On the 6th of May, 2012 I completed my first Geek Marathon. I planned and selected the Pittsburgh Marathon as my target several months ago and on Sept 27, 2011 I registered for my first Marathon. I’ve known I’ve wanted to run one for several years and felt that this Fellowship year was the perfect opportunity. From there I started putting in some miles. Not always able to get tons of miles in I tried to compensate with running with a 20 lb backpack on most of my longer runs. This somewhat simulated the difficulty and exhaustion of what I expected in the later miles in a Marathon.
Looking back on my training it was more reticent of training for a Half Marathon than a Full Marathon. My longest run prior to the event was just shy of 8 miles. While I had completed the Fredericksburg Historic Half Marathon several years ago I had not gone longer than 13.1 miles before… ever. But as the event got closer I felt that I was prepared sufficiently for a long and slow trot and thus pressed forward especially with having dedicated my Marathon run to LT Christopher Mosko.
I ended up finishing with a chip time of 5:21, becoming a Runner of Steel! To be honest I was attempting less than 5 hrs but with it being my first marathon and warmer and sunnier than expected I was very happy with how I did. After finishing the Marathon I spent the remaining part of the day relaxing, stretching, and icing my knees and ankles. With a good nights sleep the day after I was definitely sore but fully funtional and continuing to hydrate and recover.
My goals for the Marathon were:
- Finish the Marathon (Accomplished!)
- Don’t end up in the Medical Tent (Accomplished!)
- Enjoy a cold refreshing beer at the finish line (waived & exchanged – I was significantly exhausted and focused on returning to my car after a quick walk through the Expo, exchanged for Ice Cream sundae at home)
As the date approached I started doing a bit more research and I feel I have a few tidbits that got me through my First Marathon race without any issues. So with that here is how to run your first Marathon:
- Make sure you taper off your runs well. I only ran a 5 miler the week of the Marathon (again this could be more if your weekly runs were higher than mine – just remember there is a greater chance that you injure yourself and prevent your participation in the Marathon this week; don’t overdo it!)
- Starting about 4 days prior to the Marathon focus on hydrating your body. This means no alcohol and limit caffeine intake. Metric -Urine color should be very light yellow. I used the Lemon-lime Gatorade
that they use in the race to ensure my body was accustom to the fluid.
- Pack your gear. I don’t like arm bands (feel they restrict my arm’s blood flow) so I purchased a Nathan 5K Runner’s Waist Pack. In it I placed my iPhone (Nike + app), my id, a credit card, a few bucks, neosporin with bandAids, and SPF 15 chapstick. The pack simply worked perfectly. I didn’t even notice having it on after a couple miles.
- Eat a good breakfast. I’d been enjoying Cheerios, with a 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts and a full banana sliced on top for several weeks. I had this same familiar breakfast before my Marathon.
- Sunscreen -bathe in it! I used SFP 50 and it saved most of my exposed skin (missed a couple spots between my shoulder blades and arm pits).
- Vaseline – I put it between all of my toes, under my arm pits, on my inner thighs, and yes even my nipples. This resulted in absolutely no rashes, blisters, or bloody nipples.
- I wore the same sunglasses I’d worn on all of my runs. It ended up being sunnier and hotter than expected and I watched and joined other runners “chase the shade.”
- Have a mantra. At some point the distance is going to be difficult. The talk of “the wall” up near 20 miles is very true. I saw an individual with “I WILL” on one calf and “I CAN” on another before the race. I used this a bit. I also geeked out with Star Wars and used “Do or Do not. There is no Try” -Yoda, and also “Just like Beggars canon back home…” -Luke Skywalker describing that something impossible was possible. But when it REALLY hurt…. I thought of LT Chris Mosko having given ALL. And I knew I could give MORE.
- Have friends and family root you on. Mine met me just short of the 16 mile marker. This gave me a great boost right when I needed it.
- Enjoy the experience. I knew I wasn’t going to win and that wasn’t one of my goals. So enjoy the bands along the way, talk to others (I met one guy who was on his 10th and was loving every minute), and pass out those high-fives to all the spectators along the way. It will make the Marathon experience all that more rewarding for you!