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My First Marathon Experience

I commented on a post today that Sierra from Posh Meets Pavement wrote about her thoughts in her final week before running her first marathon.

Reading about all the things Sierra is feeling in the days leading up to the marathon and writing this response to her brought back a flood of memories from my first marathon. I ran the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama on February 15, 2009. It was an experience that I will truly never forget as long as I live. I didn’t have this blog at that time so I thought I would share some memories and experience from running my first marathon.

I’ll sum it up by saying this, my first marathon was the toughest physical challenge of my life and I was not prepared for all of the things that my body would do and feel during the race. I trained for this race mostly on my own with the exception of one shorter group run each week with my co-workers. I used Hal Higdon’s Novice Plan. My training went pretty well except for a bout with achilles tendonitis that landed me in physical therapy and sidelined me for quite a few weeks. It prevented me from getting in quite as many 18+ mile runs as I had hoped. Regardless, I still felt as ready as I could be for the race. I remember my physical therapist telling me she thought I could get through the race and that we’d get through the post-race aftermath together. Nice, huh?

I was not ready. Oh my god, I don’t know if you can be ready for the experience of running a marathon until you actually experience it.

I was living in Birmingham at the time. My parents and my best friend came to Birmingham for the race weekend. The marathon was the day after Valentine’s Day so I cooked a big pasta dinner and a chocolate cake for everyone the night before. I slept pretty well the night before – it was so nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and not have to get up super early before the race. Several of my co-workers were doing the half marathon and we all planned to meet up before the race and to run the half together. It was a double loop course so I would be solo after I broke off from them at mile 12.

It was so nice to have friends to run the first half of the race with. It was a great distraction to chat and really motivating to have friends running alongside of me. The crowd support was also great the first loop around the course.

I was all smiles when I broke off from my friends at mile 12. I met my family and friends to pick up my iPod since I ran without if for the first half of the race. At this point I felt like I really needed to find a restroom but it was a couple of miles before that happened. My stomach was really starting to churn at this point in the race.

By mile 15 my body was still hanging strong (minus the stomach issues) but my mental state was starting to slip. My hands were swelling and my fingers puffed up so I handed off my rings to my dad. I was pretty much running solo at this point since the majority of the racers were half marathoners. There were long stretches during the race where I was running solo through the downtown industrial streets of Birmingham. I can’t say it was the most beautiful scenery ever. Some words to the wise…

1) Don’t run a double loop course for your first marathon.
2) Run a race that is just a marathon if possible. It really messes with your mind to see all of the half marathoners finish when you still have hours and many miles left to run.

One thing that saved me was how much I was able to see my family on the course. They were AMAZING and managed to catch me at least 5-6 times. This is a benefit of a smaller race and a double loop course. This photo was taken at mile 20 when my mom started to run alongside me for a while. I was in uncharted mileage territory and my mom was cheering me on and saying all of those great things that moms say. Love her and needed the encouraging words but at this point all I wanted to do was find another bathroom. My stomach was freaking out. I took about a five minute stop in a local gas station and then was okay for the rest of the race. Oh how running causes you to share too much information.

For the final six miles of the race I was doing everything I could to keep my mind off the fact that I was dying. I just kept running and tried to walk as little as possible. I listened to BodyPump and did the choreography in my head and my friend Meghan called at mile 25 to congratulate me. Crying, I told her I was still on the course and that I was almost done. She talked to me for a few minutes as I kept plugging along.

And then I was finally in the finishing chute and it was amazing. I dreamed about that moment during every single long run. Anytime I visualized crossing the finish and thought about how it would feel, I would get tears in my eyes and chills. Crossing the finish line was everything I dreamed it would be. I got this burst of energy in the last .25 miles and finished with a smile on my face. Since it was a smaller race my family was right there taking pictures and videos of my accomplishment and yelling at me. My official chip time was 4:43:51. Slower than I had hoped but I was incredibly proud of my accomplishment.

