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My First Marathon: Jeff's Story

Posted Sep 13 2012 3:43pm

First off let me start by saying I am now a Marathoner and I couldn’t be happier with that fact.  I am proud to join the approximately 1% -2% of people who will ever run a Marathon and I WILL Marathon again by the way!  On Saturday, October 15, 2011, I completed the Baltimore Marathon in 3 Hours 58 minutes and 4 seconds.  
A brief history, less than a year ago I ran my first 5k (I lie, I actually ran one about 6 years earlier but the time was so bad I won’t count that!).  Since that time, I’ve completed 6 5k’s, a 10k, a 10 miler, a ½ Marathon and now a Marathon.  I’ve logged over 1800 miles so far this year and I felt good going into the Marathon on Saturday.  My goal was to finish under 4 hours but my real goal was to finish with a sub 3:30 pace so I will admit I’m a bit disappointed with my time.  I made the classic rookie mistake – I went out too fast!  The Baltimore Marathon route is a challenging hilly course.  The weather was almost perfect temperature wise (high 50’s at start time) but that was offset by wind gusts up to 20mph.
When the race started I felt really good.  I had told myself that it was ok to go out a little fast and I typically do that when I race – I now realize that wasn’t the best strategy for a marathon.  As you can see by my splits at the bottom of this post I was moving pretty good through mile 11.  At about mile 6 I caught up with the Geico 3:20 pace group and actually ran with them for about 2 miles (I love running with those groups btw!).  I noticed my pace slowing a bit at mile 12 and was ok with that. At mile 13 I began to worry a bit.  The ½ marathon starts 1 hour and 45 minutes behind the marathon and merges with the marathon course.  Entering this area is interesting.  As you come down the street you see thousands of ½ marathoners waiting to begin and there were also crowds of people on both sides of the course.  As I was running down the hill I saw my parents and Tamara.  To my surprise Tamara jumps in to run with me.  I immediately look over to her and tell her that I came out too fast and I’m hurting.  That was about all I could say – Tamara tells me I’m strong, keep pushing and she would meet me at mile 18 – “its only 5 miles away”.  As I begin to go up yet another hill I start to get passed by both marathoners and ½ marathoners who have now started.  This bothered me mentally more than I thought it would, for the first time in the race I was in the slow lane and getting slower.  I found it challenging to run with all of the ½ marathoners who were fresh into their run.  I was at mile 13 and they were at mile 1. I continued to push up until around mile 17 and this was where things started to get challenging.  I never felt like I hit a wall but I was experiencing things I never have before on any of my training runs.  All of a sudden I became super thirsty and was drinking anything I could at the water stops.  Then I got hungry (I have been training with GU on all my long runs and ate the same exact things before race day and on race morning but something different was going on) .  Someone was handing out bananas (I ate ½ of one), someone was handing out miniature Snickers (I took one).  This was also where I began to walk at the water stops.  I’ve never walked before in an event and this was mentally tough for me to deal with but I also began to use this as a strategy.  I lost the 3:20 pace group at this point, the 3:30 pace group went by – my goal at this point was to finish under 4 hours.Around mile 20 I started to get cramps everywhere – my quads, my calf and I also had a sharp pain on my right side – Again, nothing I have ever experienced on any long training run.  I wasn’t sure what was up with my legs but I figured the cramp in my side was caused by all of the snacking I did around mile 17.  I also told myself it was ok to walk a little if needed.  I was doing a continual calculation in my head watching my Garmin and calculating the mileage left and how long it would take for me to complete it so I could finish in under 4 hours.At mile 24 I see Tamara – she is waiting for me on an overpass.  I tell her that I’m hurting and I think I worry her a bit because I never complain when we are running but she knows I’m in pain.  Bless her, she was so upbeat and kept cheering me on but I was a little grumpy at this point.  She told me I only had 2 miles to go and it was all downhill.  When I look up I see a hill and tell her I see a hill and immediately ask where is the downhill?  She assures me that there is one around the corner.  I also can’t stop looking at my Garmin – I needed to finish in under 4 hours!  Tamara keeps telling me to stop looking at my watch, I keep telling her that I want to look at my watch.  As you can see by my splits I finally get it together at mile 25 and begin to push – I want and need to finish strong and I really don’t have any time to waste.  Tamara runs out in front of me looking back constantly to make sure that I’m ok.  She runs with me past mile 26 and then tells me “Congratulations – You are a Marathoner!”  In my tired/exhausted grump I tell her that I’m not a Marathoner yet I didn’t cross the finish line!  She tells me congratulations again and tails off.  I push through the final .2 and finish under my stretch goal 3 hours 58 minutes and 04 seconds.  I am a Marathoner!Tamara is amazing by the way!  She has been dealing with a knee issue for a few weeks but decided to run the 5k – came in 4th in her age group and then proceeds to run another 10 miles through Baltimore chasing me, running with me and helping my parents navigate the city!).  This is the first major distance race that I haven’t started with Tamara.  She was on the course with me up until a few minutes before the start.  I won’t lie, I was sad when she walked away.  Although I was grumpy at times I was so happy  and thankful to have her support and encouragement along the course.I have some thoughts on what may have contributed to some of the issues I had during the Marathon, but bottom line – I’m a Marathoner!!
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