Friday, September 9, 2011

My First Marathon: Vanessa

Below is the first of a series of upcoming posts on "My First Marathon." It's such an awesome experience, I thought it would be great for readers to share what their first marathon was like and why it meant so much to them. The first in the series is from Vanessa Taylor. Read on to find out more about Vanessa and her first marathon: SunTrust Marathon, Washington DC, 2009

I had started running for real in Fall 2008, when I started a graduate program in Washington DC.  I had always wanted to do a marathon, and that seemed like a good time to do it.  I went through a rookie program training plan that I found online, trained all winter, was hoped for the best.  It was my goal to break 4 hours, although I had started to wonder of the likelihood of that.

It was about 30 out when the gun went off at 7AM, but I warmed up within a few miles. I was able to see my parents at the starting line, which was great. The first few miles went by quickly, although when I ran my first mile in 9:30 (21 seconds off my pace), I picked things up, nervous that I wouldn't meet my goal. My ideal goal was to break 4 hours (and I had secondary goals of 4:10 and 4:15). For the first 6-7 miles, I ran alongside of a nice guy named Rich, who was also trying to break 4 hours. However, at mile 7, my right sock rolled under my ankle, and I had to pull over to fix it. I was so concerned about the time I lost fixing my sock, that I picked up the pace again.

The majority of the hills were between miles 3 and 9, and it felt great to knock them out. The crowds were great; everyone was cheering, playing music (including the Rocky theme), and just being very supportive. I saw my parents at mile 11, and I was so happy to see them. Around that point, I think I misread my pace band, and thought I was 4 minutes off of my pace. However, when I got to the halfway point (13.1) in under 2 hours, I then realized, not only had I made a mistake in reading my pace band, but that I could truly break 4 hours with some room to spare. Also, I knew I was halfway done, which was good. Then I was also able to see my mom and dad again at mile 15, which was great.

The next few miles flew by, especially mile 17, which went downhill (weee!). At mile 18, I realized I only had 8 miles to go, which did not seem that bad. I knew that my friends from grad school (Wes, Seth, and Mary - the 3 I talk about the most) were going to be standing at mile 20. I told them to come around 10AM, but thankfully they got there early, since I was running at a pace faster than I imagined. I saw them first, and yelled out, and they were so surprised to see me, it was hilarious. I was so happy to see them. Then at mile 21, things started to seem a bit ugly. 5 miles left, but I just started to feel icky. It's not even that my legs were hurting, it was that I had been drinking Powerade and eating GU, and just had a sickening sweet taste in my mouth. Mile 22 was an "out and back" mile, which meant I ran half a mile, then turned and ran back on the other side of the road. It felt like I was going nowhere. Then I had 4, then 3.

At 3 (23), I told myself there was only a 5k left, and that I would be done with it soon. Then 2 miles left, but 2 hills to climb. Those 2 hills wouldn't have been so bad had they been earlier, but they seemed terrible then. Then the mile sign said 25, so just 1.2 to go. That felt long. Finally, I passed the sign that said 26, so all I had was a 200 yard dash. I dug in, found the last bit of energy I had stored, and sprinted to the finish. They announced my name as I went through the finish line, which was pretty cool, and I saw my friends and parents as I was finishing. The time that showed up as I crossed the finish line was 3:55:47, but I knew it was actually less than that, since it took me a few minutes to even cross the starting line. I then got my medal, and was immediately surrounded by Mom, Dad, Mary, Seth, and Wes. It was amazing, lots of hugging, etc.. I was insanely happy (I'm sure the adrenaline played a role in that). Once I slowed down, I started to feel sore, so I walked around, stretched, and even got a free massage on location, which was great.

Later in the day (following a good shower and nap), I went out for a steak dinner with my parents and friends - so good. It was just great for my parents to meet my new friends, and everyone just had a great time.

When I got back from my celebration dinner, they finally posted the official results of the race.
743 overall (out of 2094)
29/120 in my age division (F 18-24)
Overall Pace: 8:52
Finish: 3:52:18

I did not expect to finish in that time - I was shocked. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was filled with a lot of doubt about my goal, and in the end, I beat myself.

Vanessa Taylor

1 comment:

Mark said...

Great post! Vanessa is one of my long-time running buddies. She has grown so much as a runner in the past couple of years. I can not wait to see where she will be in a few more years!