Although I’ve been slacking on the blog front, I’d really like to start writing more again…and recapping my second (holy crap, have I really done two??) marathon kind of seems like a really good place to start, doesn't it?
If I were to go back to the very beginning of the story of my second marathon, it would probably start with my infamous back injury (my first “sports” injury) that happened at the end of last summer. I'd never experienced anything like that before and was really struggling with feeling betrayed by my body. At that time, my friend Leah was dealing with a big injury too and we were both feeling kind of hopeless and stressed out about it in the way that only super type A fitness freaks would be.
One day she turned to me and said "I'm going to start training for the Shamrock marathon...you should do it too!". Maybe she said it because she knew I liked running, or because I'd already done a marathon and might be pretty likely to be persuaded to do another, but once she asked, she basically set this entire thing into motion for me.
At first, I was pretty hesitant about signing up and starting to train for a marathon because I was still hoping to heal enough quickly enough to still powerlift in the spring. I planned to train for the half marathon I'd committed to with my friend Leslie, then do my Spartan Beast, then convert to hardcore weight training. I obviously couldn’t train for both a full marathon and a powerlifting meet and I really liked the idea of powerlifting because...well, I’d never done it before (and I also kind of just really like to be known as super strong for my size…haha). I went back and forth a lot in mind over what the right choice was and even debated on whether or not deciding to run the marathon was the "easy way out" because it was a safer, less risky choice with my back being so sketchy.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and for sure I can tell you that looking back at that time period of my life, deciding to run this marathon was 100 percent the right choice for me. It was kind of amazing to get a chance to repeat this thing I’d done four years ago! I thought that training the first time was a life-changing experience, but I'd be lying if I told you I didn't learn a ton of things about myself the second time too.
I officially started my training towards the beginning of December. I remember very clearly opening the first marathon training email Jim sent out and seeing the estimated time he based my plan on was 4:15. I thought “Well, he obviously does not know how slow I am and how slow I finished the last one because there’s no way in hell that’s happening…no freaking way”. I kind of figured I could get maybe 4:30 or even potentially 4:20...if I was really pushing myself. It's funny to remember that because somewhere along the way (probably around the time I realized the pace group choices were either 4:30 or 4:15) I got my mind set on 4:15.
I will admit that I partly wanted this number to make my PR even bigger than it would have been if I’d finished at 4:20 or 4:30. And that’s not to say that a 25-35 minute PR is anything to laugh at…but I wanted my time difference to be huge. I felt in my heart that this number should represent not only all of my hard work throughout this season of training or all of the sweat and tears logged through weight training in the gym the past 2-3 years, but also some of the personal transformations I've undergone since I ran my first marathon at 26 years old. I tend to be the kind of person who always feels like I have something that I need to prove to myself…whether that’s within my business, related to fitness, or whatever and 4:15 felt like it would be proving something pretty darn big. I genuinely did not believe that a small PR would be enough to make me happy with myself.
I started my morning on race day sleep deprived, delirious, and ever so slightly too caffeinated. After hastily eating my pop tarts and chugging my Monster, I had a final last minute freak out about whether or not I could (or should) try to run with the pace group for my secret PR. And then...I was out there doing it! Finally! It was chilly the first couple of miles, but before I knew it I was peeling off my $5 sweatshirt and ditching my hand warmers. I stuck with the 4:15 group for 2-3 miles before my left foot started randomly falling asleep. I slowed down a little bit and tried not to stress out about it…my foot didn’t actually hurt (even though it felt super weird) and my running app still said I was actually ahead of the pace I knew I would need to maintain to finish in 4:15.
I felt my best from miles 12-15. This was when I felt comfortable speeding up a little bit and my foot numbness started to subside. Right when I was passing the halfway point I went to take a photo of the 13-mile marker flag and almost ran right by my friends without noticing them! Seeing my people there gave me a boost of energy, which would come in handy a little bit down the road (pun intended).
