Kris and His First Marathon

Here’s a guest post from Kris about his marathon!

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I have to get this marathon thing out of my system, and one good way to exorcise the demon is to write about it. This isn’t meant to be a ‘humblebrag’ or anything absurd like that, I just found the process of running the marathon interesting, and hoped that by sharing my experience, others may find it worthwhile (or perhaps definitively not worthwhile) to try out.

Below is something akin to an annotated timeline of my marathon experience, and how I was feeling during the run. Overall, I felt (and still feel) very good about the run, and much better than I thought I would. I missed my secret time goal by nine minutes, but I chalk that up to ignorance on my part more than a bad showing. Apparently, the average marathon time for a man in 2014 was about 4 hours and 20 minutes, and for a woman 4 hours and 45 minutes…which makes me ridiculously happy to be below average. Here are a few more average times from 2014, if you are curious. It tells me that I am above average for the shorter races (5k and 10k) and just below for the two big guys (half and full marathons). C’est la vie.

Now for the race itself:

Pre-race: This is easily my least favorite part of any race…the waiting for the start. When I am running at home, I dive straight in with only a small amount of stretching (warning: works for me, maybe not for you). With a race, you are on their schedule. To kill the time, I checked out the various costumes (it was a Halloween race; I went as a runner…not a convincing costume). There was a Chippendale’s dancer, Miss Piggy and Kermit, several Batmen, Supermen and Wonder Women, and Minnie Mouse.

I left my music off before the race and listened to the announcer (dressed as the Flash) try to keep everyone loose. Start the race so we can finish!

Mile 1: Feeling good! Stuck behind a power walker who I am afraid will beat me. I got off to a great start, and I hit a rhythm that was nice and steady without being slow and was breathing calmly. I could tell right away that it should be a good run. I put my marathon playlist on shuffle and the first song is “Big Little Baby” by Reverend Horton Heat. A good up-tempo song to get me started.

Mile 3: Still feeling good. I’ve passed the power walker for good, but now comes a turn-around. The runners have to come to a complete stop and head back the way they were going. It has to be done on these long races, but it is psychologically draining to turn around and keep going. I did get to see the marathon leaders as they practically sprinted past me the other way…though this wouldn’t be the last time I would see them. The music kicks me in the ass with an amazingly fast Copyrights song called “Trustees of Modern Chemistry”. I can feel the music’s energy power through me.

Mile 5: I have caught up to Miss Piggy and Kermit, and along with another runner, have formed a quadrant of marathon power. The four of us are all going at the same clip and it really helps me to keep the speed and pacing correct. By this point, I am projected to finish the marathon in about four hours and five minutes, which is an incredible rate for me. The pace is helped when I get an injection of pure adrenalin via my music: “Prisoner of Society” by The Living End. Good stuff.

Mile 7/8: I’ve been running for over an hour now, and, unbelievably, am doing better than I ever have in a run. My happy little quadrant with the Muppets is still going strong. I glance to my right and see a mass of extremely fit humanity coming my way. The half-marathon just started, and the marathon route put me right near the beginning of the half-marathon route. Soon I was swallowed up by very fast racers flying past me as they went for personal bests in the half-marathon. The route was now crowded and the pace harder to keep with many others catching up. My music is still going strong with a barn burner from The Tossers: “The Rover”.

Mile 10: I’ve left the Muppets behind and passed Minnie Mouse.

Mile 13:  The Halfway point! This was very exciting for me since I was still at about a four hours and eight minutes pace and had no problems. Usually my legs are cramping up, or my breathing gets off, but not this time. However, the marathon leaders pass me here, having complete the first loop already (see below). They would finish about two hours faster than I would. That’s not discouraging, but I am duly impressed and give them both an ovation and the finger. Meanwhile, the music took a turn towards ska with Hepcat’s “Riding the Region”. Easy to run to, a nice break from the frenetic punk I am usually hearing.

Miles 15/16: Still feeling okay, but I have now developed a few hatreds, which is common for me during a long-distance run. I hate farmers who spread manure while I am running. I hate steep hills. I hate lemon Gatorade (but I still drink it at the aid stations). I’ve started to slow down, but I was expecting that, and don’t mind. For now, I have to run the looped part of the route again. Miles 8-15 and 15-22 are the same route, as you can see on the map of the race below. Here we go again. (Click on the map to make it larger.)

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Mile 18: I’ve hit a wall, and hard. I finally stopped at an aid station and drank some water while walking for a few minutes. I am so glad that I finally came around to walking through the aid stations. It gives the legs a break, and allows you to get the liquid into your mouth instead of splashing everywhere. However, the legs have started to wave a white flag, which is an ominous sign with eight more miles to go. The music does what it can to help, with a jaunty song by Toh Kay called “Shantantity Town”.

Mile 21: This is officially the farthest I have ever run. My left quad has started twitching as it cramps up and my right calf has curled into a fetal position as I force it to keep going. My choices are two: keep running and risk injury or walk and lose my pace. The choice is easy and I walk/limp for about eight to ten minutes, or about half a mile. I still have my breathing under control and the water has helped as well, so despite the problems with the legs, I am optimistic for the final five miles. Gogol Bordello chimes in with “60 Revolutions”, which gets me moving again.

Miles 23/24: I have been walking about 1/3 of the time and running about 2/3 of the time, as the quad cramp comes and goes the calf muscle has repeatedly signaled that I pulled it. Minnie Mouse passed me a while ago, and now Miss Piggy has as well. Harsh. I have another drink of lemon Gatorade and nearly gag. Marathon morale has hit rock-bottom.

Mile 25: The final aid station is at mile 25.2, which means one mile to go. I stop for one more round of water and prep myself for the final push. After about six minutes, a few cops working on traffic control tell me how close I am, and I get the legs moving for the final ¾ of a mile.

Mile 26.2: The finish line (and relief) is in sight! I can see the finish with 3/10 of a mile to go. I can barely feel my legs (which is a good thing now, keeping the pain out). Carolina Chocolate Drops take me home with “Don’t Get Trouble in Your Mind”. I get a high-five from Richanda, and cross the finish line at four hours, thirty nine minutes, and thirty four seconds (4:39:34).

I finished 101st out of 140 runners, with a pace of ten minutes, forty seconds (10:40) per mile. I dropped drastically in the last eight miles, since at mile 18 I was on pace for four hours, fifteen minutes. That’s okay! I finished without any catastrophic injuries (my legs are better). Finishing the race was what truly mattered to me and I accomplished that goal.

Want to try it yourself? Do it. Give yourself at least two months of training and stick to it. You cannot afford to miss too many of the workouts. Pick out a reasonable goal, and have some music to get through the hours on the road (I would NEVER have survived without the tunes). Try a 5k or 10k first and see what you think of this weird running phenomenon, and work your way up to the big dance. Listen to your body and be aware of injuries.

Those are my tips. I’ll be on the couch eating Doritos if you need anymore.

Was it fun? I wouldn’t go that far. Was it worth it? Yep. I did a short and sweet three mile run three days after the marathon and felt great afterwards. To me, that means it was all worth it and I regret nothing. Except losing to that jerk Miss Piggy.

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