January 6 2017
Laura Johns hit the wall at mile 20 of her first marathon and a lot can learn a lot by how she overcame it and became a marathoner.
Being a first-time marathoner with the internet at your fingertips has its pros and cons. Sure, it’s helpful to have an arsenal of running blogs and websites bursting with tips, tricks, and first marathon stories, but that overwhelming amount of information isn’t always helpful. Google “How to run a marathon” and you’ll find a plethora of articles listing “the do’s and don’ts” when it comes to running 26.2.
Deciding to run your first marathon is an intimidating and terrifying decision. I’d only been running for three months when I decided to register for my first marathon and I had barely survived my first half marathon a month prior. But for some reason, I woke up one morning, grabbed my computer, and registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. Here is every single mistake I made when I trained for and ran my first marathon.
1. I was inexperienced.
Online article after online article told me that I hadn’t been running long enough and advised me not to run a marathon. “Develop your base,” they all read, but I didn’t want to wait. My goal wasn’t to win, it was to survive and honestly, a lot more was at stake than simply checking off a box on my bucket list. Running a marathon was helping me take steps forward in my personal life. In life, you can’t always wait until you’re ready, you just have to go. Trying to go from couch-to-marathon in six months may not have been the smartest idea, but I had to see if I could do it.
2. I upped my mileage too quickly.
Sure, I read that I shouldn’t up my mileage too quickly but I didn’t have time to take it slow! The brightest move? No. I ended up hurting myself and was forced to take two weeks off, but you live and you learn! I was stubborn and getting injured helped me find my love for indoor spinning, so that injury had a happy ending!
3. I didn’t understand fueling.
If you look at pictures of me during my first marathon, you’ll notice strange lumps in my sports bra. I brought 10 energy gels with me and realized I didn’t know where to store them the night before the race so obviously, they ended up in my sports bras. I fueled every 30 minutes because I didn’t know what I was doing. I think I took nine energy gels during my first marathon. (For comparison, when I run a marathon now, I take four.)
4. I wore an entirely new outfit.
I spent 8 hours driving all around San Diego the day before the marathon trying to find a fun race-day outfit. I wanted to look fly! New pants, new shirt, new hat, new sports bras. I chafed like I’d never chafed before and learned first hand what everyone meant by “nothing new on race day.”
5. Pacing? What’s pacing?
I ran the first 4 miles through downtown San Diego like a bat out of hell, smiling like a fool and running way too fast. Then when I hit mile 5, someone running next to me asked me about my pace strategy. “What’s that?” I asked. I learned what “pace” meant in the middle of my first marathon.
6. I had a meltdown at mile 13.
When I got to mile 13, I could see downtown San Diego where the finish line was impossibly far away and I had a full blown meltdown. Luckily another runner grabbed my hand and gave me the best inspirational speech I’d ever heard in my life and helped me through it. But I definitely panicked and had many moments of, “I can’t do this.”
7. I didn’t coordinate with my parents where they would spectate.
I spent 25 miles stressed out that I had missed my parents along the course. We didn’t plan where they would be, I just knew they were coming out to cheer for me. I was heartbroken that I missed them. Finding them was one of the happiest moments of my life.
8. Relying on the GPS on my app.
Turns out, sometimes you run farther than 26.2 miles when you run a marathon! WHO KNEW? I wasn’t paying attention to the mile markers along the course and when my Runkeeper app told me that I was at mile 25, I was ready to bring it home. So I ran hard and about 3⁄4 of a mile later, I saw the mile 25 sign along the side of the road. I had another meltdown, started walking, and had to muster every bit of strength to get to the finish line.
9. I didn’t cross the finish line triumphantly.
That last mile of my first marathon was the worst mile of my life. I had never been in so much pain and even though it was downhill, I ended up walking. But when I saw the finish line, I took my walk to a slow jogging crawl, saw my parents right next to the finish line, gave an exhausted wave, and crossed the finish line like a zombie. No matter how tired you are, always cross the finish line in triumph.
I don’t think there’s a mistake I didn’t make during my first marathon. Sure there are smarter and safer ways to train for your first 26.2 but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t know what you’re doing. Trying to have everything figured out isn’t always the best way to chase down a goal. My first marathon was a huge learning experience and crossing that finish line changed my life. I may have finished 2 hours and 40 minutes later than the winner, but I felt like I won that day. I realized that if I could run a marathon, I could do anything. Don’t worry too much about what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. It doesn’t matter what distance you’re trying to run, just follow a training plan, do your strength training, stretch, foam roll, cross train and be patient. As long as you’re putting one foot in front of the other, you’re going in the right direction. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.