All of my planning, training, and hard work prepared me to run my first marathon. But until the race I had no idea what it was like to finish a marathon. Now I do.
Mountains 2 Beach was a great race. The course starts in Ojai, CA, circles through the town and ends at the Pacific Ocean in Ventura. Conditions were perfect: overcast with some drizzle, temperatures in the 50s, no wind.
I woke up at 3:45, ate the breakfast I rehearsed for the past two months, went through my warm up routine, and drove up to Ojai with my friend and fellow runner Alex. There were about 3000 participants and we started in three waves spaced two minutes apart. I was in wave two and when the horn sounded my adventure began.
During my long training runs it took me a mile or two to find my stride. But today I felt great right at the start. It was difficult to find enough space to really stretch out and I realized that I was in a group of runners with the same goal time: 3:25-30. Compared to my shorter race distances the pack held a nice rhythm. I didn’t need to worry about bunching up or clipping anybody.
The first third of the race was a blur. I felt loose and was running 15-20 seconds ahead of my goal time. That was my first mistake. I continued to hold my pace and to feel great. At the half my split was my third fastest half marathon ever and I still didn’t realize I was running way too fast. Mistake number two. I pressed on and held up through twenty miles.
That’s when I hit the wall. Wow. I did not fade. Instead, I went from 100 percent to nothing instantly. I started walking and after a minute or two tried to run again. I continued to walk-run until I reached mile 25. I vowed to finish strong and gathered myself for the final mile.
I held on and even managed to accelerate as I approached the finish. When I crossed I was absolutely sure that I’d never felt worse in my life. But at the same time I started to feel a sense of accomplishment. What started out as a crazy idea five years ago transformed into a body of work that got me across the finish line. A half hour later I no longer felt like dying and I’ve been on a high ever since.
Now that I know what it takes, I’m determined to try again. To run with more patience and go for a negative split. I have some recovery days ahead of me with plenty of time for planning my second marathon.