10 Things I Learned from the Marathon

Throughout my 16 weeks training for Marine Corps Marathon, I have to say that the journey itself was worth the effort it took to finish the race. It was bittersweet to get the medal, know I was done with training, and be in a relaxed state when it comes to training overall.
 
With marathon training came highs and lows of my experience that, looking back in retrospect, are not too uncommon [I’m sure] from other first marathoners’ experiences. So, when the race came, I was so anxious with wanting it to get there and had to many emotions going on during the race. Boy, did I learn a lot!
 

 

 
1) With family there for support, have a plan ready – This helped me a TON! My cousin did the race the year before and knew the Tri-State area very well. We planned to meet up when I got into Georgetown around mile 6, then again at 9 when I did the turnaround, at mile 16 in the National Mall, at 19 for that turnaround, and again at the finish. We only forgot to tell each other what side of the road we’d be on, but found each other each time. I should have also given them E-caps and other essentials I may need that I didn’t carry on me. Knowing I would see them at these markers made me look forward to them even more when I got into funks of being solo.

2) When training, plan routes and long runs accordingly – G was there for me a LOT when I had long runs as I didn’t know many people running at my pace or training the same distance. Other times, we were able to meet up with friends and plan out routes that each of us could run together even if they were different distances. It’s tough enough trying to figure out how to run 20 miles or 18 miles, so knowing what to expect long run morning made it much easier.

3) Florida summers are brutal to train through – I chose MCM because of the location, charity, and awesome race itself. Fall races always seem like a great idea, but thinking back to a 16 week training timeline, I failed to realize I’d be training through the dead of summer. That means a lot of 330am wake ups to avoid hotter temps, me getting a Camelbak (Women’s Magic Hydration Pack (70-Ounce) , and drenched runs where you can ring out your hair. I learned to adjust by wearing proper dri fit clothing, and less of it. Also, being sure to hydrate every 15 minutes, even if it’s taking sips – taking in too much at once caused my stomach to make funny noises. Hats and visors shielded the sun too. Those of you who have gone through this, feel me I’m sure!

4) Injuries are par for course – Until I got to my 2nd 18 miler, I felt AWESOME. No pains, no aches, no nothing! Then, I decided to get daring and try a bride-y run that left me with a Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot. Oops. I don’t necessarily blame the run, I blame my misconception that it was all smooth sailing. When I became fatigued, I started to lose my form. I should have rested more when I felt I needed it and kept an eye on my gait. Injuries can happen, particularly when you’re a newbie to those long runs, that’s for sure.

5) Rotating sneakers is a smart idea – G calls me spoiled. Yes, Brooks does spoil me. Even if they didnt, though, I would still see myself rotating at least 2 pairs of sneakers. Why? So I wouldn’t have to wait until I hit high mileage, then break in a new pair, and start that cycle over and over. Rotating a few pair lets you have more flexibility with mileage spread between those shoes. It did for me at least.

6) A.M. runs just work for me – With a busy work schedule and life in general, I found out that a.m. runs just work for me. I attempted some p.m. runs but felt that I did better with an empty stomach (emptier at least) and fresh legs. Besides, I thought most races started earlier in the morning too. When I knocked out my run in the morning, too, it was done for the day and didn’t have to be fit in at the end of the day. A.M. endorphins ROCK too!

7) Have a support system, you’ll need it! – Whether it was G riding the bike with me or running friends partaking in runs here and there or friends asking how training was going and rooting me on, support was VERY important through this whole journey. Yes, I knew that many people didn’t care to see my long runs posts or give two hoots that I was running a marathon. Point taken and completely understandable. However, having people in my corner kept me sane. Having friends who understood what training was like was a huge help when it came to venting here and there or asking advise on certain plans and strategies. If you have those around you who have been there, why not leverage that? Having a supportive husband was super important for me. He was up with me and understood when I wanted to crash at 8pm on a Friday night. I own him big time.

8) Sleep is VERY important – Before marathon training I’d try to at least get 6 hours of sleep a night. It was enough to get me through a workout and then work during the day before doing it all over again the next day. With training, came LOTS of fatigue and feeling tired ALL of the time. So, if I knew I had to be up at 3:00am for a run, I would get to be with enough time to get in 7-8 hours of sleep that night. Ah, REM sleep is the best especially for recovery!

9) I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for – I ended up getting more in my head than feeling any physical pain or tiredness. That was the same when it came to runs and the race itself. I know that we all his our “walls” and you push through them, but I got down on myself before my legs even knew what hit them. I’m learning more and more to believe in myself – to stop thinking that I can’t do something or need a break before my body feels it. During the race I had to remind myself that I’d run 20 miles 3 times during training and was doing this race after running 7 half marathons previously. I have to keep reminding myself that I am a lot stronger than I tend to give myself credit for.

10) 26.2 miles demands respect – Self explanatory. When I hit mile 21 I learned that it wasn’t “just 5.2 more miles” ahead. I had to respect the total distance especially knowing I hadn’t run that total distance before. It was a whole new experience for me. Even with a ‘goal time’ in mind, I knew to threw it out and that finishing was more important than a time. The marathon is a whole different beast once you’re in the thick of it!

 
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People have asked me “Would you do another marathon again?” – if you asked me this during the last few weeks of training or the day of the race, I said no & that it was a one and done type of thing.

After thinking about it more now after the fact – yes, I would. Why? Because I didn’t feel I was 100% at this race. I had 2 injuries that had me take time off of training and also not train at my full potential the last 4 weeks. Also, I’d come down with some sort of cooties that made it tough for me to breathe in just-about-perfect weather. I also ran back-to-back races almost every month this year, averaging a half marathon distance, before marathon training. The smartest idea? Probably not if I have a time goal. I’d also rethink SUMMER training and look for a Spring race?

