How would I describe running my first full marathon?
The hardest thing I have ever done. Hands down. EVER. Even harder than childbirth since they don’t have epidurals for marathons. And my marathon took longer than both my labor and deliveries.
It hurt. I cried. It hurt more. I cried more. Yet, as I type this recap, I have the largest smile on my face. Here we go. Time to recap one of the most brutal, yet loved, experiences I have had in my life.
Peter & I left for Cleveland on Saturday morning with a short flight. We landed by mid-morning and decided to visit the expo center first thing after landing, since it was so close.
I picked up my race packet and information before settling in to tour the expo area. They had a lot of various vendors, but it felt fairly cluttered and hard to maneuver. I quickly found a 26.2 sticker and a cute marathon shirt to keep as souvenirs of my first full marathon.
The rest of the day was pretty basic – hotel check-in, a sandwich for lunch, a nap, and an early bedtime. I did have a fun dinner Saturday night, but I’ll save those details for another day as I recap the trip.
Sunday morning started pretty early with a 5 am alarm. I actually slept fairly well, which made me happy. I had a hotel cup of coffee to get things moving and got dressed and all my things situated for the day.
Then, fueled up with my favorite pre-run meal lately of an English muffin with peanut butter. I could hardly believe that the day was here!
The morning seemed to whiz by as we walked to the start. I got to meet up with Amanda from Miss Zippy for a few minutes. She helped give me a few racing pointers and encouragement before my start. Thanks, Amanda!
Then, I found my estimated pace group and got psyched up to run my first full marathon!
From there, you could really break the race down into two halves – the good half (up until mile 13) and the bad half (the rest of the race).
Miles 1-3: These miles passed by in somewhat of a blur. It was very crowded and so I focused on not stepping on anyone and settling into a steady pace.
Miles 4-9: I found a pace that felt very comfortable – a pace that I have easily held on many of my long runs. I thought I was being conservative. I had my handheld water bottle with Nuun tablets to help keep my body hydrated and balanced properly with electrolytes. I was enjoying the sights of going through downtown Cleveland and smiling for all the spectators. I felt confident of a good race ahead.
Miles 10-13: The heat started to creep up a bit more since we were all running on open paved roads without much shade. I almost missed the split off for the marathon. I actually noticed a woman directing someone else to the marathon course and had to turn around to ask. I’m glad I did! Otherwise, I would have ended up at the half finish line so confused. Also, I saw Peter just before the 13 mile mark and it gave me such a perk. I knew it would be my last main chance to see him and I was so worried I wouldn’t. You can see it in my face.
Miles 14-17: Hell. I wish I could put it in a nicer way, but I honestly have no other way to describe it. During this stretch we were running along a straight, boring road. Mentally, I felt so discouraged and that I still had such a long, long, long way to go. The heat was wearing on me badly by now and already had me extremely fatigued. I had to stop and walk a LOT.
The temperatures soared to unexpected highs for the area this time of year. It was already in the 60s at the start and reached 80 during the race. That may not sound too steep, but consider this. When running, it feels 20 degrees warmer. It was HOT. And it effected me greatly. I think I suffered from heat exhaustion, honestly, for most of the race. I also think my electrolytes were really out of whack. Possible TMI alert: I kept having to pee and fairly decent amounts, which showed me I was taking in too much water compared to electrolytes…but I was so hot and thirsty. It was a vicious and, in all honesty, scary cycle.
Mile 18-19: I felt a little better here because we started running through a shaded park. It was off and on, though. I still walked a lot and burst into tears a few times as well. One girl even stopped me to ask if I was okay. I was a wreck and straight up said I would NEVER do a marathon again.
Mile 20-22: I did the opposite of “hitting the wall”. We ran by the lake and something about the 20 mile mark made the finish feel SO much closer. I picked it up and actually ran most of those two miles – which was likely not the smartest thing, considering how awful I had been feeling.
Mile 22-25: I hit the wall here. I wanted to be done. I wanted to quit. I think I walked more than I ran, or at least it felt that way. All I could think about was reaching the finish and hugging Peter. I just wanted Peter.
Mile 25-26: Heather was a volunteer at the water stop here and spotted me. She saved me for the end of that race. I griped to her and I’m pretty sure I cried when I saw her, too. She knew just the right things to say and ran with me a short bit. Then, she let me know I had just a block to go before the final turn down to the finish. She wished me luck and I had a renewed energy. I wanted to finish strong.
Mile 26-26.2: I was still shuffling and nowhere near feeling good, but I plastered as much of a smile as I could manage on my face and jogged that final stretch. The cheers from the wonderful spectators kept me going. Seeing Peter’s face again helped give me a jolt to get through that finish line ASAP.
Then, I did it. I blew a kiss to God as I crossed the finish because no doubt He helped carry me there. Then I grabbed some pretzels, a banana, water, and my medal.
I earned that medal. I collapsed into Peter’s arms. Probably cried some more. Then collapsed on the ground. Eventually, after eating (including a Nuun tablet straight – yikes!) and stretching, I began to feel more normal. The misery didn’t fade away. I will never fool myself into thinking those miles felt amazing. They hurt!
BUT…the feeling of accomplishment after pushing through such a challenge made it all worthwhile. I no longer hated the experience. Instead, I found myself loving it. I had pushed my limits and reached my goal.
It took 4 hours, 42 minute, and 55 seconds out of my life. In exchange for the experience of a lifetime.