Monday, July 6, 2009

*** MaRaThOn MoNdAy ***

Hi everyone! I'm so sorry this is posting late - I scheduled it to post on Monday while I was on vacation, but it never seems to work right! (Anyone who has Blogger have any tips?)

I plan on using my Marathon Monday postings to talk about particular topics such as training plans, pre-run fueling, etc, but last week I started off by giving a background about how I got into running in the first place, and I wanted to spend today by finishing up the loose ends with that topic.

If you missed last week's posting, basically I was a complete non-athlete as a child who hated running, and it wasn't until just a few years ago that I became a runner. It's still weird for me to say that I am a "runner"... I can easily say that I "run", but to call oneself a runner I think implies a certain level of respect and reverence for your abilities as a runner, and though I know my abilities are pretty gosh darn good in that area, part of me still feels like the physically weak and meak child who was always THE last kid to get picked for every sport in gym class.

When I left off last week I talked about the events in my life that lead up to me signing up for the Chicago Marathon. Once I completed my first half marathon in 2006, I knew that I wanted to do a full, but it still seemed like a very scary concept at the time. I put it out of my head for a bit, until late winter. I was talking to a couple friends in grad school about running, and somehow the marathon came up. We had all had an interest in doing one but needed someone to push us into it - so that's what we did!

Me, Jen, and Jenny signed up as soon as registration opened, and once it was summer we began training together. It was soooo convenient that we all lived within blocks of each other so that we could easily meet for runs 1-3 times a week. It was a lot of fun running with good friends and the good company made me look forward to the runs even more!

To make a long story very short, training continued over most of the summer. We used the Hal Higdon marathon program, intermediate level...... and looking back I don't know WHY we felt that we were cool enough to use the intermediate program since it was our first marathon and we should have used the novice program, lol. More on training programs during a later Marathon Monday posting!

Midway through training, the three of us headed to Lake Shore Drive for our first run along the lake path. We had been running the same loops around Oak Park all summer, and it was fabulous to finally get to get out of our neighborhood and to run along the gorgeous lake!!! We did 14 miles that night (which at that time was the longest I had ever run!) and it was one of those great, easy runs. It was especially great because it was a Wednesday and thus we got to see the Navy Pier fireworks at night during the latter part of our run!

I went back to my apartment that night feeling extremely content and accomplished. However, this feeling was short-lived! The next day, while walking to work (I had a summer job at Whole Foods, yes it was the best job evah...) I felt a sharp pain in my right heel while I walked. I had felt a similar pain that morning during a short run, but it didn't feel like anything out of the ordinary. However, it was starting to get MUCH worse. There was a running store on the way to work, so I stopped in and asked them what they thought the pain was, thinking I could buy something to easily fix it.

I will never forget the look that the clerk gave me........ he looked at me and said, "I hate to tell you, but you probably have plantar fasciitis". I had no idea what this was, and he went on to explain to me that it is one of the worst injuries that a runner can have! Unfortunately, he was right, and I had to take 6 weeks out of my training to heal my PF. (More on this later, too, since I feel that injury prevention is SO important!!!)

Luckily I later healed... fast forward another few weeks to October, 2007! The day before the marathon, Jen, Mike and I went to the expo at the McCormick Place to get our registration pick-up. It was definitely the most exciting race expo I have ever been to! Everyone seemed to be so pumped for the race, and the energy in the air was palpable. After this, Jen went her separate way, and Mike and I met one of my friend's from my YMCA, Debra, at a downtown movie theatre. We saw the first showing of a movie called The Spirit of the Marathon. It chronicled about 5 different people while they trained for the Chicago Marathon the year before - some beginnings, some experienced, and some professional runners, such as Dena Kastor.

You have to understand that when you are training for your first marathon, to a large extent it is ALL you think about. For months and months I lived and breathed the marathon. I went on Youtube and watched videos about people's marathon experiences, especially when they crossed the finish line, which brought tears to my eyes -because apparently I was obsessed AND a sappy nerd. I read countless books about marathon training. And it was only a day away!! The movie was awesome, I highly recommend it, and it did a fantastic job getting me even MORE excited for the race.

On the morning of the marathon, Mike, Jen and I and took the blue line into the city. By the time we got off the train and started walking toward the Marathon, it was already very, very warm. The forecast that day was to be extremely hot, but we all tried not to think about it. The day before at the expo it was UNBEARABLY hot, but I hoped that the weather forecasters were wrong. The gun went off, and Jen and I took off with excitement!

The first couple miles were great!! You start pretty slow during the Chicago Marathon because, with 30,000 runners, it's pretty crowded and it takes a very miles before the crowd of runners begins to disperse. There were spectators packing the course during the first few miles which made it fun too. However, as time went on, it got hotter.... and hotter.... and hotter. Around mile 6, Jen and I still had not gotten water or Gatorade yet, as the water stations were empty. The runners ahead of us had taken two waters each, as opposed to the one that the race directors planned on - one to drink and one to dump over their head to cool them down.

I noticed a sign around Lincoln Park says it was 109 degrees in the sun - yikes!! This race was so, so, so hot, and it became extremely hard to keep going. The race directors ended up shutting down the race, and I was at mile 18 when this happened. I don't like to think of myself as a quitter, but the truth is, I was relieved to hear the news. My running buddy, Jen, wanted to keep going (go Jen!), but I really don't think I could have continued!!! My body has always had a very hard time in extreme heat (more than other people, it seems), and it was just a horrible experience.

Jen and I of course were extremely disappointed. To have this happen during your FIRST marathon was pretty devastating. I know to people who don't run this sounds silly, but it was an enormous let-down to not be able to complete the marathon after training for months and months, and putting in hundreds of miles. When you train for a marathon, you sacrifice so much - eating healthy, turning down that second glass of wine, getting up at 5am on Satuday for an early morning run.

So, I went out to dinner with Mike and my parents to "celebrate", but of course I feel pretty dejected. They, of course, insisted that I DID "run a marathon", to which I replied that I did NOT, since I had had longer training runs (20 miles) that were longer than the so-called marathon that I just ran.

I went home, signed up for the Indianapolis Marathon, and two weeks later, I FINALLY completed a full marathon!!! The Indy Marathon was fabulous. The race route is through a beautiful, forested area, along rivers with fall foliage abounding. Along the way I made a lot of friends - I went down there by myself and I was nervous not to know anyone - and many of the people that I ran with that day had also been in the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago. I truly had the most perfect race ever, never hit a wall, and it was a fabulous experience!!! :)

Phew! That was long one. Anyway, that takes me to where I am now... training for my second/third marathon, depending on if you count that first one! Now, let's here about YOUR first race/marathon experience!!


  1. Ugh, I have so many problems with pre-posting! I finally figured out I have to schedule it for 3am to get it to publish at 10pm! Weird lol

  2. You started out with the Intermediate?? That's hardcore! hehe.

    My first marathon experience was w/Team in Training for the Nike Women's Marathon in SF. Gorgeous weather and route - running tour of the city! There was one massive hill but the views at the top were totally worth it! Fell apart around Lake Merced and I could feel every single pebble of pavement hitting my feet...but it hurt more to walk so I just kept running!

    Had a blast at Chicago in 2008 - loved the city and crowd...felt much better afterward ;) So glad you're running it this year! I've got my fingers crossed the weather cooperates this time!

  3. During my first 5k, I had to stop once and kept complaining that I couldn't do it..luckily my boyfriend is a great guy and stayed with me the whole time telling me that I COULD do it. Three races later, he is still my running buddy :) AND my PR time has decreased by 1 min and 30 seconds, woot woot!