I did it! I ran a marathon!
I spent the week leading up to this marathon frantically googling things like “what are carbs” and “is pizza carbs” and “pizza before marathon.” I also got in some really janky short workouts that vascillated between “I should be going harder” and “wait, no, internet said don’t do that.” And, of course, the traditional “wish I was faster so this would be over” half marathon on Monday. I honestly have no idea if I set myself up to succeed or fail.
|Tuesday||3 miles||45 minutes||15 minutes (?)|
|Thursday||3 miles||45 minutes|
But who really cares, because this was my first marathon, so any finishing time was a PR. I ended up somewhere near 3:47. It wasn’t chip timed,1 and I’m a very little person who snuck in behind a very big person, so we just kind of guessed. The point is, my goal was to come in under 4 hours, and I DEFINITELY did that. I think with some training2 I could get under 3:30.
So, the race I did was the C&O Towpath marathon, which is a very, very low key marathon that happens to be 1) on my mom’s birthday, which is veteran’s day, and 2) quite close to where I live. If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I am extremely, extremely afraid of crowds, and doing one of the larger marathons sounded like my worst nightmare. I think now that I understand how much a marathon spreads out, I would be ok with it, but I’m really glad I picked this very friendly local marathon for my first one.
I got up at 5:30, made myself a waffle and some coffee, and got myself dressed in what I hoped would be warm enough for the day. Let me just say, I nailed this one aspect of marathon running. I wore my teal long sleeved Under Armor thing, which makes me feel like I’m about to go do a battle in space, and the Adidas running leggings3 I bought on Delta’s dime that time I was stranded in Vermont.4 I also very wisely bought some cheap gloves from CVS the night before that just happened to have kitty faces on them, and I dug a fleecy hat out as well. My shoes are Brooks Asteria and they are falling apart, and they are clearly not the right shoes for me, but they’re what I have, so I wore them. In any case, I was freezing when the race started but I was totally comfortable the whole race. And, weirdly, when I looked in the mirror this morning, I really did look like a runner. Which was, for emphasis, really weird.
This is the part that, even as a writer, I have trouble making interesting. But I will try. Basically I ran. I ran for a really long time. You’re about to tune out and skip to the bottom or click away, so let me put the most important thing first. The best animal I saw, besides this one really happy Lab chasing a stick in the water who then hit me with his stick, was this truly epic stag just off the path. He was like a painting of a stag that a guy who likes to kill deer would put on his wall as an aspiration to murder deer like him. Like, seriously, this was a small but perfectly formed deer dude. The ducks out were also pretty good. I always adore seeing duck butts sticking out of the water while they search for things. Weirdly, I didn’t see any turtles this time. I think I just wasn’t looking.
Anyway. The race started at 7:30, and after several nervous pees and some instructions, we were off. There were a lot of puddles because the towpath isn’t paved, which seriously slowed things down right at the start and led to some interesting careening across the path, but my “get me the hell out of this crowd” instinct kicked in, and I got a really strong start right out of the gate. I ran pretty close to 8 minute miles for the whole first 11 miles. After that I kind of fell apart. My hip is a disaster on my right side, and it was absolutely murdering me.5 I slowed down against my will and spent the rest of the race between 8:30 and 9:30 minute miles.
My original “strategy” was to just fight like hell to stay under 9 minutes every mile, and treat every mile as a new challenge. That fell apart, oh, mile 16? I just physically couldn’t do it. I’d get under for a mile, then over for a mile. And then I lost the confidence of those training runs, because I had no Lux Radio to pace myself with. It’s really hard to tell what “one more hour” is going to feel like without the soothing voice of Leslie Howard to pull you forward. So, I started rewarding myself mile by mile with the glorified Dots candy in my pocket, which actually did pep me up. I think we can call that the “toddler rewards” strategy of marathon running. The best thing I discovered, which I hadn’t anticipated, is that it’s really easy to chase someone. I’m not sure if it’s easy for everyone, but it’s easy for me. Maybe I have whatever that “rabbit chasing” gene dogs have. So, I just latched on to different groups of guys6 running and kept myself going that way. I’m not sure if that’s cheating, but it worked.
Many mistakes were made. The first mistake, and maybe the dumbest one, is that I had Clif energy chews, which are currently the only thing I actually don’t hate eating during a run, in my pocket the whole time and forgot to eat them until Mile 16. I have a feeling that at least in part explains why I so totally burned out towards the end of the race. Those last miles didn’t make a huge pace difference because I powered through it, but my legs were in horrible pain, and every step hurt so, so much. I have never felt that heavy, lead feeling before, and it really shocked me. I also forgot to drink water, which was weird. Judging by the fact that my face was completely white with salt at the end of the race, I might need to learn something about in-race fueling strategies.
The biggest mistake I made is that I didn’t really know what I was capable of. I usually run approximately 9 minute miles when I run outside my house, but the Towpath is 100% flat and my house is surrounded by massive hills in every direction. I also, looking back, must not have been pushing myself that hard, because obviously I can run 8 minute miles with a little encouragement. 8 minute miles felt really easy, like “marathon pace” easy. I think if I had more experience running on different surfaces and grades, I’d have been able to pace myself better.
