My first Marathon….
Emily and Kristine train and run marathons. They both did the Marine Corps Marathon last October and trained for many months before it. Emily, Kristine, and Rachel are training for the “Flying Monkey Marathon” in Nashville, TN (off road trails). Emily is also training for a 30 Kilometer race in Atlanta before that one.
The Jackson family was having a BBQ at the Troutman’s (beachburg, ON at Nick’s parent’s house) and we were about 2 beers and three glasses of wine into the evening when Emily told me that she was running a marathon in the morning and was hoping to have Nick and I come along and cheer her on. I thought she was asking me to run the entire thing with her, and as anybody who knows me knows that my answer was immediately “sure, I”ll go” and then Nick joined in too. Apparently she was asking if we could meet her with 6 miles to go and cheer her on, but it was already too late and I had decided that I was running my first marathon at 6am the next morning (to avoid mid-day heat). It was about 10pm the night before and I haven’t run for training in many years. I told Kristine that I should probably get going so I can get some sleep and drink some water before it is time to go.
I got to sleep after drinking a quart of water and Kristine’s alarm woke me up at 6:00 am. I was to be at the Troutman’s at 6:15. I drank a pint of water, ate a bowl of Cheerios, made a cup of coffee and headed over to meet Emily and Nick. Emily was ready and had a smirk on her face, like “Are you sure you want to do this?” and said, “you know you don’t have to run this if you don’t want to.” Nick and I were in and there was nothing she could say to turn us away. I have never run a marathon and it was something I always thought I should do at some point in my life and here I don’t have to wait, I can just run it today, now.
I am an athlete that understands my body very well and what is possible and not possible. First off I would be there specifically to support Emily, not to run for myself, and secondly that I would not have any issues with energy, endurance, or any other issue other than whether or not my legs would be injured before the finish line 26.2 miles later. When I was a slalom racer I would run 10 miles at a time sometimes, and 3-5 miles at a time a lot and do it at 6-6:30 minute/mile. I can and have done running before, but it has been about 15 years since I have trained by running other than the occasional 3 mile run at home, or running around disc golf courses. I don’t own “running shoes” and running doesn’t interest me that much unless there is a good reason for it. With that said, one thing that I believe in is that you have a body and just how much your body is capable of is something you nurture and protect at all costs. (letting yourself get out of shape and unable to do physical things intentionally is like killing brain cells for no reason but laziness, IMO)
So, there was no fanfare, just Emily, Nick, and I in the early morning light on a cool Canadian August morning walking out to the Troutman’s driveway. Emily had a Camelback, Nick had some kind of a water bottle with Nuun in it and I had an Evian bottle that I refilled with tap water after Kristine finished it. We started running and the idea was that we would run for 30 minutes and then stretch out a little bit. Emily had mapped a course out where we would do a 12 mile loop that brought us back to the Troutman’s house and then do it a second time, and then we had a 2.3 mile loop that we would do to bring it up to the final 26.2 distance. Emily is a great runner with her expertise being longevity. She is not a fast runner (10-11 minute miles normally) but she keeps on trucking, the same as Kristine, who is not up to this distance in her training yet this year.
My stride and Emily’s Stride and Nick’s Stride are quite different. I am sure Nick and I would have the same basic speed/stride, but going at Emily’s pace was one notch faster than speed walking and one notch slower than running for me. I found a way to stride and mix up my stride from a shorter shuffle to a longer run/walk kind of long stride. After the first 30 minutes it got to feel more normal to me. I tried to stay just behind Emily because she normally runs alone and having somebody else in front could mess up her pace and cause a long run like this to go poorly. Each marker we got to, however, was a new personal record for her. We got to the “white farm house”in 43 minutes, instead of 45, and then to the first turn off the initial road in 57 minutes instead of just over an hour. From the 1 hour to where the RV was parked, another 20 minutes, felt very good. Emily was going faster and nothing hurt too much.
