How to run a marathon: My first 26.2 Mile Running Adventure

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 at 4:52 am

page3runningThe marathon is a race that commemorates the legend of the Greek soldier Pheidippides.  He was said to run from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. The marathon even existed as one of the original events for the first modern day Olympics in 1896 to commemorate the legend. Since that time marathons have become popular events for amateur and professional runners all across the world, with hundreds being held annually and the official length of a marathon being set at 26.2 miles. Or, as I now like to think of it, the perfect length no human body can run without feeling like shit for at least three days.

On Sunday, March 1, I ran the B&A Track Marathon in Annapolis, Maryland. I am now writing this a full week after completing the task.
I still remember the morning I decided I was going to embark on the four month adventure of running  that I needed to get in shape. It was after I had made an intoxicated cheese steak binge at none other than Glenside’s own Michael’s Diner. After waking up and still feeling the pile of grease and meat rolling in my stomach, I realized that I was probably in the worst shape of my life. Added to the stress of life, I wasn’t really feeling too good about a lot of things, so I decided I should do something completely irrational: enter the decision to train for a marathon.

My training began with me basically seeing how far I could run. I was pretty happy that I could pull off 3-4 miles right off the start, although it wasn’t as easy as it used to be. Through the four months of training those three miles grew until they varied between 10 and 20 miles during the later weeks of my training. I’ll spare you the details, but I ended up training five days a week with usually three days being dedicated to running and two to hitting the gym.

Not too far into this whole process, I realized I was gifted with what is known as the “runner’s high.” I can say it’s not like any other high I’ve experienced…but it was much cheaper. Basically, once I got into the groove of running my body and mind get into this rhythm where I don’t even have to think about the fact that I was running anymore. Outside of the 17 mile and 20 mile runs I did to prepare for the marathon, I never really had too much trouble with the running part of my training because of this “high.”  I might go so far to say as that I liked it. But then there was race day.

I came into the marathon after taking two weeks where I was pretty much unable to run because of a sore foot and a tweaked knee I got from my 20 mile run. On top of that I went out to Olive Garden the night before to do what is known as “carbo loading,” or “eating as much crap as you can fit into your mouth in one sitting,” as I like to call it. Carbo loading is supposed to help with energy during the race. So on race day I hadn’t ran in two weeks and I felt like a fatty. The race started with me setting a good pace for the time I hoped to finish: three and a half hours. About four miles in my knee started hurting and my foot started acting up. But instead of dropping out I decided that unless the pain got unbearable there was no way in hell I was going to waste all the training that went into this race. As time went by my knee inexplicably felt better, or maybe the rest of my body started to feel worse, but I was able to keep going.

The great thing about the marathon was that it was a big change from all the running I had done on my own to prepare. Almost every couple of miles there were stands where I could get water and small crowds that cheered me on. My parents, who drove me down and came to watch me even ran with me a little on the trail at one point. Even the other runners encouraged each other. But as soon as I went into the uncharted territory of over 20 miles I really started to feel the pain.

All I can tell you is that running the last six miles was probably the hardest things I’ve ever physically pushed myself to do in my life. By the time I reached mile 25 I just remember putting my head down and just counting my breaths and each step. And then, I can’t explain how it happened, but as soon as I saw the finish line my mind suddenly went into T1000 mode from Terminator II and I sprinted the last 1/5 of the mile as fast as I think I could’ve at the beginning. My final time was 3 hours, 29 minutes, and 04 seconds, which was actually 56 seconds less than my goal. Just like the marathon took me from the worst shape I’ve been in to the probably the best shape, finishing the race took me from complete misery to one of the best feelings in my life. When all was said and done I finished 46th out of nearly 250 finishers for the marathon, plus probably another hundred that dropped out without finishing.

I’ll take it.

So now, two weeks later, after all the blisters have healed and I can walk normally again, I can finally look back at my first marathon and really be happy that I went through with it. The sad thing is that I think I’ve missed running this past week, and I know it’s only a matter of time before I get down to Kelly Drive and start running again. I guess like any good high, running has kept me coming back for more– my only question now is whether or not I’m truly addicted to the feeling. So, uhh, when’s the Philly Marathon again?


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