It is finally here- my recap of my first marathon on June 21st in Duluth, MN for Grandma’s Marathon. I’m sorry this took longer than originally planned, I was still so tired last week from the race that all I wanted to do when I got back from work each night was go to bed! But, better late than never! So here we go, I hope you enjoy reading about my race experience.
On Saturday morning, we woke up at about 3:30AM. I knew that it was important to get some food in our stomachs and to give us time to really digest and not feel full going into the race. So when my alarm went off, I reluctantly got out of bed, ate my Luna Bar, drank some water and then went to the bathroom. I was surprised that when I went to the bathroom, there were many people in there already taking showers! Even though we woke up early to eat, we were going back to sleep until about 5AM, so I was unsure why so many people were already up for the day. Later, I read online that some people suggest to wake up for the morning a few hours early so that you can get your body fully awake and ready. I think if I would have woke up that early for the day I would have been super exhausted going into the race, so I think we made the right decision to go back to sleep for a little bit before really waking up.
After a little bit, we went back to bed for about a little over an hour. Then at 5AM, the alarm went off again, and I realized – this is it, it’s time to get ready to run a marathon! I put on my clothes that I set aside the night before, drank my Spark, brushed my teeth, and put my hair up and started to really, really feel anxious for what was ahead. It was great doing this with Britt, because she was just as nervous as I was, so at least we had each other! I was planning on wearing shorts and a tank, but after looking at the forecast and conferring with Britt, I decided that the capris I had also brought along would be a better option. I am so happy I decided to change at the last minute!
We spent a little bit of time hanging out in the room, and then we looked out our window and noticed the shuttle bus that was taking us to the start line was already there, so we headed out. Both of us brought sweatshirts to stay warm in before the race started, so even though it was probably less than 50 degrees, it didn’t feel too cool when we went outside. It was raining just a little bit, but nothing to be too concerned about. I did decide to wear a hat because of the rain, which was a first for me since I usually just wear a headband.
We got onto the large charter bus and unfortunately there weren’t two seats together, so we had to sit next to people we didn’t know. I felt bad for the person sitting next to me because I did not talk to him the whole time simply because I was so nervous about the race that all I could do was look through my phone to try to distract myself from the nerves I was feeling!
The bus ride took a LOT longer than I thought it would! For some reason, I thought it would be like a 15 minute ride, but it was more than 45 minutes and they were dropping us off basically in the middle of the woods! I really felt like we were being dropped out to start the Hunger Games. It was terrifying.
Once we were there, we got off the bus, dropped off our gear bag, and headed to the line for the bathrooms. There was TONS of port-a-potties set up, so the line went pretty quickly. After using the restroom, we drank some water and then headed BACK in line for the bathroom so that we would be really ready to run.
By the time we were done, it was about time to start heading towards the start line. You were not assigned a coral, instead there were large markers with expected finishing times that you could stand behind. We had no idea what time we would finish in, so we just decided to stand behind the 4:30 marker. It was not that large of an area and people were cramming in right next to each other, so we felt a bit congested to say the least.
At around 7:40AM or so, the elite runners were off. About 10 minutes later, the crowd around us started moving forward and we both knew- this was it! It was time to go! I was so nervous and excited and I felt like I had to pee (AGAIN?!). I figured I might just be feeling this because of the nerves, so I thought I would be ok.
At about 7:50AM, we started. Britt and I decided not to run together, because neither of us wanted to hold the other back. So after about 1/4 of a mile we separated, and I went pretty fast the first mile. This wasn’t because it was my strategy, it was because I saw a port-a-potty and knew that I might as well just go now so that I could quit thinking about it! So, right after the first mile I stopped and used the restroom and went as quickly as I could so that I would not take too much time off of my overall time. This was my first time ever using the restroom for a race, but I knew beforehand it was bound to happen during the marathon because there was no way I could go that long without using a bathroom.
The first several miles went by pretty smoothly. There were huge markers with balloons that marked each mile and in the beginning it seemed like I was passing by these markers at a really good pace. It was kind of a boring route with not a lot of distractions because the fog was fairly heavy so I couldn’t see the beautiful scenery, and we were in the woods outside of Duluth for the first 20 miles so there wasn’t too many onlookers.
I passed the 10K marker with a time of 57:08, so I was going pretty strong. I wasn’t really feeling fatigued and while at first I thought the 45-50 degree temps were freezing, it actually was the perfect weather to run a long race. Shortly after the 10K point, I stopped again to use the restroom, but this was the last time I would for the rest of the race.
I was very excited when I saw the marker for 13.1 miles. There were tons of people cheering and it felt good to be halfway through the race. I clocked in for the half marathon at 2:06:19. But while I was excited to be half-way through, I think this was about the same time when I started to get very tired physically and mentally. My legs were getting exhausted, and while I was thrilled to be half way done, another part of me was miserable because I thought OMG, I still have 13.1 miles to go! I was already getting tired and didn’t know how I was going to make it for over 2 more hours!