My body was letting me know what was working and what wasn’t working properly in that first hour. My right knee wasn’t exactly right, my left hip flexor was a little off, and everything felt tighter than it should. My body went through phases as my back tightened up and was threating a mutiny (old waterfall injury), and I was feeling like shin splints was possible at any moment as they oscillated between tight and loose again. We ran right past the RV and I re-filled my water bottle that had run out in the first hour. It was about 45 more minutes to the Troutman’s house, Emily said, and as we headed up the hill, Nick began to lag behind, then catch up and then lag behind again. After about 20 minutes of that he eventually told us that his knee and hip were too bad to keep going. He bowed at about the 10 mile mark and walked the last two back home. This type of injury is exactly what I was worried about. Simple concept of “Hey- had you told me I would need to be able to run 26 miles, and prepped me a little, no problem, but you can’t expect me to go off the couch and do this.” This is what I wondered if my body would tell me too.
As we headed up towards the Troutman’s Emily was feeling bad about Nick and trying to talk me out of doing the second loop and then finishing it. I was fully committed that I was going to run my first marathon and that I only had 14 miles to go to pull it off. We ran past the Troutman’s house and headed into the second loop. We did the first 12+ miles in 2 hours and 4 minutes and 38 seconds. Emily’s best time previously for this loop was 2:08 and some seconds. She was about to come off of a record single loop for her and go straight into a double, and then another two miles after that. She was a little worried, but not too much. She seemed more worried about me.
I was struggling in that my right knee was not happy with me much of the time and my back and right hip were tight and not exactly feeling good. I could change my pace some and it would loosen up. Emily suggested that I run my own pace for a while and then could stretch out as she caught up. That was a good idea and I took off at my normal running pace and ran up the long hill, over the top and then stretched out as she caught up. I felt much better after that.
We headed down towards the white farm house which was a 45 minute run from the starting line and you can see it from the top of the hill about 2 miles from it. We picked up the pace a little to make the time and made it, once again, in front of her goal time. We also made the first turn in under 1 hour from the starting line again, but were a couple minutes slower than the first lap.
Both of us where in survival mode to some point already. We were over three hours into a 4.5 hour run. We were ¾’s of the way there. Kristine and Nick were driving around the loop and could tell us at what mile marker we were. At one point Emily and I were convinced that we were at mile 21, but Nick proudly announced that “good job, you guys are at the 19.6 mile mark!” I have always heard about the 20 mile “Wall” people hit and had no reason to believe that I would be any different, other than I couldn’t understand why everyone hit a wall at the same point, so figured it must be as much mental as anything else. I was feeling fine at the 19.6 mile mark, but assumed I was already at the 21 mile mark. Now I would have to run another 2 miles to prove, or not, that 20 miles isn’t a magic number.
We turned up from the RV and were on the “final road” back to the Troutmans house, about a 4.5 mile run. Both Emily and I were hurting to some level. Emily’s arch was hurting and she was running slower for sure. My right knee was clearly long past the amount of running it was trained up for and my right hip flexor was not any better. I tried running on the other side of the road (I ran on the side of the road the entire time in the gravel or grass and didn’t run on the road to avoid shin splints, but it was quite angled sometimes) I assumed that switching the angle I was running on might improve my chances of running the last 6 miles.
We kept on running up the road and Kristine put a water bottle on the side at the 2 mile mark (2 miles to the troutman’s) and the 1 mile mark. We made it to the Troutman’s and kept on going. We had a loop to run that Emily knew but then changed it to run by the Troutman’s house one more time and then back to finish there at the 26.2 mile mark. We “sprinted” to the finish line, which was to pick up the pace and then ran straight to the Troutman’s pool. I pulled a “Canadian” beer out of the fridge and jumped in the pool to cool off. Ahhhhh! That was awesome! I was so proud of Emily and so happy that I also completed my first marathon (Emily’s second). It was clear that I would be paying for this abuse in the days to come as my knee and hip were already stiffened up. I am writing this the next day and last night was interesting. I can’t lift up my left leg without a lot of pain, and my right knee doesn’t go down hills . However, today, after some advil, Nick (who is hobbling around too), Rafa, and I did extreme race training for Sickline Race coming up next month. Nick and I hobbled to the river to get the boats, got in, and paddled to “initiation rapid” where we would set a 60 second course. The runs were fun but the walk back up was challenging.
Maybe I’ll run some in the future to actually prepare my legs for long runs, we’ll see.
I anticipate that in two days my legs will be 100% again and no permanent damage was done; for the reward of accomplishing this goal, the pain I am feeling is well worth it as it is temporary. The T Shirt that says, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body” is what I’ll go with and move on.
Sweet! Thank you Emily, my daughter, for getting me to run my first marathon!