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Running a Marathon(7 posts)

Running a MarathonJBergland
Oct 19, 2001 12:02 PM
(Long Story!!)

Let me say first of all, that running a marathon was one of the tougher things that I have accomplished. Much harder than any ride/races I have done. Much more mentally challenging than expected.

It started off innocent enough, I wanted to be able to say "I have ran a marathon." After volunteering for a couple races, I was hooked on the idea of running one. The bar was raised when a so-called-friend said, "You bike a lot,you're in pretty good shape, you know that you can finish, let's try to qualify for Boston!!" So there it was. It seemed pretty reasonable at the time. I had almost a year, plenty of time to train and learn what I needed to know. The date was set for June 1st for the SERIOUS TRAINING to start. I had run through part of the winter off and on, but spent much more time on the bike/rollers. Just after the 4th of July holiday my buddy calls me up and says something about work getting really busy and a couple personal things have come up that are eating up a bunch of his time. Boston isn't going to workout for him this Fall, maybe next Spring at Grandma's. He did have some "heavy things" going on so I understood for the most part, but I was on my own.

Training went well through June and July. I had not run competitively for many years. Although most of the first 2-4 weeks hurt like hell, it was a GOOD HURT. My timed runs were right were they should be and I could see qualifying for Boston was within reach. Then came the month of Aug.!! For three weeks I couldn't find time for any type of a long run. The weather was also not cooperating much. I also hit kind of a down spot in my training, low motivation and not being excited about running. Looking back I should have scheduled a 10k race around this time as a mini goal to shoot for. Of the three 20 mile runs I should have gotten in around this time, I only did one 18 miler and that one wasn't much fun.

By the time Sept. rolled around I had worked my way out of the "running slump" and was full steam ahead with my training. Unfortunately, it was a little late. My timed runs were still dropping, but there was no way that I would be able to run a Boston qualify marathon in less than a month. Talk about demoralizing, a whole month away, but I could see very clearly that it would not be enough. I kept on with my training hoping something magical might happen. Needless to say, the long training runs didn’t seem as important and although I did try to make up for it with extra intensity on other workouts, it wasn't the same as logging in those long miles. The events on 9/11 also had me thinking of many other things other than running. I had resigned myself to the fact that Boston wasn't a possibility, but wanted to run as good of a race as I could, didn't want there to be any regrets left out there. I reset my goal to finish the race with a 3:30 effort (20 minutes off Boston pace).

Two weeks before the Twin Cities Marathon my union called for a strike. This had been brewing for some time and couldn't have happened at a worse time. What could have been seen as a perfect opportunity to really focus on training during the 2 week leading into the marathon turned into a worst-case scenario nightmare. With some 'already set in stone' plans of being a father around the end of Jan., there was no way I was willing to go without a paycheck. I took a job (for the duration of the strike) with a neighbor down the street working siding/construction. The job was perfect in some ways because there would be absolutely no commitment (when the strike was over) and I would be paid cash. The job was horrible when it came to training. Suffice to say, I didn't run much more than 2-3 times in the 2 weeks leading into the marathon. I reset my goals for a second time, shooting for a 3:40-3:45. I honestly started to have some doubts about finishing

Oct. 7th Twin Cities Marathon. My so-called-buddy had decided to run the marathon, just not very fast. He said that he had a roast beef sandwich waiting for him at mile 12 and would probably have lunch with his grandma around mile 22-23 (now that is the way to run a marathon!!). He told me several times that he didn't want to hold me back, if he dropped off the pace not to worry about him. I told him that we should run together until mile 8 (where my wife would be waiting to take the first layer or two of clothes) and see how we feel. He thought that was a good idea. My buddy had run a couple other marathons and had tried to qualify for Boston last year, only to hit the wall hard at mile 21 (had to walk for 3 miles before he could run again, finished with a 3:38. The first 8 miles went fast. My buddy said he was cooked so I took off on my own. Miles 10, 11, 12, and 13 I felt great!! I was concerned about my pace because I seemed to be passing a lot of people. When I got to mile 17 I met my wife again. I was getting tired, but was still feeling ok. I gulped down some gel packets and took a couple swigs of water. I had stopped for maybe 3 minutes (wife and mother-in-law had to get pictures and talk a little). That was the last time I felt comfortable. When I got going again I immediately felt a couple cramps. They became even worse the more I thought about them. I started to think this was the end of my marathon. I had some cramping problems when I first started training that sidelined me for a week. Were they back? I had done a pretty good amount of reading and educating myself on some basics of marathons. All of them said similar things regarding suffering, it's guaranteed to happen!! One article suggested increasing your pace if you are not feeling good. It can help shift your focus onto something else or suffering in a different way (heart & lungs vs. legs). So that is what I did, picked up my pace on a medium hill and across a bridge. What do ya know, cramps disappeared!! Mile 20-21 I grabbed my last water bottle from my wife and said I would see her at the finish. I thought it would take me a better part of an hour. Time was 3:00. Miles 21-23 were up a series of hills. I have ridden this route many times before on a bike, tough end to our Wednesday night rides. I had powered up all of the hills so far in the race feeling VERY strong. But these couple hills hit hard!! I would guess 60% of the people I saw were walking or running VERY slow. I made it up the first 2 rises (the longest & steepest) pretty nicely but realized I need to pace myself for the remaining 3-4. I can't recall much of what happened between miles 23-25, I was really suffering!! When I saw the 25-mile marker it was like someone had splashed a bucket of water on me. I looked at my watch, 3:30. I've only got 1.2 miles to go!! I've done it!! I must not have been suffering as bad as I felt because I was able to cover that last 1.2 miles in 7:29 for a finish time of 3:37:29. After the race I thought I was going to die. My legs felt like they were going to cramp up, I was a little dehydrated, my back hurt, my feet hurt, I didn't feel very stable walking/standing, etc., etc. The only time I felt comfortable was laying flat on my back!! The soreness only last for about 2 days.

