The Story of My First Marathon (Unabridged Version)
The marathon. The ultimate test of endurance during which the participants continually ask one seminal inquiry: why? In this previous post, I discussed running this marathon, which happened to be the best marathon of all-time because you got to run through the ‘Shoe — how many people can say participated in an athletic event in the
preeminent Ohio Stadium? I’ll tell you more of the story of my first marathon here (unabridged version for those who like unadulterated accounts). (I’m not much of a storyteller, so I don’t want to get your hopes up.
Background of Running
I might as well mention why I ran this marathon. I never ran cross or track in high school, but I wanted to joined the AFROTC in college, so I started running around the neighborhood in order to get in shape. (Yeah, I was that guy who ran in high school, but not for any school sports.)
My personality is that of doing everything to the nth degree. Why? I have no idea, but it is what it is. If I’ve run four miles well this week, why not try to run five or six during the preceding weeks? There’s no logic to it other than “just because” and doing it because I want to see if I can. Generally, I’d run during the warmer months and not during the colder months, which meant that I’d start in the spring back at square one every. single. year.
History of Marathon Training/Distance Running
First, to this date, I’ve only run five road races (three 5Ks, a half, and a marathon). This subsection will serve as a reason why that number is so small, for you intuitive folks out there.
Way back when, I decided to run a marathon (probably dating back five years now, whatever). I followed Hal Higdon’s newbie marathon regiment. (Note: the half marathon is the “half” or “half marathon”, where as the the marathon is the “marathon” as they are two entirely different races. The marathon is probably 4-5 times harder than the half and should be thought of entirely differently. Unless you run ultras, and then they’re like comparing the 5K and 10K.) I didn’t have enough miles not endurance built up when I started it, so when I reached the 16-mile LSD (not the drug) my knees and legs told me to buzz off. Training done, but at least I started something for the future.
Fast forward a few years with the help of my Five Finger shoes, I started to train for the Columbus Half Marathon. Five Fingers are great at many things, including hurting your feet because of their inherent design flaw. I’ll speak more at length about Five Fingers in future posts. Long story short, I registered for the Columbus Half in the spring and later during that same spring, I hurt my foot. I reaggravated it during the summer. However, I continued P90X, so I wasn’t some self-loathsome couch potato. I eventually ran the Half, finishing in 1:53, which is impressive because I only ran a few times before the race.
Every year the people of Toledo, Ohio convene and hold the Toledo Marathon. 2013 was not different. I though that since I ran the Columbus Half so impressive (I’m still waiting on my 30 for 30 short to be made), the Toledo Marathon should be completed. Long story short, the same injury accorded near the turning point of the out-and-back 14-mile run. For those how don’t know, that means that you run seven miles there, and seven miles back. For those keeping track at home, that means I walked back seven motherloving miles. In the subfreezing weather. And hobbling since I was ostensibly injured. I never made a recovery for that marathon.
My training regiment
If you skimmed through the previous section, I have a habit of injuring myself (too much, too soon, they would say). I tried the whole 3-day per week plan. That basically consists of running three days and cross-training three others. In a previous post, I mentioned my eccentric cross-training, marathon training regiment that worked okay, but both haves had flawed execution. It happens. For the first half of training I 3-dayed Insanity, which worked well, but would still tighten my legs up too much and would hinder succeeding runs. I fell in love with yoga, it’s wonderful for stretching you out; I have yet to ever take a class, but I hear there are lots of women my age who frequent those studios, and when they get older they wear their yoga-wear to Target. Ironically, yoga might have done more harm than good because although my legs were feeling great, I found ways to hurt my knees, via my IT Band. It would have probably kept me from running the marathon, but the marathon was in October, not November. Holla.
