My 26.2 Mile Journey Through Portland

What I learned last weekend in Portland is that 26.2 miles is a long journey, but even on the toughest of days it’s one worth making.

pdxkristina

(I’m not stealing, I plan on purchasing this photo, I’m just not sure which package I want to buy yet.)

I can’t say that the whole marathon was an amazingly happy affair, my finishing time of over 7 hours alone lets you know that it wasn’t. I was on the course for about an hour longer than I ever intended to be, which gave me a lot of time to think.

Out of all the graphics I’ve ever pinned on Pinterest, this one popped into my mind around mile 24 and it made me tear up.

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Seriously, THAT is what got me. Although I think at about mile 24 just about anything would have made me tear up.

At that point I was basically all alone on the course because I was the third to last person to make the cut off before the slower participants got moved to an alternate course. Literally looking back and seeing almost no one behind me was a bit deflating. I knew that the others had been moved to the alternate course, but there’s nothing like feeling alone during your most painful moments.

But there was nothing I could do but keep moving forward.

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From mile 18 on I just kept telling myself to keep moving forward over and over. I would run a few steps when I could, which wasn’t often, but I would not stop.

The sun was blaring down on me and the day had really warmed up by the halfway point. It was a toasty 80 degrees in direct sunlight. I now have a nice dark tan and a sunburned face. I never anticipated that the day would be so hot in Portland, nor that the course would be so unprotected from the relentless sun. There were times where I was squinting just to see the road in front of me because it was so bright.

But, no matter how I felt, I knew I had to keep moving forward. There was no other option. I never thought about quitting.

There was a period where I really let myself get down. I felt undeserving of all the support that the online running community and my real life friends had given me leading up to the marathon. I felt like I was disappointing my coach who had put a lot of time into building my plan and whose other athletes had crushed their recent races. I felt like I had really let myself down after all of the hours spent training only to fail so miserably on race day. I wondered if I would even be able to look myself in the mirror and call myself a marathoner after knowing I had walked more than half the course.

After a huge three mile pity party another race participant, Karey, introduced herself and we talked for about a mile. That really helped pull me out of my funk and after we split up, I was able to gain some perspective. (Thank you, Karey!)

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Although I would not meet ANY of my time goals for the day, I knew I would most definitely finish, and that was the best I was capable of on this particular day on this particular course. 

Perhaps at a flatter, shadier race with a body not fatigued with jet lag after going through five time zones in four days, I could have met my goals. But on this day I needed to be happy with just a finish.

During the marathon I thought about some of my ultrarunning idols… I thought about how the highest Scott Jurek has ever placed at UTMB is 19th, and I thought about how Anton Krupicka, Timothy Olson and Seb Chaigneau have all dropped out of the race at some point. I thought about how Sage Canaday once talked about climbing at an 18 minute mile pace at a race and how that was his all out effort for that portion of the course.

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I am most definitely not comparing myself to these elite athletes in any way, but I really felt like the slow pace I was putting out on Sunday was my all out effort for the day even if it was the slowest I have ever moved… ever.

Really, I knew I was in for a hard day when a mystery hill I don’t think was mentioned on the course map popped up before mile 2. While northwesterners probably didn’t think it was much, I definitely thought it was something. And I thought the ~10 other mini hills were something, too. My quads and butt were burning by the time I hit the finish line … in the last few miles even the downhills hurt. My body just wasn’t prepared for this course, but since I made it to the finish I think you could say my mind was. 

In the end, I kept moving forward and eventually I reached the finish line!!!! HALLELUJAH!

I’ve got lots of thoughts about what I want to tackle next (and long-term), but first I need to give my body and mind a few days of rest. I’ll talk with my coach and put together a plan in the next couple of weeks for the rest of this winter.

In closing, I honestly feel like the Portland Marathon was the hardest thing I have EVER done in my life. Whenever anything else feels hard I will remind myself of miles 18 – 26 and that if I could get through those I can get through anything!

And even though I feel like the course ate my quads alive, I want to go back to Portland someday. Adam and I really loved the city and would like to spend more time there in the future. I just don’t think I’ll be entering the Portland Marathon again anytime soon!

The Miami Marathon sounds more like my kind of race ……

My journey to 26.2 and beyond is to be continued! I hope you stick around!

PS: You know what? Even though the marathon was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, my first thought after crossing the finish line was: I need to run more.

