Learn : Marathon Story  

Running Background:

marathon photoI consider myself an intermediate runner and I primarily run for fitness. I decided to run a marathon because it was the next step in my progress as a runner. I wanted a challenge and prove to myself that I could run 26.2 miles.


I trained for 4 months following a slightly modified 18-week Hal Higdon beginner marathon plan created by a local running group. During my training I averaged 35 miles per week.

The best training advice I received was to never underestimate the importance of the long run and quality workouts. They each have their reasons of existence, and for a good race result, you need both.

Race Day:

The 2007 Des Moines Marathon wasn't quite what I expected. Here are the details of my race:

Overall place: 849 out of 1428
Division place: 99 out of 146
Gender place: 605 out of 862
Time: 4:34:48
Pace: 10:30
Half: 1:57:55

Not quite the results I had hoped for. I am bummed (sometimes slightly, sometimes more) that I didn't at least meet my goals of a sub-4 hour marathon. I am coming to terms with it though. My weight loss wasn't always a linear thing either, and sometimes you have to make missteps to appreciate when everything goes right. I also did finish my first marathon and got to feel what it means to have 26.2 miles on my feet. I also got the opportunity to show how some (small) bit of toughness to run when adversities arise.

First, the excuses or reasons: ( I feel compelled to write these, so I know how to better predict or correct future races.)

  • The missed training due to injury -- I missed a number of training runs in the final weeks of marathon training, including the final 20 mile run. My cardio shape was probably not peaking anymore, and I definitely could tell with increased heart rate at relatively easy miles.
  • Lingering injuries -- In the final weeks, I was dealing with a number of somewhat minor (hip pain) to major injuries (foot and bout of ITBS). I was healed from the majors, but even on Wednesday before the marathon, I might have stretched a bit much and had a nagging back twinge.
  • Perhaps not exactly pre-race restful activities I had hoped for -- As I was returning home the night before the marathon, the EMS pager went off. I was torn. Should I rest or should I do my duty? I went out on the call, and it was just a few more hours on my feet than probably recommended. I also went to a Cadet youth campout on Friday night, and while not staying overnight, I did have stress regarding keeping the kids in line.

All that said, I felt pretty good the morning of the race. Any pains were manageable, and I did get a good night's sleep. I packed all my stuff up (Ultima Replenisher, Advil, and post-race celebratory Diet Coke with Splenda). I saw a number of my running buddies before the race and wished them the best of luck, and found my spot with the 3:50 pace group. I chatted with the other runners with the normal pre-race jitters that were building. "I had done 20-- certainly I could do another 6, right?" With that the race was off, and I went running. Here are the race-thoughts and splits (based upon my Garmin, which was a bit flaky in the downtown area):

  • Mile 1 - 8:18 (I was with the 3:50 pacer at this time, so we all went out fast.)
  • Mile 2 - 8:16 - 16:34 (I knew I was going out fast, and tried to slow down. Note: time was affected by the high-rises; my actual split was probably closer to 8:25-30. It wasn't enough apparently. This was a complete marathon newbie mistake, and I knew I was doing it.)
  • Mile 3 - 8:16 - 24:50 (Same problem, new mile.)
  • Mile 4 - 8:44 - 33:35 (A big hill, and slowing down for the 3:50 to catch up.)
  • Mile 5 - 8:33 - 42:09 (Common sense didn't last long in the Altena running brain. I did meet some of the steepest hills of the course in this section.)
  • Mile 6 - 8:35 - 50:44 (More hills, I was feeling good at this point although I could feel my foot sliding in my shoe. I was praying for the magic of Body Glide to save me.)
  • Mile 7 - 8:41 - 59:25 (Running strong, and looking good I hope.)
  • Mile 8 - 8:58 - 1:08:24 (Hmmm, why does it feel like I have a big bump or rock in my shoe?)
  • Mile 9 - 9:04 - 1:17:28 (Pain still in the foot and I am beginning to feel it more in the hip. I was passed by the 3:50 running group in this section. That provided a boost that I could focus on keeping them in sight.)
  • Mile 10 - 8:44 - 1:26:13 (I ran at the 3:50 pace runner and was right behind him.)
  • Mile 11 - 8:59 - 1:35:13 (Pain increasing, but still manageable. I am looking forward to seeing Laura again. She was stationed near mile 12.5 and had my first electrolyte replacement drink. I was drinking at every other water stop. The sun also had come out to play as well, and it was beginning to get warm. My nose had been running non-stop for the last few miles too, and I was in need of replacement tissue.)
  • Mile 12 - 9:39 - 1:44:52 (I stopped to walk with Laura to give her an update and pick up the drink. The photos taken at this time show some of the discomfort in my face.)
  • Mile 13 - 10:36 - 1:55:28 (This was the first really tough mile not because of the terrain, but the fact I knew I had another 13 miles to go on the same equipment. I saw Laura again, and she wished me luck for the next 7 miles.)
  • Mile 14 - 9:35 - 2:05:04 (My first bio-break of the day, which was long over due.)
  • Mile 15 - 9:58 - 2:15:03 (I was passed by the 4:00 marathon pacer, so that stung a bit. I also decided to start Galloway walking. 8 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking.)
  • Mile 16 - 10:41 - 2:25:44 (With the runners more spread out, I did get more personalized encouragement. I had written my name on my arm, and heard more than once "Good job, Kent!")
  • Mile 17 - 10:17 - 2:36:02 (Galloway running was working for me. My feet felt on fire with certainly blisters, but I was determined to finish eight mile run session before walking.)
  • Mile 18 - 10:21 - 2:46:24 (Still working hard, and looking forward to seeing Laura.)
  • Mile 19 - 13:48 - 3:00:13 (Wheels were threatening to come off completely. Walked way more than the allotted 1 minute, and was asked if I wanted to see the Med Tent by a volunteer I refused. I saw Laura again and stopped to stretch. I tried to lengthen the tightening IT band, and loosen up the hip. It helped a little as did additional Ultima.)
  • Mile 20 - 11:40 - 3:11:53 (These were surprisingly strong miles in a stiff head wind. I went back to 7 minutes on, 1 minute off running.)
  • Mile 21 - 13:54 - 3:25:47 (I walked with Laura and got refreshed again. I was pretty emotional at this point with everything falling apart.)
  • Mile 22 - 11:31 - 3:37:19 (Some guy in blue shirt provided some encouragement, and that was enough to end the downward slide. He was with me more or less for the rest of the race. Major thanks to him - he was a Godsend when I needed it.)
  • Mile 23 - 13:29 - 3:50:49 (I have never felt less like running than I did for the next 2 miles. My head ached, my feet were dead at this point, and my hip was on fire. I did run with Laura about a quarter mile at this section.)
  • Mile 24 - 14:33 - 4:05:22 (More feeling sorry for oneself)
  • Mile 25 - 11:31 - 4:16:54 (A group of guys running together did roust me out of that funk, and I started putting targets to run to like the ML King Jr. bridge.)
  • Mile 26 - 10:04 - 4:26:58 (Easy running with end almost in sight. I met up with a bike support guy from work, and he rode me alongside.)
  • Mile .49 - 4:55 (The early miles had obviously confused my Garmin. This mile was the Exorcism mile where the final water stops came back to bite me. I hydrated the road (vomited) three times as I sprinted to the finish. This event I would rather not revisit ever again.)

