I’ve ran two marathons – my first and my last. I endured the NYC Marathon in 2014 and I enjoyed the Long Beach Marathon 2016. Polar opposite experiences with notable contrasting points:
♦ Injured with shin splints evolving into a stress fracture vs injury free
♦ A viral cold with a nasty dry cough vs illness free
♦ One of the coldest NYC marathon starts on record vs the dawn of a 29 degree west coast sunny day
♦ A run of crosswinds & headwinds vs a light, warm ocean breeze
♦ Awake at 4am for a 6am bus to Staten Island for a 5 hr wait wrapped in cardboard and plastic bags; rummaging & huddling to stay warm until a 10:55am wave start
♦ Awake at 4am with a 20 min walk to the 6am start line lined with Palm trees
♦ A 4:30am pre-race hot breakfast that did not hold it’s benefits for a start time 6.5 hours later vs a 4:30am breakfast that fuelled a 6am run
♦ Wearing layers of clothing (and still shivering) vs tank tops and shorts
♦ 50,000 racers vs 2,000 racers
♦ Fear vs fire – the first marathon I was a rookie and had an element of fear of the unknown, the second marathon I was on fire – the uncanny theme of my 2016
♦ 4:58:27 vs 3:58:00
In preparation for my redemption run, ironically I trained less. Marathons require a lot of work – physical & psychological. They are hard on your body and your mind. Looking back I know that I wanted too much too soon and trained too much the first time around. My physical expectations were unrealistic. This time I was more in tuned with my body. For the most part I run every second day but I was not fanatical about missing a run the second time around. Most of my training is on trails with a 2-300m elevation gain over 9km. My long runs were not as plentiful, nor did I clock the 30+km pre-race long run. I ran a 30km race 6 weeks prior and ran another 30km training run 3 weeks prior. I figured that getting to 30km with strength and confidence would be my goal on race day – a mere 10km followed by the remaining 2km would be the way I visualized the 42.2km on race day.
Psychologically I was a tiger this time around. My ego and spirit were slayed in 2014. I needed to redeem myself. My goal was to see just how much and how far I could push myself in optimal conditions. I wanted a marathon memory to be proud of.
The night before Long Beach my husband called and said I would have the “run of my life”. At 4:30am my daughter chimed in and texted “Have the best run of your life, mom”.
When I was running I kept repeating to myself “I am running the run of my life”.
There are a lot of variables in leading up to the “run of your life”. Remaining injury are and healthy is of paramount importance. When traveling long distances to a run you need to factor in time zones, airplane air, hotel beds & pillows and restaurant food. The water is different, the coffee tastes different, the unfamiliar sounds are distracting and if you forget anything you need to become resourceful. Your nerves are amped, your emotions are high, your bowels too, are a pre-race morning factor not to be taken lightly.
Marathons are a funny thing. A lot of the marathon training and marathon itself are a head game. I hated my first marathon experience (being injured and sick) and I regret being so stubborn and not opting out…but had I not experienced the worst then I likely would not have appreciated the best as much!? My redemption run shaved an hour and 27 seconds off of my time. I had pep in my step and felt strong the entire run. Nutrition and hydration were in check, I had no chaffing and no aching. No discomforts nor distractions made for perfect conditions to give it all that I had in me. In turn the run rewarded me with awesome memories and sweet satisfaction in checking the marathon off of my bucket list.
Marathons are like life. You run with the hand your are dealt and hope it works out. You try your best in any set of conditions and sometimes that’s not good enough and it’s back to the drawing board you go. Perseverance is necessary, as is resiliency. Yes, training, experience and confidence help but for everything to come together there’s an element of higher powers that be with a twist of luck.
Next challenge: learning to swim so I can satisfy my triathlon goals…