My First Full Marathon Training and Race Recap

Ya’ll I can’t even begin to explain how great this journey has been!  I had originally planned on running a Half-Marathon in the year 2020 but because of Covid, that got canceled.  Then this year, 2021, I planned on running the same Half-Marathon from 2020.  But no, God had other plans!  Great plans!!  Before I share what happened I wanted to thank some people…

Huge Thanks!!

First off thank you to my parents who put up with my indecisiveness and doubt during training.  Your encouragement to do what God was leading me to do was a huge help.  Your getting up at 4 am on race day to support me, the effort you took in trying to find me during the race to encourage me to keep pushing, the many encouraging words in the last stretch of the race when I only wanted to sit down, the big pizza meal afterwards… I couldn’t have done it all without you!

Early morning departure!

I also want to thank my sisters for putting up with my talk of running and complaining about the pain and how I wanted to quit.  You saw the whole back story and still encouraged me to do what God was leading me to do, even if you thought I was crazy.

I also want to thank all my friends who prayed for me during training and the race.  Telling you my fears of passing out or not being able to finish was super helpful and I’m very grateful for your prayers and support!

Also a big thank you to the running group I am a part of (you know who you are)!  You all were so encouraging and very helpful in both training and my success on race day; I couldn’t have done it without you!

Also a huge thanks to some friends for staying around to see me at the finish line (and for running the last stretch with me), you helped push me there at the end just by being there!!

And also a big thanks to the running and nutrition coaches for your advice and help you gave along the way! (You know who you are as well!)

The Decision

When I decided to sign up again for 5k May (running/walking a 5k everyday in May) this year, I also wanted to sign up for 5k Mayhem (a 5k every hour for 12 hours) and get better results than I did in 2020.  Yet I felt like God was giving me permission to do 5k May, but not the Mayhem.  I was bummed.  But there was some good news, He wasn’t just saying no,  He was saying He had something better. 

After much complaining I finally asked Him what the better was and He said “A Marathon.”  For some odd reason I immediately got excited and started looking around for a fall Full so I knew when to start training.  It confuses me that I took Him immediately at His word because I said I’d never run a marathon.  I said those people were crazy, well honestly I used to say all runners were crazy.

With about 6 or 8 miles to go, I was starting to incorporate walks in only when I needed them.

After much research I finally found one I had peace about and started training the first week in May.  My long run at that point in time was 5-6 miles so I started with that. The first weekend in June I did an 8  miler. But it was the last long run of July that I was anxious about… the 15 miler.  I knew this was going to be a huge mental and physical challenge for me.  When the day came I took that Saturday extra slow, so much so that it took me 5 hours to complete!  The milestone was accomplished but now I was anxious about the 8hr cut off time on the marathon.  The math of that run was not in my favor.

The week following the 15 miler was a very slow easy week as I prepared for a 5k I was hoping to get a personal best on.  My time ended up being 31 minutes, beating my course record by 3 minutes but being 4 minutes over my overall best.  That was discouraging and I ended up battling a bit of post race depression the following week.   This race I believe was the start of my struggles. 

The Struggles Begin

The week after my 5k race led to the 16 mile long run, which unfortunately, on the last mile, my feet became very uncomfortable and it ended up leaving me with a foot pain I could not run on.  I limped around for a day or so and wasn’t able to run for half the week, so I ended up having to focus on recovery and decreasing my weekly mileage as well as skipping that next long run. 

The following week I was able to do the minimal amount of weekly mileage, dropping all cross-training and strength training, fitting my 18 mile long run in just fine.  But again this left my feet in pain and I had to focus on recovery the following week.  By the time I got to the peak week in training my weekly mileage was poor and my long run ended up only being 17.5 miles, so you can imagine what was going through my mind when I realized in two weeks I would be running 26.2 miles!!

During the last half of my training I was tempted to quit multiple times.  But for some reason I just couldn’t.  I took one day at a time and it honestly felt like I would go out and run without even thinking about it.  I felt called to run this marathon so much so that I couldn’t give up.  But that’s not to say I didn’t consider it many times.  I did have quite a bit of accountability and support from family and friends which was a huge blessing and motivation.

It was pretty wet during the first two and a half hours I was out there, but it was cooling and kept my allergies at bay.

Marathon Day!

I will never forget the feelings I had on this day.  It was much like the weather during the race – Cold and wet, to cool and breezy, followed by being soaked in heavy rain, then along comes the sun which dried up all the rain and the itsy bitsy spider… just kidding… but really the sun came out and made the blacktop dry at a pace quick enough that you could feel the water in the air.  My feelings were a mixture of excitement, wonder, and anxiousness, yet amongst this I was filled with peace knowing that I was called to run this marathon and that I had made it healthy and fresh to the start line.

I was a little worried about my nutrition – when to eat and what, my hydration – especially as the race progressed and I didn’t need as much when it was raining but needed quite a bit when it was humid, and the cut-off time which just an hour prior I had realized was actually 6 hours and 45 minutes instead of 8 hours.  But God had promised me I would finish so I tried to relax my nerves with that.

5 minutes before the start I began doing some drills and strides as my warm up.  I was determined to stick with my own routine and since it was dark, I didn’t have to be tempted about copying someone else since you couldn’t really see anyone visibly.  We were all just a bunch of bouncing figures running around the start line.

Everyone got in line as they sang the National Anthem and then the fireworks that started the race were awesome.  As we all ran over the start line there was a guy dressed up as a duck which made me laugh as I high fived him. My goal during this marathon was to laugh and smile as much as I possibly could so that I would stay loose and light hearted.  I was off to a good start!

Not the best of pictures, but this guy made me laugh and the fireworks in the background where really cool.

