Several months ago, I decided that I would train for one more road marathon. I’ve done two road marathons and one trailmarathon. The first road marathon was very painful, and I swore that I would never do another one. I chalked it up to the fact that it was my first and I was inexperienced. So I did another one 2 years later, this time with a friend who was doing her first. She did great, and I had another horrible experience which I chalked up to just having a bad day. Then I did a trail marathon, and it was a wonderful experience, so I decided perhaps I should give the road marathon one more try.
Since I didn’t get into NYC Marathon yet again, I signed up for Hartford Marathon since (a) I’ve done it twice before and (b) I get a free place to stay because my mother-in-law lives there.
Unfortunately, none of my family could make it to the marathon that weekend. My son had a soccer tournament, and my daughter had a big school dance the night before my race. So I headed up to Hartford alone.
I put a lot of time and energy into training for this race, so I felt like I was giving it a good chance. I even read up on carb-loading thinking that this was the reason why I had issues before. For 3 days leading into this race, I made sure to have about 400 g of carbs a day (this is a lot for someone who generally eats less than 150 g of carbs a day).
I made sure everything was prepared for race day. My outfit was selected, my nutrition and hydration were dialed in, and I was well-rested. I had even put my beloved weight-lifting on hold for a few weeks to make sure my body could recover well.
Race day was beautiful — in the 50s, sunny, fantastic. It was a beautiful New England fall day. I was all set to go. The pre-race ceremony was amazing as well — a tribute to Boston, a wonderful prayer by a local minister, Irish-step-dancers. I was literally in tears at the start of the race because I was so moved.
We started off, marathoners in their orange bibs and half-marathoners in their blue bibs. Somewhere around the first mile we split off, marathoners to the left and half-marathoners to the right.
The first 5 miles seemed to fly by. I congratulated every person I passed wearing a 50 States shirt. I had a good attitude, but even early on I wasn’t feeling it. After the first hour I started telling myself, “This is your race, your celebration, enjoy it.” But I still wasn’t feeling it. I began stopping at water stations to pick up some water and dump some on myself to cool off. At some point I bribed myself that after I crossed the halfway mat I could stop for a snack. I crossed the halfway mark at about 2:06, pulled over to the side of the road, and had a snack. I felt like I was done. There was no joy, and I realized that if I’d signed up for the half marathon, my training would have helped me to pull off a smoking half marathoninstead of making myself hold back to a pace in the 9:30s to make sure I didn’t bonk.
Every mile after the half felt like a chore. I kept trying to find joy — I’d wave to spectators, high-five little kids, cheer for the fast people coming the other way. I read the clever and encouraging signs that spectators put out. So many residents were out on their lawns cheering for us. Yet I just couldn’t somehow feel it.
I crossed the 20 mile mat and kind of gave up. No, I wasn’t going to quit, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I’d stop at aid stations, get some water, stretch. Somewhere around mile 22 I made a port-a-potty stop, which I’ve never done in amarathon before.
People around me were alternating running with walking. I felt like it was a death march. I heard a guy behind me trying to encourage people to run with him. I thought he was a pace leader, but he wasn’t — he was just a nice, encouraging guy. I stopped at another water station and the guy passed by me. I started running again and heard him encouraging others to start running as I passed him. I came up to the 25 mile water station and stopped for water, and Mr. Encouragement came by. I said, “You’re going to make me run, aren’t you?” He said, “Yes, we’re almost there, let’s keep going!”
I kept going. As I passed him, he was trying to encourage more people to run to the end. Some did, others said they didn’t have the energy.
I vowed to keep on going to the end, even though my feet were in excruciating pain. Going downhill over the last overpass was excruciating. With every footfall I was grimacing in pain, close to tears. Getting to the bottom of that hill was a relief, and I knew I was close to the end.
Going through the final quarter mile was painful and a relief. I felt like crying, knowing that this was my last marathon. I was done.
I smiled for the cameras, lifting my arms in victory. Crossing over the finish mat, I got some water from the water fountains. A volunteer draped a mylar “blanket” around me, and another volunteer hung the medal around my neck. I walked a bit farther and a third volunteer handed me a bag containing snacks.
As I exited the finisher’s chute, I looked to the left where the festival area was. I was done — I just wanted to go to my car, drive back to my mother-in-law’s house, shower, and go for lunch.
As I walked to my car, I ate the package of fruit, and when I reached my car, I pulled out my protein shake and banana. While I was stretching, I called my husband and told him I was done. Done with the race, and done with marathons. My phone was full of text messages from friends and family either wishing me good luck or congratulating me on my finish.
So that’s it. I have found out the truth, that the marathon is not for me, and I’m not for it. As much as I have wanted to like the road marathon, I just don’t. Juxtaposed against this finish was the euphoria I felt at the end of my 10 hour Spartan Beast finish 3 weeks before.
My finish time was 4:35, my slowest of the 3 road marathons I have completed. A far cry from the 3:58-4:04 that all my training and recent racing predicted. Maybe I was physically capable of that…..probably, in fact……but somehow I just wasn’t there.
I feel proud to have finished 4 marathons. And I would still like to do the New York City Marathon just for the experience. But I probably won’t race it — I’ll just do it, probably in a ridiculous costume, for fun.
But I’ve learned now what I truly love. I love half marathons. I love obstacle races. I love weight-lifting.
For those of you who love the marathon, that’s wonderful! Love it, embrace it, enjoy it! For those of you who are embarking on your first marathon, definitely give it a go! Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll learn something about yourself from the experience.
This is a photo of what I wished I had felt like at the end of the race.
This photo represents what I feel like I look like during a race.
Another good representation of what I wished I looked like as a marathon runner
A magazine cover photo of me as a marathon runner
And what I really felt like for most of the race.