Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My First Full Marathon

I signed up for my first full marathon one and a half days before the race.  It wasn’t planned, and I hadn’t trained for it.  But I had my reasons, and I registered for the Salmon Marathon in Salmon, ID.  I packed my bags and told almost no one of my plan for fear that they might discourage me from participating.

I got in the car after work on Friday, drove to Salmon alone, and slept in my car. 

Saw this cow moose on Lolo Pass.  She ran away when I was taking her picture.

At 4:30 on Saturday I awoke, got dressed, and went to pick up my race packet at a neighboring hotel.  I waited at the table for my packet, but no one ever showed up.  Stressed that I would not have a race number or timing chip, I got on the bus for the start anyway. 

Once at the start, I got my race supplies and took a little breather.  Though the morning had started out a little rocky, I got there on time, met a couple of runners before the race, and felt warm with adrenaline even in a tank top and 45-degree temperatures. 

At 6:45, the race began.  Woo Hoo!

Miles 1-5: The air was cool, and my body felt good.  I made myself walk even though I didn’t need to.  I looked around and said to myself, “I am really running a marathon!”
(I love this picture.)
Miles 6-10: No complaints yet.  I jogged most of these miles and walked when I thought I should.

Miles 11-12: I started feeling tired but knew I had a long ways to go.  I emptied the rocks from my shoe at mile 12 and watched the half-marathoners (who had just begun their race) pass me.

Mile 13.2: This was the farthest that I had ever run.  I felt proud and determined.

Miles 14-17: This uphill section was long and tiring.  I knew I was way behind the pack, and I just couldn’t get my legs to run no matter how hard I tried.  I walked as fast as my legs would carry me as I sipped on a fuel packet.

Mile 18: I must have been looking pretty rough since the doctor/aide station volunteer wouldn’t let me leave the station until I had stopped to drink some water (and take the rest of the bottle of water with me).  It was obvious that he didn’t know me at all when he asked, “Do you think you’re going to finish?”  I smiled back at him and told him that there was nothing that could keep me from finishing.

Mile 19: My slowest mile all day.  Every part of my body was tired and sore, especially my feet, my knees, and my left hamstring.   Even though I was slow, I kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Mile 20-22: I walked a lot and jogged when I could; in fact, jogging used different muscles than walking, so I got some relief when I jogged/shuffled along.  I knew I found my spirit again when I passed a 35 mph sign and joked with myself that I had better slow down. 

Miles 23-25: I’m not gonna lie – I was really tired and hurting all over.  The race couldn’t be over soon enough.  The photographer asked if someone could jog it in with me since "they" had taken the course down already.  (More on this later.)  I didn’t answer him because I was holding back an emotional breakdown.  I held it in and kept moving.

Mile 26: The course was gone, and neither my bike sweeper (Julie) nor I knew where we were supposed to go.  There were no cones, no road paint, no signs.  The tears started to well up again, and I stressfully informed Julie that we needed to find the finish line…soon.  At exactly 26.2 miles, a blister popped and sent a tingling, shocking kind of pain throughout my left foot.  With some quick thinking, Julie took a quick left and took me over a bridge where I saw the finish chute just up the way.  (I also saw another cameraman that was set up facing the other direction, indicating that we should have come over a different bridge.  I was disappointed that I didn’t run the exact course, but it wasn’t my fault and I kept going.)

Mile 26.35: I crossed the finish line, slapping people’s hands, listening to them all clap and cheer.  I was the last one to cross the finish line at 6:24:26 (14:35 min/mile).

As soon as the race was over, I walked over to the grass, took my shoes off, and examined my sore feet.  I had seven blisters on my toes and one on the pad of my foot.  One of my toenails was purple.  Julie came to my rescue and got me a bag full of ice for my feet, as well as a water bottle and a piece of watermelon. 

When I got up the gumption, I walked over to the food tables (which had all been cleaned up), the massage therapists (who were getting ready to leave), and then finally to the river where I could sit in the cold river before driving over seven hours back to Pullman.

These mountain sheep were more fond of the camera than the moose.

Overall, my experience with my first marathon was great.  The course was absolutely beautiful, and I repeatedly wished that had had a camera to take pictures of the mountains, the rattlesnake I saw on the road, and the funky old farmhouses.  The volunteers were supportive and prepared, and the bike sweeper was absolutely wonderful! 

While I have no plans for running another marathon in the near future, I have to say that my first marathon is one race that I will always remember.  Before I left for Salmon, I told people that I would just do my best, and anything over 13.1 miles would be a success.  After I crossed that starting line, however, something changed in me.  I found strength and confidence in the mere fact that I was standing there at the starting line of a marathon, and I knew that I was going to finish.  And I can honestly say that there was never a moment that I believed that I wouldn't finish, even when my miles were slow, no other runners were around, and I knew I was going to finish last.  In fact, in the times when I was alone with nature and the race and my aching body, those could have been the most amazing/important of the race; those were the times that I saw what I was made of.  And it was a pleasant surprise.

Even though my decision to race was made on a whim, it may be one of the most important decisions that I have ever made. 

Other notes:
  • The website’s race description gave a cut-off time of seven hours, so I believe that any racer who finished by that time should be able to enjoy all parts of the race – a marked course with aide stations (minimum), a picture at the finish line, and also a plate of food and a massage (if desired).  I don’t think that a racer should ever feel like they are putting people out by having to stay out there within the designated time.
  • I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me and texted/called me with their congratulations.  And to the sweet gal who wrote, “you are one of the bravest people I know.  Fast, slow, whatever.  You’re putting yourself out there and you are discovering what it means to truly be alive,” I love you.  I’ve never considered myself brave, but it is true that I feel braver and stronger now than I have in a long time…even as I hobble over to the cupboard to get myself more Ibuprofen. 



  1. "I kept putting one foot in front of the other" Way to stick it out and finish!

  2. Thanks, Mike. It was one heck of a day. Hope your ankle is feeling better.

  3. You are an amazing runner. You are an amazing person. Congrats on your first marathon - it's an achievement that you can be proud of for the rest of your life.

  4. Yay!!!!!!! Wow! This race report made me so happy. Congratulations, marathoner!!!!

  5. That is amazing! You said you don't want to run another marathon soon but I will beat you that you will....LOL Good job!

  6. Your presence at a marathon makes it better. I hope those race organizers make it up to you.

  7. Just read your blog for the first time. Very inspiring! Can't wait to meet you tomorrow!!!


  8. Hope the marathon wasn't the end of it...