I shared this story years ago when I first started blogging. I thought since running has been on my mind (and legs) a lot lately, and I have that incredible itch to sign up for a fall marathon. I would like to share with you all how I got started into running marathon's and my first time experience.
To give a brief overview. My dad was a really good marathon runner, a cross country coach, and even ran for his job in the military on the National Guard Marathon Team. I grew up watching him head out for a run everyday, cheering for him in races. Occasionally getting invited to ride my bike along.
He never pushed running on me, in fact I tried out lots of other sports. But when I got into Jr. High I joined the cross country team. I realized I loved it, and surprisingly I wasn't half bad at it and maybe because I loved collecting all my first place ribbons and so it stuck.
High school, I ran both cross country and track. I wasn't the best, even though I did get to go to state every year in cross country. Distance was in my blood:) My fastest 5k time was 18:02. Which let me just say I wish I could still run that today!
In college, I just ran for fun and stay in shape. But to be honest, it was only a few miles here and there and eventually it led to none for a while.
Then one beautiful April spring morning I decided out of the blue to go out for a morning run. Deciding I would run up the street and back (1 mile). I remember it like it was yesterday, I made it up to the top of the slight hill, not quite a half a mile out, and turned around to come back. I had no energy left after that half mile, so I walked back home.
During that walk I remember the idea coming to me. Your going to run a marathon this year. I was about 3 blocks from my house when the idea came. The idea gave me a burst of energy and I started jogging, and made it about 200 feet before having to stop and walk again.
Eventually I made it home, my dad was out mowing the lawn at the time. When he turned the mower off to go dump the grass, I said. "Hey Dad, I'd like to run a marathon in October what do I need to do to train?"
My dad, being a runner for pretty much his entire adult life and then some. Looked at me for a few seconds and I think only answered because he was my father, not because he thought I was really serious.
He said, "Well first you need to start running... 6 days a week... Work yourself up to 6 miles and then we can talk more about it."
AND THEN THE JOURNEY BEGAN...
Now, I don't know if he really thought I would actually do anything after that conversation. But I did, I started running six days a week. After a month he started to realize I might really be serious.
I knew I was serious, so a few weeks after that short talk, I entered the lottery to try and get into the St. George Marathon, and found out a week later I was accepted.
It took me about 2-3 weeks to work up to 6 miles. When I did, I asked, "whats next?" He replied, "well now you need to be comfortable running those 6 miles, and do it without stopping to walk."
It took a couple of more weeks (to be exact that part I don't remember.) But by the time summer came I was ready for the next step, and he knew I was serious.
WHAT KIND OF RUNNER DID I WANT TO BE...
Around summer time, I remember having a specific conversation with Dad, he explained now was the time to decide what type of marathon runner I wanted to become.
He said, "Now, there is a big difference between running a marathon and just finishing a marathon. If you want to do this and I am going to train you, you need to do this correct and your going to run it. You need to put the time in, and most importantly the miles in. Eventually, you'll need to put the long runs in."
He went on to tell me he would help me every step of the way ONLY if I did my part.
BREAKING THE DISTANCE BARRIERS
He put me out on a plan to break the first barrier in training for your first marathon. That 10 miler. Which for anyone who has done it, you know that first 10 miler when you've never run that far before, is hard but such a great feeling!
The next barrier, was to run my first 13 miler and let me tell ya it took everything out of me, I was so proud and tired when I finished that training run. I remember my dad saying as I finished that run and wanted to lay down and rest for days. "Great job, now all you have to do is double that and you've got yourself a marathon."
At the time, I remember thinking it a daunting task. But oh how I wanted it!!!
Once I hit that 13 mile point, my dad also said. "Okay, NOW you are ready to start REALLY training for the marathon, so lets get you going."
Here I thought I had been already, but I was soon to realize working up to that first 13 miles was nothing of what was to come.
AND THE REAL TRAINING BEGINS...
He put me on a weekly running schedule. Mon-Fri runs of 6-10 miles and on Saturdays we build up the long runs, rest days Sundays.
My first longer run was one I won't forget either. I was up camping and around 8,500 feet in elevation. It was my day for my longest run yet, a 16 miler. Of course I was naive, and my dad of course didn't tell me that elevation was going to kick my butt a little (well a lot).
(On a side note: He would always do this, never letting me get my mind worried beforehand. Leaving details out, so I would feel I could always give it my all, and then explaining why I had problems after... A valuable lesson he was teaching me for later on, to help with the mental part of the marathon. He was being a great coach, tough but great so I could do great. I guess that is why so many others through my lifetime have wanted him to coach them.)
That hilly 16 mile mountain run in the higher elevation, did kick my butt. I can't even describe how much it did. But I finished, no stopping, no walking other than to grab a few drinks of water he would hand me as he drove behind me. I was so proud of myself, so tired but so proud!
