If you have started to refer to yourself as a runner, be prepared to answer the question, “have you ran a marathon?” from every person you met, ever.
I don’t blame people for asking. Most non-runners don’t know much about the running world. They just know the word: MARATHON. The word marathon is recognizable as “accomplishment”. You will never get the same reaction for telling someone you ran a 10k as would telling someone you ran a MARATHON.
Before I ventured into the marathon distance, I had been running for over 4 years. I considered myself a runner. I was proud of my 22 min 5k PR and ability to run a half marathon at about 8:00 pace.
However, I can’t COUNT the times I was told by someone who knew virtually nothing about the sport, “Oh- well you’re not a real runner unless you run a marathon”
This left me frustrated and fuming every time. It was the BIGGEST cut down to be told I was not a “runner” simply because I had not run 26.2 miles, yet.
It’s natural for people to want praise from others. It’s human nature to want recognition for hard work. I believe that is what makes the marathon distance so alluring to many runners. Sick and tired of being told I was not a runner, I registered for my first marathon in May 2013. After over 2 years of ‘competitive running’ and over 1 year since my first half marathon, I decided it was time. My only true motivating force behind this decision was finally to say I had run a marathon.
I was not truly inspired. I didn’t REALLY want to run a marathon. I just wanted the glory of running a marathon. I wanted to know what it was like. I wanted to experience what a “real runner” experienced. I wanted to see what I was missing out on. What is this “marathon” thing all about.
After training for 3 months, I realized 1 thing: marathon training is really hard. It was also not very fun for me because I was not fully ready to run a marathon at that point.
6 weeks out, I ran my longest training run of 19.5 miles at about 8:50 average. I could not physically walk for DAYS after. I was in a world of pain. My running took a turn for the worst, and I was unable to run for 2 weeks straight because of an injury from my long run. I lost a lot of speed. I lost confidence. I lost the little motivation I did have. I was terrified for the task in front of me- 26.2 miles.
As I stood in line waiting to run 26.2 miles, I thought breaking 4 hours would be a cake walk- HA.I was under-trained and over-confident.
I came in the 13.1 mark in 1:53 with the 3:50 pace group.
My husband shouted, ” 1:53- Now Can you do that for the next half- maybe even faster?!”. I will never forget those words. My heart sank, and I wanted to cry. I felt very fatigued, but I was only HALF way. I just shook my head and said “no”.
I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to conserve some energy by slowing down. I watched the 3:50 pacer faded off into the distance ahead of me. I was completely embarrassed and felt like such a rookie.
At mile 16, I knew I was in trouble. My pace was fading into the 9:15s now. I hit mile 20 at 2:58 (8:54 avg).
At that point, I was stopping at every water station. I was grabbing 2-3 cups of water to walk with and drink. I dumped them on top of my head.
The last 10k involved a lot of tears. I was getting passed by every person in the race. My confidence was shredded to pieces. I was in a world of physical pain, and I was also very scared. The feeling you get in the later parts of the marathon, is a feeling you NEVER experience in training. I was scared that my body was falling apart. I was afraid I would never run again. I was basically a wreck.
I ran/walked the last 10k in 71 min (11:30 pace). When I crossed the finish line, I was embarrassed. I burst into tears because I thought I was a failure. I wrecked the entire moment. I think the first words out of my mouth were, “I couldn’t even run faster” as I cried like a baby.
Everyone said, “You did one! Now you can be done!”. I just thought to myself:
There is NO WAY I am done with the marathon.
I wanted revenge. I needed redemption. It’s like I almost turned runner-crazy from that day forward.
I got my “redemption race” 2 months later. I ran a 3:47 negative split race at the University of Okoboji in 2013
3 months later: I ran my 3rd marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon in 3:45
1 month later: I ran Rock n Roll Vegas with a new PR of 3:43
At this point, I had overcame my fear of the marathon. I wanted to try to Qualify for the Boston Marathon. This would require a 10 min PR. I put my nose to the grind-stone all winter. I emerged 5 months later with a new PR of 3:27 and second female at the Wicked Marathon in Kansas. I was over the moon about qualifying for the Boston Marathon by over 7 min!
I ran a negative split (1:44, 1:43)
It was right after this race that I started thinking I was “invincible”.
4 weeks later I ran another marathon in 3:31- another BQ
Then a month later, I decided to stop up to the ultra marathon distance. I was second female at the Booneville 50k with a time of 4:53
2 Months later… I ran ANOTHER marathon
University of Okoboji in July 2014 in 3:26- 1st female overall
And then I got hurt. I didn’t run another marathon for 6 months.
I took another 12 min off my time this year with a 3:14 PR.
I ran 11 marathons in the 2 years after my first marathon. They say you never forget your first, and I don’t think I ever will! It has been quite the journey, and I learn every step of the way.
I encourage everyone to follow their heart with their training. Do what you WANT. You are NOT a professional athlete. You are doing this for FUN. You did it for YOU. Keep chasing your dreams and never give up because of the time it takes- the time will pass anyways.