Run A Marathon

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually, it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."
Lance Armstrong

26.2. It's a number that taunts runners. It's the goal of many to complete and one that many others don't even try because it just seems so unattainable.

Originally, Marathon was just a town in Greece where a famous battle took place in ancient mythology. According to the legend, Pheidippides, a Greek runner, was sent from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated. It is claimed that he ran the entire way without stopping, and when he arrived, he delivered his message, collapsed, and died from exhaustion. Some people would cite this as a reason not to do a marathon, as the first person that ever completed it (according to mythology) died right after he did, but one thing about the legend that people don't often talk about is the 150 miles he also ran in the story, two days prior to running the marathon distance itself.

Last year, I ran the first half of the San Francisco Marathon (I'd never done that!), and while I wasn't in great shape after that race, I think I did reasonably well considering what little running training I did for it. This year, I thought a full marathon would be the next "logical" challenge. For this event, I also ended up training very little, and two things in particular factored into this lack of training:
  • I've filled my life with learning and trying new things everyday which is time consuming.
  • I don't exactly love running. I feel like I'm making progress here because I used to hate it. Now, I don't hate it but I'm not in love with it like a lot of my friends are.

After doing a bit of research early in the year, I decided my best bet at completing a marathon would be to run the California International Marathon in Sacramento. This race's nickname is "the Fastest Marathon in the West" because it doesn't have huge inclines and the net grade for the run is negative. My friend Laurie, J and I signed up for it in April.

The race starts off in Folsom at 7:00 am, which meant we had to wake up before 5 o'clock to catch a bus in front of our hotel to get a ride up to the start line. Once we were on the bus, I knew there was no turning back because there's only one way to get back to Sacramento... run 26.2 miles to get there.

It was pretty cold when we got to Folsom, but they let us wait in the bus until we wanted to get out. As we waited in long lines to use the porta-potties, I was shivering. I think everyone out there was freezing.

When I got out of the bathroom, it was nearly time to start the race. As we were getting ready to go, the start line was packed with people. They announced the start of the race and we took off.

The first couple of miles were tough because it was just so cold. My muscles took a while to warm up, especially my shins. The muscles in front of the leg were so tight, but we didn't stop until the first aid station at the 3.3 mile mark. When we got there, J gave me a leg massage, and we stretched.

From there, it got a whole lot easier, and the miles seemed to go by faster and faster. I felt like we were cruising pretty well, and eventually, we got to the half way point.

Unfortunately, this is where everything started going wrong for me. My calf muscles started twitching uncontrollably, and when that finally stopped, I started getting twitching in my quadriceps, right above my knees. Not wanting to tear or damage something long term, I asked if we could stop and walk part of the course.

There were several stop and starts while I was trying to figure out what my legs could and couldn't take. What I found was happening was if it wasn't one part of my leg in pain, it started to become another. If it wasn't my calves, it was my quads or my hamstrings. One thing that didn't bother me as much as I had expected was my back. It stayed in fairly good shape throughout the race.

Unfortunately, thanks to my lack of conditioning, we were forced to walk through a fair amount of the second half. This caused us to be too slow to keep up with the pace needed to finish in under six hours. This meant that the roads that were previously closed to traffic would reopen. We were still allowed to finish the course, but we had to stay on the sides.

One of the sections we went through was this bridge. I stopped for a bit to take a few photos.

At long last, the finish line was in sight. My legs felt like they were going to fall off, but I still managed to jog a bit.

They gave us a medal as soon as we crossed the line.

After the run, I definitely had problems walking. My left ankle was hurting so badly, I was basically limping. Also, my legs were just so, so tired. I knew I was going to be in pain for a little while, but I had hoped that my regular training would improve my recovery time.

Considering I don't like running and I didn't train, I am happy with finishing even at such a slow pace. I won't say I'd never run a marathon again, but at this point, I see it as highly unlikely. It's possible I could train for a long distance run someday, but for now, I'm more interested in training to have the combination of a sub-7 minute mile, a 500 pound deadlift, a 225 pound clean and jerk, and the ability to back flip.

Many thanks to both Laurie and J for enduring the experience with me.

Somehow, crazy people like
Brian MacKenzie and Carl Borg have run 100 milers. All I have to say about that is, "No, thank you."

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