In my Chicago Marathon Recap, I talked about how I have learned something from every marathon I have ever run. The funny thing is though, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It seems like I am able to take even more away from each subsequent race. So I thought it might be fun to go back through each marathon one-by-one and think about the lessons I learned from each one and how they have manifested into where I am as a runner today.
Marathon #1: Indianapolis Marathon: 4:23:35
Oh, where do I even start. In your first marathon, no matter how experienced you *think* you are, in reality, you have no idea what to expect. The main things I learned:
- Don’t do every single long run at marathon pace. (yes, this happened)
- Don’t go out too fast.
- You never know what will happen in those last 6 miles.
It’s funny looking back now because the list of things I did wrong could be MUCH longer, but at the time, once the initial disappointment passed, these are the things that I knew to be true.
Marathon #2: Kiawah Island Marathon: 3:46:00
- Fueling is everything.
- Long runs are for training not tests. (And one bad long run doesn’t kill the training)
My first BQ attempt (when 3:40 was the qualifying standard). My last 20-miler was a disaster. Going into the run, I looked at it as the one true test of whether I could BQ or not. That pressure combined with traveling for work, being up late the night before and not eating a good dinner resulted in me walking most of the last 4 miles. I lost all confidence and almost gave up on my goal. Thankfully Char talked me into going for it anyway (sound familiar?!). While I hit a wall after mile 22 and didn’t BQ, I was still very proud of the race and knew that fueling was the key to finishing strong in the future.
Marathon #3: Houston Marathon: 3:43:59
- Stay off my feet the day before the marathon.
- I need to learn to be mentally tough in the last 6 miles.
- Sometimes changing one little thing can change your attitude and turn things around.
The Olympic Marathon trials were in Houston the year I ran the marathon. I woke up really early the day before the race to spectate the trials (i.e. standing on my feet), walked around the expo for a few hours with Laura, then ended up at the mall later that afternoon. It’s no wonder that I never felt fresh from the beginning. I had a low point at mile 13-14 and took a cup of Gatorade and felt immediately better for several miles, which was a great lesson for me at the time in “getting a second wind.” This was also the marathon where I finally didn’t bonk super hard, but in the last 6 miles, when I knew I would PR but not break 3:40, I kind of gave in. I could have given more at the end. I knew I had to learn how to get mentally tougher when it hurts if I wanted to run a strong marathon in the future.
Marathon #4: Eugene Marathon: 3:57:12
- Stress causes very real fatigue.
- Strong training does not guarantee marathon success.
- Never take a marathon finish for granted.
- Don’t stop for the bathroom until I am sure I really need to.
My second BQ attempt. I ran this marathon the week after moving to Chicago and my body was just flat out exhausted. Despite an excellent training cycle, I did so many things wrong before the race. The one thing I did right was finish. From mile 15+, I questioned whether I could keep moving forward and I was very happy I finished instead of taking a DNF.
Marathon #5: Bayshore Marathon: 3:30:04
- Lose the Garmin.
- I have a good feel for pace when I don’t obsess over the watch.
- It is possible to feel amazing in a marathon.
- Running a redemption marathon CAN work, but only under the right circumstances.
- Having a pacer is game changing.
There isn’t a great deal to say about this…It’s as close to a perfect race as I can imagine and having Molly pace me gave me the confidence I needed to have a big breakthrough day. I do want to note that I don’t at all recommend running another marathon 6 weeks after the first one (it took a toll on my body). BUT since Eugene wasn’t a *real* marathon effort (i.e. 11+ min/miles after mile 18), I believe that my body wasn’t as fatigued as it normally would be after a typical marathon effort.
Marathon #6: New York City Marathon: 3:33:38
- No really, DITCH THE GARMIN. Running on feel is fun.
- I can lock into a pace without a watch telling me how fast I am running.
- I can run a solid marathon without running a 20-miler in training (if I race smart)
- Cross training works.
- I still need to learn to get tough in the final miles of the race.
- Don’t cut the start of the race too close.
I was injured 7 weeks out from the race. I never ran over 18 miles in the cycle and never ran over 15 miles in the 6 weeks before the race. But I had more fun in this marathon than I ever thought I could and I was shocked how well my body held up in the later miles despite a lack of long runs. I still think I could have pushed harder from 23+. And also…I missed the start of my wave – I don’t recommend that to anyone :)
Marathon #7: Boston Marathon: 3:41:45
- Adjust goals based on weather.
- The Boston Marathon course is brutal.
- Don’t try to do too much in the days leading up to the marathon.
- I need to try to keep my emotions in check until I really need them for a boost or after the race.
- Sometimes the body you want to race just doesn’t show up (I seem to need to keep re-learning this one).
Oh boy, this was a tough one. I did many things wrong in the days leading up to the race and I could feel how tired I was emotionally. I even told Kevin a couple of days before the race that I was feeling a little like I felt in Eugene. That, combined with the weather, should have given me the information I needed to have to make major adjustments to my race plan.
Marathon #8: Chicago Marathon: 3:26:52
- GET OUT OF MY OWN HEAD.
- Stop thinking so much and just run.
- Working together with someone helps a ton.
- Hometown races are amazing.
- Sometimes running a little faster feels better than slowing down.
- A mid-race low point can be turned around (hmmm…seems to be the second time I have had to learn that one!)
It’s kind of fun to look back through each of these races. It shows me how far I have come (57 min. from #1 to #8), but I also know my marathon days still have so much more to teach me. And hopefully faster times to come along with it…
It also reminds me that there are a few lessons that I have had to learn more than once. I might have to revisit these thoughts before #9 so that I can put these little lessons in my pocket and remember them when things get tough.
Tell me…what is the biggest lesson you have learned from a marathon?