Passing someone right before the finish line!
I started running about a year before I lined up in the starting corral for my first marathon. I remember joking with co-workers back then about how I would never run a marathon, I was just running to get in shape and to have more energy. How quickly that changed!
I started the year signing up for the Louisville Triple Crown of Running and the Kentucky Derby Festival MiniMarathon. I remember thinking at that time, can I really run 13 miles? The most at that point that I had even attempted was 3 miles and those were at a 10 minute pace. I did some more reading and decided to add a long run every weekend to build endurance. When I look back now, I realize how determined I was. I was running 3-4 times a week, cross training 2-3 days, and only resting before the day of my long run. By the end of January, I was able to run 10 miles!
Every weekend I went a little bit farther and by mid February, I had mapped out my first 13 mile run. I not only made the 13 miles without stopping but I did it just a little over a 9 minute pace! I was amazed at how much my speed had improved as I dropped weight and my mileage grew.
March started all of those races I signed up back in December. I was pretty shocked when I walked to the starting gate of the Anthem 5k and saw all of the people lined up to race. I went through all 3 legs of the Triple Crown and had my best times for all 3 races. I even finished the MiniMarathon with 8 and a half minute miles as well. By that time my confidence was at an all time high! So what did I do with all that confidence? I signed up for more races, including a FULL marathon in Indianapolis.... in November!
Unfortunately, my summer months are always pretty hectic because of work. Our biggest projects drop during this time so it usually involves me travelling quite a bit. No problem right? They have treadmills in hotels that I could keep up with my running. This would work great... or so I thought.
All of my training up until that point had all been either outside running or hitting the weights/exercise bike in my basement. I had never ran on a treadmill because I didn't have one. Plus, who wants to run on a treadmill when you can view the sunrise every morning! But, how bad could it really be? I could still listen to music or watch TV while I ran. Well, I walked into my first hotel gym (right beside the pool area) and it was HOT! it had to be over 90 degrees in that room. Even better I thought to myself, I will be sweating more and lose even more weight. Boy was I about to hit an experience I would never forget. I couldn't even run 5 miles. It felt so awkward running on that machine; so boring, and so hot!
So my running took a big hit in June/July but I was able to bounce back and start training in August/September. I actually started following a training plan for the first time designed by Hal Higdon (http://www.halhigdon.com/) I put together a modified version of his Novice 2 training plan based on the days I knew I couldn't get up and run early. It didn't seem too bad with 3 days of running, 1 day of cross training, 2 rest days, and a long run.
I followed the plan almost exactly. It worried me a bit that I would peak at 20 miles as I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it to 26. Luckily, when the time came to run the 20 miles, I felt like I still had some gas left in the tank for more when I got done. I feel like it was a pretty great way to start training for my first marathon. I definitely wasn't disappointed with the results.
I woke up pretty early that day. I made sure that I had ate an early enough breakfast so that I had energy ready to be used. Oatmeal, a bagel, water, and a banana a few hours before the race and then some Powerade and an energy gel about an hour before the race. I walked down to the starting corrals and I found the 4 hour pace guy and stayed close to him during the start. This is the guy I wanted to make sure I beat come the end of the marathon.
One thing I didn't think about was all the fluids that I was putting in that morning. Not just before the race but I made sure to at least grab a small drink at every aide station. Sure enough about halfway through the race, I was searching for a port-a-potty! I found 3 open on the side of the road ahead and started making my way towards them. Just my luck, 3 lady runners hit each one of them right before I got there. A minor setback which I swore to make up during the next few miles and I did. I definitely learned my lesson in that race though. I go to the restroom before I get in the starting corral EVERY race now. I don't care if it just a 5k.
I made up my time in the next few miles after my restroom break and was feeling pretty good about not seeing that 4 hour pace guy since the beginning of the race. About mile 18 or so, it started to sleet. It was pretty interesting hearing the sleet bounce off of my hat as I was running through it with a long sleeve shirt and shorts. Honestly, it motivated me a bit. It was an extra challenge that I had not expected and I actually picked up the pace during that time. At about mile 21, I thought I was going to regret that push as I started to feel the tiredness in my legs (here comes the part of hitting the wall I had read so much about). I just kept telling myself I had less than a 10k left to go and if I just keep the pace I am going, I will do better than I expected. I was able to keep that pace and was able to push even harder during the last part of the race passing a few others to a strong finish. It definitely helped to have some family support at the end!
I can honestly say that it was very rewarding to finish the race like I did and beat my goal of 4 hours by 10 minutes. There isn't much out there that tests your mind and body like 4 hours of consistently running. I also couldn't have done it with my awesome family support. My wife, 2 sons, mom, and dad were all there to support me and I couldn't have done it without them!
So there is the story of the road to my first marathon. I hope it helps to inspire some of you out there to give it a shot. I am proof that you can go from doing almost no exercising to a marathon in a year. I even had a few set backs during that time and was able to pull off my goal of finishing under 4 hours.