I lived, at the time — past tense, close to Alum Creek Trail, Eastern Columbus. I usually just ran on that trail. I love running on trails as the only thing I have to worry about are the deer and cyclists who usurp my “me time”. With trails there’s not the traffic and obstacles you have while running on sidewalks or roads in the city. You just go and zone out for miles and miles and miles. The longer runs would began at Antrim Park on the Olentangy River Road and I’d run, at the farther, to the Santa Maria (the
fake replica on the Scioto River [silent “c”]). Again, I’d run by the best building n the planet, making my day. I became friends with Gu. I was only pasted 4-5 times. I can only assume they were in training for the Olympics. And running 21 miles is a legit investment. You’re running 3-4 hours, plus have the time before and after the run doing peripheral stuff, like imbibing the right stuff or stretching. Not to mention I was on the verge of crashing at work in evening when I woke up at 6 to run 21 miles. Marathon running is a lifestyle, unless you’re Diddy or Oprah.
Proceeding my marathon
What’s better than going to the convention to pick up your race packet, with its sophomorically-named “bib”, with Pop-40 music playing? I don’t know what! Seriously, it is a lot of fun. Yeah, you could spend a micro-fortune buying cutesy stuff you don’t need (I bought a car magnet that says “I thought they said ‘rum'” LOLOL), but it gets you pumped because you see thousands and thousands of people there for the marathon and half.
My mom came down to support for my life’s biggest, and maybe really only, athletic endeavor. I don’t think it had toooo big of an impact, but diet, time of your feet, and sleep add in to make or break the difference. Something just didn’t seem right. I’ve had runs when I thought I should in no way, shape, or form should be running as well as I had. I’ve also had runs that I did every correct and still had a bad run. I dunno. I need to get more consistent.
I think I woke up at 5 o’clock, although I can’t quite remember. The weather was originally slated for 30s, but instead the weathermen changed it to the 40s! That meant I would wear short instead of my compression tights. Which, I don’t know why men wear shorts on top of compression pants — they serve no purpose unless you’re paranoid about the way people perceive you. I would have rocked those pants for my first marathon had the weather called for it. And now since I ran one, I can justify wearing whatever I want because I’m a marathon
running. And because my friends almost expect it. You pick. Back to my point, I decided what to wear. After consuming fluids and foods, we were off to the Arena District, where we got this party started.
It seemed like everyone in Columbus was running it (well, this year there will be 19,000 slots open for both, distinctly, different races). The line for the port-a-porty looked like Chipotle during the lunch rush. It was organized chaos but I eventually found my way to my starting corral. They, Columbus Marathon, put me in “Corral A”. Naturally I found the very back of that corral because I don’t want people for one microsecond to think that I can run fast. Hell, I just hoped to finish (just kidding, I wanted to run 3:45 because I never thought not finishing would happen, even if I had to jog 10 miles — foreshadowing). More pop music. I remember “Red Lights” by Tiesto (stylized “o”) for not apparent reason. By played “Thunderstruck” AC/DC, then played the most melodramatic song to start the race.
The race to endure began! Not with a bang, but with a whimper. I tried to run slow enough so the 3:45 pace team would catch up with me. Which is ironic, because we all started to try to keep up with the 3:45 pacer. For those of you would can’t guess what I’m meaning, the pacer should run at the balloon-sign pace to ensure everyone will finish at that pace. I think the 3:25 pacer grabbed the wrong balloons. The dude ran around an 8:20/mile pace instead of the 8:45, or so, pace for a 3:45 finish. As what my friend would later say, don’t trust a pacer. (I knew of our actual pace because everyone but me had a Garmin GPS watch for the morning shindig; they beep at every mile, so I exactly knew how much more pain and suffering had to be endured.)
By around mile 4 I knew I had problems when I started to have to push myself, as well as my right achilles had a funny feeling (nothing came of it, but I thought that it’d be a horrible time to sustain a new injury). My mile 8, when I saw my mom, I knew that this would be much, much, much harder than what I thought. My 21-mile training run was a breeze compared to the actual marathon (had I have had the same run, I would have indeed had run that 3:45 marathon). My mom shrieked my name, and I turned, and might have said “hi” or something.
The weather was perfect. It was 40s and SUNNY! Absolutely perfect marathon weather (like I’m an expert). It was hot enough that the weather didn’t hinder your crappy performance, but cold enough that you wouldn’t lose speed from the heat (I’m the John Madden of marathon color commenting). So, basically the polar-opposite of the current Ohio weather (horrible usage of “polar”).
