My first marathon

The training

Melissa, Jaclyn, my Uncle Dick and I all signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon last year. Melissa and I had found a few different training schedules and they were all pretty similar.  So we decided to follow a few different ones and we also just kind of made our own up.  We were already conditioned to run a half marathon so we ran between 10 and 13 each Saturday until the training plans started having longer runs.  From there we increased our long runs each week by about two miles.  For our longest three weeks we did 18, 21 and then 18 again.  I’m not super sure about timing but I think it was maybe 5 or 6 weeks before that marathon that we did the 21 miles.  We also did the City of Lakes 25K (15.5 miles) three weeks before the marathon.  My uncle does it every year to get ready for the marathon and it is a fun little race.

I felt okay for most of the runs until the 21 miles.  We were probably 3 or 4 miles from the finish and my knee “popped” and became very painful.  I ran through it though and finished the 21 miles.  I figured that 21 miles couldn’t be pain free and even Melissa was struggling.  Afterwards we could barely walk and that night I had my cousins wedding in Wisconsin.  I couldn’t dance at the wedding because I couldn’t bend my knees.  But I figured that it just went with the territory.  When you run 21 miles it is of course going to be painful.  Right?

Well I recovered okay from that run and I had perfectly normal runs until two weeks before the marathon.  I was doing a 14 mile run by myself on a beautiful and cool Saturday morning.  I was going along the Mississippi River and I felt great. It was so nice and chilly and I was absolutely cruising.  I was so excited because I was passing people left and right, even dudes, which always makes me happy.  I decided to stop at the halfway point and eat some shot blocks for some extra carbs.  When I started running again I felt my knee go out.  The pain was so bad this time that I couldn’t run.  I was 7 miles from my house and it was warm enough to be running and be comfortable but I was not dressed appropriately to be walking even one mile let alone 7.  I was freezing and stranded (without a phone) and I couldn’t run.  I eventually got home but I was so frustrated.  How could my knee do this to me two weeks before the marathon!

I made an appointment with the sports medicine doctor at the University of Minnesota and the soonest I could get in was the Monday before the marathon.  The doctor, Dr. Dick Feist, happens to also be my dads best friend from elementary school all the way to high school! That was a coincidence, I didn’t specifically ask for him.  Anyways, he said that the pain in my left knee was my IT Band. Which is super common for runners and also happens to be painful.  He wasn’t exactly sure what the pain  in my right knee was from (most likely just runners knee) and he gave me a knee brace to wear for the marathon.  He also gave me “permission” to run the marathon.  He said that if I ran it I wouldn’t cause any long term damage to my knees but it would definitely be painful starting somewhere around mile 13.  He also told me not to run at all before the race because I had already done the training that would really help during the race.  I followed his advice, I didn’t run for a full two weeks before the marathon.

Today I cant even remember what I did the night before the marathon. I’m sure I had a big pasta dinner somewhere, probably at Chianti Grill.  But I do know I was nervous.

The big day

The weather was cold, I’m pretty sure it was around 45 degrees and it was pretty dry until it started POURING rain. It was very windy as well.  So we didn’t have very good luck for weather.  But I felt okay and I couldn’t really feel my knees until about mile 16.  And then pain started getting really bad around mile 19.  I had to slow down and I wanted Melissa to go ahead.  So around mile 20 I was on my own.  My sisters and Greg (Melissa’s husband) were on bikes to cheer us on.  That helped me but I didn’t see them a whole lot because they wanted to see Melissa finish.  So I was really on my own.  And the last 6.2 miles are absolutely brutal.  You’ve probably heard this saying but, “the marathon doesn’t start until mile 20.” And that is so true.

The last 6.2 miles of the Twin Cities Marathon happens to start up a hill.  I have ran this hill many many times and I never even noticed it before the marathon.  It isn’t a high incline and most wouldn’t notice it, unless you have already been running for twenty miles.  Once you turn onto Summit Avenue for the last leg, you feel excited.  But Summit just goes on and on and on with one little hill after another.  The one thing that is so encouraging though is all of the people there.  There are thousands (I believe over 100,000 spectators come every year) of spectators there and they really start cheering you on along Summit to the finish.

At this point during the race I know I looked awful and people could tell I needed there encouragement.  I distinctly remember one woman and her husband/boyfriend.  They were on bikes and she looked a little like a hippy-girl she had dread locks and Berkenstock-like sandals on.  But she saw me (I had my name written in permanent marker down my arms) and she started really cheering for me.  I saw her at mile 22 and again at 24 and she really helped me get through it.  I remember trying to find her after I had finished so I could thank her.

The sad part about my finish is that towards the very end, when you can see the finish and when you really want to sprint it in (or at least pick up the pace a little bit,) I couldn’t.  I was in so much pain that I couldn’t change my pace or my form at all and I don’t think I looked happy.  But I finished.  I finished in 4 hours and 36 minutes which is about a 10 minute 30 second mile and I was happy with that. I was happy because I slowed down so much towards the end that I thought my pace would have been a lot slower.

Even though I probably didn’t look that happy, I was! My sisters came to me right at the finish and handed me a jacket and pants (because It was still so cold) and they were tearing up, which of course made me cry.  And all I can say was I finished! (now give me some pain killers, or else…) Just kidding!

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