The Road to my First Marathon
PART 1: The beginning
Before I go into the details of the race, let me bring you up to speed first. I began running again in 2011. I had gone from 285lbs down to 210, and was ready to try it again, after being too obese for 25+ years. In my mind, I had always stayed the slim runner that I was in my high school days. However, we all know that age happens, and sometimes life just gets away from us. Unfortunately that happened to me before I realized it.
I started running by using a Couch to 5K program, and it wasn’t working for me. I just couldn’t get past the fact that I used to run long distances and now I was struggling just to run for one minute without stopping. Try as I did, I just couldn’t make the kind of progress that I longed to do. Still struggling with being over 200lbs, I was finding it hard to actually keep the endurance to run for a length of time. I remember the first time I ran a whole minute without stopping.. I was really excited!
Eventually I reached a fitness level high enough that I wanted to try a Virtual 5K before jumping into the racing world. Here’s a picture of me. My husband drove along and stopped every half mile with me, as I wasn’t sure if I could complete a whole 3 miles or not. I got it done, by running and walking, but I finished it. That was a turning point for me, mentally and physically. That was the summer of 2012.
Fast forward to March of 2013. I noticed an online friend had gotten a running coach, and was talking about how his training was going. After mulling it over, I sent an email to the coach, asking if he would be willing to help me train, with my goal for 2013 being my first half marathon. At this point, I had done a few races, but was still embarrassed by my size, so I was pretty much just doing virtual ones. I contacted Coach Caleb Masland and asked if he would be willing to work with me. I wasn’t sure if he would want to spend his time working with an overweight 51 yr old mother of two. Fortunately he said yes, and I then became a member of Coach Caleb’s “Team Wicked Bonkproof”. With Caleb’s help I successfully ran 5K, 10K and 15K races, and eventually ran the Maine Half Marathon as my first Half, in October 2013. It was quite a feeling to cross that finish line! At that point, on that day, I decided that just maybe, a full marathon would be within my reach. 🙂
Now my reason for writing all of this, is because I know there are many, many others out there that are either overweight or obese and would love to be out there running or walking, but physically aren’t able to. I can say first hand that it wasn’t easy. I wanted to quit every time I went out to try to run. I would end up getting so frustrated with myself that I would go home and vow to never try again. But.. the next day I would be back out there giving it another shot. It hurt. It sucked. I can think of many negative words to describe what I went through! But.. was it worth it??? YES!! ABSOLUTELY!!
Don’t ever let anyone talk you out of your goals and/or dreams. Since I was 16, I dreamt of running a marathon. All those years went by, and I had pretty much given up my dream because I was morbidly obese and figured I was too far gone at that point. But still, deep down inside, it was still a thought that hung in the back of my mind. With a lot of hard work, and perseverance, when the time was right, I took my chance and went for it.
And so we move onto PART 2: The Training
Back in the spring of 2014 I asked Coach Caleb to draft up a marathon training plan for me, that I could look at and digest slowly. Seriously.. I hung it up at work and would look at it almost every day. The thought of running more than 13 miles scared me to death, and really seemed like it would be an impossible task. This is where you learn to trust your training. Many times the self doubt would set in, and I would think that I wouldn’t ever be able to run 26.2 miles in a race, but I trusted my coach, and my training and never looked too far ahead. Caleb’s motto is “getting after it, one mile at a time”. That’s how I approached my training come June, when it was time to start adding the mileage. I tried to not look too far ahead, and to only focus on the run for that day. Looking too far ahead was too scary, and I wasn’t ready to do that, just yet.
When I started running the longer distances, I would say, just about anything over 8miles or so, I began to have GI tract issues. Those of you that run, know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of you that don’t.. well, when you run, it can get the colon moving a lot faster than you want it to. Not a good thing. I starting having to go to the bathroom every time I ran. The hard part was running in town, where there was no place to stop, I would have to run home, holding it in all the way. Again, not the best situation for my health, nor my running. To be honest, sometimes I made it home in time, and other times I didn’t. I cried many times when I had to cut a run short because of it. I was putting in all this effort, and my body would just not co-operate. I tried two different doctors, tons of medications, and changing my eating habits, but to no avail. Nothing helped. I pretty much ended up going without eating the day before a long run, just so that there wouldn’t be much inside me that could cause problems. That was an issue in itself, because I couldn’t properly fuel for these long runs.
