I became a marathoner on November 17, 2019.
If you’ve been reading my blog thus far, you know about my lengthy running history. If not, check out the ‘about me’ section.
As a runner since the age of 12, and having been part of track and cross country teams, I never remotely thought I’d run a marathon. In fact, I never even thought a half marathon was something I thought I’d do, until after I had my first child.
After that first super hilly half, I was addicted! All I could think about was how to improve on my time. From there I started working on just that. Over time (and 8 half marathons) I’ve learned a lot about proper training-strength training and proper nutrition are key components-and I’ve met some amazing runners along the way.
I had already registered late last year for the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, but I really didn’t seriously consider myself ready to run a marathon until after I completed my first group training class with Fleet Feet. This program took the paper training plan I had been accustomed to following for half marathon training and took it to a whole new level with meeting other like-minded individuals and training for the common goal of racing a local half marathon.
It wasn’t just the group atmosphere and the training plan that inspired me, but the workouts I had not really done since track in high school. It’s amazing how those speed workouts really have helped me improve! In addition to speed work, our coach has had us run hill repeats. It’s a great feeling being able to pass people at races while running up hills! In short, the program gave me the confidence I needed to take my running to the next level.
It was time to train for a marathon.
I wasn’t interested in spending a lot of money on an expensive training plan or personal coach for my first marathon, so I started training with a 20 week training plan that essentially combined Hal Higdon Novice 2, Nike, and our Fleet Feet coach, Eddie, giving me advice as needed since I was already part of the newest half marathon training program that was scheduled for two weeks before the marathon.
As I went along training I participated in various races along the way, and my long runs became more comfortable so that by three weeks before the marathon I was able to complete 21 miles in 3 hours, 11 minutes. I also felt great after! When I raced the half two weeks prior to the marathon, I consciously went out with the intent to run it as I saw myself running the first half of the marathon. The reality was, I did go easier than typical for a half, but it was still a couple minutes faster than the reality of the first half of the marathon.
My marathon concerns as a first time marathon participant really had nothing to do with my level of preparation. I had registered for the marathon originally unaware of it being a 4:30pm start time. As we got closer to race day, the desert, half a mile altitude, and rumors of a winding style of a course made me a bit nervous.
But it was my first marathon, so I largely just trusted my training and still mentally kept a lofty goal: 3 hours, 50 minutes. I wanted to not only break 4 hours, I wanted to crush it!
Before the race began I met three ladies who were also running this as their first marathon! One of the ladies wound up in my corral, along with an older gentleman who had ran a few marathons already. Both were great to talk to as we waited to start.
Then we were off!
First mile I went out nice and easy, maintaining 9:30 pace, but then I gradually picked it up. My main goal at this point was to stick to the plan of hitting 13.1 at around 1:50-1:55. We started out among the half marathon runners which was a bit annoying as I wasn’t 100% confident about where I needed to go on the course and was worried I’d accidentally miss the part where the full marathon runners broke away.
Then it was there, and I was so relieved to be away from those half marathon runners!
At 13.1, still feeling good, I hit 1:54. I continued on, maintaining pace and drinking water at every station. I also consumed my nuun hydration in the 24 oz handheld I brought along with me.
As I hit around mile 20/21, there was a hill…in fact, there were 3 hills on the marathon course. Not only that, but for 2 miles or so, we were running around a parking lot in a twisting and turning fashion…not helpful for speed.
There’s a reason this course is not a typical Boston qualifying course! I realized in the midst of this that I had picked a challenging course as my first marathon race.
But I would not be deterred.
The 3:50 pacer started passing me at the 2nd hill, but I was not discouraged as this was at around mile 22.5 and I was feeling pretty good still, and really ok with hitting under 4, even if I missed my lofty 3:50 goal.
Then the tops of my legs started aching. So my pace slowed…a fellow runner had slowed down for me, saying ‘I was waiting for you!’ and encouraged me to not forget to drink the Gatorade… he must have seen me looking stressed! I never saw him after that, and in fact wound up running ahead of him. He was like a guardian angel.
But I had my nuun hydration, which I prefer, and am familiar with. So I kept drinking water only at the water stations. I had also consumed 3 Science In Sport gels (SIS) by mile 24, along with some Honeystinger chews.
Then I hit just before mile 25, and my left leg radiated the most terrible cramp ever! I had to stop! I also had ran out of nuun hydration! I yelled out some swear words and stretched, then opened the lid to my handheld to see if I could get any additional liquid, found a bit, closed the lid and continued on.
Next stop, Gatorade! I drank it, and had relief, so I ran to 26 where I saw my brother-in-law holding up a ‘Go Nicole,’ sign, with my husband standing next to him cheering me on, and I kicked it into gear!
I ran the last .2 with confidence and even raised my arms up in victory! There’s even video footage of this thanks to my nephew who also came to cheer me on!
Finish time: 3:57!!!! There were tears of happiness from one of my sisters-in-law, which really meant a lot to me as I couldn’t muster up the emotion of just how profound it was at that moment…all I felt was elation!! No tears of happiness over here, just happiness, period!
I didn’t hit 3:50, but I crushed 3:57 on a course that would be considered challenging for veteran marathoners.
My final thoughts…
When can I start training for my next marathon?