I let him pick all my courses for all my long runs. He either drove along side (or my mom did) or rode his bike to carry my water. I did one more 16 miler, before starting what he said would be the runs that were the ones that were really going to help me get to the finish line.
The 18-20 milers.
We did three 18 milers, and then one 20 miler and one more 18. Granted each of these were likely slightly longer that he would tell me they were even if only by .5 or a mile.. He liked to do that to me, and trick me so I would push myself and realize after that it didn't hurt any more to do the extra than I thought it was to do what I did.
Each long run, I rarely stopped to walk mostly because he was right there and it pushed me not too. Until one particular hard day, he rode ahead and I was beat I remember stopping to walk for a minute or so before carrying on toward the end of the 18, oddly I remember feeling sneaky and a tiny bit guilty for that.
PUSHING ME TO TRAIN MY BEST
Once I was trained well and into a few of my later longer runs. He would slide in some speed work. If I was at mile 16, he would say run the next mile as hard as you can. It would hurt at first to pick up the pace so much, but after a few minutes of it, it would feel better. Then he'd say, you're done with that mile you can slow if needed or keep it up. Oddly enough my body would like holding the faster pace through the last miles of a long run. (Again, a lesson he was teaching me to help me use my mind to help my body find additional energy in the longer miles.)
MY FIRST TAPER PERIOD
Three weeks before the race I did my last 18 miler, and then my taper began. He had me run my normal weekly mileage the next two weeks. Then the week before the race, I was told to go for an easy 13-16 miles, but if at any point my legs felt any type of tiredness to stop and end it. My legs never got to that tired point, so I ended up going the 16, but just at a bit slower pace.
(He told me many runners over taper and then end up having bad races, he didn't want that to happen to me especially on my first time. He wanted me to peak race day, not bonk:)
The week of the race, he had me really taper it down. 6 miles Monday, and dwindling down. The day before the race as we were leaving to travel down to the race he had me get up early that morning and go for a short mile run before the drive down to the race.
I did everything he suggested, I felt prepared but still in my mind I kept thinking what happens after I get past mile 20... Am I really okay to go into uncharted territory and hit miles 21-26.2? For anyone who's trained for their first marathon, you can't help but have those thoughts. Regardless of what a coach or others tell you.
Dad assured me I was ready, and told me he has given me all the tips he can so that I can finish the race, but how great I do and the rest is going to be up to me.
But being my dad he said a finish would be great enough.
It was up to me now to take those tips, and my training and see what I could do with it. When I kept having too many questions the day before he finally just said, "some things about running a marathon can't really be taught, you just have to experience them to know."
LINING UP FOR MY FIRST MARATHON
So there I was, 6 months from walking back after not even being able to run a mile I was lined up alone at the start of my first 26.2 race. Excitement, nerves I had so many emotions going through me it was crazy. But I remember it all still to this day vividly!
I won't bore you an entire re-cap of my first marathon. But lets just say, I remember loving every minute of it. I am not an emotional person, but I almost wanted to cry as I crossed the finish line. I didn't, but I probably would have if I had allowed myself. I was just so excited I had actually finished. I remember being so exhausted and sore, but immediately when I saw my parents I was already talking about running my next marathon. I had a great race, I was well prepared and trained for a great race. In fact still to this day my first marathon is my PR.
That was how it all began and now 39 marathons later. A lot has happened since then. I went from training and running one marathon a year for 10 years, to eventually running 13-14 a year. Then got a work injury which has kept me on the sidelines for 3 years but I believe might finally be towards the end allowing me to get back into them.
The reason I tell my story is, in one part it's always fun to reminisce and remember how it all began. But also to help anyone who is thinking or toying with the idea of running one. Maybe you have always wanted to do it, maybe you set a goal or resolution this year and have gotten a little off track. The fact is if you want it bad enough, you can do it!
I didn't follow any training books or "new" methods. My dad was "old school" meaning you put the miles in, you don't skip on training. You train hard and put all the work in advance so come race day, you'll actually have fun and so there is a far better chance that everything will go as planned or as you'd like it too.
While I may have my own opinions on training, I am not a coach so I won't suggest any specific training plans. But if you are ever thinking about running a marathon, I will say this. If you decide to do it, it can be one of the greatest moments in your life or one of the most painful. So if you are going to make it a goal, train well, don't skimp on your training and go for a race that will feel awesome. So you can soak it in and enjoy every moment of it and when you cross the finish line you'll love it so much you'll already be looking forward to training for your next one.
Well, that is my story. Hopefully if anyone was kind to read through this long post, I hope I didn't bore you to death:) Apparently I not only have the "gift of gab", but I can write about just as long too:)
For those that are running your first marathons this spring or later this year. I wish you the best and hope you have an incredible experience your first time, just like I did!