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.
(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.
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.
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!)
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.
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? ; )