I just ran my first marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas. I have been running since I was 17 (I'm 38 now). I had run four 1/2 marathons before, and numerous 5 and 10Ks, but really just have been plodding along in between any races I've done. I've always had mixed feelings about doing a marathon because I knew it would be tough. I never thought I would do it until my twin friends from high school told me to fly out to Arkansas from northern California for a visit. While I was at it, why not run the inaugural Little Rock Marathon? I thought this would be a perfect chance for a first marathon. I had over 17 weeks to train for it, and I could see my cherished friends, who I hadn't seen in 20 years. We were on the track team together in the 12th grade, and had run a lot of road races together during that time.
So, I started religiously following the beginner training program on the marathon's website. It was wonderful because I finally felt like I was breaking out of my rut of running three to four slow miles four times a week, and never really challenging myself or progressing. I had a goal that I was going for. The longest training run I had was one 20-miler. I would have liked to do at least one more, but with three small children, it didn't work out that way. My original game plan for the race was to run 13-14-minute miles, and then speed up the second half to 12-minute miles, hopefully finishing on or around 5:30.
We started off running and kept to an 11-11:15 minute pace, and I felt pretty good. I was really enjoying the beautiful course with all the historic buildings and wonderful crowds cheering us on. At 13 miles, I was right on track for the 5-hour mark, so I was thrilled. Then, I guess reality set in around miles 18-19. I was feeling a bit ragged to say the least. It was a struggle, but I kept chugging along. I just thought, 'I CAN do this, I will just take one mile at a time'. Miles 18-24 were pretty tough on me. I kept stopping at every mile marker to walk for about a minute or so. Then I started to think, 'Never again! Never again!' It started getting a lot better between miles 24 and 25. I actually started feeling less tired and more excited to be finishing soon. I just couldn't believe it when mile 25 came and went. It was such a wonderful feeling knowing that I had come this whole way and I was almost done with my first marathon - something that I never thought I would try. The last 1/2 mile was uphill, but it didn't bother me. I was hearing the cheering crowds and the loud speaker, and I was so thrilled. I was the only one around at the time as I went across the finish line, so everyone was cheering me on, and the announcer said my name and hometown. I really felt like I was the winner that everyone was cheering for, so it was neat. I also made my time goal of 5:20. Boy was I glad to stop though! My body had been really wanting to stop since mile 18, but I had pressed on. I knew that marathons were supposed to be tough, so I'm really glad I pressed on and just did it. I am definitely planning on marathon #2 and might try to break five hours this time, just to challenge myself and see what I can do.