Want to hear all about my first ever marathon?
I thought so.
There’s not actually a lot to say, except that it was really fun and easy and I won first place. The best part is that all of those things are only kind of lies.
The whole race was really fun. Some parts were fun in different ways than others though. During the first half a lot of it was fun because I felt great and was doing really well and was really excited to be doing my first marathon. Later in the run I was still excited to be doing my first marathon, but things were getting a little painful.
The first half of the race was easy. It stopped being easy around mile 15, and from that point on was extremely difficult.As for winning – I did get first place in my division! This fact became even more significant moments ago, when I checked the race results and found that there were in fact other people in my division. Yesterday after the race, the results they printed out on the spot said I was the only one in the 20-24 female division. I was still excited to know that I got first place in my division because even finishing the run was hard, but it’s even more exciting now that I know I beat other people. Overall I got 9th out of 37 women, which seems pretty good to me.
This being my first marathon, I was eager to hear other people’s advice. Even from people who never run and know nothing about marathons. Because sometimes you have to be removed from a situation to really have perspective. This applies to running, right? Here’s what a few good people suggested:
- Buy new shoes at least 2 weeks before the race.
- Don’t cut off all your foot callouses before the race.
- Listen to music.
- Add a half hour to your goal time and don’t be angry if you run that slowly.
- Sleep 1 hour for every 2 miles you plan on running.
- Run really fast.
- Don’t get black-out drunk the night before.
- Take it easy.
- At 13 miles, consider yourself one-third done with the race, and think of mile 20 as being half-way done. Because that’s what it will feel like.
The first two bits of advice we’re given just one week before my race, but luckily I’d bought new shoes a few weeks ahead of time. I didn’t run in them though, I ran in my old beat-up shoes because I’m more used to them and they’re lighter. I also restrained myself from cutting off all the callouses on my feet, as tempting as it was. I always listen to music, so that wasn’t a problem.
Some of the advice was more problematic. Like the whole sleeping thing, recommended by Ezra. I took about five sleeping pills the night before and went to bed at 2PM, but I just couldn’t stay asleep for 13 hours. Luckily I was focused enough on trying to achieve this feat that I didn’t have time to get black-out drunk. I was also advised to both “run really fast” and “take it easy.” I tried to solve this by easily running very fast. It worked for a while.
The tips on mental approaches were the most helpful. The last one about considering 13 miles to be 1/3 done instead of 1/2 done will probably sink in a lot more during my next marathon. I tried to tell myself that this time, but until you have a concept of what the last six miles feels like, it’s hard to fully appreciate.
My goal for this marathon was under 4 hours. However, online reviews of the marathon warned me that the Timberline is a slow race, and I should expect slower than average times. This was hard to process because it was my first marathon, and I had no idea what my average time was. I imagined it was something like 2.5 hours, so 4 should be no problem. Even so, because of the warning I received to aim low, I considered 4.5 hours to be a reasonable time to finish in as well. I ended up finishing in 4:16:35. The first place woman finished in 3:37:13, so it was a pretty slow course, and I was happy with my time. Aside from the fact that Darris from the Biggest Loser finished his marathon in 4:02, and it’s upsetting to be beat by a Biggest Loser contestant. But their marathon was flat and easy.
My time probably would have been better if I hadn’t gone out too fast, but I was having too much fun in the beginning to care how hard it would be later. Here’s a breakdown of my general thoughts along the way:
Mile 1: Super excited to finally be running my marathon, even more excited that my left shin that’s been bothering me isn’t hurting at all right now.
Miles 2-7: Still feel great. I can probably beat everyone and get one of those awesome plaques they were talking about. Extremely confident I can finish this marathon, which I was previously kind of worried about.
Miles 8-13: Great feelings continue. There’s a girl in a red shirt with really solid looking leg muscles that I keep alternating positions with. I’m excited I’m able to run with her, but somehow she looks like she’s done this before and might be able to hold this pace for a long time, while I’m not so sure I can(from the results posted tonight, I now know that she finished third for women and finished 22 minutes ahead of me). Also still excited that my shin doesn’t hurt in any way, which was entirely unexpected.
Miles 14-16: No longer feeling great. At mile 14 I joined up with all of the half-marathoners who had just started, and am happy to have more people to race with, but the long lines of people going slower than me on a really narrow trail makes me kind of annoyed. I stop considering trying to place well, and just focus on going faster than a jog.
Miles 18-21: I’ve been gauging my progress by the aid stations along the course. There are no mile markers, just the information that the stations are at miles 6, 9, and 11 (the marathon is two loops around the lake, so then you pass by the stations again around miles 18, 21, and 23). Getting from the first aid station to the second on this second time around the lake feels like the longest 3 miles of my life; I’m pretty sure they lied and it was more like 4 miles between them. All my energy is going towards keeping any kind of run going.
Miles 22-End: After a while I realize that while any running is excruciatingly difficult, running twice as fast isn’t any more painful, so I try to pick it up a little. Even though it doesn’t hurt anymore, I find myself regressing back into an extremely slow jog, often. At the last aid station some guy tells me there’s only 2 miles left. I get excited, I thought it was going to be at least 3 more. He definitely lied. As the course breaks away from the lake, it goes straight uphill, for the second cruelest marathon finish ever. The first cruelest marathon finish ever is what actually happens, which is when you think that the second cruelest marathon finish ever is happening, but in reality there’s actually 1.5 miles of gradual incline to go after you finish that part. Then I finish and I’m so happy.
I was also happy at the end of the race because I hadn’t seen a single running skirt the whole time, and I felt like I was running with a very sensible crowd. But then two ladies decided to go and ruin it by showing up in their silly skirts and flaunting them about (2 skirts/255 participants = 0.008% running skirts).
After the race I ate a bunch of jelly beans and thought about getting a massage, but the wait was too long. My parents had come along, and Pascal too. He was extra excited because it was his birthday. There were also a couple of little boys that came up to me after I sat down to rest, and demanded that I tell them if some creature on a log was a moth or a butterfly. It was a moth. Then I asked them why they hadn’t done the marathon, and one kid said, “because I’m only 7.” I asked when would he be old enough, and he said “when I’m 9.” It was a little bit funny.
My favorite part of the day was when we went to the brew pub in government camp afterward for lunch. The only bathroom is down a big flight of stairs. I found out that using stairs is incredibly challenging when you’ve just run a marathon (sitting on a toilet is no easier, by the way). Within about 15 minutes of getting there, the place had filled up with a bunch of other post-marathoners, some identifiable by their Timberline Marathon t-shirts, and all by the stiff waddle/limp that comes with 26 miles of running. I especially liked watching whenever one of them also had to go down to the bathroom – each one would stand at the top of the stairs for a moment, eying the situation warily, before sighing and slowly waddling down. It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one.
Besides extreme soreness (I can still barely sit down or stand up), another side effect of marathon running is getting really swollen feet. After consulting a couple of different sources, I’ve figured out that nobody besides my mom cares about my swollen feet at all or wants to hear about them, but just in case at least one other person finds this interesting, here are pictures:
It’s really hard for me to adequately describe my whole marathon experience, but that’s the general idea of how it went. I hope you get a chance to run a marathon one day, it’s pretty great.
Miles run last week: 35.2
Miles run in 2010: 426.2