There’s a reason why the first guy didn’t make it
There’s nothing quite like going from running for the first time in May after seven months of injuries to running my first marathon six months later. I can’t say I would recommend the approach again, but when I set a goal, there’s only one way out. Check this one off on the vision board!
Two weeks later and I’m still convinced that the human body is not made to run 26.2 miles. Leave it to runners to find ways to defy the limits of what we were made to do. I always say a half-marathon is something that pretty much anyone can wake up and do without training. A marathon is another story.
Why not run your first marathon where it all started in Marathon, Greece? And convince three of your friends to join you as well? Just another day in the world of Cherbst.
The moment you think uh-oh: This happened way before the marathon even started. It was just another lazy Sunday afternoon after a long run, and I thought it would be a good idea to look at the actual course for the marathon. Now normally I don’t see Wikipedia as a source of 100% truth, but this time they got it right–
It is perhaps one of the most difficult major marathon races: the course is uphill from the 10 km mark to the 31 km mark – the toughest uphill climb of any major marathon
The moment you realize you never want to eat another carb again: Everyone loves carbs right? What’s not to love about bread, pasta, cereal, and everything else in the world? Carb loading should be easy right? False. Consuming 500-600 grams of carbohydrates is actually difficult even with endless bakeries to test in France. I swear I never wanted to see another carb by the end of Saturday night.
The moment you realize you are running a marathon the next day: After a little adventure on the Athens’s subway system and wandering for 40 minutes, we finally found the pre-race expo. That’s the moment you realize this is actually happening.
The moment you feel that someone’s watching out for you: There are always those people you see again and again during a race. Normally I remember them because they have a funny quote on the back of their shirts. Except when you are running in Greece, most of the quotes aren’t in English… For the first half, I kept seeing a woman in pink who had a shirt that made me cry every time I saw it: “I’m running this for you, dad.” I feel my dad in gusts of wind, and there were a lot of them that day. Thanks Bobby Angel for teaching me how to take a step forward for 26.2 miles.
The moment you convince yourself that you are right on time for a 4 hour finish: I’m halfway through and just under two hours. I’m feeling pretty good, and I’ve been keeping myself fueled pretty well. It’s hot but not too hot. Which means I should have two hours left. Which means I should be able to finish in four hours, right? False. Completely false. Although it was a nice glimmer of hope. That’s also an interesting point because you just ran a half-marathon. But you have an entire one left as well. This is where that mental strength needs to kick it up a notch.
The moment you think that you won’t even make it to the finish in 5 hours: The infamous wall. Mine hit at about mile 18. I have two more miles until I know the course starts to slope downhill, but I’ve also been climbing uphill for at least the past 5 miles. It was that uphill climb that you don’t really realize at the time, but you definitely realize after.
The moment you realize how important bananas are: Everything just gradually started to break down in my body. There’s a nerve that gets pinched in my shoulder. I cough and my abs feel like I just did 1000 crunches. My lower back feels like a rock. My hip flexors have become the opposite of flexible. I can feel my skin splitting where I cut my toe the day before. I won’t even start with what I was feeling in my legs. In short, I couldn’t even feel my legs. But then. Then there was the banana station. I swear they saved me from calf/quad/glute cramps. Lesson learned: Never pass up a banana station.
The moment you think this is actually insane: There was a point at about mile 22, that I just tried to will my legs to move faster. 4.2 miles left, just a short little downhill jog, right? Don’t let the downhill part fool you. My brain was just thinking “Legs. Move. Faster.” Needless to say, this might have been the low point.
The moment you question humanity: Marathon training plans should come with a warning (or at least a description) of what you will see during a marathon. It’s not normal human behavior. Throughout the entire race you see mainly men just veering off the path a little, doing their business, and getting right back to the race. Then there are the medical stations. Medics are just standing there ready to slap cream/gel/band aids on anyone. The closer you get to the end, the more things the medics have and the more times you have to move around someone darting off the course to the medic. There’s the occasional person just taking a break on the side of the road and also looking like they might be dying. There’s the guy who just suddenly stops in the middle of the course and hobbles to the side. There’s the guy running barefoot on hot asphalt (why?). Then there’s the person on the side of the road throwing up. Oh and then there are the rest of the people just carrying along for 26.2 miles.
The moment you want to apologize to your friends for convincing them to do this: Whoops. Thanks for traveling across the world so you could go on a little jog in Greece.
The moment you think you can see the finish: I always run with my Garmin which is normally off ~0.2 miles during a race. I’m at about 26.4 on my watch and see a corner ahead. Of course, that has to be the finish right? I’m going to turn that corner and see the stadium and be done! False. Talk about having too high of expectations. That corner most definitely let me down.
The moment you remember why you thought this was a good idea: That first step across the finish line. And my next thought: When’s the next one?
The moment you realize, that yes, life itself is a marathon so you should enjoy every water station, banana station, uphill climb, downhill slope, gust of wind, deceiving turn, painful step, and beautiful moment because before you know it, the finish line is going to be there:
People have asked if the race was actually fun itself– the actual running part. Of course, I said yes, but it made me think a little. For me, the ROI of running is pretty high. Yet there were definitely times during the marathon that I thought this is not fun. There were also times I cried because I was so happy. There are a lot of thoughts that get processed when it’s only you and your mind for 4 hours and 28 minutes… It was a journey and a battle and an adventure, but I’ll do it again (and probably again and again).
In a way, it was a lot like life. There are the times you just want to stop because why are you even doing this. But then you realize there are people there waiting for you at the end– there are people in your life that make it worthwhile to get through the hard times.
Even though there are definitely those times that are just a straight uphill climb in life, those are the times you realize just what you are capable of in life. It’s incredibly empowering. There’s beauty even in the uphill climbs if you just look around a little.
Sometimes you think you are turning a corner to find a better path, but sometimes that path might actually be longer than your expectations. Other times you turn the corner and find a nice, gentle downhill slope. It’s easy to sprint to the next downhill part of life and forget about the hills, but I wouldn’t be where I am without having climbed a few pretty steep hills. It’s important to not only remember the hills but to actually live your life through them.
Hopefully, there are some water stations along the way to provide a few glimpses of hope and a banana station to prevent any further damage. If all else fails, there’s always going to be that gust of wind from above to send you a reminder of what matters in life.
Une chose français: Subjonctif. I now realize why every French class I’ve been in has just briefly covered this topic. I’m not quite sure if this will ever make sense to me.
Something I’ve learned to live without: A microwave. At least for one day which just happened to be a very important day– aka race day. A lot of people drink coffee in the morning, I eat oatmeal. Thanks to a Starbucks cup, some really hot water from the sink, and a spoon from the grocery store, there was no shortage of oatmeal on race day.