What inspired you to run a marathon?
You can say that I was peer-pressured into running a marathon. I have friends training for marathons, and for a while they kept trying to convince me to run one, but with no luck. Then last year, I ran the Marine Corps 10k and waited around the finish line to see a few of my friends finishing the marathon — and I felt a bit like a bum having run 20 miles less than everyone else. Also, I am getting married in November and was hoping to lose a little weight before the wedding. Though running hasn’t necessarily helped me drop the pounds, I can always dream!
How/why did you select the Chicago marathon?
I wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon at first, but Karl, my fiancé, said he didn’t want to run 26 miles around the same places we see every day. So we looked at fall marathons, and with our friends, picked Chicago. Not only was this a big race (super-important for me, since that was a guarantee I wasn’t going to be last, and I would have crowd support the whole way), but none of us had ever been to Chicago.
What training schedule did you select?
Because I had run a couple of half marathons when my training started, I chose the Hal Higdon Novice II training plan. I followed the training plan pretty closely, except that I ran on average 3 times a week instead of 4. I didn’t do any speed work, though on my short 3-mile runs, I did run faster. I survived the schedule the schedule injury-free; and I didn’t have to stress too much about fitting in all my runs. This summer was one of the hottest in DC, and 17 mile training runs in 100+ degree weather is NOT easy! At times, I really didn’t think I could run this marathon at all, but once the temperatures cooled down, and more importantly, the air here wasn’t so humid, I was able to get through my mileage much more easily (though I admit, it was never easy).
Did you incorporate races?
I ran a couple of 5k’s as well as the Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon smack into the middle of training. Because this one fell on the same day I was scheduled to run 19 miles, I changed the training plan around and pushed everything back one week. Basically, instead of my long runs being 18-13-19-12-20-12-8-marathon, it was 18-19-13-20-12-20-10-marathon. I lost one week of taper, but not much of a big deal since the long runs have been doing me good.
Did you train with friends. If so, how did this help/hinder your training?
Training with friends helped me immensely. I don’t do well running long distances on my own — I get bored fairly quickly. I had company for most of my long runs, and Karl was a big support for that too, when my schedule didn’t match up with my friends. He would run on his own if I had company (he’s much faster than I am), but tag along with me if it looked like I would have to run on my own.
What was your race goal? Did you meet it?
I really really, really hoped to finish the Chicago Marathon within 5 hours; instead I finished in 5:07:15. I’m ok with missing my time goal though. First, it was INCREDIBLY hot, and I know for sure that I would have made it in 5 hours if it wasn’t for the heat. The weather was 85 degrees and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. The “windy” city had no wind, and the course had no shade after the first few miles. Second, I had to take a port-a-potty break within my first mile, which added a couple of minutes to my time, too. Not only were the port-a-potty lines huge, but the one we picked didn’t seem to move for20 minutes! I drank a bottle of G2 on my way to the race and was dying to go to the bathroom before it started; but I had to give up on peeing to make it to the start on time (but the G2 probably saved me from dehydrating later!).
What was the race experience like?
The race was HARD — in large part due to the heat! Also, during training I always knew that Karl would be running with me. Sadly, Karl fractured his foot on a run with 2.5 weeks to go, and was an spectator of the marathon instead of a participant. I don’t do well running on my own, due to boredom, so I joined two bloggers with similar time goals. I lost the first one on my port-a-potty break, and the other one at mile 12 when the heat hit her hard and she had to walk. So for more than halfway I was running on my own, completely alone. I got a second wind after my half marathon point, but that died around mile 19, when I hit the wall badly. The crowd support in Chicago was incredible, but when I needed the most, on those later miles, there were barely any spectators. I just wanted the race to be over, and I walked quite a bit during the later miles since the heat was starting to bother me more and more. Even though I ran with my CamelBak (my best decision!) and walked through every water stop grabbing at least one cup of water, by mile 21 or so, I was VERY thirsty and no amount of water was helping. I already knew I wasn’t going to meet my 5 hour goal and I no longer cared (and I still don’t). In retrospect, I’m glad I took my time to drink water at each stop, and I really don’t think I could have gone any faster than I did. Tracy, who ran with me until mile 12, had one of her worst race experiences, going straight to medics as soon as she crossed the finish line (and this wasn’t her first marathon). Another friend got a DNF when her legs cramped up at mile 18. Due to dehydration, she fell and couldn’t move her legs until someone scooped her off the course before she got trampled (she needed an IV, and arrived at the finish in an ambulance).
How did it feel when you crossed the finish line?
By the time I saw the finish line, I just wanted it all to be over. I didn’t get emotional, I didn’t cry, I didn’t think of myself as any more special. I was just thinking “THANK GOD THIS IS OVER!!! DONE! NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN!”
Will you run another?
Two days later I started looking for a bib for the Marine Corps Marathon here in DC, which is happening just 3 weeks after Chicago (the promises I make during runs never last…). Looks like I will be running the MCM after all. I’m already trained and was able to cross the Chicago finish with no injuries. As much as I had a tough time, I had a better experience than all my friends. (Most didn’t meet their goals by over half hour — and this was not their first marathon, so their goals were pretty realistic ones!)
What advice would you give another first time marathoner?
The best advice I got for the marathon was “bring your own water” — seriously, if you trained with a water belt, run with a water belt. If you trained with a CamelBak, run with a CamelBak. Yes, it’s frustrating looking at my race pictures and I’m all geared out with my CamelBak, but I might not have crossed that finish line if I didn’t have extra water aside from the one given at water stops. I also walked every water stop, because drinking water messes up my breathing. Not only is there no shame in walking, but the seconds I lose by walking instead of running are less detrimental to my race than actually trying to drink and run.
Also, everyone told me to not have a time goal, but I think you should, as long as it’s realistic. If you’ve been running your long runs at a certain pace, don’t expect to go much faster during the marathon. Have a challenging but achievable goal. The goal helped me push forward even when I wanted to walk. Even after I knew I wasn’t going to meet my time goal, I knew I wasn’t that far off, and that kept me going when I wanted to give up.
Lastly, bring a friend! It will make the hours go by much faster if you have company, and it will be a great distraction for when you’re feeling miserable.