There’s nothing like being a bit of a masochist, right? ; )

54 comments

  1. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    Dang, I am drinking my morning coffee and tearing up over this, Kristina. Your mind WAS ready for the course. As you were describing those dark moments… I have been there. I think most marathoners have been there and we will be there again! There are just some races that the only thing we can do is keep. moving. forward. like you did and not let our minds psych ourselves out. I can only imagine how it felt to know there were only a few people behind you… only a few people behind you on the COURSE though. There were hundreds of thousands of people in Portland that day that didn’t have the physical capabilities and grit to even train for a marathon let alone complete one! To hear you say you had a moment that you felt like you were letting people down broke my heart and I am glad you pushed past that thought. I am so excited to hear about your future goals and even more about the marathon. How were the crowds? Any funny signs? So excited to see more pictures too! I hope you are enjoying your rest. OH and crossing the finish line and immediately want to run more? SUCCESS!!! (Although I never doubted you would run more marathons and ultras!!!!)
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…10k Training- My last big tempo run!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Meg, thank you so much for your support, kind words and personal insight. I really, really appreciate it! Now that I’ve had time to rest up a bit, I can see that this is a learning experience I will grow from. It really has to get better from here, right?! In my future are a lot of squats and bridge repeats to strengthen my legs so that someday I can return to Portland and kick ass … because I have officially decided I’m going back for a redemption run at some point. But not for a couple of years 😉

  2. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    Sometimes on a really hard long run, once I realize I’m going to finish, a kind of peace comes over me. I imagine that’s how you felt at the end when you knew no matter what you would finish…and you didn’t get moved to an alternate course! I can’t imagine how brutal the race was. I’m beyond inspired that you accomplished your 26.2 goal. Thanks for a great, honest recap! I hope you know how amazing you are.
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…“I’m housebreaking a tornado.”My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Ali, thanks so much for your comments and support! I know what you mean about that feeling of peace … I do remember seeing the mile 25 marker and picking up the pace because I felt I owed it to myself to really leave it all out on the course. Once I knew I had enough energy to make it to the end I really want to use it all up in the process!

  3. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    Just the fact that you never thought about quitting says so much. It can be so frustrating to realize you are not going to meet your goals. But the thing is- that you did meet your goal of finishing!! AND you were able to finish with a smile on your face!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…The Most Inspiring Part Of The Racing SeasonMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      You are right!! I have to keep reminding myself that my real goal for the day was just to finish… I just really never ever thought it would take so long, like it wasn’t even a concern that it would take more than 6:30. But from here I can only grow and get better and at the next marathon hope for a strong PR! 🙂

  4. Amanda @ Slimplify Life

    Your story is more inspiring than some of the sub-3 marathon stories I’ve read. You are AWESOME and pushing through 18 – 26.2 shows so much mental strength, I’m both impressed and inspired. You rock girlfriend!!!
    Amanda @ Slimplify Life recently posted…Coconut Pancakes (Paleo)My Profile

    1. Megan @ Meg Go Run

      I agree with Amanda. Your race and all you went through was VERY inspiring!
      Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…10k Training- My last big tempo run!My Profile

    2. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you so much Amanda! I really appreciate it!

  5. cheryl

    You never let us down for a minute! YOU FINISHED A MARATHON! YOU made the cut-off, YOU did more than MOST people run in a month in ONE DAY!!!
    You hit the nail on the head when you said, ” I honestly feel like the Portland Marathon was the hardest thing I have EVER done in my life. Whenever anything else feels hard I will remind myself of miles 18 – 26 and that if I could get through those I can get through anything!”
    Isn’t that why we all do these races? To prove we can do the seemingly impossible (to most people!)
    I AM PROUD OF YOU!
    You have helped me so much on my marathon journey–I feel like we have gone through a lot of the milestones together. THANK YOU.
    JOB WELL DONE, FRIEND!!!
    cheryl recently posted…The last long run is in the books!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Cheryl! I feel like we’ve gone through a lot of the milestones together too… because we have! I am truly so excited to root for you during your marathon!

  6. The running Schlub

    Can you imagine where you were a year ago or a few years ago??? You are officially a marathoner, nobody can take that away, and you didn’t let anyone down.

    Mental toughness was huge to push through the way you did, fitness can always improve but heart and determination come from within.

    So proud of you and I can’t wait to see your upcoming plans!!
    The running Schlub recently posted…Are You Down for a Great Cause??My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Richard! You know, since finishing the marathon I had not considered at all where I was just 6 months ago… 6 months ago the longest distance I had ever run was 13.1 and now I’ve doubled that! WHOOP! Thank you for helping me put things into perspective! I can’t wait to hear about your next race!

