at 6 AM to catch a 7:30 AM Ferry to get to the start corral by 9 AM and wait for 2 hours before I can run. This is a perfect storm for developing pre-race jitters and is hard to train for, but I managed.
The first 10-15 miles were pretty great. I got to see a lot of New York that I hadn’t before, I (aka my legs) were feeling good, and I was pacing close to what I thought I would. And then my Apple Watch died and I became unaware of how fast or slow I was going. And then my feet started to hurt and I got tired. By mile 18, I was TIRED. By mile 22 I wasn’t sure that I was going to finish. I was in the most physical and mental anguish I’ve ever experienced. I pushed through to 24 and at that point could feel the finish getting closer.
My family came into the city from Connecticut and I saw them at the .5 mile to go marker. Between us, I was walking until RIGHT BEFORE I saw them and happened run again 5 seconds before seeing them. I got across the finish line, got my medal and a poncho, and sat down. I just sat there for 10? 20? minutes trying to process what I did, what I accomplished. Eventually I got up and met my family at the family reunion spaces.
My Post-Race Routine
After seeing my family, I hobbled back to my hotel and took a very hot shower. (Mostly sitting – at that point is it a bath? Let me know in the comments.). I joked for months that I was going to eat a full pizza after I finished. Jokes on me, I could only eat half before I passed out in bed and got some much needed sleep.
The next day I
limped walked around the city and got the best photo with the Fearless Girl statue. While I almost fell down the subway station stairs, it’s one of the best things I could have done the next day. If there’s anything I can recommend for new marathon runners, it’s move a lot the day after your race. Destination races like the World Major Marathons are great opportunities to see new places (before, during, and after the race). I highly recommend taking advantage of that and get your muscles moving with some active recovery.
After NYC, I made the decision to go for my Six Star Medal. You earn this by running the six Abbott World Marathon Majors – Tokyo, London, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, NYC. I ran the Berlin Marathon in Fall 2019 and hurt my knee in the process. I decided to take 2020 off from long distance running after talking to a physical therapist. A few weeks ago I downloaded a couch to 5k Program and slowly getting back into it. Fingers crossed to another marathon finish in 2021!