By the time that we reached Nationwide Children’s Hospital (which is the corporate namesake of the race, FWIW), I was just struggling to keep up. We got to run by million-dollar homes at German Village’s Schiller Park. They are PRESTINE! The houses will be 3400 sq.ft. and go on the market for >$1MM (remember, I do have a real estate LLC, so I know a thing or two about real estate; no, literally, only a thing or two). However, move a block or two away and they’re affordably at $3-400K. Or, you can buy a nice entry condo of 600 sq. ft. for $120K. The choice is yours to live at this trendy, Columbus “hot spot” (I chose to not live at a “hot spot” but next to a trail on the other side of town for literally a fraction of the price; but I’m still in the Columbus city school district!). Soon, we entered US-23, aka, High Street.
On High Street I saw the ballooned pacer moved farther and farther away. My group was leaving me. Or, I suppose, I was leaving the group seeing as how I couldn’t keep up. Stupid marathon and such. This was ~mile 11. We’ve started to go up a plain, although I wish it was a plane so I could gain time, so I had to work even harder as my group was a good two blocks ahead of me. The way the Columbus Marathon works is the half and marathon runners run together until around the 13th mile where the half runners hang a larry and finish at the trendy hot spot, known as the Arena District. And this point I can actually breathe.
Since half of Columbus runs this race, and the other half volunteer for it, for the first 4-5 miles is it very, very congested. Like, if you want to move up it you really have to exhort energy to do so; you kind of feel like a Ferrari speeding through rush hour traffic. So, it’s good to actually be with your race pace group at the beginning. So, when the half runners left, I felt like I was A) accomplishing something because only from where-on-out were the marathon runners and B) I didn’t have to slow down or speed up to avoid foot traffic.
I think I ended up running up the plain for 15 miles, or at least that’s how it felt. When reaching Victorian Village I thought that I’d walk through the Shoe, to take it all in. And because I was in “I just want to finish this damn race” mode. (Hey, you get that awesome finisher’s medal!) My feet hurt, the pain in my left knee was apparent. I was in survival mode.
The Ohio State University’s campus was gorgeous,as usual. I think they were giving out banana’s on that one street I can’t remember anymore. The run down that said street was painful on my feet and I could only imagine how blistered-up they have become. I didn’t actually walk through the ‘Shoe. I had to run it. I did. A camera guy shot me as I triumphantly made it across the field. The walking came on College, the road next to the Shoe. Ha. At this point I knew that I’d have to go much slower to make it to the finish line — ten miles away!
After the race I saw I ran the first half in 1:51 — well on my way of reaching my goal. That’s about a 8:45/mile pace. The second half was 2:24, good for 10:45/mile. In other words, polar opposite. The only way I’d run that slowly is if I have. to. run. that. slowly. Quite frankly, unless you want to check a marathon off your bucket list running that slow will ostensibly put more time on your legs and will increase the chance of you sustaining an injury. If you can’t run it faster, you might want to rethink it. I’m honestly not trying to sound like an elitist, but at some point you have to consider it. Running a marathon is crazy. A half is much, much more doable — I’ve run one without eating or drinking anything during it. So, anyhow, I finished the marathon at a 9:45/mile pace, which I never actually ran. Haha.
The vibe changed in Upper Arlington, where Herbstreit used to live, as you saw more and more posters pertaining to finishing and the awesome job we’re all doing. Yeah, posters are a big deal in big marathons like this one. I saw enough jokes with Christopher Walken’s mug to last me a lifetime, or until this October. Most honestly seemed kind of generic to me. If you want to hear more about it, pull up the Google machine and do a quick search, I’m sure they’ll be the same as what I saw. I did wear my own novelty shirt. I wore a Nike tech shirt, which really aren’t that techie anymore as Nike apparently scrapped the mesh shirts, that said “Not Running Sucks”. I got many volunteers to smile and laugh at that shirt. I think I’ll keep that as my official road race shirt, or at least until it’s too hot for the latest generation technical running shirt. EDIT: I was at two store today and apparently Nike does sell those mesh tech shirts. I was wrong. I admit it. I didn’t buy any as seeing as it’s not even close to being warm enough outside to want to buy more tech t-shirts…
At this point I was walking through all of the water/Gatorade Endurance stations. (Gatorade actually does make drinks for athletes, but you won’t find them at your local grocery store; you’ll have to travel to a sports store that sells lots of endurance athlete supplies or locate the product online.) I didn’t care as I wanted that damn finisher’s medal. There was this hill (well, more like a plain but any road with positive elevation would currently be counted as a hill) and I walked the whole thing. I think it was a few hundred feet. I was not happy with my performance at this point. I only had about four more miles to go, but it felt like ten.
