(Originally published Dec 04, 2007)
I finally ran my very first full marathon. Today, I am achy, tired, and sore. However, VERY, VERY proud! I made it a personal goal in the beginning of 2007 to complete a full marathon. In the past I have completed half marathons. (Palm Beach 2004, 2005, & 2006) However, this past Sunday I felt a higher level of personal satisfaction.
I have been asked several times how the race went and how I felt. I can truly say that finishing a marathon was a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge. I had different feelings at different stages of the race. So, I decided to “Blog” it below and I hope this might inspire someone to complete their own dream.
This is how my first full marathon went:
Mile 1-3: It was still dark outside. Temperature was about 68 degrees but humid. There were roughly about 4500 runners. Physically, conditions were pristine. There were so many people around me (runners and spectators cheering) and the temperature was still good. Mentally, I was just enjoying the beautiful scenic route on South Flagler Drive.
Mile 4-8: The early race clutter started to break up. Every runner started to fall into their own pace. I was feeling great, but hot. It was the humidity that was making it much harder. I started to feel my legs hurt a little. Not a bad pain, but more like all the parts were "settling in". I was not going to allow these minor aches to distract me from focusing on the task ahead. One of the lessons I learned in long distance running was that your brain has the power to overcome pain. So, I cranked up the volume on my iPod and kept my pace.
Mile 9-13: The sun was up. It was getting hotter and more humid, but I couldn’t let that affect me. The more I kept my mind occupied with positive thoughts, the less distracted it would get with negative thoughts like pain, heat, and humidity. However, I couldn’t get too distracted and lose focus on my pace. Once I hit the 13th mile marker, I was pumped again. After all, this was where I used to finish the race (when I did the half marathons) and back then, I felt exhausted. However, yesterday I was halfway done and still feeling good.
Mile 14-16: All of the sudden there were far less runners on the road. There were nearly no spectators. What a difference this made. The road was empty. No shades. No breeze to break the heat. I had read about a “Wall” that marathon runners hit between mile 14 and 19. The term refers to the zone where non-elite runners run out of energy and their pace slows down considerably. However, for me I was still pumped from mile 13 and going fairly well.
Mile 17-19: The road was completely empty. It branched away from the scenic intercoastal Flagler Drive and it veered into the residential section of Northern West Palm Beach. There were very few runners and many of them were walking instead of running. This was not a good sign since it made me think more about my own pain. Then the inevitable happened! I hit my own wall. I felt like my legs were tied to an anchor. They were really heavy. The more I tried to run, the heavier they felt. I felt short of breath. Once again, I knew that if I kept my mind full of positive thoughts, then I would overcome this wall. One of the tricks I learned to get your brain not to think about pain while running is to focus on a point ahead of your path and just keep your eyes fixated on it for about 30 seconds. This usually makes me “zone” out of the pain zone. I started to pour ice on my head at every water station. This seemed to help a bit. I also started to alternate between speed walking and running, but not to my optimum pace.
Mile 20-21: Back again to Flagler Drive and the scenic intercoastal. This was a great boost since it meant that there were only 6 miles left! It’s now 9:40 AM. I must have drank at least a gallon and a half of water and Gatorade, but still felt like I needed more. The more I kept my eyes focused on the horizon where mile 21 marker was, the less I thought about, my then super heavy feet.
Mile 22-26: So close, yet I felt so far. By this point, I could no longer keep my fast pace. I really didn’t want to walk either, since this would make running again much harder. So, I decided to go for Interval jogging / speed walking. I would walk for 30-45 seconds and then jog for 2-2:30 minutes. This seemed to cover more distance. With every mile marker I passed, I realized that this was the MOST I had ever ran in my life! What an exhilarating sensation!
Finish line: Once I was within eyesight of the finish line, I started to pick up speed again. My pace became much faster than it was when I started the race! That was amazing! There was almost a quarter of a mile left of the course. The pain in my legs was excruciating, but surprisingly, found myself actually sprinting towards the finish line. I just had this massive rush of energy that I think my brain was preserving for the grand finale. Then I crossed the finish line. I can honestly say that at that moment, I had never felt a more sense of fulfillment!
I finished the Marathon in 4:43