So, down the road, I’d love to give it another shot.

I did catch myself Googling races the other day – says the glutton for punishment.

What lessons have you learned from races, marathons?

 

HI! I'M KAT - I am a pug-mom, wife, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, & Fitness Coach focusing on living the fit life while tackling work, coaching others - doing it all! My blog is to hold me accountable for all the goals I plan on accomplishing and also a way for me to try to inspire others through my own experiences - if I can do it ANYONE can! Fitness is a huge part of my life as well as travel and seeing all that life has to be lived! PAY IT FORWARD!

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38 Comments
  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 12:22 pm

    great lessons! i once read that your sleep TWO nights before a race is what really matters. not sure if itz true or not, but it always calmed my nerves since i had trouble sleeping the night before a race. either way – yes sleep is important! 🙂

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Great insights! People who don’t run focus on the effort on race day, but runners understand all the dedication and determination that got you to the starting line. As for your answer to that last question, that’s why I think racing is like childbirth. As soon as the immediate pain wears off, you realize the joy is worth doing it again 😉

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 3:54 pm

      thanks Coco! It’s SO much more than the race day itself for sure!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 12:28 pm

    I knew you’d be back for more 😉 If I run another I’d definitely look for a Spring race so I could train starting in the winter. I’d much rather run in 40 degree weather than 90!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I’m impressed that the human body can run for so long and that the mind can can do the same thing for so long. How long did it take you? I think I could probably run 26 miles in about 2 months time! I mean if I ran a mile at a time and had a day two in between to rest How long have you been running?

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 3:55 pm

      So was I! I’ve been running since 2007 but longer distances since last year!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 12:56 pm

    great lessons Kat, thanks for sharing them with me! it was fun to watch the journey as I was sitting, laid up with my foot. I am happy to see you came out mostly unscathed. Foot issues are TOUGH! hehe. see ya around the blogosphere! Good luck in Vegas (to you and your husband!)

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 3:55 pm

      Thanks for ‘being there’ Becca – you’ll be great when youre back 100%!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 1:27 pm

    Yes x 10! I especially love #9. I think it’s hard not to come back for an encore race, especially when you feel like the first was not your best effort for whatever reason. This was me exactly because my first was blazing hot and cancelled. 8 marathons later….hahaha!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 1:33 pm

    I really loved this, and can relate to it all and things I have learned myself from marathons and running in general! I love that you are going to give it another go sometime!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 1:48 pm

    I think I posted a comment and now I’m not seeing it. Anyway – fantastic job!!! Can’t wait for #2!

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 3:57 pm

      Oh no where’d it go? 😉 Thanks Carrie – haha, you should do one before I do #2 😉

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 1:58 pm

    When I finished my first full in 2012 I said NO, I will not run another….I am currently training for my second for 2014.

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 2:39 pm

    Love the lessons learned. Especially being stronger than you thought. I always rotate my shoes even though I don’t train for a full. I think it’s good to let one pair completely dry out! Congrats again!

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 3:57 pm

      Thanks Heather – they can totally translate into another race distance!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 3:50 pm

    I loved this! As I gear up to start training for my first (spring mary, wasn’t messing around w/DC summer!) seeing others posts and experiences has been soooo helpful. Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 3:51 pm

    This is a great recap of lessons learned, and I hope you re-read this with each new training cycle so you don’t loose sight of what you now know is important to you. It’s so easy to get swept up in it all, but at the end of the day, do what works best for you and take care of yourself. Rest is just as, if not more so, important to training as the training itself. Congrats again on becoming a marathoner girl.

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 4:03 pm

      I know you know from experience with many injuries, Jen! Thanks for the reminder, that’s a super smart idea!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 5:20 pm

    AM exercise is definitely a must for me too, as is SLEEP!!! SLEEEPPPPPP – I could use MORE right now! 😀 And oh my, I give you a lot of credit for training during crazy hot, humid FL summers! BAHHH! If I were you, I’d train on the beach and then take a dip in the ocean every so often, lol!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 5:26 pm

    I just wrote a similar post yesterday, except MCM was marathon #2 for me. I totally agree with all of your takeaways. Marathons are tricky and addictive, aren’t they?

    Here’s my post on the lessons I learned from MCM: http://jensrunningblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/marine-corps-marathon-post-race-analysis/

    • Reply
      November 5, 2013, 11:38 pm

      I’m checking it now – they are! But I need time to heal for sure 😉

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 6:03 pm

    You have to respect the distance. Marathon training is no joke.

  • Reply
    November 5, 2013, 10:38 pm

    Ha, I knew you’d be back for more! I’m a huge fan of rotating sneakers; I’m working on four pairs now. 😉

  • Reply
    November 6, 2013, 1:47 am

    You are amazing!!!! No marathons or races for me! I did do 5ks in my late 20’s & bodybuilding in my late 30’s & never had the desire to do either after I stopped … maybe in my 60’s I will find something I want to compete in again but not right now.. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 6, 2013, 2:38 am

    Thanks for sharing! After completing 3 half marathons (with two more between now and February), the thought of running a marathon is sneaking in to my head. I appreciate you sharing everything you’ve learned!

  • Reply
    November 6, 2013, 12:08 pm

    It’s official, you’re hooked! I said I’d never run a marathon, now look at me I’ve ran 3! These are all great lessons! I agree about that summer heat! I enjoyed running a fall marathon over spring though. And a great support system is much needed! Great post! I may write something similar!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2013, 3:07 pm

    Congrats girl! Love this! I love #10 about respecting the whole 26.2 and not just thinking about the last 5+, what a great mentality!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Such great tips! I agree with everything

  • Reply
    November 9, 2013, 5:45 pm

    Oh, you got the marathon bug!! Once you start running marathons, you can’t stop 🙂

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