As soon as I stopped running the impact of everything that I had endured emotionally and physically over the past four hours of the race and four months of training hit hard. I received my medal and had my timing chip removed from a very kind volunteer and then proceeded to completely break down. I could seriously cry right now just thinking about it. I can’t believe I ran a marathon. And that my friends and family came to support me and celebrate my achievement with me.

I was a complete wreck after the race. I felt completely terrible. I was shaking and cold, my stomach was a wreck and my legs were completely done. I could barely walk. We went into the post-race party where I got stretched out by a massage therapist but I didn’t have much in me to stick around too long. We headed to get food at a local deli and I couldn’t even get food down. I was so nauseated. I slowly took some bites of food but it was hours later before I could really eat. We went home after the race where I immediately climbed in bed and took a long nap. When I woke up I ate a big piece of cake leftover from the night before and then ate a good dinner with my family.

I knew that running a marathon would be very physically challenging but I was not anticipating the way my body reacted during and after the race. My stomach was so upset during and after and ended up sick the week after the race with a UTI that my doctor said was a result of the trauma of the race and dehydration. There were some other not so lovely side effects that I will spare going into detail on.

I said there was no way I would run another marathon after my first but of course I did. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon (click for race recap) two years later and improved my time by about 20 minutes. I also felt much better before, during and after this race physically and didn’t experience any of the stomach issues that I had with my first marathon but I have had issues with my right hip since mile 16 of that marathon. I had never had any problems with my hip before then and it continues to bother me now two years later.

I’m really not sure if I will run another marathon. I’m so on the fence about it. I’m really glad that I did it…twice…but it’s so hard on my body and I’m not sure if it’s worth it. I’m really happy right now running when I feel like it, CrossFitting, yogaing and all the other things I love to do. I miss having a big goal like a marathon to train for but I also don’t really have the time to dedicate to training at this point.

So anyway, not sure why I shared all of this with you today but hope you found it interesting!

Marathoners…tell me about your first marathon experience! Was it anything like you thought it would be? How did you feel before, during and after? 

{ 63 comments… add one }
  • Courtney May 1, 2013, 6:58 pm

    Love this post and your honesty.

    My husband’s family are all runners. It just comes naturally to them. I have exercised pretty much my entire life, but I was just never a ‘runner.’ Then when I got to college EVERYONE was a runner. I started running on the treadmill most days and did outdoor runs with friends. It eventually became…’therapeutic,’ and I was doing 5-6 mile runs every day. Then one day, I was running on the treadmill and felt/heard something ‘pop’ in my knee. I could barely walk to my car I was in so much pain. I drove to my then boyfriend/now husband’s house because it was closer and I knew his mom could help me since she ran, etc. She just thought I pulled something. Well, many failed attempts at running later due to the pain, I had an MRI and found that I had torn my meniscus in my right knee. That’s when I started teaching group fitness classes. Sometimes I miss running and the simplicity of it, but for the most part, I just don’t think it’s worth it. I get a much better workout from my higher intensity workouts now than I ever did with running and I don’t see the point in damaging my knee more since I have found other ways to exercise and I have much more variety now.

    Sorry for the book long comment, but I just find the whole running topic and whether it is right for everyone pretty interesting 🙂

  • outside time May 1, 2013, 7:01 pm

    yikes! Thanks for sharing this. I just registered for my first marathon and wrote today about all of the strange and conflicting finishing times different training plans are predicting. It really seems like these almost can’t apply to people running their first marathons, because the experience can be so unpredictable.

  • Kira May 1, 2013, 7:12 pm

    My first marathon was very similar, particularly the stomach issues and being slower than I thought I would be. After every bathroom stop, I would say that I was okay only to have to stop again two miles later. It was awful and yet I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’ve never been so proud as crossing that finish line of my first marathon!

