Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lessons Learned as a Newbie Marathoner

 This year I crossed a major thing off my bucket list.  I ran in the St. George, UT Marathon.  It was a great experience and I'm definitely addicted to running, especially huge events like St George.  I learned several things along the way and I wanted to share, just in case somewhere in the back of your mind, you are considering it.

These are more or less in order of importance.

1. Believe that you can do it.  Really, marathoning is mostly mental.  Let me say that again.  Running a marathon is mostly mental.  Now I don't mean that we are crazy, well maybe we are.  I mean that you have to believe in your self and believe that you can accomplish this tremendous goal.  I didn't really believe that I could actually do this until about 1/2 way through my training.  Not until I could run 10 miles pretty easily, did I really believe that I could finish a marathon.

2. Read this book:

There's a link to Amazon on my side bar so you can purchase one for yourself.  You will want to own your own copy.  Trust me.  I learned so much about the nature of running, how we are designed, and the unlimited capabilities we humans have.  Plus it's a very entertaining read.  There is handful of swear words, just as a forewarning.  But it really changed my running style and form too.  That leads me to #3.

3.  Get good shoes.  Before this book, I believed that you have to spend a lot of money to get the right shoe.  I learned the hard way that you don't.  After lots of doctor visits, an x-ray, an MRI, and orthotics, I finally learned that I just needed some minimalist shoes.  They are cheap and allow your foot to do what it was designed to do.  Now if I wear my old running shoes, it makes my feet hurt and I can feel where the shoe is pushing on the foot in different places.  It's also called Barefoot Running and I would totally go barefoot if I had a huge grassy area to run in.  Part of my training included running hills at my local retention basin.  I ran them barefoot.  I loved it!  While it was killer physically, my feet never hurt and up to that point, never felt better.

4. Get a good running partner who has a similar running ability.  There will be lots of days that you don't want to get up and train.  LOTS of Days!  It helped me a ton to have someone who was depending on me to show up.  It works both ways.  Some days she didn't want to go, some days I didn't.  I was lucky enough to find a great friend who had already run St George 6 times.  She knew what to expect and how to prepare.  She really saved me in a lot of ways.  Also pick someone you want to spend a lot of time with.  Training takes 8-10 hours a week towards the end.  She is a better runner and helped me get to where I needed to be.

5. Cross train.  We added in biking, hills, and swimming.  This was my average week:
Monday: Run 5 Miles, Tuesday: Bike 10 Miles, Wednesday: Run 5 Miles, Thursday: day off, Friday: Bike 10 miles, and Saturday: Run 10 miles.  We would add in swimming after the normal run or bike on occation.  Swimming really helped my breathing get better and I got to where I could swim 1/2 a mile without too much trouble.  We added in running the hills regularly also.  Usually on a Saturday.  Of all the training we did, the hills helped me the most, by far.  I wasn't much of a biker before this, but now I love it.  It keeps my cardio up, but isn't hard on my knees or feet.  During part of my injured time we biked more because I couldn't run.  It helped me keep what I already had, and I think helped me be a better runner because it worked similar muscles.  St George is a ton of down hill.  Phoenix is pretty flat so we had to find places to practice the downhill.  During the race I was fine, but afterwards, my quads were shot.  Next time, I will definitely do more hill work.

I was super nervous as it got close to race time.  Packing the night before we left, I was shaking.  I will probably be nervous the next time, but now I know I can do it and I have done all I could do to prepare.  Again, running a marathon is mental.

The night before St George has a big Spagetti dinner for all the racers and their families.  I took way more than I could eat but I knew I needed the energy.  I probably only ate half.  Still too nervous.

On the morning of the Race they bus you to the top of the hill to the starting line.  Only Racers can go up to the start line which is kind of unfortunate because it was an amazing sight.  7400 racers all trying to squeeze through the chute to start the race.  The first about 10 racers were wheelchair people.  It was so cool to see them.  Can I just say that running in, or watching a marathon is so inspiring!  I also learned that you can never judge a runner by their shape and size.  There were lots who definitely looked like runners, but there were a lot who definitely didn't.  The really cool part is that we were all in it together and the common bond was so strong.

That's me at mile 7 in the middle, just to the right of the guy in all black.

This was our team.  {C} is my running partner, and she also was the one who made my birthday cake. {M} is her friend who has done St George 9 times and is on my left in the green coat.  He is a natural runner and didn't even need to really train.  Together we all worked well together and it made the race very enjoyable.  You can run it alone, but it makes the experience much more fun to have at least one other person with you.

The aid stands are at every other mile and each mile is marked with flags and a big mylar balloon.  Many times, it was our whole focus to get to the next mylar baloon.  The volunteers at each aid station were amazing.  There was Water, Gatoraide, Bananas, Oranges, Goo(a little pack of stuff to give you energy), vaseline, and people ready to rub your legs with IcyHot.  I used all of it, not every time, but it really helped along the way.

This pic was at mile 26 right before the finish.  There was a sign at Mile 26 that said "Marathons are 26.2 miles because 26.3 miles is just Crazy!"  I loved it!  The guy in the green was having a hard time and was walking the last little bit.  We encouraged him to join us in finishing strong.  He did it!  We did it!  I'm signing to my husband as I pass.  It's kind of our little secret message to each other.  I love you!

Afterwards I was hungry.  They have lots of food for all the runners.  Popsicles, yogurt, fruit, ice cream bars, bread, water.  I didn't get to all the stands, but I wished I had stopped at the massage stand.  They were giving runners free massages.  I just didn't want to wait in the long line, but I should have.  Mostly I just wanted something cold.  I think I ate two popsicles and some grapes.  After I met up with my family, they asked what I wanted to eat.  I said, "I want a hamburger!" So we went to Iceburg and got a burger, sweet potato fries, and a shake.  It really hit the spot!  I heard one guy along the race ask the volunteers if they had a cheeseburger.  My friend said that was very common for runners.

I was definitely very sore for a few days afterwards.  I learned that cold water is the best therapy.   I originally planned to have my kids get the jaccuzi ready for me so I could get in the hot tub after I got home.  I was wrong.  Luckily the heater didn't turn on so the next morning I got in the cold water with the jets on.  It made a huge difference.  My friend said I'd want to put my feet in ice water afterwards.  I sure did, but had forgotten to bring a tub with me to put them in.  I wish I had.  Now I will know for next time.  Lots of IcyHot and Peppermint oil helped my legs feel better.  Plus move around as much as you can, even though your muscles are screaming to stop.  It helps get rid of the lactic acid in the muscles and you recover much faster.  We went camping 2 days after the race.  It was the best thing because I had to walk around on uneven ground.

Running the St George Marathon was an amazing experience.  It's even inspired my family.  My husband and my boys all want to run one now.  There's another one coming up in March that I think we will do.  I've taken about 3 weeks off for recovery, but I'm ready to get back at it.  I love running and biking!  I told my husband that I think my mid-life crisis is going to be exercise.  Not too bad.  I will share pics after the next race.

I hope I've inspired someone from this.  It sure has made a difference for me.
I ran the St George marathon.
I can do hard things.
I am a much better person because of it.
I will do it again... and again... and again.


  1. Way to go Shelley! I am so impressed! What a great experience.


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