  7. Kristin @ A Mom on the Run

    I felt the same way after my first. The marathon is a BEAST and I don’t think you can fully grasp that until you run one. You did it though, you are a marathoner!!!

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I could not agree more! I really had no idea what I was in for, but you know what, those really tough miles made me feel so alive! I think that’s why I love running, it allows you to feel such intense emotions!

  8. Jenn @ Running on Lentils

    I agree with everyone else. That you didn’t quit says so much. You never gave in, you finished, and that is a huge, huge accomplishment that you should be very proud of! I am a slow runner and had a really bad experience for my first half marathon, where only 8 people finished after I did. Even though I didn’t have a time goal, I felt miserable. Today, I regret that. We are so hard on ourselves, when we should celebrate our accomplishments more. You succeeded and should feel great about it. Congratulations!
    Jenn @ Running on Lentils recently posted…Running the Race in My MindMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Hey Jenn, thanks so much for your comment! As soon as I get over this jet lag I can’t wait to read through your blog and learn more about your running journey! I’m already starting to regret some of the negative feelings I felt during the first 24 hours after the marathon, but am starting to see everything in a much more positive light!

  9. Karla @ Run, Karla, Run!

    Kristina, Congratulations and well done!!! Although you didn’t meet your time goals, you gave that course everything you had and then some. I love your spirit, your fight, and this post. I’ve loved following your journey from new runner to MARATHONER! And it’s been incredibly inspiring. Enjoy your rest. You earned it!
    Karla @ Run, Karla, Run! recently posted…Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back on TrackMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you so much Karla! Your blog was one of the first I started reading and it’s been such an inspiration to me — not just your running but the progression of your writing career in the running space as well!

  10. Amy

    Honey, I have done 7 of these stupid things and each time I do one, the same, demoralizing, terrible thoughts run through my head. But I continue to do them because there is no greater feeling than knowing you DID IT and you DID NOT GIVE UP. You finished! You did not give up, nor did you ever want to. That says a lot.
    Amy recently posted…To Track or Not to Track?My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Now that I’ve had some time to really reflect with a clear mind on the marathon I really do think the mental strength to get through one of these things is the most impressive — especially after hearing from you, Meg and others that these negative thoughts pop up even for more experienced/faster marathoners!

  11. Courtney @RunningforCupcakes

    Ahhh I loved reading this! You did it!!! You should be so proud of yourself. You have inspired me and given me hope for my marathon next wekeend, so thank you for that!
    Courtney @RunningforCupcakes recently posted…Marathon Training: Week 20My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      You are going to do so great, Courtney! You’ve trained hard and will soon be a marathoner!!!!

  12. Margaret

    Congratulations!!! You did awesome. Last year I also missed my first marathon time goal by an hour, but finishing a marathon in any time truly is an accomplishment. 🙂 And I really do want to run another marathon now…

    I can’t believe the weather we had this weekend, I promise it’s not quite typical to be that hot in early October.
    Margaret recently posted…Marathon MondayMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thanks so much, Margaret! I read your Portland recap several times leading up to race day and found it really helpful – I am now looking forward to following along with your half marathon goals!

  13. Kim

    You totally rock!!! Your mental toughness is amazing!! I need to take lessons:)
    Reading this made me think even more that you are incredible!!!
    Maybe we should do an ultra together – I think between your mental toughness and my (well, I don’t know what) we would make a great team!!!
    Kim recently posted…My Heart Is OverflowingMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Ummm your legs!!! Your speed and strength!

      They wouldn’t let us team up though because we would basically be unstoppable 🙂

  14. Lou @ Running Through China

    Kristina, you are awesome!! That is so great that your first thought was about running more! I remember finishing my first (out of 2) full marathons in 2009 and vowing never to run again, lol…
    Thanks for the race recap – it sounded an extremely tough, hilly course! You should feel so proud of yourself. Hope you’re getting lots of rest and relaxation now. 🙂

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Lou! I happily relaxed tonight with some good food and wine shared with girlfriends – nothing better than that! 🙂

      You would probably not have thought the course was hilly at all!

