In the coming days I will post race recaps of the 9 marathons I’ve run so far. Since I didn’t write a recap for my first or second marathon, this is coming from memory nine years after the fact, so I’m sure it’s wildly inaccurate and mostly made-up.
In May of 2004, I was having drinks post-work with a lovely friend who casually said, “I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.” With margarita in hand, I said, “me too! Let’s do it!” with no clue how it would change my life. [N.B. my friend claims it was my idea and she seconded, but first, it doesn’t really matter, and second, she’s totally wrong.]
At the time, neither of us could run 2 city blocks without stopping. But, we started run-walking and following the plan outlined in The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started reading Runner’s World and other such resources that all said it’s a really bad idea to go from ground zero to a marathon in 6 months. That is probably true, but I’m glad I didn’t know that then because it all worked out. That’s not to say it wasn’t a struggle. I got terrible shin splints about halfway through training and had to take 2 solid weeks off from running. I remember strapping ice packs to my shins, wearing them under the desk while at work. I’ll admit, I got pretty addicted to Advil, a habit I’m happy to say I have now quit (although when I do occasionally indulge, it feels sooo good).
We chose the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., because we had enough time to train for it (1 month to procrastinate, 1 month to learn how to run for 10 minutes, 4 months to sort of follow the training schedule), my friend grew up there and her mother still lived there, and we could actually get in to the race, unlike NYC. It turned out to be a perfect first marathon race and remains one of my favorites. The race was super well-organized, the course was interesting (running past the monuments was amazing and even the tough out-and-backs were beautiful in hindsight), and the on-course support was perfect (Marines can do a lot of things well, including making sure you have plenty of water along a marathon course).
During the race itself, I saw a lot of people passed out along the side of the course. It was a slightly warm fall day and clearly people were pushing themselves too hard in the heat. I didn’t really understand that then, and I didn’t know how my body would handle running 26.2 miles, so I took the race very slowly and walked a lot. I finished in 5:30, feeling good and already wanting to run another marathon. My friend – not so much. She was glad she did it, but it was a one-and-done for her.
Since my whole family (me included) thought it would be my only marathon, and probably the family’s only marathon (we are built for grappling sports, not running), my dad even travelled to D.C. to watch me run (which meant a lot to me – thanks, Dad!). My mom came to watch me in my second (more on that in the NYC recap). But now, of course, nobody travels to watch me run, and I wouldn’t want them to (unless it was to have a vacation with me). I still try to get people to join me in running a marathon, but I haven’t been very successful at that.
Thinking of Running the MCM? (Or a First Marathon?)
Do it. It was excellent. And as for running a marathon at all? Thumbs up, even from my non-running friend. Oh, and pony up for a picture of you running your first marathon, even if all the pictures make you look terrible (and in that case, pick the absolute worst one). You’ll be glad you have a record of it, whether it was your first and only or you run many more.