Immediately pulling out of the park I found someone directly in front of me going a good pace so I decided to stay behind her for the first mile as I continued my warm up.  The second mile I ended up breaking away to set out on my own steady pace since luckily today’s warm up was a short one – must have been all the adrenaline.  I started out with a rain jacket but quickly switched to a garbage bag as it got hot pretty quickly. 

I listened to the Bible for the first few miles, which I think got me into a pretty good pace, before switching it to some Southern Gospel a little later on.  Someone was cheering me on on the Race Joy app and it sounded like a duck or chicken every time so that got me some good laughs throughout the first 9 miles.

By mile 13 I was thinking, “This isn’t so bad,” but it wasn’t long before I had to start taking a few walking breaks.  By mile 18 my quads started hurting and my form had failed so my shoulders and neck were killing me.  Walking breaks from here to mile 20 where only when I needed them, and from 20 to 26 was running every possible second I could intervaled with fast walking.

Mile 20-26 were a “focus on the mile you’re in” kinda deal.  The thought even crossed my mind that I might not make it.  But I was determined to laugh and be silly when I could so I asked some of the volunteers and cops if they wanted to switch me… I got some good reactions!  Slowly each mile went by, but that last mile was the longest mile I have ever ran.  A friend helped me run the last stretch just in time to make it 38 seconds under 6 hours!!

During the end, these mile markers seemed to be stretched farther and farther apart as I got tired. Sorry it’s hard to take photos while your running 😉

When I crossed that finish line, running as fast as I possibly could in pain, it was the strangest thing ever.  I actually don’t think it hit me that I ran a marathon till the next morning.  I was half asleep and I thought “was that a dream?”  until I got out of bed… no really it was when I fully awoke that I realized I had just run 26.2 miles, something I said I’d never do because I didn’t think I could, but when I got out of bed I did have some proof as my feet hit the floor!

Within minutes after I crossed the finish line I put anti-inflammatory essential oils on, drank some molasses, salt, magnesium water, ate some Doritos, finished the banana Larabar from the race, ate a banana, and drank a protein shake.  I had just burned over 5,000 calories so it didn’t cross my mind one time how much I ate just then!

As soon as I got my snacks this is where I sat for a little while before I was advised that sitting too long was probably not the greatest idea.

Successes

God had encouraged me to eat, after an hour, just whatever I felt like it and whenever, which started out being some Cliff Blok Energy Chews.  I ended up eating one date and some homemade energy guu before I made it half way.  Another thing I felt like was a huge help is that in that first half I was tempted to start counting down from 26 but God encouraged me to count up until I got to mile 13 of which then I could start counting down.  It kept the numbers short and more mentally manageable. 

The other thing I found which was a huge success is the hydration.  I’ve been over-hydrated and dehydrated during training so I had that on my mind while I was running.  God encouraged me to drink what they offered at the aid-stations and only use the handheld water bottle I had – which by the way was a Nathan non-slip, awesome product that I am super pleased with – when I was thirsty in between.  I used a NUUN Immunity hydration tablet in the water bottle for the first half which I am happy with as well.  I didn’t hold water or cramp so it must have worked well. 

The last stretch of the race seemed to go on forever! But I was able to “sprint” through the finish line – as fast as I could.

As for the aid-station water, let me tell you, I hate ice water, but that cold water was to die for, I guzzled it towards the end like it was going out of style!  The volunteers were super friendly and I loved the signs posted towards the end, they were quite humorous.  The one that stood out the most was something like, “Where in the world is the finish line??”  The other one was, “Did you join the ‘I peed in my pants’ club today?” –of which I was blessed to have not had to use the rest room one time, and no, I did not go in my pants.

I also wanted to point out that my foot started hurting somewhere after mile 20 and I knew if it manifested itself that it was over.  I told God, since He promised me I’d finish, that He had to take the pain away… and He did.  I actually had no foot pain till a few days after the marathon which has just been a little plantar fasciitis because of tight hips and calves, so nothing new.

The start/finish line. It looked totally different here than it did almost 6 hours later, I actually wasn’t even sure where the finish line was during that last mile.

Recovery

This is a phase I will probably hate out of them all.  Not being able to just get up and run in the morning is very painful to me, I miss it already.  I have only stretched one time in the past month and I used it as a workout a week after the race.  This I feel has benefitted me quite a bit.  I have cycled once so far, walked almost every day, and for the first week allowed myself to sleep as long as my body wanted, laying off all jobs and tasks that didn’t have to be done.  I did soak my feet in Epsom salt the night of the race and I enjoyed a long 12 hour “nap” that night!  Planning of course for my next race has been a priority!

Crossing that finish line was so relieving!!

Overall

Overall this was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had!  It was so worth the pain and the difficulties that training brought.  I doubted many times during training if I wanted to do this but God gave me enough grace each day to help keep me moving forward.  Not much will ever be as special as this was to me.  I had the greatest time running with God and never have I felt so close to Him and peaceful as I did while I was running that marathon!

The scenery at times was beautiful!

What’s Next?

I’m honestly still praying about that.  I feel the Lord might be leading me to a trail 50K next summer, but we will see.   If not, I have a trail marathon in mind for next fall and I’ll focus on a half marathon or 5k’s in the spring and summer.  As of right now I am still in recovery mode, I was able to run a 5k yesterday so that was wonderful!  Lord willing, I would like to work on my 5k and 10k speed over the winter while maintaining a long run base around 15 miles.  New opportunities are just over the horizon!!!  …For you as well!

Lord willing, I will be making a list of the products I used during the race and training, so keep your eyes open for that if your interested!

Until next time, Happy Running!

Listen to it instead?

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