About this time last year, when I was working in Barcelona, a guest we had at the hotel told me he was in town to run the marathon. I told him how this was one of my all time life goals and his response was “anyone can run a marathon”. If I wasn’t working in a 5-star hotel I would have rolled my eyes at him as I was thinking “pshhh yeah okay bud, right, easy for you to say.” It isn’t until now that I realize how true those words are. Even though running a marathon was on my do-before-I-die bucket list and I knew I would run one at some point in my life, I never thought I would have that box ticked at 20 yrs old. But that guy was right (don’t remember who that guy is, wish I did and could give him a high-five), all it takes is some training, lots of discipline and a heeeell load of mental will; in the end, you run a marathon with your mind. It only took 4 hours and 12 minutes to scratch “marathon” off the list, but behind that there was 12 weeks of training, tons of planning, dedication, and consistent effort. I am so proud of how Stef (my running buddy and motivator) and I performed, but even more, everything it took for us to get there.
It’s weird but I was waaaay less nervous for this race than I was for the half-marathon. I guess it’s because I had already had the race experience etc. but this time I was actually excited. I felt ready. I knew I had trained well, I carb-loaded the F out of week prior to the race (read about my pre-race carb-loading here) and I was mentally prepared to kill it. Turns out, everything went just as well as I thought it would. Okay not saying I banged out 42km with no difficulty at all, but race day is so different than going for a 4 hour run (obviously that sounds absolutely brutal). On the day of, the adrenaline, the ambiance, the high-fives from spectators, they all motivate you and somehow the kilometres seem to fly by and it’s done before you know it.
The morning of the race, I woke up with a stomach ache (probably took my pre-race carb-loading dinner a liiiittle too seriously), but still ate a big bowl of fuel (oats, vanilla, banana, apple sauce, cinnamon) exactly 3 hours before start time. I then drank lots and lots of water up until 1 hour before the race. This was the schedule Stef told me to take for the half-marathon, and it worked just as perfectly then as it did this time. I went to the bathroom right before the start of the race, and was perfectly full of energy the entire time. The one thing that I was actually scared of before the run was THE WALL (yes I know, hitting THE WALL sounds like you’re sentenced to doom hence why it terrified me, like I’m too young to die?!?!). Essentially it’s when your body runs out of glycogen (the energy carbs provide your body) and you completely run out of fuel. The reason runners carb-load is to store enough glycogen to last the entirety of the race, and if done well, you can avoid THE WALL completely. I’m proud to say that until this day, THE WALL remains a frightening mystery (who says you can have too many sweet potatoes HA).
First of all, we were lucky as heeelll with the weather. Literally could not have been better (especially in comparison to the freezing, torrential downpour we had during the half-marathon), the sun and cool breeze was a runner’s heaven, not to mention the fact that we were running with a mountain covered in vineyards on one side and the lake on the other, with the alps stretched out in the distance. Pair that with the rush of endorphins caused by the running and you got yourself one happy runner.
The hardest part for me was probably hit kilometre 36. It was at the point where you can really see a change in the race. The road gets a little emptier as some runners have raced forwards, others a trailing behind, and some have stopped all together. It’s the point where smiles turn into squinty oh-my-god-why-do-I-do-this-myself faces, and long strides turn into a shorter, dragging-of-the-feet, shuffle. For me it really wasn’t a loss of energy, I definitely had enough bananas the week prior to allow me to run another three marathons consecutively, but it was the pain in my knees, feet, ankles, joints, quads, even my forearms were starting to seize up. The worst part is that when that point comes, there’s nothing to do. Walking or slowing down only made it hurt more, so either I would stop entirely and I definitely not finish, or I had to suck it up and keep going. And here’s where I thought to myself: yup, you run a marathon with your mind. My legs were already shot, that was over, so all that was left was gathering enough mental will to tell my body “k yeah, I know you hate me right now, but bear with me like another 45 minutes”. Thankfully my brother had told me to put a song on my iPod without listening to it (being someone who has to plan absolutely everything, knowing that there was an unknown song on my playlist was seriously stressful), and that song played right at kilometre 38 when I was in the midst of my “if you cry now, you’ll lose your breath and get a cramp” pep-talk, and DAMN like thank you Anthony cuz that song literally got me through (if you need a gym boost, put this full volume). It got me to kilometre 39 where at that point I was like, 3 kilometres left? Pssshhh that’s nothing. Time to sprint this b!t@#. So I “sprinted” the last 3. I’m sure it was more of a normal paced jog but when you feel like someone’s stuck superglue to the bottom of your shoes and needles in your kneecaps, that’s pretty much all you can muster.
So it was because of this leg pain that I couldn’t finish the race with my best friend and number 1 running buddy, Stef. At one point (around km 37/38) she stopped to drink some water and I just couldn’t. Stopping meant my muscles seizing up even more and I just had to grab my cup of water while running, and keep going. It’s a shame since we crossed the finish line of the half-marathon hand-in-hand, but I guess it wasn’t those last few kilometres that I needed someone, it was the whole 37 kilometres before that, and having her there beside me, knowing she was going through the exact same thing I was, helped me get through.
I’m not an emotional person, but running always makes one. I guess my body’s like: here’s a rush of hormones, now you have no choice, you must feel things. Anyways, I was expecting to burst into tears at the finish line, but surprisingly I was fine. Of course I had that I’m-gonna-weep frown face with my eye brows raised in the middle as I asked the woman at the finish-line water stand if she could please also open the bottle when she handed me one (lol no way was I actually going to manage to muster enough strength to OPEN A WATER BOTTLE, at this point walking was an endeavour in itself).
So when it was all over, after Stef and I talked about those thoughts we wanted to tell each other at every kilometre etc, I came home, took a cold bath (okay don’t know if it really counts if I literally dipped myself in cold water for like…35 seconds), then took a warm bath (that was way more pleasant), did some stretching, forced myself to eat some soup and toast (since obviously I’m always hungry EXCEPT when I just burned 2 000 calories running a bloody marathon), and had an early night.
So all in all. Dreadful experience? So much strain not only on knees, feet, joints and muscles, but also on your mind, your cells, your whole body, like WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THIS TO THEMSELVES FOR FUN?!? Well, I’ll say what Stef’s dad said: “never again…til next time.” That pretty much sums it up. I’m gonna take a little break from running, start a new mainly weight lifting gym schedule, but I will definitely see those 42.169 kilometres again at some point. I mean, I love a good competition, and competing against myself is favourite, so this time I did it 4:12, should I aim for under the 4 next time? Might be a little steep of a challenge, but one day, because once a marathon runner, always a marathon runner.