  • Liz Gaulin May 1, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Wow! Thanks for sharing .
    I am going to run my first marathon in October.
    Hello Chicago Marathon:)
    I was one of the lucky ones to get in .

  • lauren May 1, 2013, 8:06 pm

    my first marathon was amazing. I just wanted to finish and ran a local one (saw you on the course holding a sign! – around mile 22,23?)

    3rd marathon I had AWFUL stomach issues. Ended up running it 15 minutes slower than the first and had the exact same feeling as you afterwards – couldn’t eat, nauseous, etc.

  • She Rocks Fitness May 1, 2013, 8:13 pm

    I LOVE this post and was getting emotional reading about your Mom running alongside of you and how you broke down at the end! I have no desire to do a marathon just because of what I fear it will do to my body. i love training for 1/2’s. They’re the perfect amount for me and allow me to still do yoga and strength training, while not being bogged down with long runs on the weekends and during the week. Thanks for sharing this…it was really well written! XOXO

  • brandee May 1, 2013, 8:18 pm

    Great read! I’ll never forget my first marathon too. My husband (not a runner) said if I found a good race he would do it with me. We ended up running a marathon along the DMZ between North and South Korea…I figured that would be pretty memorable! We had a blast training in Seoul and of course the race was long and hard but it’s something we will never forget!

  • Charlotte May 1, 2013, 8:36 pm

    What timing for this post! I am running my first marathon this coming Sunday. I am feeling scared, nervous, and excited. I am just hoping that my stomach cooperates as well as my hip (serious hip pain has developed during training) I have no time goal though…I just want to finish in one piece! Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen May 1, 2013, 8:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Jen. So well written that it felt like I was running and struggling right along with you. Have never run a full marathon, but have done a few 1/2s- not the same, but close enough to give me a true appreciation for your struggle. By the end of your post, I was exhausted and crying.

  • Kristen May 1, 2013, 8:47 pm

    Great post. I have actually been following your blog for quite awhile and was introduced back when all you had was your baking blog through my sister, Lauren (Bowers) Dumas.
    I ran a marathon here in Savannah a year and a half ago and got engaged at the finish line so I have forgotten all of the bad memories lol. I do remember seeing a friend around mile 24 and saying “I hurt so bad!” I remember the tears that surfaced during the finishing chute and the relief of being done after training for so long. I am now on the fence about this same race this November so we’ll see. I am thankful for the ability to run and that I can at least say I have completed one marathon.

  • Mary-E May 1, 2013, 9:01 pm

    Thank you for this amazing post! I was seriously crying reading this. It’s very well written and I could really feel all the emotions you felt. I broke down after completing my second half probably because I was so exhausted, overheated, and ran solo with no one I knew at the finish line. It was the hardest thing I physically put myself through it was 90 degrees, with extreme humidity during the summer in GA. Since then i have run many more halfs even the Mercedes Half! They have all been much better, but now I’m training for my first full and my emotions have been all over the place with just the training part. Hopefully, I can hold it together race day.

  • Allie May 1, 2013, 9:02 pm

    My first marathon was last fall! I was supposed to run NYC, but after it got canceled I ran Philly. It was such an emotional experience- I live in NYC and was incredibly lucky to just lose power for a week during Sandy, but the experience definitely had a huge impact on my race. I cried before, during, and after the race– so thankful to be running after months of training, but also so torn about what people were still going through in NY/NJ. Running through Philly with signs/tshirts/shouts of support for NYC showed me the incredibly strong resilience of runners, and I can’t wait to finally run NYC this year!

  • colleen May 1, 2013, 9:06 pm

    I am from B’ham and have never run the Mercedes marathon. The terrible weather and boring course have kept me from registering. I don’t know why they don’t have that race in a more beautiful part of the city. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your recap and it brought back memories of my marathons. You should look into venturing into adventure races such as the Tough Mudder. I am obsessed and will never do a marathon again (never say never…) since doing the TM. The group aspect and feeling of accomplishment is amazing!