I’m really grateful to the guy who came in right in front of me–thanks, green-shirted giant!–because for the last mile or so, when I actually thought I might say fuck it and walk because I knew I was going to be under 4 hours so why was I suffering, I basically just turned off my brain and used my bunny-following instincts to chase him. I had already achieved my goal, but I wanted to do the absolute best I could, and I did. I know I was other people’s rabbit at some point, so I hope that’s not bad etiquette in a race. Even though he’ll probably never know it, he definitely helped me finish strong.
In summary, I learned a lot, and I am really happy with how hard I tried and how I managed my sense of ‘no, seriously, why the fuck am I doing this’ at different points in the race. I don’t think I “gave it my all” or anything, because I don’t think you can really go all out in a race this long until you understand how much “out” you should be at different points in a race. This was a really great first effort, though, and I’m really happy about that.
Unpleasant Post Race Disaster
Now…after leaving the race, things went south pretty much immediately. I thought I’d be starving. I literally couldn’t eat real food. I had stomach cramps that felt like the worst period cramps of your life. I thought I was going to be headed to the Olive Garden for breadsticks, and instead I spent most of the day on the couch with my security mega-large “might throw up” pot.7 I was horribly nauseous for literal hours. I have never, not even on long runs, felt this bad. I have a feeling it was because of dehydration. So, that was a bummer. But actually, if you don’t include the nausea, I bounced back in less than a day. My legs were killing me when I got home but in like an hour I was fine, if a little sore and dazed. So there’s that. But fuck that nausea. That seriously sucked.
This Week’s Training Was Brought To You By…
The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe – Dear Dead Lady: Kind of a meh episode. I also ended up with a bum recording.
The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe – The Careless Cleaner: Saw this twist coming a mile away, but the road to get to that conclusion was actually a bit twistier than I thought.
A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Episodes 16-19: These are all Plato and Socrates. I’m going to start a giraffe drinking game. These episodes are good, as always, but I particularly liked the idea that a good teacher adapts to his pupil, and that this in part explains the different portrayals of Socrates.
Have a Nice Day (Audible Original): This was solidly in the “radio drama” category. And as far as production and capitalizing on their chosen medium they did a really good job! They did a much better job than other new radio dramas of gracefully keying in the listener to action/motion, and I’m betting it’s in part because it was read on stage, so they trusted the audience to “get it” more, because it originally didn’t rely solely on sound. Audio carries more than we really expect, and the most common failing I hear is over-narrating because we don’t trust the listener. The actual play was just a little too saccharine for me. I think if you go in for that kind of sappy, almost It’s a Wonderful Life thing, you’ll like it. Clearly that’s what they were going for, and they nailed it. Sadly, against type and against expectations, I find inspirational movies really heavy handed most of the time. And yes, this falls in the category of things I’ve watched because of my weird obsession with Kevin Kline.8
The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe – Beautiful Archer: Solid episode. Suffers a little from withholding information, but it’s got a really classic “gotcha!” in it.
A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Episodes 20, 21: It’s really hard not to read Christianity into any discussion of virtue. That word is so complicated. Also, bonus points for Buster Keaton reference.
(part of) The Red Mill: I really only watched 30 minutes or so of this on the treadmill, but it was pretty damn charming. Lots of cute gags.
The Anthropocene Reviewed – Googling Strangers and Kentucky Bluegrass: A friend suggested this episode to me, and I really loved it. I really like writing that is obviously specific to its medium, and this really plays on the fact that it will be experienced as sound.
My Own Self Loathing, Insignificance, and Constant Running Monologue of Suck: You can’t run with headphones in lots of marathons, so I decided not to in this one. Let me tell you, it sucks having to listen to my own brain for 3.75 hours. I hear all about this inner positivity athletes are supposed to have, but fuck that. Running is hard, and I don’t magically become some blessed hopeful beacon of light just because I’m running. I’m just not that kind of person. I’m a happy person, and a kind person, but I’m also a sarcastic, bitter, caustic person. I’m an athlete full of love but also a lot of opinions and thoughts and cutting remarks. But with commercial breaks of, “What kind of dog is that?” and, “I really don’t like gummy bears, actually. They’re always hard,” and, “Wait, I should choose to be happy right now, because I’m doing something I’ve been talking about doing since I was a freshman in college, and I’m kind of rocking it,” it was ok. Kind of. I did, at one point, just start announcing my own episodes and dream casting of Lux Radio Theatre productions that were never made. You do what you do.
- Is that what electronic timing is called? No idea.
- …and some reading about what the hell the training should entail, because I still am not super clear on what tempo run means, and I feel like I only just figured out what tempo really means in a philosophical sense in fencing, so it’s really not fair to just use the same damn word for that.
- TMI, but I refuse to wear legging without real underwear. Fuck it, I don’t care if I have panty lines, I like wearing underwear.
- I bought running leggings because Delta lost my luggage and they were the only pants that fit me in the entire freaking mall.
- Marking down as, things a real adult would be discussing with a doctor in the near future.
- And, yes, they were all men. There were lots of women I must have just repelled them with my terrifying salt face.
- I assume this size of pot is for making soup or meat or something, but I pretty much exclusively use it for vomit. It has really nice high sides.
- Side criticism: I live in DC, and there are lots of story-convenient inconsistencies in this play, which I found super annoying for some reason. This must be how New Yorkers always feel.