Dec 4, 2015

I ran a marathon

I finished a marathon! I ran 3:58.

GIPHY

The first time I tried to run a marathon was in 2013. After graduating college, I started running with a running club every morning. Once my legs recovered from my workout-heavy, high-mileage cross country training schedule, I was in the best shape of my life. I broke my 6k PR (23:03) during a 16-mile run.

My running club friends kept talking about the Philadelphia Marathon, so I signed up somewhat last-minute. I wanted to run 3:15 (7:26/mile). I was in shape to do it, but on race weekend, everything went wrong. First, my roommates hosted a weekend-long bender at our apartment, so I decamped to friends' houses Friday and Saturday. Then I came down with a fever and chills. I started the race anyway, but I was struggling by mile 4. At mile 14, I slowed to an 8:30 mile. Mile 15 was worse. Looking ahead at the long, out-and-back Kelly Drive stretch, I decided to quit rather than get stuck too far from home.

But this year, I tried again, and I finished!

I am so grateful to my friend who shared her apartment the night before the race, and to my parents, sister, and running friends who cheered me on.

Here's how I trained:
  1. I signed up for the race in May and built a 70+ mile per week (mpw) training plan. I followed the plan for two months, completing the "ease into running" period and the beginning of the "build mileage" section. I ran about 20 mpw on trails, and I rowed three times a week.
  2. Work got busy, so I continued rowing, but dropped the runs to thrice weekly, mostly on city sidewalks. This put me through the end of September. (I don't recommend this strategy...)
  3. I further reduced my runs to six miles on Monday nights and a weekend long run. In total, I completed three 18-mile runs and one 20-mile run. The 20 miler was two weeks out from the race.
  4. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon and FINISHED.

Here's what I ate:
Pre-race
  • 1 packet of oatmeal
  • 1 banana
  • Water
During
  • 1 Clif bar
  • 4 Shot Blocks
  • 1 Boom! energy gel
  • 6 Dixie cups of Gatorade
  • Water
Post-race
  • 1 Dixie cup of chicken broth
  • 12 oz Allagash White beer
  • 1 giant plate of nachos

I hated the experience of running a marathon enough that I swore I'd never do it again to everyone I saw at the finish... But if I WERE ever to run another marathon, I've wised up about some things.
  1. I would make sure to apply plenty of Vaseline in advance and to wear shoes with a wider toe box to prevent blisters.
  2. I would train more than twice a week. I felt like the number of long runs I completed was adequate.
  3. The motivation technique that helped me the most was to remind myself that I signed up to have fun and that "it would be nice" to run faster (not that I "should" run faster), which was a cognitive behavioral trick I learned from my two yellow books, Feeling Good and Appalachian Trials. (I also internally repeated, "Be tough; don't cry," a lot during the last five miles. Go figure.)