This Is What It's Like to Run Your First Marathon

2 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

I've seriously tried to write this post 987585 times, but I couldn't keep my thoughts straight. So here we go: A very real, honest race recap of my first full marathon EVER! I promise I'll keep it as short as possible with lots of pictures!

Before the Race:

This race was a destination race for me. I live in San Diego and chose to do my first marathon in Seattle since I've always wanted to see the city. A marathon is a great excuse to finally go up there, right?

Doing a destination race takes A LOT more planning than I realized. You need a hotel and rental car. You need to pack all your running gear. You need to research restaurants near you and really study the course map so you know where the heck you're going to be running and where people can meet you along the course (more on that later).

The Rock 'N' Roll Seattle race started at the Space Needle, so my family and I made sure to book and hotel right next to the start to avoid traffic/stress in a new city on race day.

The morning actually went smoothly. I woke up had a cup of coffee, ate half a Bobo's Oat Bar, popped an Advil (I do not recommend this, but I always do it) and showed up to the start about 30 minutes early.

The start was really the only part of this entire marathon experience that quite frankly really pissed me off for 2 reasons:

1. NO BATHROOMS! Seriously, there were no bathrooms near the start. I'm someone who needs to use the bathroom at least 10 times before a race, and starting a marathon off having to pee is not the best feeling.

2. All 3 races started at the same time and in the same place. There was an 8k, half marathon and full marathon for the Rock 'N' Roll Seattle series, which is great but not when they all start at 7 am. There were no designated corrals for each race, which meant that it was hectic. Usually a marathon will start way before the other races since it takes twice as long.

Nothing could have prepared me for the race anxiety/nerves I felt standing in my corral waiting to start. I was stressed out from the reasons above and was terrified. I didn't want to let my family down who traveled all the way to Seattle to see me run.

I didn't want to let all you amazing readers down after blogging about this journey for so long. I didn't want to let my friends down who have heard me talk about this race for months. And I really didn't want to let myself down knowing I'd put 110% of my heart and soul into training.

I was a mess. I almost started crying walking up to the start. Then the gun went off and I started running...

Miles 0-15:

Like I mentioned above all 3 races started at the same time so obviously someone running an 8k or half marathon is probably going to be running faster than someone running a full marathon. I really struggled to hold my pace back since I'm naturally very competitive, but I was freaking out when I looked at my Garmin and saw a 8:15/mile pace.

I never thought one of the hardest parts of my race would be TRYING to run slow, but I knew if I didn't, I'd never make it the full 26.2 miles.

I felt like I was walking compared to everyone but settled into a very comfortable 9:45/mile pace. My race nerves were still going crazy and really never went away until the marathon course split off from the half marathon at about mile 9.

When I was finally with only marathoners a whole sense of calm came over me. I was finally in the zone and was running in the most gorgeous park in Seattle called Seward Park along Lake Washington.

THIS is the exact reason I wanted to do a destination race: To discover incredible places like that park! It was pouring rain, but I loved every second of miles 9 - 15; chatting with fellow runners and learning some history of Seattle.

Plus the park has some incredible views of Mt. Rainier!

Come mile 15, I had to use the bathroom since there weren't any at the start. I also took advantage of this little pit stop to eat half a Bobo's Bar to get me through the rest of the race. As you guys know from this post on "What To Eat Before A Run" I like to run full. Why? I'll never know.

I felt great at this point in the race. No aches and pains, no upset stomach which was shocking since I ate 6 slices of pizza the night before and was determined and focused as ever.

Speaking of eating... My fuel for this race was Clif Shot Bloks, Bobo's Oat Bars and then 2 water bottles filled with Nuun.

In training, I practiced having a Shot Blok every 3 miles, 1/2 a Bobo's Bar at around mile 15 or 16, then having water with Nuun throughout the entire run. It worked perfectly!

Miles 16-23:

Things got interesting here. My family and I studied the course map and saw that miles 17 and 23 were close enough where they could cheer me on at both locations and make it back to the finish. I figured I'd really need their support at this stage in the race plus they had some extra water and Clif Shot Bloks that I couldn't fit into my pockets.

It turns out trying to navigate in a new city with half the roads closed is nearly impossible. My family simply couldn't get to me. Mile 17 turned out to be at the end of a closed street, and mile 23 was on a bridge... oops. They were frantic but decided it would be best to just meet me at the finish where they knew they'd be able to cheer me on.

During the race I didn't know any of this and was so excited to see everyone at mile 17 that I started to get concerned when they weren't there. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because I was pretty entertained for the rest of the race looking for them.

Miles 18 - 23 were out on a bridge connecting Seattle to Mercer Island. I had been warned this part was awful and boring. I certainty wasn't bored because the view was BEAUTIFUL but the entire bridge was slanted putting a ton of pressure on 1 side of your body.

Then at mile 22 I started to feel pain. Not in my shins but in my feet. I'd never experienced arch/foot pain in my life, but it was overwhelming enough to where I stopped and had to walk through each aid station to give my feet a break from all the pounding.

Miles 24-26:

WOAH! People are not kidding when they say running a marathon is 2 races: The first 20 miles then the last 6. My feet were DYING at mile 24, and I honestly couldn't really move my legs. I kind of panicked at this point and randomly looked down at my Garmin and saw I was on track to finish the race way faster than I had ever hoped.

No wonder my legs were dead: I was running a 9:45/mile pace when in training I averaged 10:30-11:30/mile.

Since I knew I'd finish under 4:30:00 even if I walked the rest of the race, I listened to my body and really slowed things down. I walked, drank Gatorade, ate a few too many Shot Bloks but wanted to finish the race smart.

I was feeling good again at mile 25 (which, for the record, was ALL UPHILL) and alternated walking/running. Mile 26 was all downhill into Century Link Field where the Seattle Seahawks play football.

This may have been the most challenging mile of the entire race. I hate running downhill because it really aggravates my shins/knees/ankles (and now feet), and the road was wet and slippery from the rain. I knew I was so close to being done and really had no choice but to push through the pain.

I'll be totally honest: I almost stopped and walked the last .2. My legs were dead, but then I saw my dad screaming, "GO DI GO," and I knew walking wasn't an option anymore. A few seconds later my mom and sister were cheering, and finally, at the very end, I saw Bryce cheering.

THANK GOD for my family or I would have never been able to finish so strong.

I ended up finishing in 4:20:28... 4:20 was not planned for the record, but I'm sure as hell going to never forget that time for my first marathon.

Post Race:

I was so excited to have not only finished my first marathon but to have ran 10 minutes under my goal time of 4:30:00. We celebrated with beer, nachos and snapping 34789348329 pictures before heading back to the hotel for the most glorious shower and nap of my life.

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