What was your first marathon experience like?

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Wilson 12 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #5653


    With less than a week away, I find myself in a whirlwind of emotions.  I haven't been able to think of anything other than this race. Little aches and phantom pains bring out the paranoia in me. I've already got my outfit picked out. I'm gunna bring an extra large garbage bag to the expo and hoard all the free junk I can get my hands on. Friends and family are telling me what mile they'll be at and I really hope I see them.  This taper has really done a number on my confidence. So what was your first marathon experience like?

  • #21807


    I don't remember being nervous at all.  Prerace, my memories are of sitting in a hotel room with my husband and kids (wow, they were young) and eating licorice.  I don't remember anything about the start of the race, only that at around mile 2 I dropped my gu bottle and turned around to pick it up and yikes……. 😮  (first marathon was Austin…a good size).  I didn't pay attention to my pace at all, saw my running club coach at the halfway point and he said “what the #@^& are you doing?”  I looked at my watch and said “hey a PR for the half” and was actually happy.  I was running with a woman that coach said “you're right behind the 3 hour group”.  At this point, sanity set in and I backed off (I was shooting for 3:10).  By mile 18, I was in a world of hurt and probably was only able to finish because I had done so many 22 miles in 80F+ weather at a faster pace. 

    Post race I remember my husband saying, “I'm going for a run” and leaving me at the finish line with my kids, where the little guy said “hold me I'm tired”.  He fell asleep in my arms and I couldnt bend down to lay him in the grass, I had to find a stranger to help me.  I walked backwards down the stairs for a week.  After 2 weeks, I said “man, I ran really stupid, I can do better if I just ran smarter”.  So much for my first and only marathon.  Plus, I continued to run stupid for several more marathons.  Now, I think I'm stupid for starting them.

  • #21808


    I sort of have two first marathon stories.

    The first “first” was Grandma's in 2001. My training had not been going so well over the final month, which had me nervous. I remember staying with Coach Conway in Superior the night before the race. His house basically becomes a runner's Mecca on Grandma's weekend, so I saw a few old acquaintances. The morning of the race, one of them drove me up to the start and stayed with me, which was nice since there is no shelter for the runners at the starting area. I was nervous and confident at the same time. Surprisingly, I actually started out very slow. I had trouble after that settling into the right pace, then my ankle started giving me problems even before the 10 mile mark. I ended up dropping out somewhere around halfway.

    The second “first” was Lakefront in 2002. I was probably at my lifetime peak for fitness. The training had gone incredibly well, I was extremely fit, I had just run an 8k PR of 26:17. I had learned a lot after Grandma's and was so ready for that race. I was anxious but not the least bit nervous. I still remember riding the bus up from the finish area. I was sitting with a guy who had run quite a few and he was incredibly nervous. I was the rookie and I was the one who was calm and collected. The only problem is that Lakefront is a point to point almost all north to south course and we had a strong wind out of the south. I adjusted my plan for the conditions like a pro and seemed to do nearly everything right that day. I actually beat a former All-American from UW-Whitewater and a former Wisconsin Badger, two guys I have never even thought I could approach.

    Noticing those little aches and pains is normal. We all notice those things during taper time. You'll also notice some things on race day, especially starting somewhere around 15-20 miles. The key is in knowing what is a serious problem and what is either a phantom pain or something that is insignificant and you can run through. You will have to run through some things that are unpleasant to say the least.

    Sorry to say but you probably won't notice anyone during the race. Most places are so crowded you just don't have a chance to see any individual person among the masses. My wife and I went over the course map the night before the race and decided where the best places for her to be were. Early in the race, I tried to spot her and didn't stand a chance of seeing her. Later, I was so focused on the race that I didn't even think of trying to see her. It didn't matter, though. I wouldn't have seen her had I tried.

  • #21809


    Whistlestop, 2001.

    Cold and raining, I wore tights — my first of many rookie mistakes. The biggest was going out way to fast for the first 10. (I knew zilch about pacing for this distance.) The rain never relented, resulting in a pretty mucky rail-trail, which is the course. There was virtually no crowd support for long stretches. Only at road intersections did I see my (then future) wife cheering me on.

    I was toast by mile 18, and reduced to walking much of the next three miles. But I got my act back together and ran the final 3 surprisingly fast. I squeezed in under 4 hours by just 20 seconds.

    Still wrapped in the tinfoil cape, I balled like a baby uncontrollably for several minutes, not because I was upset with my performance but because I was so relieved for it to be over and I was able to say I had finished a marathon.

