This is the first time in my marathoning / distance running life that I didn’t train for a race I was signed up for. I make no excuses – I consciously chose other things over fitting in long runs. I found taking extended recovery from my 50 miler, lounging with my boyfriend, and even organizing my closet above training for the marathon. And after today, I have no regrets.
I was definitely anxious in the couple days leading up to it thinking ‘what the hell am I doing? The marathon Gods are going to strike on Sunday since I haven’t done a double digit run in almost two months!’
On the early bus ride out to Marathon I reeled in my thoughts. I was ready to be uncomfortable, I was ready to accept anything that came my way, and I was ready to soak up the entire experience.
First 5 miles – Great company! I met a guy from Minnesota very early on that was full of interesting stories and perspective on different things. I happily kept pace with him the first 5 miles even though he was chasing a 3:30 finishing time, which was clearly not my goal.
Crowd support – The beautiful thing about these amazing Greek folks on the sidelines is how much they mean everything they say! I heard countless ‘bravo’s and ‘excellente’s, and they said it with feeling! It was amazing. I felt like each person was truly excited for me and truly cared about my experience! All the children yelling/dancing/high fiving/smiling, all the patriotism with the Greek flags waving in the air, and the group of young teen girls saying how they wanted to know where everyone was from, so I said I was from the States and they proceeded to sceam ‘Go America!!!’
Random dog running partner – Around 6 miles in a random stray dog decided to hop in the marathon and run with us for a good 3 kilometers or more. It was fun watching him run next to different people while looking up at them with a dog smile, and to also see the spectators cheer for him!
Drum corps – I can remember at least 4 different sections of the course where people were playing drums. One really got to me – it was under an overpass in Athens, and it was just booming with music and energy. The closer I got to the men playing the drums and the people surrounding them I welled up with tears and was so impacted in that moment. These men were playing ferociously and the intensity of the sound inside the overpass made it a full body experience.
Finishing in the Panathenaic Stadium – It was surreal running half way around this stadium, seeing the marble seating all around you, and wondering what kinds of things took place here thousands of years ago – it was really beautiful!
As all of us distance runners know, these kinds of races aren’t all highlights. The fluffy, seemingly perfect race reports are just a highlight reel, and I find that a little boring. The challenges are where things get real.
Challenge 1 – Miles 9 – 17. There was a lot of uphill in this section, and my legs lost all their gusto here. I resorted to walking parts of each of the up hills and use it as an opportunity to take more pictures.
Challenge 2 – Lower back issues. The week before I came on this trip I had a pretty nasty flare up of my SI joint and my sacrum. I was able to fit in 6 chiropractic adjustments before flying out here, but I was very aware that it could tighten up/spasm during the marathon. Those grinding miles in the middle proved to irritate my lower back a bit so I was pretty conservative until it loosened up for good.
Challenge 3 – Runaway heart rate. During those afore-mentioned grinding miles, I thought to check my heart rate since it felt like I was working harder than I needed to. What did it say? 194. Yep. For about two miles I worked to lower it, but as soon as I started running again it was back to to the upper 180’s/190’s. I decided just to listen to my body and do what it was asking for rather than focusing on heart rate, and I’m glad I approached it that way.
Overall, I know I would have benefited from training for this, but you know what? I was happy to have to the break, I am happy with my choices, and I still pulled off a decent marathon time. Mission accomplished!