I did it! I finished my first marathon in 4:53! The first 16 miles flew by like they were nothing. I had a bit of an upset stomach around mile 16 (I'm starting to think that caffeinated gels don't work well for me on long runs) but then miles 16 to 20 were good and strong. After mile 20, I was in unfamiliar territory and I definitely felt it. My feet started getting really sore and I slowed from a 10 minute to an 11 minute mile until around mile 23, when I started having a lot of trouble with my left hip. I'd never had an issue with that hip before, but it would get tighter and tighter until it burst into a sudden stabbing pain that would make me gasp, curse (I hope I didn't teach any young spectators any new words today!), and walk until it loosened back up. Around the 25th mile, we crossed a little bridge in the park that had enough of a hill for me to widen my stride and stretch my hip out, and after that I was able to run to the end and even sprint at the finish line. As I was sprinting towards the finish, I got really excited and a little choked up, which somehow translated into my airways closing up a bit and I when I finished I really needed some albuterol that I didn't have. I made myself stop and calm down and breath through my nose for a minute until my chest loosened back up, but in the future I will definitely run with my inhaler.
Looking back, I think there were a few things I could have done differently. I think if I were to do this again, I'd choose a training plan that included two 20 miles runs rather than just one, especially since my 20 miler didn't go very well. I'd also have either avoided running on the neutral ground or started running on it prior to my 15 mile long run because I think the switch from asphalt to dirt is why I injured my foot after my 20 mile run (the neutral ground isn't very level and I don't think my body was able to adjust to the instability when it was already getting used to running so far.) Finally, I'd have been better about getting in my short runs. I ended up doing a lot of cross training rather than running at night because I don't like running at night and because lifting weights helps insure that I'll look nice in my wedding dress.
Overall, I had an absolutely wonderful time. When I look back on this experience, my main feeling is one of gratitude. The volunteers supporting the marathon were top notch (and many were in costume!), there were a lot of great bands playing, and there were tons of spectators cheering us on! I really thrive on the energy of a race, and the energy of this race was amazing. I really want to volunteer at a water station in the future.
I'm also incredibly grateful for the support I got from my friends and my darling fiance. I had several people standing on the sidelines cheering me on, and even more friends who ran with me. One highlight was my friend Larissa who ran 20 miles with me in preparation for her marathon in 3 weeks and was a source of constant energy and optimism. Someone called us the happiest marathoners they'd ever seen. Another highlight was that my darling fiance ran the last 4 miles with me. Those were my hardest miles and having him there meant the world to me! It made such a difference because even though I was in a lot of pain, it really lifted my spirits and I spent most of the race looking forward to running with him.
And finally, I'm grateful for my running buddy Margee who's been working out with me for 2 years and inspiring me to push myself every step of the way. I'd never had run a half marathon, much less a whole marathon, if it weren't for her encouragement.
Overall, I'm happy, proud of myself, tired, and stiff- and I wouldn't trade this feeling for the world.
I hope everyone else had a wonderful weekend!