  • Katie May 1, 2013, 9:07 pm

    I love this post and also get chills when you describe coming through the finisher’s chute. I have finished 7 half marathons (and have two more planned for this year) but have been feeling the Full bug. It IS an accomplishment and you will ALWAYS be a marathoner 🙂

    This is a great post and I loved reading about your first experience!!! Thank you for sharing!

  • Elizabeth May 1, 2013, 9:07 pm

    Have you gotten your feet measured lately? I had hip trouble (started at mile 3 of my first marathon) for about two years. When I went to try on a new pair of running shoes the guy helping me measured my feet. Turns out I was a whole size too small. He told me that a size too small will change how your foot rolls when you run. I got a larger size and haven’t had trouble since. I don’t know, just a thought! 🙂

    My first marathon experience was much the same as yours. No stomach trouble, but emotionally and physically exhausting. My entire body (face, eyes, everything) was swollen for about a week afterwards.

    I haven’t run one since but I plan on running one next January.

  • Melissa May 1, 2013, 9:12 pm

    I was so glad to read this today – I’m feeling very nervous and frustrated about my half marathon (coming up in about 3 weeks), since I’ve been in recovery from plantar fasciitis and won’t be able to run nearly the amount I wanted to before the race. I know it’ll be best to go in with no expectations, and allow myself to go slower and walk parts if I need to, but it’s nice to hear that you were in the same position once (albeit with a full marathon!).

  • Erin May 1, 2013, 9:14 pm

    I did much better in my first marathon than I thought I would. I signed up with only the intention of finishing, as it was right after my cross country season and I hadn’t been doing long runs of more than like 10 miles. I did one 20 mile long run two weeks before the race, but that the only “marathon specific” training I did. I ended up running 3:49:24 (including a 3-5 minute bathroom break) with mile 26 being my fastest (7:37). Was super proud but also so incredibly sore.

    • zoey May 1, 2013, 9:38 pm

      Ack! You stud!! I only wish i could be such a natural athlete….or be young again….sigh 😉

  • Sarah May 1, 2013, 9:29 pm

    Love it! I’ve done just over a dozen 1/2s and finally signed up for my first full in November. I’m already excited/nervous!

  • Amber May 1, 2013, 9:30 pm

    It is so true that you can never really be ready for your first marathon. I remember getting ready to run mine (Portland in 2010) and my friend who had ran a marathon in 2006 described it as being like she is a mother about to have her second child and I was about to have my first, you just CANNOT explain it. I’ve ran several half-marathons and two marathons and the marathon is a completely different beast that its’ really hard to explain. Every time I do it I say I won’t do another one… I did my last marathon a year ago in Vancouver and I’m doing a 50 KM in August followed by the Chicago marathon in October. Never say never. I just love love love working towards a long distance running goal!

  • Danielle @ D. Sells Seashells May 1, 2013, 9:41 pm

    I was very worried for my first marathon because I’m not a naturally-born athlete and was obese almost my whole life until I lost 100lbs 5 years ago, but I loved it. The course left a lot to be desired, but I found it to be way way easier than I expected, both mentally and physically. I used Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training plan because I didn’t want to run more than 3 days a week, and I was really worried because it’s intended for more experienced runners/marathoners, but it turned out to be perfect for me. For my second marathon (October 2013) I’m using the FIRST “Run Less Run Faster” training plan which is once again only 3 days/week of running. Fingers crossed 🙂

