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The story of a second marathon — painful, but worth it
Pain is, in fact, temporary. I thought that since this would be my second marathon, it would be easier. Nope. I had forgotten how painful running a marathon was until I was at about mile 20 of the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco Sunday.
I was a high school cross-country runner. I wasn’t particularly fast — but I did take pride in my 6 minutes, 3 seconds mile time in track — and have kept running in the years since. I race the occasional 5K, have completed 10 half marathons, so running isn’t foreign to me.
The pain of a marathon seemed brand new.
My friend Joanna and I hoped we would PR — set a personal record time — for this race and for the first 20 miles we were on track to do just that. The race started downtown as the sun was rising and we ran through the city’s streets, passed Fisherman’s Wharf and through Golden Gate Park. It was a scenic route. There was cheering and some bands performing along the course. We had the companion of many other women — the race was slated with more than 22,000 registrants — who were determined to receive their Tiffany & Co. necklace at the finish line. Instead of a finisher’s medal like in most races, runners earned a silver Tiffany’s necklace especially made for this race.
But, there were 26.2 miles we needed to run before we would get that.
“When it gets tough, I just think ‘Na-ta-lie, Na-ta-lie’” Joanna said in a rhythmic tone as she interrupted a long stretch of silence between the two of us. We were somewhere pass the half way point and the 13-plus miles of pounding the pavement was beginning to take a toll on our bodies.
We were running for Natalie. The reason I first ran a full marathon last year was because of Natalie. Joanna and I joined Team In Training and fundraised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while training for the Vancouver Marathon. Before her 19th birthday, Natalie’s fight with leukemia came to an end in 2006. The race was in honor and in memory of our friend. And, we were doing it again. Despite saying after the Vancouver race that we would never run a full marathon, here we were. Natalie would probably say we were crazy, although she was polite so she would have phrased it wittier.
I was confident in our training for the race. We practiced taking fuel throughout our long runs and stuffed ample packages of Gu in our back pockets for this race. At the water stations, we took a water cup and a Gatorade cup to make sure we were getting electrolytes. But, after mile 20, it felt as though maybe I didn’t train adequately. Or, my body just isn’t meant to run full marathons. My knees down to my feet were in pain for the last five to six miles. I can’t even explain what exactly hurt but with every step I took, it was a painful sensation everywhere.
“Why do I enjoy doing this?” I thought. I didn’t have an answer at that time.
The last three miles felt like the longest three miles of my life. And it was a straightaway to the finish so I could sort of see the finish off in the distance, but it seemed as though I was not getting any closer to it.
When I was less than a mile away from the finish, I asked a spectator if the finish line was at the blue banner. She said it was. Being in pain must make me temporarily color blind because the banner was actually purple.
I dug deep and gave a kick for the last few meters and upon approaching the finish line I heard the announcer yell my hometown followed by my name. I tried to smile. I’m not sure if I actually did.
What was my first thought?
I’m never doing this ever again.
I wouldn’t be surprised if most runners have this same thought after a marathon. But, people keep doing them. The Poulsbo Marathon, in its second year and also on Sunday, saw an increase in its full marathon participants.
Joanna came in about two minutes after me. My final time was 4 hours, 25 minutes, 56 seconds, which was about two minutes slower than my first marathon time. It’s a little disappointing but I’m satisfied that I was able to finish the race without walking. And, that I am able to walk right now.
In general, I run because it relieves me of stress. It keeps me healthy. It clears my mind. It keeps me social — if I decide to run with friends. I can’t see myself ever not running. With marathons, I’m in the most pain I have ever been in my life. Sometimes I’m at the point where I can’t muster up coherent words with my running partner. But, it’s addicting. Joanna and I are already discussing where our next full marathon should be.