My fastest mile was mile 19! I had a 7:56 split that mile, which is entirely TOO fast, (especially when you consider my fastest all out 1 mile max is 7:05…ha) but I had seen the 4:00 pace group on the other side of the course heading in the opposite direction so I knew that 4:15 wasn’t too terribly far ahead. I just knew if I could catch them I could probably slow down a little bit and then be good to go. I didn’t actually find them though until right around mile 21, which was my second fastest mile at 8:44. I asked a random man if he’d seen them pass and he told me “Yeah, there’s a big group of them up ahead not too far”. I could see the orange shirts the pace group leaders were wearing in the distance and I knew that I could catch them.
After popping a fresh piece of gum and changing my playlist over to “Last few miles” list, I managed to catch them! Finally seeing that 4:15 sign was so freaking gratifying. I thought "FUCK YEAH" and got so happy because at that point, I knew unless I completely stopped running, I would get that PR no matter what. All I'd have to do is keep pace with them for the next several miles and I'd be good to go. I ended up sticking with the pack for a half mile or so before realizing I still felt pretty decent and trekking forward on my own. In my mind, I felt like this was a smart choice since even if I had to slow down a little it would be no big deal because I’d still be a little ahead of them. Unfortunately for me, the hardest part of the race had yet to even happen yet!!
Heading out on the long stretch of boardwalk on the way OUT wasn’t terrible at all because the wind was blowing the opposite way. Yeah, it was kind of boring, but it was totally do-able and my legs didn’t feel like giant logs yet. The way BACK was a completely different story…fighting the wind after stressing my legs out by running those two too fast splits was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done physically and it took a ton of mental toughness to keep from stopping to walk (or just dipping out into a beachside bar or something).
Running towards the finish line was so surreal. It was the same stretch of boardwalk I’d run down four years ago to finish my first marathon, but it couldn’t have felt more different. I felt my emotions start to bubble up as I got closer and closer and right as I started to sprint (or, the closest thing to a sprint I could manage at the time) I just completely lost my shit.
I cried for every bit of the hard work I’d put in, for every minute of my training. I cried because I knew that I’d at the very least beat 4:15, my top secret, fingers crossed, can’t even say it out loud because I don’t really know if I can do it goal. I cried because it meant so much to me that so many of the people that I love were there screaming and crying too. I cried because I had put so much of my heart into every step I'd run since the start of training.
I cried because I freaking did it. And I totally proved to myself that (in this and also many other ways) 30-year-old Katie is better and stronger than 26-year-old Katie.
This marathon was an unforgettable experience for me...From Jim's training plan that totally changed the game for me and has improved my fitness on so many levels...
To spending a ton of time running weekly with my friend Leslie who would join me for the last hour of my long runs, to my people cheering me on and bringing champagne to the finish line...
To getting to know myself a little better through all the time spent running slowly...
And especially to the feeling I got from completely destroying my secret goal, I am so freaking glad I did this. <3
Thank you to Leah for convincing me to sign up to do this, to my friends for listening to me talk about my training for weeks on end, to Crystal for being my wife/caddy/go to person for race weekend, to Leslie for keeping me company (and keeping me sane) on so many of the long runs, to Cortney and Liz for being there to be my cheerleaders on race day, to Lee and CJ for making me laugh...but the biggest thanks goes to Jim, whose training is what ultimately got me that huge PR! I've been running off and on for the past four years since my first marathon and since I started his carefully crafted plan, I've definitely seen more improvements in my fitness and speed than I ever did before! I'm so grateful to him for being patient and also never making (too much) fun of me for the little kid things I eat before I run. My favorite thing about him is that he's the kind of person who is genuinely passionate about the things that he does, including training, because that's the kind of person I always work to be myself.
Also, thank you to anyone who took the time to read this...phew. It was almost a marathon in itself getting to the end of this post, right??
Kidding...kind of ;)