10 lessons I learned running my first marathon

Sometimes big accomplishments take a while to sink in. Basically, my thoughts have been running in a loop over the past few days that goes something like this: I just ran a marathon. Did I just RUN a MARATHON??? I JUST RAN A MARATHON.IMG_7848

I’m working on a full race recap post, but since I get teary every time I try, I thought I’d start with a list of the top ten things I learned this past weekend. Some were total surprises and some reinforced what I had expected–but they all were funny, powerful lessons on just how wonderful people can be if you let them.

  1. Be selfish: New York is one of my favorite cities, so planning a weekend away without a lot of museum-going, city-strolling, or bar hopping with friends was a struggle. My takeaway was to just own the weekend and be incredibly appreciative that my parents, boyfriend, brother, and cousins all were there to support me–crazy meal schedules, hydration planning, early bedtimes and all. Be selfish, it’s YOUR marathon!
  2. IMG_7833Beware what you wear: Spectators will yell whatever you have on your shirt, over and over, for 4+ hours. I got all hometown proud and decided to wear my Boston Strong t-shirt with my name stuck on below. I didn’t quite realize I’d be hearing “woooooo Boston!” and “go Pats!” for most of the day on Sunday. So just beware, people will read and yell the biggest and boldest thing you’ve got on your chest. Choose wisely.
  3. Do not underestimate the power of having family and friends along the course: looking for friends and family is the number one best way to pass time during the most painful parts of the race. I’ll let this video speak for itself in terms of my enthusiasm level the first time I saw my personal cheering squad. Goofball central!
  4. Staten Island Ferry viewsMost runners people are really, really nice: My most frequently asked pre-marathon question was: are you running it alone? And the answer was yes. Like most runners, I think, I like to run races solo so that I’m not beholden to anyone else’s pace. Being by myself made me even more appreciative of all of the support from friendly fellow runners: Sarah from San Francisco who showed me the sights from from the ferry (check out that sunrise!), my fellow #teamglutenfree runners who kept me company during the stressful last few minutes before the race, everyone who made noise during the long, painful slog up the Queensboro bridge, and more–you made me feel like I had a running buddy holding my hand all day. Thank you. 
  5. The last 5 miles will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced: in equally good and painful measures. My body did some tricky things at this point in the race–muscles I didn’t even know I had threatened to cramp up, dehydration set in, and sweat flowed–but I also felt like I had an invisible hand pushing me forward. That’s what those months of hard training are really for. I knew I could run 21 miles, but I built up to be able to get myself through “the wall” and across that finish line.
  6. You are a rock star (for a few miles, at least): the high that is running down fifth avenue about to accomplish a huge life goal with thousands of people screaming your name has to be experienced to be believed. Pure marathon magic.
    Hey! I'm almost done!
    Hey! I’m almost done!
  7. Marathons are emotional roller coasters: Highs, lows, frustration, tears, pain, euphoria–all emotions were on tap on race day. But the disappointment and frustration of cramping up and dropping below my goal pace paled in comparison to the complete sense of accomplishment I felt when I knew I had done it.
  8. There’s a reason people say your first marathon time goal should be to finish the race: Watching my time goal slip through my fingertips was really hard–I had a sub-4:00 time in my grasp and then just lost it during the last five miles or so. I’m glad I had a secondary goal in mind and am incredibly proud of my 4:05, but this was a lesson I learned the hard way.
  9. The post-finish line trudge will be the longest walk of your life: NYC is notorious for making you walk pretty far after you finish the race, and the rumors are true–my achy, cranky legs had a 20 minute walk ahead of them before I could leave the chute and find my family. This is supposedly good for you, but those were probably the longest 20 minutes of my life.
  10. The next few days will hurt: I’m usually pretty diligent about stretching/yoga, foam rolling, and getting back on my feet after a race. Post-marathon recovery, however, is a whole different beast. It took me 3 days just to be able to walk down stairs properly, and running probably won’t be happening until this weekend at least.

What lessons have you learned from accomplishing a big goal–running-related or otherwise?

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7 thoughts on “10 lessons I learned running my first marathon

  1. Congrats on an amazing race! I, too, ran the race and felt the energy of the crowd the whole way. I was almost in a fog counting down the miles until I had family waiting for me along the course. It was so uplifting to see them numerous times. NYC was truly unique in so many ways! Revel in your accomplishment and won the fact that you ruled New York! Well done!

  2. Congratulations on your finish! Keeping riding that high 🙂

    I was surprised at what hurt after my first this year (Chicago). My skin actually hurt? It was very bizarre. But my goodness, that post-race beer and eating all the food and having people see my medal and congratulate me anywhere I went was absolutely amazing.

    1. I 100% agree! Congrats on finishing Chicago–you guys had some tough weather this year. I’m definitely still loving all of the congrats and the high of just having done it 🙂 Now to think about next year…

  3. Pingback: Marathon thoughts–what I would do differently next time | My GF Boston

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