I hurt everywhere. I can barely walk and it requires both my arms to lift my leg off of the couch. That being said, I have a huge smile on my face. Yesterday, I completed my first marathon.
Six months ago, I was scanning my bucket list and decided that despite never having run more than three miles at a time in my life, I was going to train for the real deal, 26.2 miles.
I called up my friend, Sam Niccolls, (a writer turned consumer advocate) and asked him to run a marathon with me. Neither of us were in terrible shape physically but we certainly weren’t runners. The next day he agreed and I added the caveat that the marathon wouldn’t be in the United States, it would be in Argentina. He smiled, it was time to start training.
We trained four days a week for four months straight. At the same time, Sam designed and oversaw the construction of his first home and set record numbers for the business he owns. I moved out of the United States, visited 8 countries, checked off about a dozen bucket list items and launched my first published book. Even though we are both extremely busy people, we refused to make our full schedules an excuse not to run. We used an online run tracker website called RunKeeper to keep track of each others runs. Depending on where I was in the world, my evening runs would come either before or after when Sam went to sleep in Seattle.
In my four months of training I:
- Ran a total of 408 miles
- Went on 68 runs
- Burned 58,711 calories
- Trained in Seattle, Newport Beach, Belize City, Rio De Janeiro and Buenos Aires
A couple of weeks before the event, Sam called me up and asked if his friend Luke could join us for the race. I asked if he had trained and Sam said no. “Ummm, thats probably going to be an issue Sam”, I said confused. He replied, “You don’t understand, you need to meet this guy”.
Luke works in the Special Forces for the United States Military. He became a Green Beret at age 22. He wanted to run the race on his off time between tours in the Middle East. In other words, he wanted to spend his vacation running a marathon. I’ll add Luke to my list of reasons I never want to go up against the United States Military in anything.
Back in Argentina, I had made plans with my Spanish professor, Malena, and her boyfriend, Nacho, (yes seriously) to road trip up to Rosario. It was three hours away and I was excited to see more of the countryside. The mini-road trip ended up being fantastic. We exchanged American and Argentina driving games and sipped on mate as we made our way out of the city. Malena and Nacho ended up being two of the kindest and most entertaining people I have met in Argentina. They were both extremely bright and outgoing and each speak multiple languages. (Malena speaks at least five)
We made it to Rosario without issue and grabbed lunch. In preparation for the marathon, I ate half the longest pizza I have ever seen. They dropped me off at my hotel and I went into an instant food coma.
That night, I felt great but didn’t sleep. I had made the mistake of looking at the map of the run.
Sam and Luke also didn’t sleep. Despite that, we all got out of bed ready and eager to start running.
It was a cold 38 degrees (F) outside but I felt fantastic. All of the runners huddled together as the clock ticketed down.
Cinco, Cuatro, Tres, Dos, Uno!
As I started running, the energy of the hundreds of other runners was almost tangible. We didn’t need to be speaking the same language to communicate. We were all excited to be running. We were running through the streets of Rosario, Argentina and hundreds of other people were cheering us on. At various points through the race I would pass modern sky scrapers, shanty villages, an escaped pony and a few examples of public indecency. :-) This was no Boston.
I passed the bulk of the crowd and settled in at a quick pace. The kilometers passed quickly as I got into my flow. I hit the half marathon mark and looked down at my watch. I had run 13.1 miles in 1 hour 28 minutes. (A pace of 6 minutes 40 seconds per mile). Holy effing crap, that is a lot faster than my normal speed. Impressed with myself, I threw my hands up in the air. An Argentine who was also running looked at me strangely and mumbled something about celebrating at the half marathon mark. Sure enough, as I passed the next corner and I saw signs denoting the half marathon. I laughed, half marathons are 21.1 kilometers not 21.
Not surprisingly, as I ran more my pace got slower. Right around the 17 mile mark (28 kilometers), I started to hit my first real mental and physical walls. I set checkpoints for myself and was very strict about not letting up on my pace until I hit them. The biggest of these was 30 kilometers (18 miles). After hitting the 30 kilometer mark, I started to unintentionally slow down. My body was aching and the energy goo I had been drinking stopped making an impact. I was officially at the part of the race where the human body (well at least my body) started to hit its physical limits. Mental persistence can get you extremely far but physical limits never lose their impact.
At the 22.3 mile (36 kilometer) mark I hit a wall much harder than I had ever hit during training. I thought to myself, “Come on! Its only four more miles”. Unfortunately, my quick pace in the first half of the marathon was coming back to haunt me. Through a series of sprints and quick paced walking I got myself to the 23.5 mile (38 kilometer) mark but I was hurting more than I had ever hurt on a run before. The signals my body were giving me were crystal clear and loud, “what the hell is wrong with you, stop running!”. It wasn’t a sharp pain or even an ache, it was one of those core sensations you get when the lower parts of your brain start to take over. Like burning yourself or falling into a cold lake, the primal parts of your brain take over.
Right around this point, a random Argentine came by and gave me a huge spank on the ass. I couldn’t tell what he was saying but his message was clear, “keep going!” I sprinted for another quarter mile (I was now at 40 kilometers of a 42 kilometer race). I saw Luke, and he pushed me on as well. It was right around then when we passed someone who had fainted from exhaustion and was now being taken care of my medical personal. Marathons are extremely difficult, there is no way of getting around that.
It ended up taking me a little over an hour to make it from kilometer 32 to the finish line at kilometer 42 but on June 26th at 1:05 pm I completed a marathon in Rosario, Argentina.
Throughout my training, I had projected myself to finish right around the 5 hour mark. Instead, I finished in 4 hours, 5 minutes and 50 seconds. That blows my mind as that is quite the respectable time. I look back on the race and know that I put my all into it. I left absolutely nothing behind. I could not possibly have run that race any harder.
Miraculously, I found my friend Sam at the finish line. He had finished just a minute before me. We received our medals and got our pictures taken. That had been a hell of a bucket list item. I later talked to Sam and he said that he ran into that same unexpected wall at 36 kilometers.
Together, Luke, Sam and I hobbled back to our hotel. We didn’t talk much as we were all in a lot of pain. It wasn’t simply our legs that hurt, it was our entire bodies. Nothing was moving like it normally did.
I look back on this bucket list item with an incredible amount of pride. On that day, along with my friends, I pushed myself to my absolute limit. To my amazement, this limit turned out to be a lot more than merely 26.2 miles, it was the farthest physical and mental journey that I have ever taken.