Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blow Me (one last kiss)- Columbus Marathon 2012

Oh, Columbus, if I ever needed a wake up call of who I am and where I need to go, you gave that to me. But, I can’t say I’m ready to say I don’t hate you….yet…:-)

Two weeks post the disaster which was the Columbus Marathon, I think I’m ready to blog my race report. Initially I told myself I was going to leave it in Columbus and just move past it. However, failure is just that without any kind of real reflection. Additionally, I would be doing all of my blog followers a disservice giving them the false impression that all marathon experiences are as glorious as the Akron Marathon was this fall. I’ve always been respected for my honesty, so I will be just that. I will try to avoid making this a depressing rant about how terrible it went, and instead focus on this as a reflection of what I think caused my performance and where I plan to go from here.
Akron Marathon finish- all smiles!

After the Akron Marathon, I was on a high. I had expectations of taking it easy and just completing it as my 3rd 20 miler before Columbus. I knew it was a tough marathon and so I had been avoiding the challenge for years. With my not-so-great training this summer, I thought I had nothing to lose and just did it. It turned out that I was completely ON that day and I ran a marathon that exceeded any expectation I had going into the race. I finished with a strong 3:20 and I was so proud of my 26.2 performance. I will forever wear my Akron jacket with great pride! However, I definitely put out more than I anticipated on a challenging course, which had consequences later on down the road.

The weeks following Akron, I continued through with my training to Columbus. I did not recover as quickly as I expected. Nothing in particular was strained or sore, but I was just REALLY low on energy. I was having difficulty sleeping, and felt no motivation at all to run Columbus. Plus, I had my 30th birthday celebration which ended up being a little bit too much fun! It was worth it and truly amazing, but it took a lot out of me.

Made it through 30 years alive! HA :-)
 I contemplated dropping down to the half, but it had already sold out and that wasn’t a possibility. Then, I contemplated just not running it at all. I ran the idea through my head a few times and just didn’t feel right about it. SO, I booked my hotel, sucked it up, and headed down to Columbus.

The night before the marathon, I was really trying to just get myself pumped up. Akron went so well, and had it been a flat fast course like Columbus I would have P.R.’d…and then some! With that mentality, I thought I could get myself to the finish line and potentially make something great happen. Plus, it would put me it into the double digit marathoner category as I would be collecting my 10th marathon medal. However, I was just still NOT enthusiastic and I couldn’t focus on it. So, I didn’t. I did some school work the night before the marathon, headed to the start line the next morning, and then the gun went off!

As soon as I started running, I just didn’t feel comfortable. It was VERY cold, I felt tired, and had no surge of adrenaline to push. I decided to push anyway to catch up with the 3:15 pace group. This required three fast miles, around a 7:15ish pace, and my first side stitch of the marathon. I NEVER get these when I train, so I was SO frustrated to experience it during the race. I rubbed it out, tried to focus on everything else, got some water at the upcoming aid station, and eventually it went away. The 3:15 pace leader was very chatty and I was just not vibing the energy. So, I pushed ahead and kept going. Once I got to mile 6, the side stitch was BACK. And, the 3:15 pace group came back. I was REALLY frustrated and contemplated walking out the pain. It was hurting very badly and it was SO early in on the race. But, I was afraid that stopping would throw me off the momentum I needed to keep going. So, I kept going…and eventually the side stitch went away.

Once I got to mile 10, I was still FREEZING---but could feel the sweat dripping down my head. Everyone else in the 3:15 pace group looked great and had good stamina. I, on the other hand, was starting to feel tapped out. Had this been a ½ marathon, I would have been disappointed to feel tapped at a 7:20ish pace only at mile 10. Considering I still had 16 miles to go, I was beyond disappointed. I was starting to get very concerned.

Once I reached the 13.1 mile marker, I let the 3:15 pace group go. Once I reached mile 14, I let myself go. I was done. My legs were dead. I had no steam, no pep, no fun---just not MP at all. For the first time in 10 marathons, I have officially met “the wall.” What does “the wall” feel like? Every runner’s worst nightmare. It’s ugly, heavy, negative, and is YELLING “it’s time to quit—you’re done and  you can’t do this.” With 12 miles left to the finish line, I was worried and thought dropping out was my best bet. My legs LITERALLY had nothing left, and I had no clue I could possibly finish. But, I just couldn’t drop out just yet, so I kept going…

I decided to let go of any time goal, and just focused on taking one mile at a time. I dropped my pace WAY back to around an 8:00ish min/mi, and at some points a 8:30ish min/mi…and at some REALLY low points a 10:00ish min/mi. I watched as people less fit than me, who I knew I should be WAY past, were passing me. It was KILLING me. Then, everything started to hurt—my butt, my ankles, my knees, my hips, and my back----EVERYTHING. I was in so much physical, mental, and emotional pain—I did everything possible to not break down crying. I was literally dragging my body through each mile. I can only imagine how terrible I must have looked. Even if I didn’t feel strong, I still wanted to keep it together to look (somewhat) strong. So, I kept my head up and wouldn’t let myself shed a tear. I figured that would keep me going…

Once I got to mile 22, I did the math and saw I was on track to break 3:30. I was VERY surprised, and decided to use this as my goal to keep myself moving to the finish line. I was still REALLY hurting, but I held on to a pace just around an 8:00ishmin/mi pace. The spectators were AWESOME, and their cheering and positive encouragement helped me to stay as strong as I could until I crossed the finish line.