  • #21810


    Noticing those little aches and pains is normal. We all notice those things during taper time. You'll also notice some things on race day, especially starting somewhere around 15-20 miles. The key is in knowing what is a serious problem and what is either a phantom pain or something that is insignificant and you can run through. You will have to run through some things that are unpleasant to say the least.

    wow… so true…

    my first was the MCM 2000, took the Metro in, didn't expect to see anyone (family stayed home)… had no expectations, just wanted ti finish without killing myself… met a younger woman about mile 10, from Boston, school teacher… we talked for the next 10 miles, I had to stop at the portolets, she waited, then we struggled over the 14th Street Bridge and up to the foot of the Iwo Jima Memorial (26)… there is a steep incline and the Marine at the bottom was motivating everyone really well… my new friend was toast and told me to go on… about 50 feet from the finish my younger son(8 at the time) jumped out of the crowd, I was so paranoid that he would be pulled off course that I sent him back to my husband… they didn't find me for half an hour (I took a nap)…

    the next day I stayed home and planted the 200 tulip bulbs my sister had sent me… I'm smarter now, I go to work & use the elevator… ran four MCM and decided I like the smaller marathons better, did three Richmond, VA where my husband drove and met me three times on the course…

    best advice for AFTER the marathon: refuel, ice bath, and walk that day & the next even if you are really sore… and be prepared for the emotional let down… my hubby gave me the entry blank for the next year's race about a month after the first because I was getting so depressed & bad tempered… so now I'm addicted…

  • #21811


    Chicago 1999.

    Overwhelming mass of people is what stands out in my mind more then anything. A friend had given me iron on letters for my shirt that spelled out GO ANNE, I was reluctant to use them but knew she'd see my race pics & didn't want to appear unappreciative of the gesture. I'm glad I put them on my shirt, having countless strangers call out my name was very encouraging & helped  keep me motivated.
    Chicago was a blur of sights, sounds & smells & I took it all in having never been to the city before.
    I remember the tunnel that signalled we were almost done, coming out & seeing the balloons in the distance, I knew I was there.

    I finished in 4:30 something?? Meeting my husband & girls post race was one of the highlights, my girls were so excited, probably because it meant now that I was done they could go back to the hotel & go swimming.

    Pre race jitters are normal, doubts creep in during the taper but you'll be fine. 

  • #21812


    My first marathon was Twin Cities in 1985.
    I was just out of a college track season so I thought I was a stud.

    I started out way too fast. Something like 1:20 for the first half. Needless to say I died. The second half was a 1:34. I walked quite a bit from what I can remember.

    All I know is before the “Gu” era I would always get the dry heaves after the race. Now I take Gu I don't have problems.

    I don't get the same kind of nervous for marathons as I do for local races. I know I won't have to worry about placing at Chicago. Just running smart.


  • #21813


    I remember the tunnel that signalled we were almost done, coming out & seeing the balloons in the distance, I knew I was there.

    Just a note to Janus and anyone else who is running Chicago either for the first time or for the first time in a while. As of last year at least, you don't go through the tunnel near the finish. I recall people saying this was a great way to know when you're nearing the finish. Fortunately, I had already heard that you don't go through there anymore.

    Now, the finish really can catch you by surprise. I recall making a right turn, going up a small hill (they are all small in Chicago), then turning left and the finish was right there. While I knew the finish had to be coming soon and there's nothing I could have done differently had I known exactly how soon, it did catch me by surprise when I made that turn and realized how close I was to the finish.

  • #21814


    I'd heard they don't run tunnel anymore, in a way too bad because it was truly the light at the end of the tunnel experience. Listening to all the hollering and yells echoing while running through it made for an interesting few minutes.

  • #21815


    I remember being pretty calm before the race. Any jitters I attributed to taper energy. I reminded myself to relax and run easy in the beginning. I was running with two guys from Indiana, on was near my age and we had similar goals, the other was an annoying young man that kept asking inane questions like “how far do we have to go?”

    Also cool was running with the current CC coach of my old h.s. for about 5 miles, running by the street I grew up on and the hospital I was born in, and finishing just ahead of an old running acquaintence I hadn't seen in 20 years, and saying hi and thank you to the great people who were cheering for us, telling them I appreciated their support. Finishing with a Boston Qualifying time was very rewarding, and I was overcome with emotion right after I finished.

    After I got home, I ended up getting up on a ladder and doing some touch up paint on some siding, and thinking that I'd better do this now, b/c later I'll feel like crap. Yes, I sure did feel like crap later on. Also, I started to critique what I could've done better, but I tried not to be so hard on myself, considering I'd just done what less than 1% of the adult population could achieve.

    Relax and have fun on Sunday, you'll have a blast!

