Pam French: Finishing Her First Marathon in Vegas

“I am not an elite.  I am not fast.  I don’t even LIKE running some days!  But I do like the feeling of accomplishment I get from crossing the finish line or beating a personal best.  And I have an unhealthy relationship with Oreos, so the calories burned are just icing on the cake.”

She started running as a means to learn more about herself, and hopefully finished the race with a few celebratory Oreos! Enjoy the interview below and read more out Pam’s race day experience at her blog, Thirty Schmirty. Congrats!

It sounds like you started to run when you moved to your husband’s home town and got a little bored. Did running help?

Running gave me a sense of self.  When I moved here, I didn’t really know anybody except my husband and his family.  It was kind of like I depended on my husband to be my mate, my friend, my entertainment, my provider… I just felt like I needed something for ME.  The idea of fitness wasn’t foreign to me.  I’ve always been a member of a gym, and that was no different here, but I was kind of bored with that.  Running let me branch out and learn new things about myself and my capabilities.

How/when did running a marathon enter the picture?

I give the credit (or blame?) for the whole marathon idea to my dear friend Michele.  She ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2009 as her first marathon, and she suckered me in with the whole, “If I can, you can!” spiel.

Why did you choose Vegas?

It was a joint decision.  Michele and I wanted to run one together, and Vegas fit the bill for both of us.  I was looking for a race late in the season so that my longest training runs would be done in cooler temperatures.  The Tennessee heat and humidity can be pretty brutal–not exactly conducive to a pleasant 20-mile training run!  And Michele… well, I think she was pretty well sold on the fact that it was in Vegas.  (And bless her heart, it turned out that she didn’t even get to run.  She was diagnosed with a tibia stress fracture just three weeks before the race.)

What was the marathon course and experience like? Would you recommend it to others?

The first half was simply spectacular.  The first 13 miles of the course were done as an out-and-back beginning at Mandalay Bay with the turnaround point being in “Old Vegas” around Freemont.  It was amazing running past all of the well-known Vegas landmarks on the Strip.  I really enjoyed the out-and-back aspect of it because, as a back-of-the-packer, by the time I reached mile three or so, I was getting to watch and cheer on the wheelchairs and elites coming into their final miles on the other side of the road.  The crowd support and spectatorship were superb for the entire first half; there were water/Cytomax stations aplenty, and the bands were rockin’!  And then we turned the corner.  At the half/full split, the half-marathoners went straight, and the full-marathoners turned and continued on.  The difference was like night and day.  I swear I saw a tumbleweed blow across the road.  Everything that the first half was, the second half was NOT.  It was ugly (industrial warehouse scenery), it was desolate, and it was quiet.  There was still the occasional band or cheerleading squad, but the spectatorship was all but nonexistent.  It made for a really long and mentally draining last half.  I would recommend running the half to anyone and everyone.  I would highly UNrecommend the full.

What were the high and low points of your training? Sounds like you may have had some knee issues. Can you explain?

I did have knee issues.  IT band syndrome and bursitis, to be exact.  That knee dictated all of my highs and lows.  It forced me to sit out when I knew I should be training (low), but on a good day when it wasn’t hurting so bad I got in some pretty good long runs (high).  My highest point came on the day of my 18-mile run.  It was effortless and enjoyable and pain-free and just everything a long run should be.  I paid for it the next day.  My next attempt at a long run the next weekend turned out to be a 2-mile limp.  That was my lowest point, when I really began to wonder whether or not I would be able to continue training.

Sounds like you have no interest in running another marathon. Might you change your mind?

As of right now, no.  Everyone keeps telling me I will change my mind, but it’s not in my foreseeable future.  Now, at some point if I find myself with a much higher weekly mileage base, capable of running 15+ pain-free miles on the weekends on a regular basis just for fun, then and only then would I even consider it.  If I ever feel like I’m physically ready to do one again, I’ll look around to see what races are coming up.  But as far as picking a race a year in advance, saying, “I’m gonna do THAT one,” then forcing myself to prepare for it… never again.

What advice would you give to other first time marathoners?

Don’t be so hard on yourself.  If you’re looking to BQ, that’s one thing.  But if you’re only hoping to finish one uninjured and have a good time doing it, seriously, missing a midweek short or middle-distance run here and there isn’t going to keep you from the finish line.  Basically just don’t stress over it so much!

Melinda Hinson