  15. Jodi @ Jodi Runs & Stuff

    I am so, so proud of you! You did it! You’re a freaking marathoner! Who cares if it took almost an hour longer than you expected? That just means you’re going to crush that time with a PR on your NEXT marathon! (I hear Pensacola is nice in November…2015…. just say’n). Think about all you’ve accomplished this year. You’re a rock star and such an inspiration. Now go rest those quads!
    Jodi @ Jodi Runs & Stuff recently posted…I really want to go for a run right nowMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Jodi!!! Isn’t Pensacola pretty hilly for Florida? I’m currently obsessing over course descriptions and course maps looking for the words “zero elevation gain” 😀

      1. Lou @ Running Through China

        Gold Coast marathon in Australia! The flattest course around I’ve heard 🙂 🙂

        1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

          Not gonna lie I just spent 10 minutes on the race website and saw the magical words: “reputation as one of the flattest and fastest courses in the world.” This marathon is definitely on my list now 🙂

  16. hellyontherun

    Congrats marathoner!!!
    I so needed to read this before my marathon in a few weeks; I pray to have the same spirit and strength that you showed in your race ♡
    hellyontherun recently posted…Marathon Training Recap Week 14 and Esprit de She 10kMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you!

      You totally did not need to read this though, you would have the same spirit and strength no matter what because you are an awesome, badass runner!

  17. 5 Lessons Learned During My First Marathon | Kristina's Blog About Running

    […] realize yesterday’s recap was a bit … dark? And I do want to share that there were so many good things about finishing […]

  18. Desiree @ RunSmiling

    Way to go Kristina!!! The marathon is a BEAST! After my first marathon I said “never again” immediately after making it over the finish line. The fact that you are ready to toe the line again speaks volumes about your spirit!! There really is so much more to a marathon than just the time spent on your feet and you will be amazed at the difference between your first marathon and your next and your next… 🙂
    Desiree @ RunSmiling recently posted…Weekly Training Report 9/15 – 9/21 — Woah I’m behind on this!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Desiree! I am really happy to hear that! I’ve already scoped out the 2015 marathons and have narrowed it down to about three races — all here in nice flat Florida! 😉

  19. Hanna

    I’m super proud of you for finishing, Kristina! I know that things didn’t go according to plan, and nothing anyone can say will ever fully take away the agony of wondering “what if, what if, what if.” As runners, we tend to measure our accomplishments in finish times and paces: the littler, the better. But think about the fact that you were out there, on your feet, for 7 hours without ever giving up. That takes some serious tenacity, discipline, and will power and I hope you realize that. It really sucks when we don’t feel like we lived up to our potential, but try to think of the silver lining: when you start getting better at marathons (which you WILL!), you will have a super awesome and motivating comeback story that the rest of us won’t have.

    CHEERS!!!
    Hanna recently posted…Race Recap – Lakefront Marathon 2014 – my FIRST MARATHON!!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Hanna! I really appreciate it! I am looking forward to tackling another marathon next year at which I feel like I have a prettyyy decent chance of PRing 🙂 But I’m okay with what happened in Portland. It’s not my favorite memory, but hopefully it’s one that will motivate me to train hard over the next year!

  20. Irene

    Kristina, you are so inspiring! Thank you for sharing this experience! I had a horrible first marathon THREE YEARS AGO and you’ve inspired me to get back into marathon shape! Hope we can run one together sometime!

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Irene, I am so happy to hear that! Do you live here in Florida? If so, that would be awesome to run the same marathon! I’ve got a couple in mind for 2015 … Southernmost Marathon, Cape Coral Marathon and the Palm Beaches Marathon are all contenders right now! 🙂

  21. Jessica Riggi

    Good job.!!! I totally thought about you this weekend, and couldn’t wait to hear your experience in Portland. (I’m from Oregon) I love your honestly in this post.!! I am going to be running my first marathon soon.. and I want to read stuff like this. SO raw and true.
    Good job fighting through all the mental and physical struggles.
    You did it.! 🙂
    Jessica Riggi recently posted…I’m a bad blogger.My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you!! There was no way for me to sugarcoat what happened on the Portland course and it was therapeutic to really get my feelings out. Portland was such a nice city, I most definitely want to return for another visit – whether that’s for a redemption race or just for fun!

      Can’t wait to hear how the half marathon goes! I think you have a sub-2 in the bag! 🙂

  22. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    Congratulations, Kristina!!! I am so proud of you for finishing your FIRST marathon. I can imagine how difficult that course felt when you did all of your training in Florida where it is really flat. Some of the hills out there were no joke, especially the hill leading up to the bridge. I can relate to the series of emotions you went through while hitting those later miles, but it makes me sad to think that you were down on yourself about being out there and feeling undeserving. It doesn’t matter what speed or time you run, what matters is that you enjoy what you are doing and are doing it for you.