Overall I was pretty happy with how my first marathon went. I was 27:29 off a Boston qualifying pace, which is a lot when it comes to a marathon. Subtracted 7-8 minutes with the 3-4 breaks that I took and it drops down around 20 minutes. Pretty obtainable goal(s) for my next marathon, although it won't be ANY TIME SOON!! Where is that darn BIKE anyway??
Awesome!!! Is an Ironman next??? NMAPG
Oct 19, 2001 12:56 PM
Nice recap.....Len J
Oct 19, 2001 1:45 PM
and congratulations, welcome to the club!

Couple of observations FWIW.\:

1.) You managed your goals pretty well, not setting yourself up with overinflated expectations, and adjusting your time based on your training. Most people don't do this & they suffer for it. Good job.

2.) It sounds like you did great with the mental side of it. My experience is that everything from about mile 18 is mental. Most people are not prepared for this & it really kills them. Again, you did your homework & should be applauded for "Hanging tough".

3.) Pacing. I always found that wearing a stopwatch along with a preplan of what time I needed to be at different parts of the course, helped me hit my time goals pretty well. It sounded like you were surprised by your time as you got close to the finish. This is not a criticism, it's something to think about, and try in your training to see how well you handle either catching up time, or being ahead of pace. (BTW, being ahead of pace is harder to deal with mentally, doubts about wether you went out to fast creep in. Doubts are never good.)

4.) Try to find someone experienced who runs a little better than your target pace to run with next time. It will really help get you through the tough miles.

Sounds like, with more training, that you've got a shot at breaking the magic 3:00. If you do, no one can ever take that away.

Congratulations & keep up the effort.

Nice recap.....JBergland
Oct 22, 2001 5:01 AM
Insightful observations!! You are very right about the mental side of a marathon. You get up around 18-20 mile mark and the 'mind' becomes an important muscle to have trained along with the rest of the body. Next time I run a marathon (probably in a couple years) I would like to set a goal of sub 3 hours. Having 37 minutes to drop could be considered a lot... but having run my first marathon and knowing how important a structured training schedule can be (and also having some idea of what worked and what didn't) I'm pretty confident sub-3 is obtainable!!
Oct 19, 2001 1:48 PM
I was much more sore after my first marathon than after the 508, maybe about the same.

Running is much harder on you.

3:37 was my first marathon time, too. You'll cut a half hour the next time, I'd bet.

Oct 22, 2001 5:09 AM
Were 'into' biking then, or was that when you were first getting started? It was hard training for this marathon because basically most of my cycling season was set aside... focused on running. That has made me soooooo 'bike hungry' right now, I feel like riding through the entire dead-of-winter... ice, -10 below, snowdrifts and all!!!!!!!!!!!!!
re: Running a MarathonKudzu Kannibal
Oct 19, 2001 4:37 PM
I was a triathlete, mostly contained to Olympic distance races or less. My longest run to date last year was a Half-Marathon, which I found to be easy. So without properly training, I jumped into the Marine Corp and boy by the time mile 18 hit, I was in serious trouble. I was cocky thinking that a sub-3:30 was in place and appeared to be until that wall hit (my longest run all year was a 14 mile, just two weeks before).

You are right, it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, even over Adventure Racing, which to me is off-road fun. I am doing Disney this January and am taking it a lot more serious. No last minute prep. After that, I work right into a Half Ironman, then by next Fall will compete in my first Ironman. How does one who has a full time job with work, the wife, kids, God, and the house, have time to do an Ironman? One day at a time...

Congrats is a tough day no doubt, although there are some Century Rides I have done here in Ga I would put up against it...if I had properly trained for it.

"Tri-harder, Tri-faster, Tri-again next week"