Once you hit 13.1 miles, there were water/Powerade stations at every mile, and I decided then that I needed to take walking breaks during the water stations so that I would have enough energy to make it through. There also started to be signs at every mile pointing to the medical tent and DROP OUT AREA. Believe me, when I saw the words “DROP OUT AREA” I was very tempted. Every sign. I was getting really tired and it seemed like a great idea to be able to stop this torture! I knew though that it would be ridiculous for me to stop since I didn’t have any real injuries and if I did stop at the station the volunteers there would probably roll their eyes at me for my reason for wanting to stop (being tired). Like duh Lauren, you’re gonna be a little tired while you run the marathon!
I was taking several walking breaks, but at least I kept moving forward! I was relieved when I got to 17 miles because I had a single-digit number of miles remaining, and I felt this same feeling when I got to 20 miles. Getting past 20 was hard though (to say the least). 20 was my peak miles I reached during my training and every step I took beyond the 20 miles was the longest I have ever ran in my life. I was drained. I was so tired and I seriously contemplated walking for the rest of the race. Right when I was thinking this, the 4:30 pace group passed in front of me. I was honestly shocked to see them, because I thought they would have blown past my slow self by now. But once I saw them, I decided I needed to try to keep up with them and it gave me so much motivation to keep going.
I stuck with them for over a mile and then a little past mile 21, I looked ahead and saw a familiar looking girl in blue running capris- IT WAS BRITT! I can’t even put into words how happy I was to see her and I found the energy somewhere inside of me to sprint ahead to her so that she wouldn’t get out of my sight. I tried to call out her name when I was behind her, but she had her head phones in so she didn’t hear me, so when I finally reached her I tapped her on the shoulder. She looked over to me and I think she was so shocked that I was right next to her! She thought I was way ahead of her, but I told her I took a couple bathroom and walking breaks that had slowed me down. She was also just as tired as I was, and we decided that we had to stay together to keep each other going.
The next few miles were so hard, and felt SO long, but I am so happy that I was able to find Britt and that we were able to push through the miles together. We tried to run as much as we could, but also took some walking breaks because we were both incredibly drained. As we reached the last mile station we were walking, and an onlooker (he might have been someone’s coach actually) said “You made it this far, does it make sense to walk now? Doesn’t make any sense to me! Keep pushing though, you are almost done!” He was so right and so we both decided that we had to find some energy to run the last mile. By this time in the race we were basically shuffling our feet, but we kept encouraging each other to keep pushing and we did! At 12:36PM, we crossed the finish line of our first marathon together! We ended up with a time of 4:42:46. I didn’t care that it was kind of slow, I was just so relieved to finally be done!
We received our medal after crossing, and then hobbled over to the area where we got to pick up our finisher’s shirts. Then we found the food area where we got bagels, fruit, peanut butter, and beer. I wasn’t as hungry immediately after as I thought I would be, probably because all I could think about was how tired and sore I was!
The race itself was outstanding. Grandma’s has a solid reputation as one of the best organized races in the country and it definitely lived up to the hype. There were so many aid/water stations throughout the course, volunteers galore, and just really well run (no pun intended).
It took me a while to really grasp what I had achieved. Definitely didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment after the race, probably because I was feeling too much else! I think I really realized it a few days later when I could finally run again, and as I passed people I would think “I wonder if they have ever run a marathon, wow I can’t believe I actually have!”.
Also, as I was running the race and when I finally finished, I had this intense feeling of never wanting to run a marathon again (and being pissed that I signed up for another one before I had even finished 1!). It was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and going into the race I obviously had no idea how challenging it would be. I mean you know it’s going to be difficult, but until you do one, you have no idea how incredibly hard it is. I even told Britt in one of our last miles – “I would rather be giving birth to twins right now. No drugs. Naturally.” Seriously, it hurt SO bad!!
Now though, I am looking forward (not quite yet excited) to run another marathon and I feel like the next one will be much easier because I know better of what to expect. Running a marathon is hard. The way that it challenges you mentally and physically makes me even exhausted looking back on it. If you anyone says a marathon isn’t that hard, they are STONE COLD LIARS! Seriously, it kind of (really) sucks. But if you work hard enough, push past the pain and self doubt you will encounter along the way, it is definitely achievable and I now feel a huge sense of pride knowing that I made it! And, I am now a marathoner.
PS: The winner of the race, Dominic Ondoro, set a course record with a time of 2:09:06!! HOW FREAKING AMAZING IS THAT?! Less than 6 minute/mile pace. I can’t even imagine!