My First Marathon Experience
I am going to do my best to put my thoughts down about my first marathon and hope that it does not turn into a glob of random information about the day. This post is most likely going to be longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage. Well, that really isn’t a stretch. Regardless, I will put all of the details and photos after the jump.
This run was a pretty big deal for my wife and I. It would be my first full marathon and her first half. Everything that we had been working toward had lead us up to this very spot. Since the first of July I had started training for this. Now that the run is over and the reality that the training is as well, it is quite an odd feeling. So hard to describe the mix of emotions that I am feeling. What keeps surfacing to the top is “accomplished”. Needless to say, we were both feeling that range of emotions as we traveled to Savannah. In tow, were our 2 daughters, Gina’s parents, and my mom. We got to Savannah and checked into the hotel which was about 4 miles from the start/finish area. I asked about how busy the hotel was and they said that they only had 1 room available and have been booked for quite some time. Thankful that we got reservations when we did. Initially, the race was only expected to draw 10,000 to 12,000 people, but exceeded that to the point where they capped registration at 23,000. Hotel bookings were off the charts for Savannah.
Once we were checked in it was expo time! Getting to the expo was a process in itself. I think we could have gotten there quicker had we walked seeing as how the last 1-2 miles to get there took at least 45 minutes. It was an exercise in patience for me, something I typically fail at.
We luckily found a trolly that was taking people from our parking area back over to the expo. It was almost like going to Disney. You park in Goofy or Minnie, take a boat, then a tram, then setup base camp for the night and resume the trek the next day. This felt similar, but I have to say that the police did a great job directing everyone in and out of that place. A task I would not have wanted. The expo itself was pure madness, a chaotic mixture of people wanting to grab their numbers and leave to those wanting to get every single possible free sample available from every single possible vendor.
The wifey getting her packet:
A challenge for us was having our two little girls (one is 4 and the other 22 months) making it tough to navigate and stop at every vendor booth. Call me crazy, but I found myself not looking at just running gear, but stuff that would benefit me at CrossFit as well. I ended up stopping at the 110% booth and checking out some of their calf compression sleeves. I had seen them online and always wondered what they felt like. Talk about an awesome fit, they also have a small area to slide an icepack in.
After putting on those calf sleeves, I knew that they would be mine. And they were! PR Bars had caught a tweet of mine about the expo and said that if I showed them their tweet at the booth I would get a free bar. I snagged a yogurt berry which I had after the race and it was amazing. Need to stock up on those. The runner’s pack, which I still have not gone through completely, included these cool tech shirts:
I was still in shock at looking at the route that I would run:
And of course the most important items:
The expo area was quite picturesque. The weather was great and we actually enjoyed taking a few minutes to breathe outside of the expo craziness.
Me and my girls!
After all of that, I went outside to watch our girls so my wife could do back in and check out some of the stuff that she wanted to see. She grabbed a few things and then we prepared to hike back to our car.
That night we had both of our girls sleeping in the same bed. With us. I slept next to Lauren (my 4 year old) who also goes by the name of “Judo Chop Your Face All Night”. We got little sleep at all. Coupled with the butterflies in my stomach I just couldn’t get any rest. I would doze off, get chopped in the throat, wake up, and my mind would instantly start racing (If only my legs could move as fast as my mind did that night).
My father-in-law sent me a text that morning making sure we were up. Here is what he got in return:
Oddly enough, that is just how I probably looked crossing the finish line!
Loaded up, dressed up, with some bread and peanut butter (almond butter for me) for breakfast, we headed downstairs. Both of our girls were awake so they went with us to be dropped off. We hopped out about a block from the start/finish, gave our family hugs and kisses, and then walked around in the freezing cold trying to get warm. My buddy Peto sent me a text and told me where his room was, which was literally right across from the starting corrals. So we went over to hang out in the lobby. It was perfect to be that close, in the warmth, with access to bathrooms right before the start. About 10 minutes before the first corral was to start, we headed out to get into our spots.
