Saturday, December 31, 2011

Marathon Virgin

I finally completed my first marathon in December 4 at the Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon. Much has been said about the event, a lot of it is negative, if you Facebook people's comments. I had a great time. I come from a circle of friends that meet on Sundays to run through forestry hills in Orange County. Among them I was the only one whom hadn't completed a marathon while most had several under their belt. It sort of felt like I was back in high school and everyone's comparing locker room stories and I just shrug my shoulders and try to imagine what it must be like.

Vegas wasn't the first marathon I signed up for. Fourteen years ago, I signed up for the LA Marathon. I wasn't running regularly or didn't consider myself a runner but I've always been a bucket list/challenge/adventure type person and I wanted a new goal after obtaining my degree. Probably less than a few months later, before I actually started to train much, I realized I was pregnant and decided not to do the marathon so I won't strain my body. I know there are athletes that can run while their 7 and even 9 months pregnant but I didn't have their level of fitness so I didn't want to risk it.

We had our first son and two years later we had our second son. We knew right away we would want them to be close in age even if it would be hard at first. We come from big families so we debated having a third. With two boys we were already busy and debated if we would have a third or fourth like we talked about before we became parents. Before you know better, you can just through numbers out there and it really doesn't mean anything... we plan to have four. I hear some newly weds assert. We'll see about that, I think to myself.  Still for us two felt like too few. I wasn't getting pregnant. Some months (in the beginning) I felt relieved since my youngest was still a toddler, I figured nature knew what it was doing. But as the months progressed, it turned into sadness. I wondered what was so different this time. I left it up to fate and finally we had our third boy. This time there was a three year difference. Not too long of a wait, especially when you hear other people's stories, but it did have me sweating it.

Anyways, now I see running blogs of mothers who run regularly and I realize how easy it would have been to get a good double jogger and exercise with them in tow. Instead I went for long walks with them on the stroller which was relaxing. Finally this year, with my youngest being 9 and it being the final year before I turn 40, I decided it was time to run my first marathon.

When they announced the Las Vegas Marathon would be at night. I knew it was the marathon for me. I am so not a morning person and usually for these types of events you have to be up extra early. Initially, I was following the training program. Instead of sitting around and waiting for my sons' soccer game to start, I went out for a run, sometimes as much as 6 miles while they warmed up. I went dressed in workout clothes, cap and carried a water bottle. I was back right as the game was about to start. I enjoyed doing something with that space of time that is often spent just waiting and I got familiar with new neighborhoods. I skipped out on the weekday training eventually because it felt like too much with school, dinner, and picking them up from sports. On weekends I ran the longer distances and was still playing soccer.

On race day, I heard a lot of complaining but I was determined to make the most of my first marathon experience and everything I do in life. The first half of the marathon I ran with the 4:15 pace group. It helps psychologically to run with camaraderie. When the course wasn't that scenic because it was in the back roads of an industrial area, I imagined I was rollerblading in Newport Beach pushing my kids on a jogger.  I visualized my kids as toddlers, the sun, waves, smell of the ocean. I must have been smiling because I caught the attention of some runners who were complaining about the view. They asked how I was doing. Awesome, I said, I'm rollerblading by the beach.

I'd studied up runners experiences of their first marathon. And I agree, the miles do come quickly, for the first 20 miles at least. I would be surprised to see another water station so quickly. Mile 13 was familiar. I had run half marathons before with little training so I knew I could do that distance. When I hit mile 15 that was more than I had ran before and my knees where still holding up. My long runs were interrupted on weekends because we had a soccer game I played in. The euphoria of that evening was really carrying me through. There are so many runners. I saw a couple of women with Marathon Virgin signs on the back of their shirts. I tired to keep them in view.

We pass a neighborhood and there's a group of kids hanging over the fence yelling go runners! Keep it up! Too cute I think to myself and then think about my kids again.

At mile 18, I was surprised by how great I still felt. Since I hadn't put in all the training, I anticipated I'd run til I couldn't any more then walk but I'd be determined to finish. I was now running with the 4:30 pace team and was elated. Not only would I be close to finishing the marathon but I'd be finishing it in a decent time if I stay at this pace.