When I crossed the finish line, there was no feeling of triumph. I had no positive thoughts going through my head. I was…well, PISSED OFF. I didn’t feel any pride putting that marathon medal over my head—and thought for a crazy second of tossing it in the garbage can. I was just so angry with my performance, overly exhausted, sore, and not thinking rationally at all. Fortunately, maturity has helped me overcome impulsive decision making processes, and I did NOT throw out my 10th marathon medal. And now, I am grateful I will always have my 10th marathon medal to remind me of WHO I am.

Yes, I am grateful. After weeks of reflection, I definitely learned something about this 26.2 experience. A few of the things I learned include the following:

(1) Attitude is everything. I didn’t want to run Columbus in the first place. I was trying to find external reasons to get me through it. You need to have internal motivation to complete a successful marathon. If you don’t have it, it’s not worth it.

(2) Careful with goals. There are MANY things that influence one’s 26.2 performance. As a result, a runner has to be willing to be flexible with his/her goals. I should have had more realistic goals in Columbus. I knew I was exhausted, unmotivated, and coming from a strong Akron experience. 3:15 was not an unrealistic goal for me this fall, but on that day it certainly was. I know I will break 3:15---this fall was just not my time to do it.

(3) Recovery takes time. Running 26.2 miles becomes second nature to us seasoned running folks, but it takes a lot out of you. My glycogen stores clearly were not ready for another 26.2 miles 3 weeks following Akron. There were many signs telling me this; I just refused to listen. BIG MISTAKE.

(4) I love running. SO MUCH. When I see 20 miles on my training log, I can’t wait to do it. I love the feeling that comes from running through each mile. Some people dread it, I am invigorated by it. It’s not a job or a check off the list for me. It’s my passion! That being said, there are going to be good days and bad days that come with running. But it's important that you don’t celebrate your successes too much, nor berate yourself too much for you failures. Just keep it simple. You have to take the good days for the glory that they are, and the bad days for the lessons they have to offer.

(5) There is a lot more to accomplish in a marathon beyond a P.R. For the first time in my running experience, I truly experienced “the wall.” Initially, I didn’t feel much pride in conquering “the wall.” As I said previously, I wanted to throw my marathon medal in the garbage can! But, in retrospect, making it through that experience without dropping out gives me the courage to know that I can tackle any challenge thrown my way. As long as I can focus on one mile at a time, there is no challenge bigger than me!

So, where do I go from here? Since my marathon adventures began in 2009, I’ve been a non-stop running machine. I have logged well over 5,000 miles and have run 10 marathons in just 3 years. WOW. I am only 30 years old, and have lots of years left to do amazing things with running… and who knows!?! With that being said, and my lessons gained through Columbus, I have decided not to run the Boston Marathon this spring. Boston is an AMAZING marathon, but this spring it just has no “spark” with me. So, what’s the point in putting myself through 18 weeks of hard work and dedication for something that I don’t really want to do? Maybe in 2014 I’ll feel differently, but this is just not going to be my year for Boston.

Although I definitely am out for Boston and feel good about that decision, I’m holding off on making any other official decisions on 26.2 plans this spring. I definitely plan on doing some ½ marathons, and am hoping to run the Nike Women’s ½ Marathon in DC in April with my sister! The Nike Women’s Marathon has been on my running bucket list since I’ve started running, and I would LOVE to be a part of it (and, of course, get a cute Tiffany’s necklace as the finisher’s medal)! I also want to get involved in my more strength training this spring, and have thought about doing that Crossfit everyone is talking about. I have NO muscle strength AT ALL. I can hardly do a push up. SO, I think it would be a good challenge for me.

So, Columbus, I still hate you. However, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to REALLY gain perspective of the person I am. Marathon #10 will always be in my memory as my TRIUMPH over “the wall.” So for that,  Columbus, I love you. :-)

Columbus Marathon 2012 (3:28:09, 7:57min/mi)-- Triumph over "the wall"!


  1. Wow. I really enjoyed reading this, Mary Pat! I wish I would have started running earlier in life BUT am still so happy with the gains I have made since 2008.

    You're right on about the attitude and mental side of it...even if the race is not good, getting over a mental hurdle is still worth celebrating. I have had races where I didn't feel it at all at the start or lost the motivation to run partway through and still just battled through it. While those races were nowhere near a pr, learning more about what it takes to beat those challenges made it worthwhile.

    1. It doesn't matter WHEN you start, it just matters that you start! It was great to run into you before the race--congrats again on your PR!!! :-)

  2. Mary Pat words cannot express how proud I am of the very special young woman you are. However I knew that from the moment you were born. . Some adjectives to describe you-------- honest,caring,thoughtful,intuitive,intelligent,able to grasp the core and substance of any situation,beautiful, would be the best mother a child could have, you are the best daughter a mother could have as well as sister. your blog was written beautifully and showed your inner core and to honestly evaluate yourself. I really cannot believe God blessed me with you. Always remember how much I love you. the sport of running has been honored to have you participate and whether you run again or not it doesnot matter. It has helped you find your inner core. Not many ever do. Lots of love Always, your Mom

    1. AWEEE I LOVE YOU, MOM!!!!! THANK YOU!!! :-D