At my corral, my wife and I parted ways with a hug, a kiss, and wishes of luck for a great run. I so badly wanted to be right next to her but a part of me also knew that we each had to run our own race and finish our journeys. I snagged a few camera phone shots as we worked our way up to the starting line.
The first corral was released around 7:30 and I think I finally hit the start a little before 8:00 a.m. I was so happy to be moving and wanted nothing more than to get into my rhythm and to get the blood flowing so I could be anything close to warm.
The first few miles were a blur. I think it took me about 3 miles before I felt comfortable and into my own pace. I was ahead of the 4:45 pace group which is what I wanted and did not feel all that tired or that I was pushing too hard. I kept thinking about my wife and wondering how she was doing. Around the 11.5 mile mark the half-marathoners broke off toward the right and the crazy people broke off to the left. I was still feeling pretty good and doing well pacing my water, gels, and chomps. I kept a decent pace through the half-marathon distance (I managed to somehow beat by best 10K time and my last half-marathon time by about 2 minutes).
The sights, sounds, and signs were really great. I listen to my headphones so the bands were not that interesting to me. It wasn’t like I was going to stop and listen to them play a set anyway. A runner in front of me had on a shirt that said “If marathons were easy they’d be called yo momma”. I wanted to grab a photo but I was too focused on trying to stay moving to bother with using my phone to take a picture. Some other funny signs were “Run faster, that lady just farted” and “Worst Parade Ever”. I also saw a lady with a sign that said “Good Job Complete Stranger!” which made me laugh. The change of scenery such as those things were great. It seemed like the entire city came out to support the runners. Even into the later miles people were standing outside cheering and offering words of support.
On a little personal note, I had put my faith on the back burner, along with a lot of other things, in order to focus on my health. My buddy Ben has been a great example in how you can do both and through him I signed up to be a member of FCA Endurance. I was a little nervous because these people are superior athletes to me, but as they assured me, it isn’t about that. I had purchased a tech shirt from them which I wore to my Silver Comet race and my wife also bought one for Savannah. I have never been so thankful to have on that shirt in my life as I was with this race. A member from the FCA Savannah team found me and ran with me for a little while. Super nice guy and it was awesome talking to him. He was doing the half marathon as he had tweaked his knee during a half-ironman just recently. What a beast! We talked briefly and he asked me if I was doing the half or the full. I told him the full and shared with him that since December I had lost about 80 pounds and that in March I ran my first 5K. He seemed totally shocked by that. After wishing me luck, he pushed on ahead. Everywhere I went I got support, at just the time that I needed it, from fellow FCA teammates. Even some of the volunteers at the water stations would yell out “Team Endurance! Go get it!”. Both my wife and I felt that the FCA teammates really played a major role in our ability to finish our runs.
Around mile 16 I started to have pain shooting through the back of legs behind my knees. It was like a sucker punch because up until this point, I have really had no injuries or pains during my long runs. I let it get to me when normally I shrug stuff off and push through. I think it was around this time that I saw the 4:45 pace group pass me by. That hurt. I had really wanted that finish time but just couldn’t find the gas to push to keep up. I tried all kinds of things to occupy my mind but nothing really worked. I had let it creep into my head that I was somehow failing, totally forgetting the fact that I was doing something that only a small percentage of the population will ever do. Amazing how something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other becomes so mental, right?
The next water station I went to grab some water because I knew it would be colder than what was in my fuel belt. Thankfully the runner in front of me wanted to make sure I got enough water and opted to spill two cups all over my left side. So now I was cold again and wet. Not a combination that I prefer but I smiled and shrugged it off. From that point on, I would walk through the water stations staying out of the way of other runners as to not take another bath. It worked, except getting moving again was extremely difficult. My body wanted to stop so badly but I had to finish it out. At the last water station it was like getting a tractor trailer started up a hill with no gas. That is how I felt.
