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 I didn't achieve the results I wanted in my two prior marathons so I needed to do another one. In addition, I really enjoy the challenge of long runs and have always wanted to do the Brookings Marathon because it is held in the town where I grew up.


I'm currently training for my first ultramarathon in August of 2009, and for that I'm following Hal Higdon's 24 week ultramarathon training plan. That training plan has allowed me to target a couple of marathons to participate in, and this marathon was the first of the training plan.

In terms of training advice I would share with others, I've started monitoring my heart rate more in training. I read that for long distances like a marathon you should keep your heart rate in your lower zones because average marathoners don't need to enter any anaerobic levels. I followed this advice during training and was able to keep my heart rate in a lower zone for the race. I think that advice helped tremendously.

Race Day:

Heading into the race, I was concerned. I came down with a cold five days before the race, and it hadn't improved at all by race day. Also, recently, I had developed some pain in my hip flexor, and I didn't know how that would behave during the race. For those two reasons, I really took it easy the week leading up to the race. To top it off, the weather forecast was for cold temps with strong winds.

It turns out that we had beautiful weather. The temps were still a bit chilly (35 at the start and high 40s when I finished), but the sun was out and the winds were minimal. The weather was just about perfect for me.

The race started right on time, and my hip felt good (and I never did experience any hip pain during the race). My plan was to run 5 minutes and walk 1 minute and repeat, which is the strategy I generally plan on using in the ultramarathon later this summer. I had a goal of a 10:00/mile pace for the first half of the race and see what happens after that. If I reached the halfway point ahead of goal, I was going to force myself to walk for a while to slow my pace to the goal pace. My prior marathon experiences did not involve any first half discipline, and I paid for it in the second halves.

I felt absolutely great for the first half of the race and was just slightly ahead of the plan. Everything was working, and I was having a good time. I reached the halfway point ahead of my goal by a couple of minutes. I took an extended walk break, as planned, but cut it short before I actually slowed my pace to my 10:00 goal pace. I was feeling too good to continue walking. Plus, at that point of the course, there was an extended stretch with the wind at my back. I couldn't pass that up.

Things continued to go well until about mile 17 or 18, when I started developing a familiar pain in my right knee. Why didn't I wear my knee straps?!? Idiot!! I had become lazy about wearing them recently because I hadn't experienced any knee pain in a long time. Before my supporters could get them to me, I started having some serious doubts about being able to finish. I was limping along and the pain kept increasing. At about 19.5 miles, I was able to put the straps on and take some Tylenol. The pain improved slightly, but continued through about mile 22 or 23. I kept at it during those miles, but my pace had slowed considerably due to the pain.

But, eventually it improved. I found that interesting because I had read a lot of ultrarunners' comments that you just need to keep moving forward. It doesn't always get worse. Sometimes things just improve. When reading that, I didn't believe it completely. But in this race, my knee just improved. It doesn't make any sense to me, but it did. I don't know why, and I don't care. I'm just glad I kept moving forward.

Somewhere around mile 23, I don't remember feeling any more knee pain. Of course, I was starting to tire, but I could also envision the finishing line getting nearer. I hadn't looked at my watch in quite some time, mostly because I didn't want to know how much the knee had been slowing me, but I checked it at mile 24. I had 25 minutes to break 4:30. Could I do 2.2 miles in 25 minutes at the end of a marathon and where I had been experiencing considerable knee pain? I decided to give it a shot.

I discontinued my run 5 minutes walk 1 minute pattern and picked out landmarks that I thought would be more than 5 minutes ahead. I ended up only walking twice over those last 2.2 miles and actually felt pretty good considering it was the end of a marathon. I maintained a 10:00 pace over that last stretch and finished in 4:27. I was really happy with that.

The race organization was superb from packet pick up to post-race amenities. Just fantastic. The race director has done a great job organizing and motivating the many, many volunteers that make this race possible. Thank you so much to all of the volunteers. I want to relate one thing that really touched me. I took my 3 year old son with me to the packet pick up. Everything went very smoothly there, but as we were about to leave a volunteer approached my son and asked if he wanted a "backpack" like his dad's. (All race materials were handed out in those "runner sacks" that you've probably seen many places.) Anyway, she didn't have to do that, but my son loved it. It really made me feel good to include him more in the race, and she went out of her way to make him feel special and part of things. It's one of many things that make this small town race a great one.


My recovery wasn't bad. After the race, I took advantage of the free post-race massages in the finishing area -- the first time I'd ever tried that. I think it helped, but can't be sure. I was still sore the day following the race, but felt good two days after the race. I think my recovery went well, but there definitely was some soreness. One thing I like to do after long runs is take an ice bath. I wasn't able to do that after the marathon, but really wish I could have. I think they really help. What didn't help was running the race when I had a cold. I know that the marathon didn't do my cold any favors. I was totally wiped out the next day, I think, due to running the race despite my cold.

Running Gear Recommendations:

Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
This is a great long distance fuel. I love Hammer nutrition products, and after reading most of their materials and trying many of their products, I'm convinced that I previously failed to consume enough fuel during long training runs and races. 2 gels in 2+ hours is just not enough for me. Hammer's approach and products work very well for me.
Amazon >>

Injinji Toe Socks
They feel funny the first time you put them on, but never getting a blister feels great. I have yet to get a blister while wearing my toe socks. I also like the khaki color for these socks because I can never keep my white running socks looking anywhere close to white.
Amazon >>

Body Glide
A great anti-chafing product.
Amazon >>

Tips/Words of Encouragement:

Develop or pick a plan and dedicate yourself to following it. There are many training plans out there and many paths to the start line. Pick one and follow it. Once you've picked your plan, try focusing only on the current week and maybe the next one. If you build gradually to the increased distances, they don't seem daunting. If you look too far ahead, they can seem daunting.

Plans to Run Another:

I'm planning to run another marathon. Based on the results of this race, I think I can do better. So, I'm going to do better. Also, I get a great sense of accomplishment after finishing a marathon. Mentally, I feel great for days.

I didn't incorporate any speed work into the training for this marathon. I just don't think I need it for my ultramarathon later this year. But, once I pick out a marathon to target for 2010, I'm going to include speed work into the training for that race.

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