On the eve of the 2013 Honolulu Marathon, I'd like to send all entrants well wishes and good juju for a successful race. Exactly one year ago, I was in your (running) shoes, digesting carbs and getting psyched up to finish 26.2 grueling miles.
Last year's race means "run a marathon" is officially crossed off the old bucket list and I might be fine if I never run another marathon again, but I won't rule it out just yet. Here are a few lessons that came after the race:
90% mental, 10% physical
I didn't train as much as I should have, but it was no use beating myself up about it. I silenced my mind, took in the view, listened to music, and enjoyed the experience. I didn't dwell on losing 15 minutes, standing in line at the porta-potties after mile 4, and I certainly wasn't thinking about the finish line. I just took in everything as it happened.
Whenever things started to feel bad, my mantra was, “One foot in front of the other” and the funk that flooded my brain was suddenly gone. Music was a great distraction. At one point, I unplugged and the negative self-talk started immediately. "It's frickin' hot!", "I'm not going to make it.", "What was I thinking signing up for this?". I plugged right back in and instantly, those negative thoughts went away.
I set 2 goals for the race. 1) Don't stop, and 2) no walking until mile 21. I did the marathon non-stop, slow at some times, but non-stop. I also ran/jogged until mile 21. By the time I actually began walking at mile 21, my feet had swollen up in my shoes and my feet felt worse when I walked than when I ran/jogged, so I started jogging again. I told myself “Butch it up and jog. Better yet, run” and it worked. At mile 23, while people were littering the sidewalks of Kahala, I thought, "Wow! This is the longest I've ever run and I'm almost there. Woo-hoo!". Mental fortitude combined with a positive attitude goes a long way.
It wasn't until I crossed the finish line that I broke down. For 26.2 miles, I'd held it together and when it was finally over, I could let go. Carolina came to collect me and saw me crying. She thought I needed medical help and when she asked me what was wrong, I croaked, "I'm just so fucking happy it's over." Physically, I was tired. Mentally, I was exhausted. The bottom line is, the mental anguish experienced during a marathon is a temporary condition. It will all be over in a matter of hours.
Beware the Sponge
Let’s be honest. We don’t know where those sponges have been. If you're not an elite runner, you could be using a sponge that was lying on the road somewhere and/or got wiped over the most sweaty and intimate areas of a runner or runners before you. So I suggest the following: Sponges are soaked in ice cold water. First, don’t squeeze the water over your face and into your mouth. Yuck! If it’s an incredibly hot day, your first thought will be to squeeze the cool water in that sponge over your head. The problem is that the water could seep down into your shoes and wet socks often mean blisters. Instead, squeeze out most of the water then place the cool sponge at the back of your neck. You'll instantly cool down. Other key "pulse points" to apply a cold sponge are the insides of your wrists and elbows.
Although you'll want to stop moving when it's all over, don't. Keep moving. Muscles begin to seize up when you stop moving. I'm not saying to move fast, just keep walking however slow that may be. Go pick up your post-race clothes bag and your finisher t-shirt. Rehydrate. Eat a banana. And a malasada.
When I finally did stop moving, I kept getting into adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog, in addition to other forward bend poses in yoga. It just felt right. In the days following the marathon and throughout recovery, stretching (and Biofreeze) helped ease all of the physical aches and pains.
That's it for my reflection, so now get out there, have some fun, and kick some butt! You can do it!
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