There is no luck involved in finishing the Marathon. The ingredients required to tackle this formidable challenge are straightforward: commitment, sacrifice, grit, and raw determination. Plain and simple.
So you set about your training to prepare your body for the rigors of running 26.2 miles. You refuse to compromise, dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to the contest ahead, pouring everything you’ve got into it. But you know the Marathon will ask for more. In the dark recesses of your mind, a gloomy voice is saying, you can’t. You do your best to ignore this self-doubt, but the voice won’t go away.
The Marathon rattles you to the core."
In a way, I didn’t want to write this story. Because after spending this entire year working to this moment, this pinnacle, I don’t want it to be over just yet. I want to just stay in that moment and not let it go.
My first marathon. It didn’t feel like running for five hours by myself. At least, until the end. The first hours felt like flying.
The Steamtown Marathon was a simple choice for my first. The course runs through the town where my grandmother was born, raised and lives now. Her house is just steps from where the runners go by, and I spent many chilly October mornings with my grandmother and sister watching my dad at the 1 mile mark.
This was my dad’s first marathon too, just a month before his 40th birthday. He finished that first one in 4:18:18. He qualified for Boston here too, five years later, knocking off more than an hour from his finishing time.
So that was part of my motivation too. He and I had planned to run this race together, but circumstances have kept us apart. He’s been away since May, getting well and wishing me well from afar. But he called me the night before the race, and I wrote his name on my knee tape in the morning. “So it’s your fault if they give out on me,” I said.
The morning of the race, I woke up easily from bizarre dreams: I forgot I was supposed to be running, and stopped at mile 18 to go hang gliding; it took me seven and a half hours to finish because I got lost; the finish line was through a highway toll booth and I forgot to bring my EZ-Pass; I didn’t see my family the entire time.
Steamtown Marathon official time: 5:00:04. 11:30/mile.
The first 20 were a breeze and all around 10 minute miles. The last six felt like another 20 all over again. I’ll write a full recap when I get a good night’s sleep. :)
I didn’t blog much this summer, for a few reasons. One, I was insanely busy (excuses excuses). But also, having a knee injury was devastating to my confidence and motivation.
At the end of July, I could barely walk without pain or my knee completely locking up.
Officially, I was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome.
I had a horrible experience with Penn Orthopedics, and a doctor who told me that, essentially, my knee would just always hurt and that 8 miles is really the longest reasonable distance I could ever do without pain. His response made me feel awful, dismissed and angry.
So I took my business elsewhere. Thanks to lots of hard work, lots of forced rest and the guidance of Brandi at Excel Physical Therapy, my legs are stronger and more stable now.
I was ordered not to run until my six weeks of physical therapy were over. Aside from finishing up the Couch to 5k course I was teaching and some spin classes, I really didn’t do much.
Brandi and I spent two mornings a week stretching, practicing balance moves, doing weighted leg lifts and silly side steps.
I got better slowly, but still didn’t run more than 3-5 miles at a time for most of the summer. As part of my therapy I have to tape up my knees with Leuokotape Sports Tape every single time I run. It looked like I’d probably have to drop out of the marathon and reconsider it for another year.
In late August I managed my first 13 miler but still assumed I’d have to drop out of Steamtown — my Hal Higdon marathon training plan got totally borked by the setback and I didn’t think I’d be ready. Then I raced in September and got a big PR in my 5k! Hey, confidence! Missed you! Welcome back.
My inner dialogue became something like “Well, I’ll run Steamtown and then just drop out whenever I’ve had enough. If I can make it to 16 or 18 miles I’ll be happy.”
Lies lies LIES. There’s no way I’d ever be happy with that. So last weekend I set out to do 18 miles, no matter how long it took. Even if I had to walk a few. I wasn’t allowed to come home until it was done.
I did 20.
And now, even though I didn’t train my best, I know I can finish this race. Can’t wait!
"Be advised that Steamtown’s course is a quad killer. You would be smart to mix in lots of hills, especially downhills, during your training. If you do not have any hills where you live, simply stab your quads with a fork every night to become accustomed to searing pain."
I’m going for it this year. What’s your “big race” goal?