My First Marathon

I decided I would run the 2017 OKC Memorial Marathon minutes after I crossed the finish line for the Half Marathon in 2016. I thought I had a great plan on how to get prepared, but I was so wrong. 

My idea was to slowly work my way up to 26 miles. I made a plan for long run progressions on a 4 week cycle. For example week one my long run would be 14 miles, week two 15 miles, week three 16 miles, week four 17 miles, week five 15 miles, week six 16 miles, week seven 17 miles, week eight 18 miles, and so on until I got up to 26. 

All through college I ran everyday of the week. I didn't take days off. I didn't think I needed to take days off. 

My long run distance was already up to 20 miles by September, and my race wasn't until April 30th. I ended up peaking around December.

On December 31st my grandmother passed away and then on January 14th her husband, my granddaddy passed away. I decided I would dedicate my marathon to them, and that made me train even harder. I wanted to do well for them.

By January I started having sciatic and hamstring pain, the pain increased throughout February and March. 

I ran a 5K three weeks before the marathon and ended up pulling my right hamstring. This was the first time I'd ever pulled my hamstring. I used to see sprinters have hamstring problems at track meets and fall to the ground. I would think to myself "wow, does it really hurt that bad?" Yes, it really does. I took a couple days off, favored my left leg and pushed through the pain for the next couple weeks, but by then the damage to my body was already done. I took week prior to the marathon pretty easy, but still ran a 13 mile long run a week before the race. My legs felt weak, but I kept pushing. 

The morning of the marathon I was so excited and I kept telling myself that my body would be able to hold it together for the race and then I would just take a long break and let myself recover. I wanted so bad for this race to be glorious, I wanted to to qualify for Boston, I wanted to be a marathoner.

I lined up at the start, waited for the gun, took of at a steady pace, my goal was to finish in 3 hours and 35 minutes, 8:12 pace. I thought it would be easy.

About 200 meters into the race I felt a pop in my left hamstring. I had pulled my other hamstring a few weeks before so at this point, I knew the feeling well. I pretended it didn't happen, I told myself I was tougher than that. 

I ran the first half of the race in 1:49:08, 8:19 pace and then I had to stop. I couldn't run anymore. I stopped at a medical tent,  and had a woman put some pain relief cream on my hamstring and wrap it tight with an elastic bandage. She advised me to not finish the race, I thanked her and kept running. 

My parents had driven all the way from Louisiana to watch this race. My dad drove around so he could see me at different spots during the race, he saw me a little after the half way mark and could tell something was wrong, he told me I could get in the car with him and go home. He said there would be other races I could run. I told him I wasn't going to give up, but to let my mom and husband know I wouldn't be finishing any time soon. 

I walk/jogged the next 13 miles. It hurt, I thought I was going to die out there on that course, but I didn't. Eventually I made it to the 25 mile mark. I attempted to run that last mile, but still had to stop a couple times before the finish line. 

I made it across the finish line, but I was so disappointed in myself. When I finally made my way to my mom she grabbed me, gave me the biggest hug, and said "you did it, you ran a marathon." It didn't feel like an accomplishment at the time, I felt like a complete failure.

My advice to anyone wanting to run a marathon: look into actual training programs or invest in a coach, listen to your body, don't push through pain, and don't be afraid to take days off, biking and swimming are great ways to cross train. I don't recommend running a marathon with a pulled hamstring, I probably just should have stopped, but I'm stubborn. 

Looking back at my training log now, I knew I was messing up, I knew I needed to give myself a break, but like I've said, I'm stubborn. Eight months later, and I am still disappointed by the results of that race, but it was a humbling experience. I needed it to realize it is possible to over-train. 

I wasn't sure if I would ever try to run a marathon again, I was devastated and embarrassed, but I thought back to how I felt last December. Strong. Fast. I knew I could do it again, and I could run a 3:35, but I had to train smarter. 

I've registered for the 2018 OKC Memorial Marathon. I'm going to do it differently. I have a plan, an actual marathon plan, not something I just threw together, and I'm doing a much better job listening to my body. I have big goals for myself, but I realize I'm not invincible, as much as I want to pretend I am, and if I get hurt, I need to let myself heal.