The wind was a little unforgiving and it felt like I was running into it the entire time. Thankfully, the course was basically flat. Sure, there were some light hills here and there, but nothing that I felt was horrible. I have certainly run courses with far more hills than this. At least I was not fighting the wind AND hills.
At mile 21 I didn’t just hit a wall, it freaking fell on me. I knew I was in uncharted territory and that every step was a new distance that I had not run before. That should have gotten me pumped up. But after having both the 4:45 pace group and now the 5:00 pace group pass me, the pain in my legs, and just how gassed I felt, I really was unsure of what was holding me upright, much less moving my feet. Miles 22 and on were the hardest for me. No doubt. Those last miles were a fight and it got nasty. I questioned why I had signed up to run a full marathon when I just started running in February. I felt like I was in over my head. My body was hurting and my mind was messing with me. Despite that, there was no way was I letting this thing win and beat me. I didn’t care if I had to crawl across the finish line.
Mile 23. Only a few more left. Basically just a 5K remained. Mile 24. 2 miles to go. Mile 25. People cheering and yelling “great job” and “finish strong”. Mile 26. Best sign ever! The finish was almost in sight. I could see the fencing covered with spectators and that it made a right turn to the end. As I saw that I did my best to pick up my feet and move them as fast as I could. There was another runner on the left behind the fencing that yelled out “Hey! Team FCA! Finish it strong brother!” His yellow jersey stood out like a giant welcome sign and put a smile on my face. As he held his hand out for a high five it felt like he placed right there at that exact moment because I had nothing left in me. But hearing that gave me that extra push.
Then my feet cross that finish line. I have never felt so happy, so accomplished, so tired, so thankful, in so long. I had done it. I was handed that beautiful medal and it felt so good to put it around my neck. I was rushed with such a range of emotions and had no idea which ones would come out first.
From the side I heard my wife yell out my name and saw her standing there with my mom. I wanted to rip the fence down and get a big hug from her. My mom snagged a video of it, too.
From there it was all smiles and talk of “Can you believe we just did that?” That too felt like a blur. We couldn’t believe we had just finished the race that we did. While we were running it felt like it took so long, but after it was done it felt like it took so little time. We stopped and stretched in the family reunion area and I did my best to stay warm and keep my body from locking up on me.
Little Emily was all like “What’s up wichoo?”
Me and the best thing that’s ever happened to me:
My buddy Peto, who ran his first half, showed up with his family. He gave me a big hug (though he was going to knock me down). He will be the first to admit that he had not trained for the race. He spends his time biking instead of running. But between biking and CrossFit, despite not running but just a few times the past month, he still managed to maintain a sub-9 minute pace and run a sub-2 hour half. After we caught up with him we headed back to the car, during which we re-enacted scenes from The Walking Dead, both playing lead roles as zombies.
We have to decide on which race photos we want. We had fun looking through them this morning first thing. Props to the photographers for turning them around so quickly.
As for our official results, here you go.
- 5K - 38:44
- 10K - 1:20:42
- 10 Mi - 2:11:56
- Chip Time - 2:56:01
- Pace - 13:26
- 5K - 33:43
- 10K - 1:07:06
- 10 Mi - 1:48:29
- Half - 2:23:11
- 20 Mi - 3:48:06
- Chip Time - 5:09:03
- Pace - 11:48
My wife was really happy with her time. Me, not so much. Despite all of my talk about not worrying about pace, it turns out I cannot take my own advice. I wanted to hit 4:45 but wonder if that was even realistic for me. I wonder if all along my Nike app has been off giving me a quicker pace than I normally run making me think that 4:45 was actually within reach. When that 4:45 and then 5:00 pace group passed me, I felt like I had lost. I know, it sounds stupid, but that is the truth.
