Sunday, October 2, 2011
It's marathon season: Chicago. Marine Corps. New York. Locally, the Amica Marathon in Newport is coming up on Oct. 16, and many runners are now tapering their training to prepare for the 26. 2-mile race. But there are some things runners may not think about on race day that may throw a monkey wrench into all that preparation. It certainly happened to me.
I ran my first marathon this past weekend, the Smuttynose Rockfest in Hampton, New Hampshire. I started training for it back in May after being inspired by the Boston Marathon. Seeing all those people crossing the finish line-especially a troop of twenty service men and women in fatigues, weighted backpacks and boots running together-made me want to sign up for something that meant something. Initially it was just one of those things for my bucket list. Run one and then I'd be done. I wanted to set a goal for myself and achieve it. I didn't care how long it would take, I just wanted to finish.
I trained for months, running shorter routes during the week, and I set off on epic jaunts on weekends. Every Saturday was a new personal best in terms of distance achieved. My longest run was twenty miles. I tested out my race day clothes to make sure they were comfortable. I tried pre-race meals of oatmeal, peanut butter and a banana. I bought new shoes, energy gels and a Fuelbelt to easily transport water.
But one thing I never did was run in the rain. So you can imagine my panic when the day before my race, I learned that heavy rain and wind was forecasted. I wasn't prepared. I didn't know what to wear. I thought that running in wet clothing would cause painful blisters (and chafing) and that I would fail to finish. I was so pumped up the whole week leading up to the race, but once the rain came, I didn't know if I could do it. I told myself I'd go for the half, and if I was in pain after finishing the half, I could stop. I didn't want to be miserable.
But once the marathon began, I realized how good the rain felt. It kept me cool and hydrated. As I warmed up, I realized I wore too many layers; an Under Armour tank top, tech pullover and waterproof jacket was too much, and I ended up having to shed my pullover during the first mile. I tied it to a railing along the route so I could go back for it after the race. I stored my energy gels in my jacket pockets, but the pockets did not have zippers, and when I took off my pullover, all of my energy gels fell out onto the road and were trampled by oncoming traffic. Another tip: make sure you zipper up those babies. My second panic set in. How would I finish the race without those gels?
Luckily, the race coordinators were handing out gels around mile seven, so I was able to scoop up a couple to carry me through. By mile nine, the sun was back out, and I hit the bend along the ocean where waves crashed against the rocks. I knew I could do it. Yes, I was soaked, but I was comfortable. My feet were wet, but waterproof socks made a huge difference. I sailed through the halfway point swinging my arms like a windmill to demonstrate the "Phoebe run" from "Friends. " By mile nineteen, I was lifted by a runner's high. My husband found me around that point and handed me some Powerade and jogged along with me for a few minutes for support. Then there was another energy gel station, so I picked up two more.
There were only seven miles left to go. Now it was just a normal jog in the park. I cheered on the runners around me and said thank you to every person handing me water or Gatorade along that final stretch. At mile twenty-four, my feet started cramping up because my toes were all scrunched up. I had to stop a couple times to do toe raises, but I kept running.
As soon as I saw the finish line in the distance, I felt no pain and carried myself right to the very end. Stepping across the line with a time of 04:02:40, they handed me my medal. I had earned it. It was my first marathon. And it definitely won't be my last. . .
1. Be prepared for any type of weather.
2. Wake up a few hours before the race to eat, so you can digest before your run. I woke at 6 a. m. ; my race was at 9 a. m. I also ate a banana just before the gun.
3. Find a bathroom before you get to the race, because the on-site bathrooms are always mobbed.
4. Wear waterproof socks.
5. Layers are good, but don't wear too many.
6. If the race has plenty of hydration stations, you won't need a waterbelt.
7. Bring energy gels, but make sure you zip them up in pockets or in a pouch.
8. Stretch adequately before the race, including toe raises to prevent cramping.
9. Walking through water stations isn't a bad idea to make sure you get enough fluids and to avoid tripping over other runners.
10. Watch out for cones! I saw one guy take a serious tumble (how he missed seeing the bright orange markers, I'm not sure).
11. If you have long hair, consider braiding it. Combing your hair after a marathon is almost as challenging as the race itself.
to the First Marathons page