First Marathons

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There is little that evokes a feeling in me similar to when someone registers, trains, then achieves the finish line of their first marathon.  I don't know what it is about that distance that makes it emotional for me.  Distance running is getting more and more popular.  And I think the half marathon is still the most popular distance.  It is far enough that it definitely tests your capability.  Far enough that it requires training.  But also a distance that is fairly reasonable to fit the miles into a busy schedule.  And also a distance that most recover from pretty quickly.  I feel like the marathon distance is in a different ballpark.  The hours of commitment it takes to put in the miles to train for a marathon is pretty intense.  The resolve it takes to push your body, week after week, through long runs of 16, 18, and 20 miles is nothing short of impressive.  The marathon is a hard distance.  It will test your body.  And no matter how seamless your training is, there will be lows to go along with the highs, and you have to roll with them.

"There are few experiences in life in which my physical and psychological abilities are as sharply defined as they are during marathon training and racing...The training and racing experiences have shown me sides of myself that I never knew existed. I've found perseverance, an ability to focus, stubbornness, compulsiveness, bravery, organization, a sense of humor, and a capacity for unbridled joy."   -- Gordon Bakoulis Bloch

Despite how emotional others' first marathons make me, it didn't really apply to my own personal first marathon in December of 2009.  I remember the training and how difficult it was, but I don't remember being particularly thrilled or emotional at the finish line.  I just wanted to be DONE.  What I DO remember?  I remember waiting at that finish line for Elaine to finish.  I remember calling her husband for updates.  I remember my legs cramping ferociously, but I was not going to leave that finish line for fear of missing her.  And when I saw her coming around the corner for the finishing stretch, I ran down the fenceline to cheer her in... bawling... and having no clue how my legs were actually running.  I was a basketcase waiting for her and then sheer excitement and thrill!

Also, as a coach, there's been no greater moment than being at the finish line of a first marathon of someone I've worked alongside!

After pacing Denya to her first marathon!!!  OVERJOYED!
Sobbed like a baby when these 4 lovely ladies finished their first after spectating all day!!! (Samantha, The Hollys, and Christina)
Ran every step with this inspiring lady. SUCH an accomplishment.  Go Christie!
Waited at the finish line for Monica to cross!  Such an amazing moment for her!!!

There are others... and on days that people I know have run their first, I stalk the race tracker like a crazy person.  I love watching others have that magical moment.  It is seriously, in the running world, one of my absolute favorite things to witness.

So last night, my friend, Jacque posted this on her facebook...

So. Excited.  Seriously, I have a crazy emotional reaction when friends declare their first marathon.  It's worse than watching the end of Old Yeller.  I can admit it.  So to you, Jacque, as you prepare for the New Years Double... here's my first marathon advice:
-- Everyone will have advice. For every piece of advice, someone else will say the opposite.  Use your head, listen to your body, and do what works for you.
-- Train hard.  The race is the icing on the cake.  The training is where the work is, and it's so worth it so that you can enjoy race day.  Put in the miles.
-- Schedules aren't written in stone. While miles are definitely important, not to the detriment of your health or your family.  Priorities.  Make adjustments that work for you that you can live with.
-- Don't get wrapped around time goals.  I think it's good to have a pace in mind just to keep you focused and from starting too fast on race day.  But don't get caught up in a goal number.  Your success will be measured by reaching the finish line.  If you set a goal time, you just open yourself up for possibly being disappointed in what is a really amazing achievement.
-- Take what the day gives you. Don't worry too much over weather.  Don't overthink whether or not you'll hit "the wall".  Things will happen that you didn't plan for.  Roll with it, and know that's the way races go.  That's what makes them hard.  And that's also what makes those who do them extraordinary.

-- Start slow, Relax, and Take it all in.  Because at the end of the day, you will be a marathoner!!!

So who's up for the challenge of a first marathon?