But, I saw a friend In Grandview! More like he saw me and said, “Christian!” A few seconds later he was running with me and tried to get my picture. The phone was running too low of a battery, apparently, and he was unfortunately unable to take the best action photo of all-time. About thirty-seconds later he said “I got it!” He ran up a bit, composed the picture, and took it using some magical picture of me that I have yet to see. It got me through at least one more mile until the final 5K.
The end of the run goes through Victorian Village. Although it is not a hot spot, it’s a place where people who go to spots live (it’s a bunch of Victorian-era buildings; every brick building in Columbus is either $30K or $300K — guess into which category Victorian Village fits). LOTS and LOTS of people crowded the sidewalks to cheer we marathon runners on. Many people continued to (positively) acknowledge my awesome shirt.
The home stretch was the hot spot Arena District. I didn’t really get much of an adrenaline rush (I was on E after the first few miles of the run), but I knew I only had a couple of country-length blocks to endure. I finally crossed the
finish line to earn my finisher’s trophy. Afterward, there was about a mile of hoopla before I got to the rendezvous area (I got lots of foods and stuff, with little to no dexterity in my hands because I just ran a marathon). I also would have lost a walking race with a 90-year old man at this point because of my ailing joints. I more-or-less robot walked for the rest of the day.
Outcome from Running my Marathon
Can’t spell endurance without endure.
It was a bad run but a great, great experience. I didn’t know what I’d do running-wise after the marathon before I ran it. Because I had such a poor run — but knowing full well that I can do better, I’ve become fully motivated to run it again and shoot to qualify for the Boston Marathon in a few years. It’s interesting that I don’t know where I’d mentally be with my motivation had it gone the way I’d hoped. Sometimes you need things to go wrong so they can get better.
For men ages 18-34, the qualifying time of the Boston Marathon is 3:05, or a 7:03/mile pace. Yeah, I just ran a 4:15, but it was a very bad 4:15, so running over an hour faster does not seem to insurmountable. I know I can get a lot better because until now I’ve never really put a concerted effort until running better. Running longer, yes, but since I’ve run a marathon, I know I can run one. Now I can focus on running faster and better.
How to get better this year. One of my goals for this year is to run a 3:45 marathon — or the exact hope from last year’s. Well, I know it’s going to be much harder this year, but my focus will be to run 5 times per week to run more (it’ll top out at 50 miles per week a couple of times). Even though cross training is great, it does not replace actual running.
For a month or so after the marathon I didn’t run but once or twice because of nagging injuries. Instead of running, I did squats, core, and yoga work outs. Those are the cross training exercises that will make you faster and more injury resistant. Why? Squats help alleviate know injuries because your ass is kind of like the engine that makes your legs move. From having a weaker ass, you put more strain on your lower legs facilitating IT Band injuries. Although I’m not a sport doctor, I guarantee that’s what I had. In the runs since, I’ve had little to know knee aggravation and have run more efficiently and faster (who’da thunk? And why did it take me so long to realize?). As for your core, it helps tremendously with running form (although those sexy abs for runners may work well for beach
bodies, it also works for runners who do want to get much faster). And of course, yoga loosens up tight muscles, increases flexibility, and adds to my eccentric mystique.
Quite frankly, running has gone from a hobby to a passionate obsession. It is a lifestyle. Yeah, I’m like those Crossfitters (or whatever they call themselves) who always let you know that they do Cross Fit, but so what. It’s part of my identity.
And I’m not proof reading this. I’m not going through 3,500+ words. Just pretend it came out of the editor’s office ready to be published.