If you haven’t followed along on my journey to run my first marathon feel free to start at the beginning in learning how I talked myself into even running a marathon!
Sat. 5/15 Pre Marathon – After spending my final taper week more focused on the 2 day YAIAA county track meet I finally had a day for the reality of running a marathon to sink in. I had a lot of nervous and excited energy, but also a good bit of confidence that Jason and I would do well. We went into the city to pick up our packets. This was helpful as we were able to find the exact starting location (at the corner of the YMCA which was the race host and benefactor of the race proceeds) and scope out the distance to it from the parking lot. Our packets included our bibs, neon green t-shirts and some race fliers inside a nice cinch sack. We spent the afternoon relaxing under our tree, reading and snacking to load up on carbs. I made french toast for dinner, and we went to bed with an alarm set for 4:50am.
Sun. 5/16 Marathon – The alarm wasn’t necessary as neither Jason or I slept overly well, something that we anticipated happening. We watched the weather forecast one last time, relieved to see it hadn’t changed and it was to be mostly cloudy with a high of 70* for the afternoon. We fueled up on oatmeal and closer to the race, pb and honey sandwiches. We arrived slightly before 7am with plenty of time to warm up, use the porta potties and chat with Armand who was running the half marathon at 8am. The marathon was broken into waves of 50 people going out every 10 mins beginning at 6am. We had chosen the final wave at 7:30am to ensure plenty of time to eat and “empty our systems”. At 7:28am we fell in behind some other runners, mostly maskless (we weren’t) despite the emails saying to wear them until the start and after the finish. There definitely was not 50 total people in our wave.
First marathon bib
Arrival at our first marathon
We started our watches promptly at 7:30am a few feet before the chip mat to ensure they’d register a full 26.2 miles. The start was a tad anticlimactic due to the waves, but the lack of crowding ensured plenty of space to “get out” and settle. The route went down Newberry Street a few blocks then turned onto Princess St for a block before we migrated onto the York Heritage Rail Trail and began heading south.
My goal pace was 10 min miles though I think the start and nervous energy made me go out faster as I clocked a 9:36 first mile. This would prove to be my fastest mile as I relaxed and forced myself to slow. I chatted with two men on the trail who were out running and not part of the race, but who had ran one marathon in their lives and said never again. Around the second mile I spotted dad and Todd. I had encouraged them to meet at Indian Rock Dam elementary and come to the trail at that spot vs trying to find parking in the city to see us at the start.
The next several miles were very comfortable. I didn’t even experience the usual arch pain that I had on previous runs. Most of my miles were slightly slower than 10 mins, and I toyed with the idea of increasing my speed knowing that by the end I would be slowing. I chose instead to listen to my body and just run comfortable. As I ran by Brillhart Station I felt like a celebrity with so many spectators cheering and waving. I smiled and waved at everyone including a little girl. I thought to myself “I hope I’m still smiling when I pass through here the second time!”
Some of the half marathon runners who began in the first wave at 7:40am began to catch and pass me. I was slightly envious of their ability to push the pace when I knew I wouldn’t be running fast that race. As I passed through Howard Tunnel and then their turn around point, I realized just how spread out the race was due to the waves. Originally I feared having people around me the entire race given it was an out and back course. I quickly realized instead just how boring it was going to make the race to only have returning marathoners to watch. Due to being in the last wave no one was catching me, and I wasn’t catching anyone.
As I approached Glatfelter Station I was pleasantly surprised to see dad and Todd. I didn’t expect to see them until Hanover Station. Dad swapped me one of my bottles of water from my belt for one filled with Propel. I gave him instructions of my needs for when I’d see him again and realized how much I was looking forward to Todd joining me at that spot.
There were several spectators at Hanover Station. After taking a Honey Stinger gel from dad (I had already use one around mile 6) I proceeded to smile and wave again as Todd joined in alongside me, about 10.5 miles in at that point. He asked how I was doing and I said that I was holding my pace and feeling alright. I told him my plan of breaking the marathon into 4, 6 mile segments to only have 2 miles to focus on at the finish. He estimated Jason to be running about 9 min miles based on when he and dad saw him. I used another gel around mile 12. I believe somewhere after that point is when we saw Jason heading back north. He gave me a thumbs up, so I knew he was doing well; he was running with headphones in so yelling encouragement would’ve been pointless.
When we reached the turn around point I crossed over the mats laid on the trail while Todd avoided them. I told him how glad I was that he had joined me because initially I thought that I should tackle the marathon solo. The loneliness on the trail would’ve became very apparent by that point if it wasn’t for him.
We passed dad at Hanover Station again, and I swapped my other water bottle for a Propel and took another gel. I was really glad I decided not to rely on the aid stations as I had gotten quite used to drinking as I needed on training runs. It was a lot easier to do that during the race than worry about when the next station was coming up. A lady called out “You’re almost there” to which Todd and I gave each other a look… a phrase that any runner knows you do NOT say unless someone is legitimately within distance of the finish line.
