26.2 miles of monotony and foot pain.
I’ve always wanted to do a marathon. It just seemed like it would be a pretty epic thing to do, something that I could cross off of my list of things to do before I die. I started getting serious about it a year ago. I was in great shape from climbing or hiking 5-6 days a week and figured that it was the perfect time for a marathon. I began by doing a 13.1 mile (half marathon) run on my own and managed to survive. I was pretty sore the next day, but I’d managed to do it in under 2 hours, which was my goal. I then figured I’d do a longer run, so I ran 20 or 21 miles. I don’t remember the time, but it was a bit more than three hours. Again, I was sore for a couple days but I felt I was ready for a marathon. I went online to register for an upcoming one but found out that all of the ones I was considering were full. Lame! So with that, my marathon goals had to be put on hold. I stopped running and kept climbing.
Fast forward to January 2010. I decided to register for a marathon then so that I’d be forced to train for it, and I signed up for the Utah Valley Marathon on June 12. I figured that 5 months would give me plenty of time for training. I guess this is a good time to say that I really don’t like running. I don’t like the strain it puts on my legs and joints and I don’t like taking time away from climbing.
About a month before the marathon, I reckoned that it was time to start training. I went on a seven mile run up Provo Canyon and it went pretty well. A couple days after the run, though, the outside of my left foot really started to hurt, and for a couple weeks I couldn’t walk without limping. I didn’t run any more because I didn’t want to hurt my foot any more. I didn’t climb much, either, due to the work I’m doing on a climbing guidebook.
I woke up at 3 am on the day of the marathon, wondering what I had gotten myself into. I had given myself five months to train and ended up going on just one relatively short training run a month before the race. I hadn’t even been climbing as much as I had the previous year, and I was generally not in as good of shape as the previous summer. With concerns about my foot and about whether I would finish the race or not, I drove to the finish line in the dark and caught a bus from there to the starting line. After a waiting around for an hour or so with hundreds of other runners, the race finally started. Oh, and it was cold and raining.
The first 8 or 9 miles weren’t bad. Every couple miles there were water/Powerade stations, along with stations that handed out power gels and oranges. It was weird to think after running 8 miles (which is a pretty healthy distance for a run, in my opinion), that I still had more than 18 miles to go! I was feeling good, though, and I ran with the 3:40 (the women’s qualifying time for the Boston marathon) pacer for the first half of the race (13.1 miles). I made it past the half marathon mark at about 1:49. It was at about that time when my foot started to hurt. It started out just as a vague sort of dull pain, but by mile 20 (my 20 mile time was 3:01) it had grown into a quite noticeable, sharp pain. It was also about this time that my legs started to feel sore. By mile 23, I was in considerable pain. My legs were cramping, I was limping, and I was walking more and more. The last couple miles were even more painful, as I kept reminding myself that the faster I went, the sooner this would all be over.
Mom and dad were there to greet me at the finish line (and they’d also been at various points along the race to cheer me on, which was nice), and I ended up finishing with a time of 4:15. I had secretly wanted to get under 4 hours, but that last six miles destroyed me. I’m still really happy with the time, though. Not bad for not training!
How hard was it? It was hard. Those last 6 miles sucked. But I think some of the 20+ hour days I’ve done in the mountains were harder. Like the second day on Rainier that involved a 4000′ vertical ascent and a 9000′ vertical descent, or when I did the East Face of Mt. Whitney in 21 hours car to car. On the other hand, I wasn’t this sore after those days… The marathon was suffering of a kind that I’m just not accustomed to
I’m writing this the day after the marathon. My legs are more sore than they’ve ever been, and the pain in my left foot is worse than it ever was before. Any sort of movement of my lower body is excruciating, and I hobble whenever I have to walk somewhere. But at least I get to cross a marathon off my list. I told myself as I was running that I’d never do another one, and I say the same thing now, but who knows. I’ve said the same thing to myself on scary climbs, too, and I keep going back.
Oh, and an Ironman is still on the list of things to do before I die…