Two months ago I had never imagined I would find myself in a position to run or even walk longer than 10 miles but the idea of running a marathon is something that always captured my imagination. Before I share with you my story or misery, pain and joy, let me just say one thing… MOVE!!! The most amazing thing I have ever done has been to get off the couch and get my behind out the door. If you don’t run start to walk, if you are overweight and can’t spend too much time walking then get on the elliptical, but just get out and move.
Why did I decided to run a marathon…
This is kind of long, funny and plain stupid story to be completely honest. It all started about 4 months before race day when I signed up for my first gym membership in quite sometime. I didn’t really have a set plan or goal on what I wanted to do but just knew I wanted to change. Originally my main motivation was just to lose weight so I could fit into a decent pair of jeans as foolish as that, sounds they don’t make decent looking jeans over size 44 waist. So fast forward from October 30, 2013, the first day I joined a gym, to mid January when I was over 30 pounds down and feeling great. At this point, I was looking for a new challenge and remembered how much I enjoyed running in high school and thought it would be a wonderful avenue to test myself. At this point, I also started reading Dean Karnazes book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, which I must say changed my life. I highly recommend anyone looking for any kind if inspiration or idea of how far the human body can be pushed. Originally I had a few friends that were running the Fort Worth Cowtown Half-Marathon, something that while a challenge I felt strong enough to finish. The only issue was the I still had never ran past 8.5 miles even on the rare long runs I had added to my training. On top of this was the fact that most of my weight training weren’t geared towards running but instead a more bodybuilder mentality and approach. The main issue with my workouts was how extreme they were and the soreness I suffered after them. This soreness made my running attempts pretty far in between and not as intense as they should have been. Thinking on my feet I made the decision to stop weight training two weeks out from race day and add a few more miles. This gave me some false confidence on how ready I was for this race. On top of this, I had just finished reading Dean Karnazes second book Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss and Bliss and started getting the idea that I could push my body to finish a full marathon. Even better than my own reaction to think I could run or even walk 26.2 miles was everyone else reaction to what I myself called a stupid idea. It actually wasn’t until 4 days before the race that I caved in and registered for the full 26.2 mile race.
How did the race pan out
The easiest way to explain how my race went is to say everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. My alarm went off at 4am, not that it needed to since I barely slept the whole night and was wide awake before it went off. Right off the bat I felt sick to my stomach and knew I was in for a long day. Hoping it was all pre-race jitters I ate my breakfast and did a final check of all my gear. Right about 6am is when everything just hit the fan, feeling nauseous at the porta-potties I started puking into a nearby trash can as pretty much everyone just stared. A few minutes later after being unable to find the bag drop off for my post race gear I was able to meet up with my friends and get to our starting corrals.
Let’s just say I have felt better at the beginning of races than today, but once the gun went off and we crossed that starting line, it all fell into place. After my first few miles, I was feeling amazing. Race jitters were gone and my running legs were kicking in. I did have to tell myself to slow down after the first 3 miles since I was going a tad too fast for what I wanted to do. My 10k split was 1:20:46 which was pretty spot on with what I was hoping to be able to do in order to have the first half of the marathon under 3 hours. According to my running GPS, I finished the first half in 2:45:10, as far as I could tell the runners high was kicking in and nothing could stop me. Or so I thought…
The dreaded wall
I had heard many horror stories from other runners hitting the wall during endurance races, but one can never truly appreciate it until one experiences it. Personally I do not think I will ever forget when I hit the wall for the first time in a race. I had just passed mile 16 which was right by my buddies house so they met me with electrolytes, bananas and energy gels. I felt decent at this point but knew I was struggling a bit, something I expected after running this far. After leaving my friends, I started to slowly realize I was running on empty and my glycogen stores were completely gone. I finally was realizing what the wall was and I was in for a world of hurt. What made it worse was the fact that I failed to properly hydrate. I hadn’t had the urge to pee for the last 5 hours and wasn’t sweating. On top of this, dehydration had made it almost impossible for me to eat the energy gels that I had brought with me in order to have quick carbs to burn and caffeine in my body. All this made the next five miles feel like I was hauling sand bags and any incline felt like Mt. Everest. At this point, I was essentially giving up on jogging and was barely keeping a walking pace. I would try to start jogging and the blisters on my feet would scream STOP. The muscles in my back and legs were cramping up and relief was nowhere in sight. The only thing that was keeping me going was the thought of all my friends at the finish line waiting to congratulate on me what seemed now a stupid idea. The more my body rejected moving forward, the more I realized how not just a physical drain this would be but how emotional of a drain this would be. The day went from a goal finish time, into an emotional battle with myself in order to not call it quits and go home.
The .2 in 26.2 miles
I still remember passing the last mile marker and seeing the amount of people this late in the race still cheering other runners. Being able to see the finish line in the distance was probably the best motivation I could have had. While my feet were blistered and legs cramped up, I decided to give it my all. Running as fast as I could, well jogging, I saw my friends with signs yelling while the announcer yelled my name. Maybe one of the happiest moments in my life, all the pain disappeared and I felt unstoppable. As I crossed the finish line, all I could see was a sea of medics ready for any injuries and collapses, plus photographers everywhere. Once I came to a stop, the high of finishing disappeared as soon as it had come back at mile 26. My legs instantly cramped up, my back was gone and I could barely walk to get my finishers medal and shirt. I was able to walk to where my friends were waiting, and as they all congratulated me all I could do was bend over trying not to fall over.
After sitting back and taking my shoes off at the expo, I was amazed at how much energy I had. I was able to get a few free goodies before the expo shut down and a few laughs at how stupid this race had been. As we were all leaving I had to actually get my friend to drive my car since my legs had pretty much seized up and were not gonna get me home. After a quick ride home with a stop at Walgreen for ice and Gatorade, I was happily eating in an ice bath without a care in the world.
This was probably the most painful and joyful experience of my life. I never thought I would have gone through so much pain, let alone so many emotions. I will say one thing no matter how painful of an experience it was, I highly recommend anyone who has ever wanted to run such an event to do so. You will come out at the end feeling like another person and as crazy as it sounds with the itch to do another one as soon as possible. While a marathon might sound like a crazy thing for some people, at least go out and do a Half, or 10K or 5K. Honestly at the end of the day do anything that will take you out the door and moving your body. People nowadays have gotten too comfortable with their lives and have forgotten just how to feel alive again. You are only on this Earth for so long. So please do not waste your time just wasting away.