A friend of mine, when I shared this with her, basically said this: “Stop, stop, stop. Please don’t let this ruin your experience. Look at all you have done.” She then went on to add “You are pretty amazing. 99% of folks don’t have the guts to do what you did.” Nearly had me in tears. It is so easy for me to forget about where I started and to beat myself up like I do. Maybe that is what keeps pushing me.
My wife’s reaction to all of this has taken a minute to process. I think she was still in shock. Last night it really hit home and she said that on the way to grab some dinner for us that she found herself crying in the car. Tears of joy of course, but overwhelmed with emotions thinking about where we were this time last year and what we just accomplished. I told her that I remember her calling me from the book store asking me how serious I was about trying to lose weight. She said she wants to run another half and started talking about tackling a full marathon. She asked me if I would ever run another full. Given the pain my body was in, at the time I said no. But then I told her that if she wanted to run a full, and wanted me to run it with her, as in side by side the entire time, then I would do it. Not worried about our time, pace, or anything other than doing a full marathon together I would be all in. Looks like some time in 2012 this husband and wife team will be finishing a marathon together!
Oh, and naturally we could not wait to outfit our cars with the obligatory decals.
The next day, the Savannah Morning News went all out with race coverage. Totally impressed with what they did, basically devoting the entire paper to the run.
They even printed all of the results!
There I am, #3618. Out of curiosity I saw that the last person to finish the marathon did it with a time of a little over 7 hours.
One thing I failed to mention were the number of runners there that I knew and that I had some tie to. My friend Blake ran his first full marathon. Earlier in the year, he noticed our weight loss and asked what we were doing. He, his wife, and his friend Amanda bought the Biggest Loser book and started it. It helped him break through the 200lb mark. His friend Amanda has already lost over 100lbs this year and went from running her first 5K to her first half-marathon. My friend Peto signed up as well. I think he would have rather been biking but promised me that he would do it and he did (did an awesome job too). A friend of mine that I went to the police academy with ran the half and said that my running had inspired him. I am sure I am forgetting others but those stand out the most. Those people also touched others and inspired others, which is what it is all about, making a positive impact on this world.
As for this very moment, we are just basking in the glow of an accomplishment that neither of us had ever dreamed would become a reality. Who knows what 2012 will hold, but I am beyond excited about the endless possibilities.
83 Notes/ Hide
- ashamedtosay likes this
- healthyhallelujah reblogged this from ourtimetochange and added:
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- southcarolinagirl said:I love your recap and how your wife and you have been supporting each other as you’ve both gotten healthy! Congratulations on your accomplishments and all you’ve done to inspire others!
- runningbysheds said:I haven’t run a marathon (yet) but your post really captures the essence, the spirit, the mood of these major running events. Good writing!
- runningbysheds likes this
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- shandoeslife said:I’m so beyond proud of you and your wife!! What an accomplishment for you both!! Your recap was so wonderful! I REALLY want to try a marathon now!!
- 99pounds likes this
- robownslife likes this
- robownslife said:Great recap brother! Regardless of time, you did fucking amazing! Dude, you did your first 5K in March! It’s November. How cool is that! And, I want this shirt: “If marathons were easy they’d be called yo momma”. :D
- levanna likes this
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- newlifeoflaura said:Absolutely amazing! So inspiring - you have absolutely come so far with so much determination! This blows my mind.
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- mr-smit said:BAMF! This reminds me a lot my marathon experience. After mile 18, I started to feel defeated and miserable. But in the end, we are marathoners and regardless of a time, we lived to tell about it. Nice work, man!
- lifechangeneededaisle3 said:Congrats!! It’s so nice to be in a couple that can do that stuff together. As for your time, you know what that means, just work harder and do another one. :) Congrats again it’s a great feeling!!
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- michaeldoeslife said:awesome recap! I’m so happy for you both.
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- regainingmymoxy said:Congrats. Really it is an amazing accomplishment - just be proud. WHAT UP WITCHOO MR. MARATHONER??!
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