Mile 20, I felt like kissing the sign. I had made it to the infamous destination known as the wall, or what's considered to be the real start of the marathon. I shrugged my shoulders. I was still feeling pretty euphoric. I was complementing spectators jackets to their surprise.  I focused on different things that evening to help me take my mind off the pain of running the marathon. From another blog, I got the idea to read every sign that a spectator holds up. I found that I appreciate the signs that cheer on runners as a whole as opposed to individual people. (Go runners or go mom, as opposed to go Edgar!) I hadn't ever thought of that before after having been a spectator to so many marathons for my husband. But its a different story when you are fatigued. You can use any ounce of encouragement you can get.

Mile 21, I felt as though I was being pulled toward the finish line almost by an invisible force tied around my waist. I'm having all sorts of flash backs about my kids. I'm feeling grateful for everything/everyone that has ever been a part of my life. I feel I can do this. I'm still excited about my time.

Mile 22, I felt stupefied.  Follow the crowds. Follow the crowds. I repeat to myself. I'm now walking because my legs aren't running any more. The 4:30 pace team is long gone and I'm lucky if I finish the race.  There's people passing all around me and it feels like at the start of a race where everyone takes off quickly and I'm going so slow it feels like I'm running backwards. I hear some lady behind me tell a race volunteer that she can't continue. And I want to inspire or help her to continue and I close my eyes because I don't want to turn around and look back for fear I might want to cave in too if I stop and lose my momentum. The watered-down Cytomax they were giving out wasn't doing anything for me. I'd gone through my Gu energy gel one too quickly. I figured the rest of my time would be spent walking.

Fortunately, as I walked, I overheard a runner thank a spectator for giving him a small bottle of an Ion sports drink. I asked him for one. I figured I must have been in need if I'm taking drinks from a stranger on the Las Vegas Strip but I know the runner community is filled with supportive good people so I drank down while I continued walking. A few minutes later it's as though my vision had cleared, and my legs felt restored. I thought to myself, why am I walking. And I started running again.

I was hopeful once more. I noticed the hotel strip again and the bands playing. I look other runners and spectators in the eyes as I pass by. It helps with my focus and to pass the time. I'm enjoying my stride.

The thing about running on The Strip was there was tons of spectators. On the good side I got to see a lot of nice coats that the women where wearing since they dressed up a night on the town. On the downside, people were wanting to cross the street in front of runners. Even if someone crosses in front of you a good three feet away, mentally its distracting when you're wore out. Whatever euphoria I had regained I was losing it quickly by having to navigate through runners and walkers who pulled into the left marathon lane for water. Not their fault. There were many issues with the planning of this event and that was one of them. There's drunk spectators in the race corrals holding up a wine bottle. People are walking around in here like it's Mardi Gras. I grow agitated by what I see. The pretty hotels don't do anything for me any more. I keep trying to visualize something nice and get distracted. A half marathoner crosses in front of me and stops for a picture. I'm up against her and can't move. She literally becomes my wall at Mile 22. Please move I say, I can't. She says she's trying but it feels like we are tangled up in pain. I shake it off. And continue by adopting my soccer attitude. I see each person I have to navigate around as someone I have to dribble/weave through to get to the soccer goal. Her, him, that one. I maneuver around a lot of people and each one feels like a victory to me. I'm getting closer to the goal.

At Mile 25, I see my husband and he's got water and snacks for me. I eat and run. I'm quiet. I'm close. I'm going to finish. Every now and then my knee sends a sharp electric pain just to remind me it's fatigued but by far I'm amazed at how well the cartilage in my knees are holding up. Sometimes by mile 9 in half marathons I have to wrap my knee.

Mile 26, I almost trip but I keep going. My legs feel like they want to buckle. Own every mile, own every mile. I had read that in a blog somewhere. Now I chant to myself. I look around trying to take it all in. Its my quads that are hurting me the most. They've never been the ones to complain. We're here! I can see the finish line but it feels far away.  I hold hands with my husband as we cross the finish line. 

6 comments:

  1. Congratulations on finishing your first marathon!
    I thought it was so sweet that you held hands with your husband as you crossed the finish line.
    Great job!

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  2. This is by far my favorite post! I was with you at every mile. Thank you for sharing your experience and inspiring me to add "running a marathon before 40" to my bucket list as well. Bravo!

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  3. That's awesome! I can't imagine running that far. It must feel like such an accomplishment. Congrats!

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