I ran my first marathon and survived to tell the tale!
Actually, I should say I more than survived! I met my goal of a Boston Qualifying time which is 3 hours and 35 minutes for my age group. I got 3:33! 🙂 Boston 2020 is the plan!
If running a marathon is on your bucket list, my wish is that you do it! I am sharing some reflections about my training and race that hopefully inspire you to get after it. I promise you–if I can do it, you can do it!
–I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating: If you want to run a marathon, I highly, highly recommend running with a group and a really great coach. Running with Rogue is one of the highlights of my life. It brings me an incredible amount of joy. I love having running friends to train with, and I love getting coached. Had I not been training with Team Rogue, the race would have been an entirely different experience. I am sure I would’ve run simply for survival. Not to mention, those 20+ long runs for would have been impossible for me to successfully do on my own! I loved having friends with me!
–If you are at all interested in marathons or half-marathons, do the 3M race here in Austin in January! A super fun and fast course, it is famously called “downhill to downtown.” I was glad I did it somewhat on a whim in 2018 because the time I got qualified me to be in the front corral for the Houston marathon. In a race of about 25,000 people, that was pretty helpful! If you are wanting to try out a longer distance race, absolutely try 3M!
–If you are a fellow wedding photographer, you really can do a long run—21.5 miles—and then go shoot a wedding the same day. I promise! I did it! Ha! It was actually totally fine and great to be on my feet after a tough run. If I had gone home, I’m sure I would sunk into the bed complaining of how sore and tired I was. I knew in the days leading up to the long run that I had a big weekend ahead, so I got tons of rest and drank tons of water. Truth be told, it can be challenging to plan races with having so much of my work be on the weekend. I just had to face the more challenging weekends head on and keep my focus. One of the reasons I did Houston was because I could not use my busy schedule as an excuse; weddings slow down and I had literally nothing on the schedule for the weekend of the race. I knew absolutely that I would regret NOT doing it.
— I think the best amount of time for me to train for a marathon is 4 months. It may vary for others, but this was what I think is best for me. It was just enough time to build up, then get in 4 to 5 consecutive weekends of very long runs (20-22 miles), and then taper it back down. On the other hand, it is short enough to not get injured or burned out. I am constantly battling burn out– I can stay in the game and keep my focus, but for only so long. :/ I try to be really strategic with my training so that I don’t burn out on a certain sport. I’ll shift the focus over to swim or bike and then later on return to running.
— I followed my coach’s training plan to a T, and I ran on average 40 to 45 miles a week. Rather than add a lot of extra miles on my own as most runners would do, I added Orange Theory twice a week to my workout, which would typically see me doing 3.2-3.4 miles each time (at a pretty fast pace) on the treadmill and then a strength workout. This kept me from getting burned out, and the strength training helped me improve my pace and prevent injury.
–I feel like I was successful at meeting my goal because I was confident in my training. I knew exactly what paces I could hit and how long for. 12-16 miles at around 7:50-7:55 mile pace was doable for me. If I kept it at 8-8:10 per mile for twice that distance, I knew I’d feel strong and confident. Luckily, that was the pace I needed to qualify for Boston 2020. I studied my Garmin carefully throughout the entire race so that it was not about how I felt (which likely would have been overwhelmed or discouraged); I just had to hit the pace and keep going. I knew I could do it, so I never let any doubts enter my head.
–A typical training week would look like this:
- Monday-recovery run with friends (5 miles) or rest if I was too tired
- Tuesday-Rogue workout (10-11 miles)
- Wednesday-Orange Theory (3 miles + strength training)
- Thursday- Rogue workout (10-11 miles)
- Friday-Orange Theory (3 miles + strength training)
- Saturday- Rogue Long run (16-20 miles).
- Sunday- Rest
–Houston really is as awesome of a marathon as everyone says! It is organized, flat, and FUN! There are people on so many parts of the course, so the vibe is so positive and lively. This should definitely be your first marathon if that is your goal! Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio are all more challenging courses (omg HILLS!!!).
— The Houston crowd of spectators made way more of a difference than I expected. Every time I saw people and heard them cheering, it made me run faster. They look at your name on your bib and cheer for you individually! I saw lots of kids cheering for their moms and dads and that completely made me tear up! The crowd actually kind of became part of my mantra! Whenever I heard people cheering for me, it would speed me up to around to a 7:50 mile pace. Since my coach said to do 8-8:10 per mile, I knew that was too fast. I continued to tell myself, “OK, I got this, slow it down. Relax.” Feeding off their energy and then coaching myself to back off to around 8:00 minute pace helped my confidence in the race so much!
–Everyone talks about when you hit the wall. Some runners hit it at mile 18, some at mile 20. Some runners walk, others slow down. I definitely hit my wall about mile 22-23 when I was so very close to the finish! It was all about just putting one foot in front of the other despite the pain in my legs and feet. I slowed down my pace to around 8:20 at those last miles. Once I got super close to the finish, I sprinted in as fast as I could.
–I know some races you can really flop, and some you experience a transcendental JOY. Luckily, on this race, I felt the latter. I felt like I had waited my whole life to try this race, and it was an incredibly proud moment to realize my body and mind could do it! My coach and several running buddies were there to cheer us on, and it is now a memory that is a highlight of my life.
Overall, I feel so content that I finally did a full marathon. The race itself was a major life event for me, but equally as memorable was the training I did with my Rogue group. I am absolutely hoping to head to Boston in 2020 for a new experience, and I would love to do New York one day. I imagine I’ll pick up other races in other cities as well. 🙂 I also like to add triathlons in there to mix it up (which is my current training plan–Rookie Tri in May again), and would absolutely love to try the Ironman 70.3 in Galveston. Officially writing it down, is the first step, right?! I hope that if you ever had a desire to run a marathon that you go for it!