After the race, I had wanted a sports massage, but with my upset stomach, I couldn't bear it anymore. I did talk with Tom and Amy afterwards and met up with a few runner buddies. I also got to see the horror under my shoes and what was causing me so grief over the miles. I went into official recovery mode when I got home and went straight to bed after a few stretches. I slept, ate a bit, and hydrated as much as possible. By and large, I stayed as relatively loose and pain-free as possible. The reward meal afterwards was Fried Chicken Wings.

What went right?

  • Pre-race and perhaps during race hydration. I was really topped off by the time I hit the race and was up a few pounds in water weight from the previous day.
  • Course support both from family and bystanders - they were phenomenal. Laura lifted my spirits every time I saw her, and she is probably the reason I did not DNF. Having her around did probably encourage more walking as leaving was a bit difficult. The bystanders except for miles 17-19 were out and in force today. I saw a number of the same bystanders again and again as they tracked their athletes movements. One in particular was wearing a KC Royals hat and "Yankees suck" t-shirt, and he made me smile every time I saw him.
  • Marathon Expo - was great. It was great seeing a number of on-line personas there at the Runners' Lounge lounge.
  • Most of all, I finished. I also set the bar to beat for the next one. (More on that later.)

What went wrong?

  • Runner's injuries -- I dealt with on top, but they came back in force today. I wasn't 100% going into the race, and that definitely showed. I should have perhaps wore two pairs of socks or put more Body Glide to prevent the blisters as well.
  • Marathon mistakes -- going out too quick. I am not sure how I would have fared with out the injuries and feet acting up, but I definitely should not repeat the same mistake twice in 26.2 mile race.
  • Mental fatigue -- In the final miles, I wasn't as tough mentally as I should have been. The pain was new, and I could have been a bit tougher in the final miles. I used walking with Laura perhaps as a crutch, and I could have been more disciplined.
  • There will be probably more that come to mind in the future, but this is the list as I see them now.

About the "would I do it again" question, I am suspecting marathon racing is a bit like childbirth. The pain dulls in one's memory, and the good times seem better. While one could never think of doing a second immediately following their first, I may attempt to climb that mountain again in a year or more. Half marathons are definitely more fun, and do not have the same pain connotations as the full. In the near future, shorter races will be my forte, like the Living History Farms Race and All9yards Sycamore 8.


My recovery was pretty rough. I did lots and lots of stretching to address the troublesome joints (hips, knees) and muscles.

Running Gear Recommendations:

Garmin Forerunner 205
I couldn't have done my tempo runs without it.
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New Balance 1061 Running Shoes
A big man (6'4" -- 220 lbs) needs a good cushion shoe.
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

Always be open to changing your plans. Things will sometimes work against your original goals, and you have to adjust and enjoy the run.

Plans to Run Another:

Marathon racing is like childbirth. After you run one, you swear never again, but in time, the memories of the pain dull, and the good memories will enhance. I also want the chance to get that sub 4-hour and correct all my rookie mistakes. For my next marathon, I'll go out slower, use more Body Glide, and pray for more healing from the nagging injuries.

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