New respect for the marathon - report of first race (Read 522 times)

Tomorrow will be worse

    So this was my first actual running race. I mean at all - of any distance. I always had a pretty good idea that a marathon would be difficult, but I now have a healthy respect for just how difficult. 


    I was forced into a 10 week taper because of a stress reaction in my tibia, which sucked (I've determined that taking 10 times as long to taper actually doesn't make you 10 times as fresh, surprisingly). I was actually only able to run again the week of the race, and right up until the day before wasn't sure I'd even go to the start line.


    Given my state of fitness, I started further back than I'd been hoping back when my training was going well - I had run (a long time ago) a 30km training run at ~3:30 pace, so figured at this point 3:45 would be a reasonable, though somewhat optimistic goal. Being my first ever race, I had no idea what the start would be like - this was a mass start of 4339 people, and I gave up quickly on trying to wade through the corrals to where I wanted to start and stood between the 3:55 and 4:00 signs.


    The first 3km I entertained myself hopping from one gap to another trying to weave through slower traffic. This seemed fun, if not very energy efficient. At 3km things opened up a bit, and space was easier to find, so I relaxed into a decent pace and finished the first 5km in 25:25.21 (garmin time). At this point I started to feel some pain on the outside of my knee (happily not the injury that had kept me from training), so I started focussing on managing that as best I could. Happily I had already experienced the mayhem of my first water stop and determined that I'm better off walking while trying to drink (rather than choking and coughing to be only 10 or 20 yards further ahead), so the rest of the race should be a breeze


    The next 5km were pretty uneventful, I spent the time taking in the scenery, and paying a bit of attention to my knee. I think I had to take a brief stop to stretch out the leg and rub down the outside of the knee, which (encouragingly) seemed to help. I hit the 10km split at 53:24 (gun time), so had lost a bit of pace over that 5km (partly too because I had to take my first in-race pee stop), but all was well still.


    The trip to the mid-way point was still ok - I was pretty confident in the first half anyway, since I'd tried to maintain my fitness with the odd run and some cycling, it was the second half I was worried about. I hit the halfway split at 1:51:38, so apparently sped up after the 10km point. That might have been a bad idea...


    At around the 22km point (a km or so after the halfway point) my knee really became uncooperative. I stopped to walk for a bit, which helped, though the pain only went away as long as I was walking. This is where I considered quitting the first time. I didn't though. and grunted through for a bit with the occasional rub-down of my leg to keep going. People were passing me steadily (which was a bit demoralizing), and I considered quitting again when I saw one of the race medic points around 28km. I actually started to walk backwards (which I think is why my garmin distance for the race reads 42.72), but just ahead there was a water stop with a rowdy bunch of cheerleaders, so I sucked it up and went on - they helped, and I appreciated it. Just after here there was another live band playing a nice reggae beat, which was cool too.


    Somewhere between 30-32km my wobbly wheels came off, and the next 9km was a massive struggle. I had told myself though that if I crossed 30km I'd walk it in if I had to, since it'd suck to waste that much effort, so I turned into a run-walk from here on. I really started to notice in my left leg how much I was favouring my right. Cramping ensued.


    Around km 38 a woman that I'd been talking to in the start corral caught me in a rather demoralized state, and yelled at me to pick it up, so I did. I picked up the pace and ran with her for the next couple km, and followed her run-walk schedule with her - I really wish I'd gotten her name, as I'm not sure if I would have grunted it out without her. At km 40, I wasn't sure if I could run it out with my knee, so I took another walk break, and happily my knee came around a bit (I think this might have actually been relative to how much everything else was hurting), so I started running again and realized that everything hurt. I was tired of the pain and just wanted it to end, so I dug deep and grunted out the last 1000m at interval pace. I think I had to do this, as the weaving and passing occupied my brain, and passing people is fun. It also got me lots of attention from the thousands of people along the course leading to the finish, which was helpful.


    I should say again how much people helped sometimes - our race bibs all had our first names printed on them, and it was always nice to hear someone yell something encouraging directly at you, using your name and everything. I don't know if this is normal or not for race bibs, but was a great touch.


    All in all, I'm proud of the fact I finished it, and I'm especially proud of the way I finished. I don't know when I'll run my next marathon - I think I might do some racing at shorter distances for a while - but I'm happy to have done it at least once.


    Thanks to all the RA-ers that helped with training advice along the way, this site has been a great way to track progress, keep motivated, and get some opinions on whatever running issues I might have been wondering about.


    Another race note: I have a brother that finished the same race in a blistering 3:00:15.7, and as much as I'd like to make fun of him for being so close to his sub-3 goal and missing it, I can't bring myself to make fun of a finish time almost a full hour faster than me, especially knowing what I felt like after the finish. Darn. I'll have to find something else to make fun of, I guess.



      ...so I started running again and realized that everything hurt. I was tired of the pain and just wanted it to end, so I dug deep and grunted out the last 1000m at interval pace. I think I had to do this...  

      Congratulations on your race!


      I think everyone attempts to grunt out the end of the race because no one wants to look like it hurts as much as it does. Yes, you had to do it!


      Happy Running!

      2013 -Sub 2:00 for 1/2 marathon