I polished off another gel before seeing dad at Glatfelter Station again. He offered Todd a bottle of water, but since Todd was good, I used it to rinse down the rest of the gel. I knew I needed to rely on the Propel for the rest of the race, but preferred to chase the gel with regular water and not risk stomach upset. I asked how Jason looked and dad said he was doing well.
Todd was very impressed with how well I was holding to my 10 min pace. Several of our miles together had been slightly under 10 mins. My quads ached at times, but it was intermittent and pretty bearable. After passing through the Howard Tunnel and reaching mile 20 reality set in. I realized the final 6 miles would feel like the longest 6 miles of my life.
Suddenly the minor aches became bigger ones. I mentioned to Todd that a veteran runner talked to me before the race (she was running the half), a lady whose name I knew but never formally met, and said that after mile 18 to try to break things up with some sprint pickups. Todd said he often did high knees or butt kicks to make the muscles move in a different way. I tried both moves and discovered just how stiff my knees had gotten from moving in the same motion for over 3 hours. I did the moves two move times over the miles, but the high knees were causing shooting pains in the side of my right knee, so Todd recommended stopping. Surprisingly my hips didn’t feel as awful as I expected them to, and I was happy when the running pains moved from my quads to my calves.
Despite not ever having an issue with it on previous runs, the Howard Tunnel had thrown off my GPS. My watch showed a pace in the 8’s at times and the miles were no longer aligning with the signs on the trail. In fact the watch had become close to a half mile off. “So much for uploading an exact 26.2 miles on Strava” I thought. It was an annoyance, but I didn’t let it detract me too much from focusing on finishing the race.
We passed by Brillhart Station which had fewer spectators, but I still managed to smile at the ones who remained. By that point I was looking forward to reaching dad at mile 24 and knowing there would only be 2 miles to go. My left ankle began to bother me at times with slight stiffness like I had experienced on some previous runs. Fortunately it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t manage. I took my last gel around mile 23.
Originally I had been nervous about dad running the last 2 miles with me as it would be his first run since his knee fracture. Todd was confident he would be ok and after seeing him jog down the trail to supply me I figured he would be too. I knew my pace wouldn’t be picking up at all, and Todd offered to stay with us a bit to ensure dad would be ok. When I reached dad he commented on how good I looked and assured Todd he was ok to head back to his vehicle. I thanked Todd again for keeping me on pace.
Dad pacing me
Less than 2 miles to go
Dad told me when Jason came through that spot previously that he began walking and was discouraged that he wouldn’t break 4 hours. His stomach had apparently been bothering him since about mile 8. This bummed me as I knew he didn’t want to walk at all, but I had already told him that 4 hours would be a big reach goal. My goals had been to complete the marathon, to get under 4:30 and then to try to get as close to 4:15 as possible.
When dad and I passed the final aid station I took a cup of water which mostly went in my eye, but still felt refreshing and was a needed break from my Propel. Normally I would’ve walked through an aid station to get more of the water into my mouth, but at that point I knew if I started walking I wouldn’t start running again. I was glad for dad and a flagger at the one spot as I was started to get a little brain drained and almost continued down the railroad tracks instead of turning with the trail. With roughly a block or two left a flagger called out that I was almost there to which I said “Yes! You are allowed to say that; the lady at Hanover Station was not!”
Dad jumped off the trail once the finish line was in sight. I’d like to say I picked up my pace, but even opening my stride a little didn’t seem to change it much, and I was just relieved to have made it the entire way without stopping. It was exciting to hear an announcer call out my name and where I was from as I finished since I knew I was likely one of the last runners having started in the last wave. I received my finisher’s medal and tried to keep moving. Jason congratulated me looking as rough as I felt. Armand encouraged us to keep moving and said that he had ran Jason in for the last mile; an act Jason was incredibly grateful for as he said he likely would’ve been walking it in and gotten passed by me otherwise.
I went to the table hoping to get a chocolate milk but alas they were all out. I took a banana knowing I needed to eat something, but not feeling any hunger at all. Jason and I were continuing to hobble around when the agony set into our calves. Dad said it was the lactic acid and helped us by rubbing the back of them. I finally relented and sat on the grass and kept my legs out in front of me to avoid cramping. Jason insisted he was officially retired and would never run another marathon again.
After a short period of time Jason and I’s calf pain had decreased enough that we could make it back to the car and stretch. We returned dad to his truck and forced ourselves to eat our protein cookies before driving home. I let him shower first as I seemed to be moving and recovering slightly better than him. We were surprised to not feel the urge to spend the rest of the day eating. My parents had us over for dinner so we were able to spend the rest of the day relaxing.
When the official times were finally posted we discovered that Jason had clocked a 4:25:26 and was 33 of 38 in his age group and I was shortly behind with a 4:26:43 and 11 of 18 in my age group. While Jason had become a bit discouraged during the last few miles and upon finishing, he ended up ok with his performance and I was more than happy with mine. I’ll have some more debriefing thoughts to come in my next post!
Marathon shirt and medal