Yesterday I fulfilled a bucket list item and successfully completed a full marathon (that's 26.2 miles!). It was one of the most challenging things I've done so far in my life and required months of training and both mental and physical fortitude. I believe that's why is was so incredibly rewarding to cross that finish line. There is no better confidence boost than setting your mind to something and actually accomplishing it.
Have you had that experience? If you haven't set a goal for yourself, one that scares you, and then gone after it, it's a life must. While I was very happy with my time and overall performance, it is the simple fact that I finished that matters. I have impressed myself with what I can accomplish when I put forth the effort necessary. That being said, this is a fitness blog, so let me go over my thoughts post-marathon about my race experience.
The first couple of miles felt a bit slow, but that ultimately was good because it meant I wasn't starting out too fast and likely to hit a major wall. The first 12 miles were smooth, chatting with my two friends crazy enough to run a marathon with me. Around mile 13 or 14 I started to feel my body. Nothing seriously uncomfortable, but I could FEEL my hips and FEEL my quads working. By mile 16 there was some soreness and while we stretched at mile 12 the relief didn't last as long as I would have liked. Mile 20 is when things really got rough. It was uncomfortable to run, and just about as painful to walk; the course thinned out a lot with almost no crowd support or water stations between miles 20 and 22. This is where the mental challenge of running a marathon really came in. At that point there really wasn't much further to go, but everything hurt and every step was the result of my forcing my body onward.
This is where I really started to understand the statements fitness professionals make about pushing your body and working through the pain. Nothing was injured or broken and nothing ACTUALLY kept me from running, but I felt some level of pain pretty much everywhere. For me, I just had to keep running. Stopping and starting back up again just wasn't an option as I found starting to run again a much greater mental challenge than convincing myself to not stop. This mental battle is certainly going to be different for everyone, but I'm confident that everyone running their first marathon will experience it. I'm proud of myself for pushing forward and running essentially the whole thing, and I now appreciate just how mentally tough I am and how much my mind really does control my body.
Tips for future marathoners:
- Drink at every or almost every water station. I may have ended up with a dehydration headache at the end, but it was less severe than the one I got after my 18 mile run during training and I'm sure the improvement came from drink so much more during the run.
- Be sure you know what food/fuel they will be providing on the course so you know whether or not to pack your own. During training I tried a few options and found what worked best for me and my stomach and since that wasn't what they offered during the race, I carried what I would need with me.
- Try out your clothes on a long run beforehand. I knew it would happen, but I didn't have time to find something else to wear and try that out, so I got some lovely chafe burns on the inside of both biceps from my t-shirt sleeve seams. It hurts and definitely makes the race more uncomfortable, so try your stuff out before if you can.
- Remember why you are running a marathon. Like I said before, it is a mental battle, so being clear on your goal is essential. Going for a specific time, just want to finish, want to prove to yourself and everyone else that you can do this? Think about it when moving gets tough.
- Know that even if you don't do as well as you might have hoped, you trained hard, you attempted something few have even tried, let alone accomplished, and there is no reason you can't try again if you're really unsatisfied with your performance.
- You will hurt immediately after the race and a day later I'm still very sore. It's worth the pain, but if it's your first one I wouldn't recommend making any extravagant plans for after the race.
If you have any questions about my experience, the food I ate, or the gear I used, leave a comment below... And Happy Marathoning!
lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and feeling confident.
If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. - Thomas Jefferson