In March of this year, I finally signed up for my first marathon. Let's get one thing straight - I am not new to running. In fact, I've been running like a maniac since I was a kid but I've just never done a marathon. I figured that I put in enough miles as it is, I might as well have a goal for those miles. I signed up for Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon because it is my hometown race and I've only heard great things about it. I was pretty scared as soon as I paid my little entry fee.
From March on, I focused primarily on training for the LFM. I did a few races in between March and October, but it was all part of my master plan to build up for the marathon. I managed to make it through the training with no real problems - no injuries - no illness - no complaints. October came really, really quickly.
The week leading up to the race was pretty challenging and it made me a nervous wreck. I had way too much going on (teaching, coaching, proper taper) and I got a really nasty cold the Friday before the race (Murphy's Law in action.) Being sick made me SO ANGRY, like YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW!? But - I tried to stay positive and I resigned myself to the idea that I would run the race, come hell or high water, and I would do a lot of mouth breathing. The night before the race, I got surprisingly good sleep with the help of some Nyquil and when I woke up on Sunday, I felt about 90%. I was also crazy excited - I got all jacked up on Red Bull and Kanye West.
THE RACE (Goal: Run sub-3:30 and BQ)
Lining up at the start of the race was a real zen moment for me. It was noisy and chaotic, but all of my nerves kind of went away. I felt like "Ok - no matter what - you are here and you're going to run this race. You are prepared. Run smart and be patient. You will officially be a marathoner in a few hours from now and that shit is badass." It was calming to remind myself that I was ready and I was certainly not alone in the challenge. There were nervous people all around me, all having the same internal conversation.
I lined up with the 3:40 pace group, mostly because the starting area was really congested. I planned to take it slowly and move up over the course of the race. I stuck to my plan and the first mile split was 8:15. There was quite a big pack running at that pace. At one point, we got chased by a herd of cows on a farm, which was funny and calming - it made me remember to pay attention, because I would never run my first marathon again.
As I started to warm up in the 40-ish degree temperatures, my legs loosened up and my times gradually came down. The cold didn't really bother me. I'm sure part of that was due to the BRIGHT green Brooks arm warmers that made me stand out like a pubic hair on a toilet seat. LOL. I settled around a 7:30 pace and I tried to stay consistent for the rest of the race.
The course was great. The fall colors were super pretty. The spectators and their witty signs could not have been better. The weather ended up being perfect for the race - I even ditched my little gloves somewhere along the way. I did see several grown men that opted to NOT wear a shirt, which I thought was slightly optimistic. I am willing to bet that they stayed cold, even if their nipples stayed in tact.
I didn't run into any problems physically along the course. My legs felt energized and light all the way until mile 24. At that point, I got a cramp that felt like a baseball was in my right calf but I was so close to the end that I just had to ignore it. One thing that did surprise me was how many people were walking in the late stages of the race. Maybe it is just me, but there was no way I was going to stop running with less than two miles to go.
By that time, I realized that I was going to come in well under my goal time of 3:30, which meant I was also going to get a Boston Qualifying time. I couldn't stop smiling through the end of the race - I also considered crying - but what for? There's no crying in running! Plus, it was awesome! I entered the park in the last mile and the crowd started to build, so I knew the finish line was right around the corner. All that was going through my head was "Oh my god! You did it!" I finished feeling really strong, relaxed and extremely happy that I made it. Extremely happy that I ENJOYED it!
My official finishing time was 3:18:45 - which means that I met both of my goals. I even qualified for a division award, so I got to meet USA Olympian, Nick Symmonds at the award ceremony. How cool!!
When the race ended and I stopped moving, my legs started to lock up. Walking was a serious task and I looked like Frankenstein. As soon as I was able to lock-step all the way back to my car, I got my phone and attempted to register for the Boston Marathon. I could not believe it was still open! I had to wait a few impatient days to hear back, but I finally got my confirmation email which said that I AM IN for the 2013 Boston Marathon. I cannot believe it. I am so friggin' excited that it is all I can think about. My flight and hotel are booked (going to have to get another job to pay for this) and now I have 180 days to train.
Overall, I loved my first marathon. LOVED. Like - one of my favorite days in my 31 years. I look forward to the rest of the races I am bound to run now that I AM A MARATHONER! BITCHES! I even have a 26.2 magnet on my car to prove it.