The next issue that cropped up as my mileage increased was a pain in my right achilles tendon where it starts to attach to the back of the heel. I had previous surgery in that ankle, and developed really tight calf muscles in that leg. All that tension caused some calcium to start building up within the tendon itself, which was extremely painful. I would go days sometimes without running just so I could go on my long run on the weekend. The months ticked by, and I was fortunate to have a friend who wanted to run my first marathon with me. I met Isaac back in 2013 when I was training for my half marathon. We met on Daily Mile and became friends, then met in person at the Half Marathon Expo. Little did I know on that day, what a part Isaac would play in my first full 26.2.
Isaac drove up from coastal Maine many weekends at the crack of dawn, to help me get the 18-20 mile runs done. We would try to be out the door by 5-5:30am, because it would get too hot if we waited any later. Being a slower runner, and still having to do walk segments, I needed to leave much earlier than most people. It was fun though.. I learned how to run with someone, as opposed to having to run alone all the time, AND… I learned to talk and run! That’s right.. prior to that I had tried a couple of times to carry on a conversation while running but all I could spit out were a few words here and there. Isaac and I chatted away many times before I even realized I was doing it!
And now, PART 3, THE RACE: Fast forward now to the race. The two weeks before the race, I was working down in Portland and living in a hotel. I was scared to death about what I was going to eat before the race, since I had no access to a stove or microwave and had been eating out. Needless to say, I gained some weight from that also, which compounded the stress levels. I ate a lot of rice that week, and tried to stay away from greasy stuff as much as I could. I cut down on coffee and chai and hoped for the best.
Race weekend came, and my husband came down the day before. I had gotten my race swag at the expo and was ready to rock. Up until that morning of the race, I was still debating over what to wear.
The weather said (maybe) rain, but was supposed to heat up by noon. Isaac and I had talked it over and decided that my best bet was to take the early start option that began at 6am instead of 7:45 with all the other racers. The race director allows the walkers and slow runners to leave early as long as they don’t finish before 5.5 hours. I was hoping to run less than a 6 hour race. But, the elephant in the room was how many port-a-potty stops I was going to have to make, plus the fact that my achilles was still acting up. We decided the early start was a safer bet and Coach Caleb agreed also.
So 6am Isaac and I were at the start line and ready to go. He brought along a video camera so we could record the event, and I am so glad that we did. The video is at the end of this post, and it’s not very long, so watch and enjoy! I’m happy to say that I went the whole race with no bowel issues, and my achilles didn’t really act up until mile 8 and was on and off but not constantly bothering me. The weather was perfect, and the spectators, bands and other runners were fantastic. We high-fived the kids, thanked the volunteers, helped out a fellow runner in distress and basically had a blast. Leaving early gave me the chance to enjoy the race and not stress out about having the “sag wagon” right behind me the whole time. It was a fantastic experience, one that I will never ever forget. I cherish that race medal and it will permanently be displayed along with my bib from the race. Will I run another marathon? Absolutely!
Before I close, I need to thank a few people. My family, for putting up with my need to run when it got in the way of family life. Coach Caleb, for being patient with my questions and freak out sessions as the race got near. Isaac, for being the best running buddy there is and for taking time out of his busy life to share this experience with me. Skechers Performance for allowing me to run in their amazing running shoes and to Barb Powell for believing me in me. Your friendship will always be close to my heart. 🙂
Me and Isaac at Mile 20
Heading close to the finish line
Crossing the finish line, Isaac still taping our video
Finished! One of the happiest moments in my life.. a longtime dream achieved!
Here’s the Video.. I still watch this and can’t believe I that’s me! Woohooo!!
And the all important car window sticker! 😉
This article was originally posted by Louise Cunningham on Runnersramblings.com.