Tag Archives: marathon

Throwback Thursday: My First Marathon

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a Throwback Thursday post. I made that realization as I was finally categorizing past posts today. Note to bloggers: Categorize as you go. That was a huge pain. 

Anyway, I also realized that I’ve never written about my first marathon, Rock ‘n Roll Seattle in 2010 — the one that infected me with this desire to keep running them. So here’s the story. Enjoy!

I shuffle around the start line in the predawn light, shaking out my legs, straightening my bib, and exchanging nervous smiles and small talk with the other runners. Eighteen weeks of training have gotten me here– eighteen weeks of hard runs and ice baths, of early bedtimes and even earlier alarm clocks, of avoiding refined sugars and alcohol. Eighteen weeks, and it all comes down to this moment. In just a few minutes, the anthem will play and the gun will go off, and I’ll have 26.2 miles to test my training, to see if I have the endurance – mental and physical –for this task.

I don’t have much time to stress, thankfully. Before I know it, the gun has fired and I’m shuffling forward, anxious for the pack to thin so I can find my stride.  The first few miles pass quickly, and soon the sun is high and the spectators are out, ringing cowbells, playing music, and cheering enthusiastically as we run by. I bypass several aid stations, thinking I’ll avoid the crowds and catch a drink at the next one – a mistake, I realize just before mile 10. I’m lightheaded and dizzy, and I have to slow to a walk. At the aid station, I grab and gulp several cups of water; by the time I’m done, I feel like a new woman. I run the next few miles with a silly grin on my face, exchanging high-fives with spectators and jokes with fellow racers.

seattle rnr marathon1

After mile 20, though, I hit the metaphorical wall I’d read about on all the training websites– the wall I’d hoped to avoid. My legs throb, my lungs burn, and I look down to make sure my feet are still attached. I keep pushing, praying that I’ll break through that wall and feel fresh again. Along with not hydrating, I haven’t taken in any nutrition. I promise myself that I’ll avoid that rookie mistake IF I ever run another marathon… which is not looking likely at this point.

If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.
If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.

Eventually, I feel a little better, but some sadist of a course-planner threw in a hill at mile 25. My legs refuse to carry me up. Defeated, I slow to a walk. Another runner pulls up alongside me just as I slow. “Don’t walk now!” he urges. “Just top this hill, and you’ll hear the crowd. They’ll carry you to the finish line.” Encouraged, I start running again. Every step hurts and I want to quit, but I can’t stop now. My new friend runs with me for perhaps a quarter mile, adding valuable seconds to his own time to ensure that I’ll make it. I thank him between gasps and urge him to go on. He smiles, wishes me good luck, and disappears over the top of the hill.

Eventually I top the hill, too, and see that he was right. The road to the finish is lined with screaming spectators three-deep, and I can hear the finish-line band blaring. I pass the mile-26 sign, and then the finish line is in sight. The clock says 3:29:13– I’m seconds away from my goal time. My legs scream, but from somewhere deep inside me comes one final kick. I push hard, hearing Jordan’s shouted, “THAT’S MY WIFE!” as I glimpse his grinning face from the corner of my eye.

seattle rnr marathon2


I cross the finish line as the clock flashes 3:30:07. I made it! I slow to a walk—a shuffle, really– and gratefully accept water from a smiling volunteer. Another volunteer slides a medal over my head, and a third directs me to the end of the chute, where my grinning husband envelopes my aching, sweat-soaked body in his arms and tells me how proud he is.

seattle rnr marathon3

I missed the volunteer with space blankets, but I have to sit down. I sink onto the fender of a semi, gulping Cytomax and loosening my shoes, while Jordan stands beside me, swinging my medal and beaming. I’m exhausted, I stink, and every inch of me hurts, but I’m also proud of myself like I have never been before.

I look up at Jordan and grin. “When can I run another?”


Tell me about your first race!

Life Lessons Learned from Marathoning

In case you haven’t gathered this from the fact that it’s all I talk about, I’m training for my sixth marathon. As I ran the other day, I got to thinking about all the lessons I’ve learned from marathoning — lessons that are just as applicable in life as in running. Lessons like…

You can’t expect rewards if you don’t put in work. 

You can’t fake a marathon. If you don’t put in the training, the race will eat you alive. Sure, you may finish…but it won’t be pretty. Or even kind-of fun. You’ll stagger across the finish line after 26.2 miles of misery, in a time much slower than your potential. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

That lesson applies equally in all other aspects of your life: school, your career, your relationships, budgeting — everything. You have to work if you want decent results. If you don’t work for what you want, don’t complain about what you get.

“The hard is what makes it great!” 


That quote, from A League of Their Own, is one of my all-time favorites. Tom Hanks’ character is talking about baseball, of course, but I have repeated it to myself through many a hard tempo run, grad school paper, and challenging teaching day. I also have it hanging on my classroom wall, and I direct my students’ attention to it when I ask them to do something that stretches their brains in a new way. The hard stuff makes it great, whatever “it” is. And the hard stuff makes you great. That hard tempo run makes you stronger and faster. The tough assignment makes you smarter. Coming through a rough patch in your relationships strengthens your bonds. Hard is great. 

Be your best.

The PR pace I’m shooting for in October is slower than Kara Goucher’s recovery runs. I will not win this race. But I’m still busting my bum in training for it, because I want to do as well as can.

Face it now: there will always be someone better than you. Someone is faster. Someone is a better teacher. Someone is stronger, richer, smarter, more generous, more attractive, and funnier than you.

Big flipping deal. Compete with yourself, not with them. Get better every day.


Conquer self-doubt.

More than once during marathon training, doubt will rear its ugly head. Maybe doubt is what’s keeping you from signing up in the first place. Maybe it will strike in the middle of your first peak week, when you’re not hitting any of your goal paces. “I can’t do this,” you’ll think. “I should just drop to the half.”


The only way to defeat that doubt is to keep pushing through. Finish your training, no matter what that little voice in your head says. Show up to the starting line. And when that same voice starts whining at mile 20, ignore it again. Get to the finish. Cross the line. Show that doubt who’s boss.

That applies to anything in which you doubt yourself. Terrified of that presentation you have to give? Don’t let yourself believe that you’ll screw it up. Get up, do the presentation, rock it. Afraid of committing to that relationship? Try it. Risk it. Or you’ll never become that best you that we just talked about.


A few kind words can make a major impact.

This happens in every race: I feel like death. The finish is still far away. I start doubting myself. Then, some spectator — some person I have never seen and will never see again — shouts a few words of encouragement. The words aren’t profound — “Lookin’ good!” ‘You got this!” “Great job!” — but their effect is. I feel stronger, faster, better, and I can keep pushing forward — all because of a few kind words.

Isn’t this something we should all apply more often in our lives? Say something nice to someone every chance you get. You never know the impact your words might have.


And perhaps the most important lesson marathons have taught me:

Pee when you have the chance.

Because there’s nothing worse than re-e-e-ally needing to go and having nowhere to do it.

need to pee crowd help funny pics pictures pic picture image photo images photos lol(source)

What are some of your most important life lessons?