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Before My First Marathon: While I Still Have my Sanity

It’s finally Marathon Week, and I’m trying my darnedest not to freak out. It’s been a long time since a race has made me nervous and stressed out. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was almost afraid of running a race, not knowing what was going to happen (for those of you who have run one, please leave comments! I’d love to hear what you did for your first!).

This is what it feels like to be a newbie again. I’m a half marathon master now – I did 6 halfs in 9 weeks this past spring. I had a lot of pressure on myself to PR at Hospital Hill Half, but I knew I could run the race. And I knew how it would feel. And I knew the course by heart. And I knew how to prepare for running a race in Kansas City on the cusp of summer.

But a Full Marathon in an unknown city in an unfamiliar climate? I can’t even FATHOM what that will feel like. What mental games I’ll have to play to keep going. How physically exhausted I’m going to feel. Or even imagine how great the finish will feel to motivate me at the worst moments.

Reasons Why I’m Freaking Out

  1. The Weather – ah, this is every runner’s biggest worry (after what kind of beer is going to be at the finish line). I learned from my half marathon in Dallas this spring that even though the weather says it will be nice, it’s probably is lying to you. So I’m prepared by having at least one of everything. But acclimating is going to suck. We’ve trained all summer in hot and humid Kansas. By mile 2, you were soaked. The hardest decision I had to make about what to wear was figuring out which tank top was clean. It’ll be refreshing to run in a cooler climate – but Portland is weird in between weather. It’s chilly but humid but usually rainy but sometimes hot. I haven’t gotten to try out my new water-proof jacket or my cold weather tops because I haven’t run in cold weather in FOREVER, which brings me to
  2. New Gear – because I live in the land of heat and humidity, I have new running gear I haven’t gotten to wear…at all. They tell you nothing new on race day, but I didn’t need a rain jacket for Kansas, and I didn’t have much for fall weather because in Kansas we have two seasons – really hot weather and really shitty cold weather. In between the 90-degree, 90% humidity summer and the cold as balls lots of snow winter, we get like two days of 70-degree weather.
  3. New Shoes – I’ve been training in Mizuno Wave Rider 14 and 15s for the past two years now (I love a running shoe clearance!) I finally got the latest model, the 16, which I started breaking in beginning of September – plenty of time to get miles on them but not wear them out. Well, the 16s are different than the 15s. On short runs they seemed the same. But anything over 8 miles and my feet started hurting A LOT. It feels like they sacrificed the cushion to brag it’s a lighter shoe. So I went to the local running store, Gary Gribble’s, which I will shamelessly plug right now because they are AWESOME. I told them my problem, explaining I didn’t have time to find new shoes but my old ones were too worn for a full. They found me some insoles and gave them free of charge (I should note I bought the shoes there, so they understood since the product hadn’t lasted as long as it was supposed to, they should do something about it. But as logical as that sounds, customer service like that is still lost on lots of places. I appreciate how this store maintains quality in products and service and understands that as runners, we need things to work right!) But it’s been taper time the last few weeks, so I have no idea how having the insoles will go after a few hours.
  4. Our (Lack Of) Training – we definitely have trained for this full marathon, but not as much as most marathon plans say, but definitely more than a lot of people I’ve met who pretty much winged it (one of the racquetball players I know did the Portland Marathon with just 3 20-mile training runs). We ran 2-3 times a week. Our longest run mile-wise was 16 miles. My longest run time-wise was 3 ½ hours – a trail half marathon that is probably the hardest run I’ve ever done. But I’m trying to tell myself that we did a lot of really long runs back to back (we did 2 13-mile runs in less than a week) to make up for our lack of time to do 4-hour runs. I also have been doing Cross-Fit 3-4x a week as well as racquetball 2x a week. So it’s not like I’m out of shape. But anyone who’s ever run knows that running is such a different sport – the only way to really fully train for racing is to run.

And yet, despite all the unknowns and the factors that will probably work against me, I’m excited.

Reasons Why I’m Excited to Run a Marathon

  1. Bucket List Item – I can finally cross it off my Bucket List and never do another one ever again if I don’t want to
  2. Time to Level-Up – I’ve been running long distance since 8th grade and have done several races now, from 5Ks to 10Ks to half marathons, and now the next step is the full marathon. It’s time to join the ranks of veteran runners who have the bragging rights to say they went all the way – 26.2 miles.
  3. I Get Stuff – I get LOTS of race swag for this race. We get TWO finisher shirts, a medal, a pendant of the medal, a rose, a mylar blanket, all the goodies in the packet, and lots of food and beer at the finish. I’m going to be SO DAMN PROUD of that finisher shirt I’m going to wear it ALL week, especially to Cross-Fit, so when I can’t do a pull-up, I can point to my shirt and say, “No, but I can run a MARATHON!”
  4. The Experience – physically I don’t look forward to feeling like I’m going to die (but then again I go to Cross-Fit every week and am a runner), but I’m excited to experience such a huge race. I get to run with my fiancée Jason and best friend Jen. We’ll meet new people and be motivated and inspired by all the runners, supporters, and entertainment on our journey. And I’ve only been to Portland for a few hours, so it’ll be cool to see a new city instead of the same old Kansas City skyline.
  5. I found Pocket-Sized Body Glide for the race. Nuff said. Best shit EVER.
  6. I’ll have new material for my blog
  7. I can finally quit worrying about the race and start worrying about my upcoming wedding in November; it’s running-themed so I look forward to incorporating the marathon into our slideshow and running decorations; hopefully I will still be able to WALK down the aisle
  8. I can eat all the food and drink all the beer (and Mountain Dew!) I want that day (although I’ll probably want a huge dose of NAP before that). I’ve read you can lose up to 7 pounds in water weight running a full marathon, and I fully intend to replace those and help my body recover with carbs and protein…lots of carbs.

What was your first marathon? How did you handle it? Any advice for a first-timer?

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a Bay Area oddity since 1983: writer, gear junkie, new mother runner.

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