I started my 4th (seriously, 4th?!?) marathon decked out in my Oiselle singlet, a sparkle skirt over my Oiselle stride shorts, a Picky Bars tattoo on my right leg, a Oiselle tattoo on my left shoulder, and 5 different Believe I Am tattoos on my arms. While my look might have been described as “out of control,” I was 100% happy…and remained so until the finish line.
My first marathon was about survival. In retrospect, how I made it through a marathon when I’d been running for hardly one year is beyond me. I was very happy with a finish (in 4:09:59, for those curious).
For my 2nd marathon, I set a goal to BQ (3:40, at the time). I got the RC, trained really hard, and put a ton of pressure on myself. I ran a 3:48:03 marathon, which was a 21 minute improvement. My first thought across the finish line? “I failed.” In addition, it was the most miserable running experience of my life. From mile 13 on I swore up and down that I was never doing another marathon as “they were too long and I hate them.”
I worked a lot on my mental game before my 3rd marathon and set the goal, yet again, to BQ (now 3:35). An injury (IT band syndrome) sustained two weeks before the race threw a wrench in my plans. I ran the race anyways (it was the NYC marathon, after all), but was disappointed and, to be fairly honest, quite depressed for sometime thereafter.
While my IT band healed (3-4 months total), I sort of wrote off marathons and had no desire to do one. I told myself I wouldn’t do another for a while – several years, probably.
So, imagine, my surprise when a 16 mile run with Gia in September planted a marathon seed in my head. What started as a “Hey, Gia, want me to pace you for a few miles of the marathon” turned into my own NYC marathon entry by the end of the month.
With a shorter, 7 week build up and prior marathon-hater experiences, my goal was to enjoy the race from start to finish. I had a time goal window of 3:35 to 3:45, but, to be truthful, wasn’t really attached to finishing in a certain time. I had, yet, to enjoy a marathon and really wanted to understand what all you people out there like about the marathon.
I ran miles 1-13 with Gia and Jess. I didn’t wear a Garmin nor did I start my watch. However, my running buddies did, indeed, wear Garmins so I knew approximately how fast I was running for the first half of the race. From miles 8-13, I did have a few panic moments of “is this too fast and I’m in over my head?” I was still able to talk, so I told myself I was ok for the moment. And, usually the panic moment went as quickly as it came and I’d suddenly hit a good patch of running. When I would get scared, I’d tell myself “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Around mile 13, Jess and I waved Gia on and, around mile 16, Jess did the same to me as she was not feeling well.
So, for the last 10 miles of the race, I ran “naked.” I think when I left Jess, I told myself, “Ok, just free, fast, and fun – its really just putting one foot in front of the other, speeding up if you feel good, and slowing down if you feel bad, nothing more complicated than that.” So, that’s what I did.
Not having a watch for the last 10 miles of the race was very freeing. Even if I had had a Garmin on and knew I was running X pace when I really wanted to be running Y pace, I don;t think I could have changed gears. My legs would move as fast as my spirit wanted them to in that moment – sometimes that was faster and sometimes that was slower.
[Oh dear, have I gone off the deep end? As fast as my spirit wanted to? I’ve been drinking too much green tea or something.]
For miles 16-20, I’d have a few minutes of good running, where I felt like I feel into a rhythm and was really strong. A few minutes later, I’d have a bad patch, but I figured that was par for the course.
From 20 on, I really wanted to, truthfully, be done, but I refused to let my mind go to the finish. I focused on getting to each mile marker and that was it.
Any time I had a negative though in those last 6 miles, I’d imagine two hands clapping together as if smashing a bug, like it was smashing the bad thoughts. I’d then look down at my little butterfly tattoo and repeat “I am love, I am courage, I love that I doing something awesome today, I love myself.” Yep, I said “I love myself,” not unlike the little kid on youtube who learns to ride a bike and screams, “I feel happy of myself!”
[My inner race thoughts are proving to be extremely embarrassing. Believe I Am – I blame you.]
From mile 22 on, my legs did feel like a puppy was eating them with each step and my hip flexors really weren’t on board with this whole running idea. I just reminded myself to “keep the joy, you’re doing just fine, you’ll make it there soon enough.”
[Seriously, from my inner dialogue, it appears I’ve lost it.]
I maybe could have pushed myself those last 6 miles a bit more, but that really wasn’t my objective for the day. My goal was to get through a marathon and actually like it. From the start, I was 100% happy and at peace with whatever finish time I had so long as I had a smile on my face from beginning to end (well, you know, mostly smiling) and tried my best.
And, I sort of can’t believe I was able to do it. I mean, at mile 23 of a marathon, I was happy to be running and grateful for the experience. Usually, I HATE mile 23 (or, in the case of New Jersey, miles 13-26).
In the end, I finished in 3:42:31 – a 6 min PR. I was completely, 100% fulfilled and happy at the end and, dare I say, thinking of tackling another 26.2 in the spring?
TELL ME: YOUR FAVORITE RACE? WHY WAS IT YOUR FAVORITE?
I must give a huge shout out to the hostess with the mostess, Katherine, for giving this displaced NYC runner an incredible weekend. From pre-race dinner to post-race daytime slumber party, it was the perfect weekend. THANK YOU!
Also, you should go wish Gia (13 min PR!), Jess, Jocelyn (big half PR!), Ashley (1 min PR!), Leticia (first time marathoner!), Christy (PR!), Christine, Fiona, Katie, and Dorothy a big congratulations on their races this weekend.
Until next time…