  • #21816


    One more thing I thought of for some reason while reading Peter's post. I don't know if this was the case for me due to it being my first or if the wind beat me up that badly but I felt much worse in the days after my first than in the days after my second. I've heard from others that the recovery from the first is always the worst, so maybe there's something to that.

    In other words, in the days after the marathon when you're cursing yourself for even considering doing a marathon and swearing that you'll never do another one, realize that you will hopefully be back to do another and the recovery will probably be better next time.

  • #21817


    Penn Relays Marathon 1980.  You rounded Franklin Field for the finish, but I was so far gone in the 85 degree heat that all I can seem to remember is the pain.  It was the farthest I had ever run.  We had 7 guys from Slippery Rock run and I was the most under trained.  I let all those guys fly out into the heat and caught the last one at 20 miles.  Unfortunately, he was one of my main nemisis in high school and we fought each other back and forth until we entered the stadium.  I had more speed and gunned him out to finish in 3:04:17 I believe.  The last 10k took forever and I had no understanding of electrolytes back then.  I was severly spent and after about 8 Cokes went and layed down in the pole vault mats.  The mats were so hot, but for some reason I was cold.  After about 45 minutes they booted me out because they were vaulting again.  We got in the car and drove 6 hours straight back to school.

    1980 Penn Relays Marathon (Philadelphia) = 3:04:17
    1999 GNC 50k (Pittsburgh) = 4:46
    1999 Shelby Farms 50k (Memphis) = 4:11
    1999 Glacial Trail 50k (WI) = 5:09
    2000 Smokey Mountain Marathon (TN) = 3:10:58
    2000 Ice Age 50 Mile (WI) = 7:23
    2000 Lakefront Marathon) (WI) = 2:45:19
    2000 JFK 50 Miler (MD) = 7:10
    2001 Crusty John Dick 50k (WI) = 3:52
    2001 GNC 100k (Pittsburgh) = 8:30
    2001 Ice Age 50 Mile = 7:03
    2002 Boston Marathon = 2:40:56
    2002 Ice Age 50 Mile = (DNF)
    2002 Ed Fitz 100k (MN) = 7:43
    2003 Fat Ass 50k (WI) = 4:37
    2003 Boston Marathon = 2:48:24
    2003 Ice Age 50 Mile = 7:06
    2003 Kettle Moraine 100 Mile (WI) = 18:34
    2003 Chicago Marathon = 2:48:14
    2003 IAU World Cup 100k (Taiwan) = 10:24
    2004 Fat Ass 50k = 3:55
    2004 Crusty John Dick 50k = 4:57
    2004 AUA 100k (WI) = 9:38
    2004 Ice Age 50 Mile = 7:09
    2004 Lakefront Marathon = 2:46:52
    2005 Siver Comet 100k (GA) = 8:42
    2005 Ice Age 50 Mile = 9:13
    2005 Lakefront Marathon = 2:53:18
    2006 Crusty John Dick 50k = 4:19
    2006 Trailbreaker Marathon (WI) = 3:12:47
    2006 Ice Age 50 Mile = 8:39
    2006 Lakefront Marathon = 3:18:41

  • #21818


    God, I'm old. My first marathon was in 1983, in what was known as the Denver Mile High Marathon. I was 25.

    In college I was pretty high strung, and would get over-nervous for most races, especially the big ones. By the time I was 25 I had learned to handle the jitters much better. If not, I'd go out an party the night before (no major binges, but a few beers to cool the nerves). So in spring of '83 I trained hard and steady for about 10 weeks, and ran a huge PR for 10k in 32:58 at altitude two weeks before the marathon. I went to the pace charts and saw that this indicated potential for low 2:30s. That got me a little worked up. I cut caffeine to relax, and walked around like a zombie for the week. I was pretty good until I read the paper a couple days before the race, and they touted the race favorites to run in the low 2:30s. The night before I went down to Denver and drank three or four beers. Didn't help much, as I hardly slept. Woke up all fuzzy and hung-over.

    I remember that the first mile was too fast, about 5:40, but I was only in about 40th place. I slowed to 6s, fell back even further, and felt like crap for the next hour. Got a resurgence from the crowds as we wound through downtown, hitting the half somewhere between 1:17:30 and 1:18. My quads started cramping by 15, and at 18 I was in trouble. I had to stop twice and lie down to stretch. But I kept plugging away at 6 or a little under. Got a major boost at about 22-23 when I started passing rivals from Boulder Roadrunners. Closed very fast on the last mile, to finish 14th in 2:35:49.

    I did run a minute and half faster the next fall, but I consider this to be my best marathon (didn't run another until 1999). I still get very nervous before marathons, and still trying to find a way to keep it light. Try to relax as much as you can. You've done your homework, so just enjoy the day and the experience that lay ahead.


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