It has been almost four weeks since I ran my first marathon at the Detroit Free Press/ Chemical Bank International Marathon. I still cannot believe sometimes that I am indeed a marathoner. It took a lot of hard work and determination to get to the starting line… and to run the whole distance and it is an accomplishment I will always be proud of. Considering less than 1% of the US population has run a marathon, it really is an incredible feat. When I set out to run through Detroit and Windsor (Canada), I had a goal in mind. It was the goal I had set during my training to base my training paces off and looking at my half marathon times and the current shape I was in, I thought it was do-able.
I set my goal at a sub-4 hour marathon. My goal was to keep at a 4 hour marathon pace (9:09 average) and have a little left in me to sprint to the finish to get under the 4 hour mark.
I didn’t tell many people about my goal since I was really after just finishing a marathon. It was my first one after all! I wanted to set a goal to work towards, but it was not the end all be all for me. I still wanted to take in my whole first marathon experience and if I hit my goal, awesome, if not, fine by me. But as I got further into my training, especially with my tempo runs at goal marathon pace, I really felt like it was a do-able goal. I was knocking out my 10 mile tempo runs in 80 degree weather under goal pace. I was hitting all my paces during other workouts and felt GOOD doing so. When I set my original goal, I did not know how my body would react to training for and running a marathon, so I was extremely happy with my body when it was holding up with training (among a big move and a new job during the training cycle).
As I neared closer to race day I started to think, I really can run a sub-4 hour marathon. The week before my marathon was the Chicago Marathon. I followed a couple runners who were shooting for a sub-4 hour marathon just like me and when I saw them miss their goal by 12-15 minutes, I started to worry. Our training paces had been so similar (some of theirs were actually faster and longer than mine) and it seemed like if they could do it, I could do it. And when they didn’t hit that time, I started to worry. I prayed for more pleasant weather than those running Chicago had (from what I heard, it was BRUTAL in Chicago).
Race day came and with all the worry over the weekend of the race getting cancelled due to storms and lightning, I got to the start line just happy that I was going to run a freaking marathon. As I started running, I knew I wanted to hold back a bit. I wanted to get into a comfortable pace and ease into the bridge into Canada and the (miserable) underwater tunnel back into the United States. I had felt amazing during the first 8 or so miles. Once I hit the underwater tunnel, the weather started to get to me. It was humid and hot in the tunnel and I just wanted out to breathe in fresh air. When I finally made it out of the tunnel, I felt on fire. I was sweating like crazy, but I was feeling good.
I felt good all the way to the 13.1 mile marker. I remember seeing part of my family there and as soon as I passed them, everything changed. Just two miles later I saw the rest of my family and my smile was gone. All I wanted was a refill on my Tailwind to keep moving. After I saw the rest of my famly at mile 15, my pace started to slow. The crowds of spectators were almost non-existent for a couple miles and it was getting to me, along with the heat and humidity.
As my pace started to slow, I started thinking about my goal and that I needed to stay on pace. I had crossed the half marathon point at almost exactly 2 hours, so I needed to keep right on pace if I was going to have a chance at hitting my goal and breaking 4 hours.
But my pace continued to slow.
By the time I made it into Indian Village, I realized I was not going to hit my goal. I was more focused on putting one foot in front of the other at that point and just making it to the end. I originally hoped to hit mile 16 and pick up the pace for the last 10 miles, but I just did not have it. I continued to slow down and it became especially bad on Belle Isle where the wind from the water was taking everything out of me (and everyone else too).
As I realized that my goal was going out the window, I thought I would feel sad that all the work I had put into this marathon was going to go away. But instead I felt the opposite, I was running a MARATHON. With every step I took, I was one step closer to calling myself a marathoner. When I finally crossed the finish line at 4:12:47, I was overjoyed. I had just overcome so much to get to that point and the last thing on my mind was what time I finished in. I actually had no idea what time I “officially” ran the race in for a couple of hours. I knew it was over 4 hours, but did not care all that much to check for a while. I had to celebrate that I was a marathoner! Regardless of the time, I had just pushed my body to run 26.2 miles and no time on the clock could change that me.
As I recovered for a couple weeks post-marathon and thought through the race and my training, I realized something. I am actually happy that I did not hit my goal. Sure it would have been awesome to run my first marathon in under 4 hours (especially since I knew I was trained & ready for it), but since I came short of that goal, I now have something to work towards for next time. I had no idea what time I was capable of running a marathon in when I first set out to train for the race back in June. I took a guess based on my fitness level, but still had no idea what it would be like to run 26.2 miles.
So I am fine with not hitting my goal in my marathon. Next time I train for a marathon, I have a goal to work towards and I know the changes I can make to my race strategy and training to help get me there. I have a specific goal to work towards and in all honesty, that makes me really, really excited. I am also okay with not hitting my goal because I realized that there is way more to running than the time on the clock. So many races lately I have been racing the clock, but with this race, I was covering the distance. I was able to take in the cheers along the course, I ran “through the wall” in Indian Village, and I tapped posters “for a power up” from spectators. I was able to continue running, even though I knew my goal was not going to happen. There is so much more to running a race than the time on the clock and a goal I set. Sure there are times I am racing the clock and focused on the time, but now I remind myself, how much does that really matter? If I finish 5 seconds or 12 minutes short of my goal, am I really any less of a runner? Absolutely not.
I had an amazing first marathon experience. It was extremely hard, but I have never had more fun being in as much pain as I was. I know I will run a marathon again and I know that I will work towards breaking 4 hours. It might happen in my next marathon, it might take 5 marathons. But I will always be happy to call myself a marathoner and to work towards something that is far from easy.
- Have you ever come up short of a goal, but been fine with it? I would love to hear your experience — running related or not!