The good thing about trying different things is that you achieve many personal bests (having no time to compare against). I finished my first marathon yesterday at the Grand Rapids Marathon and thus have ticked off another personal best and another item from my life list. The bad news is, that in spite of all of my teammates’ enthusiasm and confidence, Oprah kicked my bum. I finished with a time of 4:47:04 (if only I could have shaved off another 5 seconds) which was right around my B goal so I am calling it good. My age grade was exactly 50%. If I am understanding this correctly, I finished exactly at average for my age group which I think is pretty good for my first time.
What went right:
1. The weather was just about perfect for the race. A cool, crisp, Fall day with temperatures in the 40′s and 50′s. It was pretty sunny but because much of the marathon was run in the woods it wasn’t too sunny.
2. I actually dressed correctly in my long-sleeve Priority Health shirt and long pants. I didn’t feel too hot or too cold for the entire race and nothing chafed. A definite success!
3. Apparently pain is a part of marathoning. Every part of my legs hurt in a pretty balanced manner though so that seems to be a good sign.
4. My feet look pretty good. No blisters, no foot pain, and all of my toe nails seem to be intact. (Love my shoes!)
5. My training partner and “fast friend”, Kathryn, finished about 10 minutes ahead of me as I knew she would. I am so thankful that she has accompanied me throughout this journey. The training mileage is significant for a marathon. I’m not sure I could have slogged through it all without her.
6. I imagine the Grand Rapids Marathon is the only marathon where you can get a big bear hug from the race director and a world record holder at the end. When I told Don Kern that I just finished my first marathon that is exactly what I got.
7. The medals are great with “Grand Rapids Marathon” on one side of the ribbon and fall leaves on the other side.
8. I ran the entire 26.2 miles. Although many people go into a marathon with a walk-run pacing plan, I always feel that I have given it my all if I can run the entire distance of a race. And really don’t we all want to feel like we have given it our best at the end.
What I learned:
1. I probably went out too fast in the first half of the race with a 2:15. With a more conservative pacing plan and less bathroom stops, I could have maybe shaved 5-7 minutes off of my time. That isn’t enough time for me to dwell on though.
2. With most forms of exercise, if you train at them they eventually cease to hurt. This is not true for marathoning. To the best of my knowledge, everyone’s legs hurt at the end. The key seems to be pushing through the pain without slowing down. I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me but I didn’t fully comprehend this going in.
3. Pain relievers and hot tubs are bad for recovery. Ice baths are good for recovery. Bad news all around.
Even though my finishing time was closer to that of John “the Penguin” Bingham than Oprah, Oprah quit after her first marathon while The Penguin has run over 45. I guess that seems encouraging. Of course, the entire last mile of the course I kept thinking, “After this, I never have to run again.”