My 1st Marathon- and it's not pretty
I ran my 1st marathon 2 weeks ago in Rotorua, New Zealand. I waited a little bit to write my story here because I didn't want to put anyone off. But it was just awful!!!!
I did a 20 week cool running training programme, and I was pretty good with sticking to it. My longest run was 4 weeks before the marathon and was 38kms (23 miles), took 5 1/2 hrs, and it went well.
The run was on Saturday, and 3 days before (on the Wednesday) I came down with a horrific vomiting bug. Oh, I was so sick. We nearly cancelled going (Rotorua is a 2 1/2 hr drive away from where we live, and we had arranged a 5 day family break to make the most of it). I was still sick on Thursday, and we finally travelled down on the Friday. I decided that I had put all of that training and effort in, that I wasn't about to give up so close to the end. I thought that it couldn't be too bad- I mean you start and then have no other choice but to finish, and just do the bit inbetween.
So, no carb loading for me. I finally kept food and fluid down for the 1st time on the Friday night. I had chicken, rice, and 1.5litres of water!
So, Saturday morning came around pretty bloody fast. I woke at 3am full of nerves. I cried and wondered if I was being a dumbass. I mean, I'm no athlete and I'm still pretty overweight. And I was still feeling pretty rough. But I thought that all I have to do is get to the start, and the rest will take care of itself.
I chose to start at 8am with the walkers because I knew I was going to be slow (I'm a natural plodder) and had a few different goals for the run. My main goal was to finish and not die, but I wanted to finish it in under 6hrs. Secretly i reeeeeally wanted to finish it in 5 1/2hrs. Goals set.
So I lined up, saw a few people that I recognised and said hi, and off we went. I was an idiot to start at the back of the pack (which is where I usually place myself) because I was stuck behind a cluster of walkers. I'd forgotten that bit. But it didn't take long for the roads to open up and for me to find my groove. I felt really good.
So I was just going, as you do, plodding on and keeping myself between 7-8mins per km. It seemed to take forever to get to 5km (nearly 45 mins), but I felt like my effort didn't match my pace iykwim. I felt like i was running at my usual effort, but it felt like i was running in water. I actually asked some of the race wardens if the km markers had been measured properly and held out some hope that they'd pulled some psychological trick to have them further apart at the start and closer together towards the end. Sadly that was not the case.
The run was clockwise around a rural volcanic lake, and the roads were not really sealed properly. There was scree, potholes, it was off camber, and pretty hilly. I had been told that it was a difficult run but have always just thought that running 42.2kms anywhere is going to be difficult. When someone tells me in future that a run is difficult, I'm going to listen.
The marathon runners started 90 mins after us plodders, and I got overtaken 17kms in by some wiry, lithe people. Buggers. I had a shocking headache at this point and felt pretty nauseous but just thought of keeping going. I just wanted to get to the halfway point, then I had plans to reward myself with a short break before carrying on. I'd been walking through all the water stations and having a drink, as well as regular leppin gels. I eventually got to the halfway mark in 2hrs 50- I was pretty miffed about this because I knew that I was not likely to make my uber goal of 5 1/2 hrs. However, I had also just walked up the longest and steepest hill I had tackled- about 2km of winding verticality. It really sucked. And I was getting overtaken by walkers and people who had started an hour and a half after me.
At 23kms I had another water and Leppin Gel, and promptly threw up at the side of the road. Which was just awesome. My thighs were burning (which had not been an issue since my 1st half a long time ago) and I just wanted to stop. I walked for a bit to regain my composure. I decided at this point that I wanted to run this again when I was feeling better to see if that made any difference, because at this point I was just miserable.
At 25kms we came to a junction. If I turned left, I could be back at our rented accomodation in about 10 mins and this whole sorry nightmare would be over. If I turned right, I knew I would have another 17.2kms of pain to go. I didn't think I could go another step. I wanted to throw up again. My thighs were on fire. I had a headache and sick on my tshirt. I turned right, straight into the steepest hill in the world. I walked up this hill, and told myself now that the goal is to finish.
28kms in and all was flat. Literally, flat as a pancake. Forever. Running on this at that point made me wish for the hills. The roads were still uneven and stoney. The soles of my feet were hurting. My thighs were just sore. I actually cried and wondered why I was doing this. I was really struggling and had been for a long time. I jogged 1km, walked 500m because I just couldn't keep going. At 32kms I phoned my hubby to tell him that I was about 1hr15 from the finish line, and to put the kids in the car to cheer me on at the finish line. I knew that they would pass me, and the thought of my kids not seeing my running the marathon was enough to spur me on to run (slowly) from 32-36kms. They passed and whooped, I waved, they disappeared, I walked.
Then they had us running over roadworks- proper big stones underfoot. I simply could not run over this because the soles of my feet were so sore. So I had to walk that. Then there was pavement! Beautiful smooth, flat pavement. I made the pact with myself that I was going to run to the next km marker, but I just couldn't do it. I was exhausted. My head was willing me to go, but my feet were throbbing and thighs were killing me. I walked and jogged until 41kms, keeping up with 2 walkers in front of me to make sure I didn't fall too far behind. As soon as I hit the 41km marker, I knew that the end was not too far away and I WAS going to run to the finish. And I did.
I finished in the time of 6hrs 23mins. I finished a marathon. It was an awful, painful experience. I questioned myself at so many junctures. In hindsight I was probably too sick to do it. But I did it. And I'm so proud of myself for having competed and completed it.
Now I want to run one when I'm well- I don't care about the time (that's actually a lie), but I just want to be able to say "I ran a marathon in xxxx time", and feel proud of that, rather than say 'I did a marathon but I wasn't feeling well', and feel like I have to explain myself.
So, October 28th is the Auckland Marathon. And I've just got my entry ticket.