If you had told me 6 years ago that I’d run a marathon, I would’ve died laughing. Back then, I never believed I could run a marathon, because honestly, I didn’t even think I could ever run. But that’s where it all started…
I received my first ever running blades about 6 years ago.
Yes, you read that right. I do not have legs, because I was born without them. But you have heard this story before so let’s get back to running. When I began my running journey, I couldn’t imagine doing a marathon because I had never run before. Running a full marathon would just be insane. But my competitive spirit and determination won over. Several months after receiving my blades, I trained for my first 5K. Training for the 5K felt like a task but I wanted to prove myself that I could do it. And I did.
Several years and several other races passed, and I finally decided to do the Go! St. Louis marathon last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it.
Last year at the medical cooling off but still smiling.
Around mile 20 I ended up overheating. I was devastated because it felt like all of my hard work was for nothing! I felt like I had failed. Despite my sad story, I immediately knew I was doing it again! I wanted a better ending to this story. And I am so glad that I gave it another try – because I finished with a killer time of 4:30:36! It is about 10:20 min/mi, not bad for a girl with no legs! 😉 The same race with much better results!
At the finish with tears of joy and relief.
The things I learned from my training experience (from the practical to the philosophical):
Bring water. Before I ran my first marathon, I assumed I wouldn’t need water because of the many stations through the race. But that’s one reason why I didn’t finish it. Bring your own water!
Take advantage of the bathrooms along the way. On my practice 18-miler, I ran into a gas station at mile 11 because I just had to go. There’s nothing worse than not being able to finish a run because your body is just like nah. Taking bathroom breaks regularly will give your body a quick rest, as well as not ignoring your body’s basic “to go” needs improving your overall abilities.
Take rest days. They’re just as important as your long run or hard days. Without that time to recover, your body can’t perform at its best.
It’s all mental. Stop telling yourself you can’t, or don’t want to, or are too tired. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not supposed to be easy. For instance, hills are everyone’s challenge. I learned to love them, because after each uphill there is a glorious downhill!
Find your inspiration. Whether it comes from other people, books, yourself, your goals… let that drive you, fuel you, push you.
Get out of your comfort zone. I ran in many uncomfortable and cold conditions during the past 5 months. I joined a group of runners on Thursdays that focused on lots of hills and speed work. I also ran new and unfamiliar routes. It better prepared me for the race because I was less anxious for the unknown in front of me.
Week before the marathon:
It was a mentally exhausting week. All I could think about was the marathon. Will the weather be alright? Will my body cooperate that morning? Will I get sick? What if I don’t finish it again? Did I train hard enough? Maybe I shouldn’t eat so much so I can be lighter for the race? There were so many “What Ifs”. One thing that helped me get through was focusing on my sources of inspiration.
In the days leading up to my marathon, I was constantly asked, “are you ready?” At first, this was a source of irritation for me, but then I realized, people were only meaning well. It’s like when people tell me that I’m an inspiration. They mean well, but it’s often hard to hear. And boy oh boy was it difficult to answer the question of whether I was ready – because I didn’t know myself – really until after I ran it. But, now I can answer this question – yes, I was ready!
Things I learned from my successful marathon:
Bring your own water bottle and energy gels. When you have your own water, you can drink whenever you need it versus waiting until the next water station. When it comes to energy gels, it’s good to have your own because you know what goes well with your stomach versus trying new gels on the day of the race.
It doesn’t matter how fit you are if you don’t train enough. I don’t know if I should’ve practiced longer distances, strength-trained my legs more, done more hills, or whatever. Probably all of the above. It felt like I could keep going forever cardio-wise, but my hips and glutes were so painful during the last 4 miles. Because of the intense pain, I was slowed down from a 9:30 average to a 10:40 pace. I was seeing people who I had passed in the first half of the race, speed past me in the last half.
Your body is amazing. One of the things that I’ve always loved about running is just how amazing the human body is, and just how much it’s capable of. Running taught me that I can overcome my own limits. I should never say “I can’t,” because I can. Think about how crazy it is that you’ve just run 26.2 miles. TWENTY SIX POINT TWO.
Have fun with it.
Some of the best parts of the race were when I was high-fiving my family who came out to watch; when the spectators had funny signs like “you’re hotter when you’re sweaty”; when people by the side of the road set up a mister; and when an old man I had passed, later passed me saying, “hey, smile! You were smiling earlier!”. Smiling reduces the pain (fact: it releases endorphins), but also by having fun with it, you’re making memories. A marathon – 26.2 miles – is a long way. Have fun with yourself and with others while you’re doing it.
You learn to be so in tune with your own body. Four-plus hours is a long time to spend with yourself and your thoughts. Not only do you have to be mentally strong, but you have to listen to your body and its cues. Figure out what it needs. Listen to the pain, acknowledge it, and ignore it. Pain is temporary.
Trust the process. Listen to your trainer. If he says to reduce your running mileage the week before marathon, do it! It’s for a reason. Enjoy the training and process.
Finally, I couldn’t have done it without the support of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF YOU.
From every “good luck” text and message, to everyone who’s ever run a marathon before, to those who calmed my pre-race jitters, to the spectators who brought a smile to my face and pushed me to run harder, to the volunteers who handed me water with a smile, to the medical staff or the race who was waiting for me with the wheelchair, I couldn’t have made it without you.
The point of this blog is to offer my encouragement. If you want to do a marathon – do it! It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be pretty. But it will be rewarding. Even if you failed at it your previous attempt, try again!
I see my unfinished race as a lesson of what to do and not to do. I learned more from my failure that helped me toward my success than anything else.
My well deserved 4:30:36 hour medal!
In the last few days, I’ve heard these two questions more than any other. One: Will I do this again? And two: What’s next? My answer: stay tuned!
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this very long post, thank you! I’d love to hear from marathoners – what are your thoughts? What tips do you have? And from those of you who aren’t marathoners – what’s stopping you especially if it is something you’ve always wanted to do?