    It’s great to hear another perspective on the course and running in Portland. I could not believe how warm it was – definitely a shocker and abnormal day for October. At least it did not rain. ☺

    Hopefully someday I will be able to travel to your neck of the woods for a race!
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Portland Marathon and a Ticket to BostonMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thanks so much, Kristen! The climb to the bridge was a killer (was it a hill or a small mountain?! ;)), but the views from on top of the bridge were really spectacular! I wished I could have stopped to take it all in. Given that my time goals were out the window I thought about it, but I was worried if I stopped moving I wouldn’t start back up again.

  23. RunnerGirl

    Congratulations on finishing the Portland Marathon!!

    I respect and appreciate your trueness in saying how you felt about your race. Your words really touched me & helped me to come to terms with a less than terrific race I had recently I did my first 1/2 ironman distance tri & while I did finish, it wasn’t the time I trained for or hoped for. I also felt humiliated & like I let people down. I’m ok with it now & realize that it’s still an accomplishment to finish what was started.

    Enjoy your success & I hope you’ll run Portland again & get your revenge!

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I am sorry to hear that your first 1/2 ironman didn’t go as planned. It truly is an amazing accomplishment to train for and finish a 1/2 ironman, I am completely in awe of that! I am trying to view Portland as setting a baseline from which I KNOW I can PR next time, and I hope you are viewing your experience the same way!

      Thank you for your kind words and sharing your experience. At first I thought there was no way I’d run the Portland marathon again, but the more I think about it the more sure I am that I’ll be at the starting line again someday!

  24. Brooke @ wreckingroutine

    Congratulations! You are officially a marathoner! Even though you walked, you finished. That is what matters. Wear the marathoner name proudly.
    Brooke @ wreckingroutine recently posted…Tall Tales Tuesday: Storm All The CastlesMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Brooke! After seeing the elevation change I went through on marathon day I am feeling so much better about the race. I was definitely not prepared for all the up-and-down and now I just feel happy that I survived! 🙂

  25. Karen

    A huge congratulations to you!! I am sad it was so hot for you!! I have issues with sun blaring down on me so I feel your pain that the course was full on sunshine the whole time, that is a challenge. I am sorry you went through such a hard spell during the run, but you make me laugh…when you finished you thought you need to run more lol I had a very rough experience during my second half and got really sick and there weren’t any port of potties on the course. I was discouraged and got through it, but right before I crossed the line I was tempted Not to because I didn’t want to deal with the time forever…but I did cross and decided to be proud and own it. Running is tough stuff – it can make you feel glorious and we all know it can make you cry. I am so proud of you for getting through those really tough moments and FINISHING!!!! What a great smile for your finishers photo 🙂 You look beautiful..like a marathoner!
    Karen recently posted…Not So Long AgoMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      HI Karen! Oh no, I am sorry to hear about the port o potty issue. I had something similar happen during my first half marathon and had to run into a Subway (I am still grateful to that Subway for saving me from a seriously embarrassing situation)!

      The sun was really relentless. I was literally covered in salt from sweating so much and I have the darkest tan I’ve ever had in my life! haha

  26. Jennifer @ The Final Forty

    You know what? You FREAKIN’ RAN A MARATHON. I don’t care if it took 3 hours or 7 hours. YOU DID IT! I am soooo happy for you. Congrats again!

    Trust me, I know how it is to be disappointed in your race day performance, especially after so many months of hard training, but sometimes there are other factors that prevent you from achieving that time goal. I don’t know HOW you ran in those kinds of temperatures; I think I would have walked right off the course somewhere before the first half marathon. It sounds brutal. Plus, of course, there’s jet lag and all kind of other fun issues that go with the physical agony we put our bodies through.

    This was your first marathon. An automatic PR. An INCREDIBLE and LIFE CHANGING accomplishment. Believe me, there will be other marathons…and all you can do is learn from each one and try to improve. That’s what running is all about, right?! 🙂
    Jennifer @ The Final Forty recently posted…19 Miles and My Thai Kickboxing Black BeltMy Profile

  27. Kathleen

    Congratulations, Kristina, on your first full marathon! I too ran Portland this year and was surprised, not to mention overwhelmed, by the unexpected hills and hot weather. I am a Midwesterner, and this was my second marathon. What Portland taught me is that the term “flat” is extremely relative. We finished, though, right? And that is all that matters. Cheers!
    Kathleen recently posted…How NOT to Run a MarathonMy Profile

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