  • Sara May 1, 2013, 10:24 pm

    I ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon with TNT my last year of law school – always a goal and my class/work schedule then was perfect for training. Training was great; the race was a mess. I lost my TNT friends at 18 bc I needed the porta potty. The remember thinking most of the last 8 miles that it was the dumbest thing I had ever done. A nice gentleman trotted up next to me and asked if it was my first race. After I said yes, he smiled and said, “just remember: one foot in front of the other.” He shuffled by me and was wearing a 50 marathons in 50 states club tshirt – some states crossed through multiple times. Humbling. I was one the biggest high of my life crossing the finishline, then seemed to immediately breakdown into tears and became unable to walk. That was a rough recovery week, but worth it to experience it. I’ve had IT trouble since, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Second marathon was the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Fran. Did it again with TNT – my sister and some good friends did it too. Awesome race, was mentally prepared for the emotional insanity, and recovery was 100% better. And we planned a Napa trip following the race, and wine and delicious food can make anything more fun 😉

  • Beth @ Mangoes and Miles May 1, 2013, 11:20 pm

    This doesn’t sound like too much fun–but I suppose the end is worth it! I’m running my first half in 2.5 weeks, and my story sounds a little like yours. I trained so diligently for 7 weeks, and then a bunch of aches and pains have stared sprouting up, so I’ve had to put intense training on hold. I’m still doing my best to keep up some semblance of the mileage I’ve built up, but that this point, my only goal is to run the darn thing and finish it!

  • Kerry May 1, 2013, 11:27 pm

    I jUST posted about starting the training plan for my first marathon. I’m so much more scared for how I react to crossing the finish line and seeing my friends and dealing with the emotions than the physical pain of running it.

  • Courtney May 2, 2013, 12:45 am

    What a story! You just brought tears to my eyes. I can really feel her emotion and I am inspired by your story.

  • Lauren May 2, 2013, 12:52 am

    My first (and only until this coming Sunday) marathon was great! My experience was far different than yours. It was the Napa Valley Marathon – which I highly recommend – and I ran it with my mom. I paced perfectly (10 min miles) throughout and felt good the entire time. I owe this to the fact that I went into the race just wanting to have “fun” and the sorbet at miles 16, 20 and 22. Nothing has ever tasted so good.

    I wasn’t perfectly prepared as my longest run was 19 and I had missed a long run or two but my mental state was solid throughout. Training in January in Minnesota? Now THAT was brutal!

  • Julie May 2, 2013, 2:21 am

    Things I just don’t do: run. I applaud you for it though!

  • Michelle May 2, 2013, 7:32 am

    Great post! I love reading about how people feel during and after their first marathon. I qualified for Boston running my first marathon; however, I started out way too fast and was dying the last 10K. It was the cleveland marathon which had a half marathon along with a full marathon. The half marathoners veered off at mile 12 to finish their last mile and I still had 14 miles to go. The second half of the course was empty. I was basically running by myself and worst of all there were no spectators! Seeing the 26 mile marker was the best moment of that race, along with seeing my parents cheering me on at the finish line. At that moment I became addicted to marathons. My body hurt so bad after that race but the feeling of crossing the finish line is undescribable.

  • zoey May 2, 2013, 8:57 am

    I’ve done about eight full marathons, mostly in California and one Boston. The first is the sweetest and surprising. You’ll either walk away wanting another or never again. I was the former. Hal Higdon and Galloway’s book is all i used. I didn’t know a single other runner. Just read and trained the entire thing on my own. It was the single most empowering thing i had done in my twenties. I found the marathon itself was a “bonding” experience for my psyche and body. In the training months leading up to it, you really get to know your body, you nurture, tend, train, you coerce her into what you know might hurt. And she can surprise you or let you down. If the latter, just forgive, and give yourself another opportunity to try again. (So YES, Jen train for another!) You really discover what you’re made of around mile 23. You discover your “self”. I discover a “new” me with every passing marathon. A stronger, accepting, and happier me. Best of luck to all running soon!

  • Ju Ju May 2, 2013, 8:58 am

    Jen thanks so much for this (and really all your posts). Its funny how I get so emotional when I read stories about others and their marathon experiences (before and after I ran my own) I still seriously tear up! Its such an amazing accomplishment and when you get over that race line and see all your friends and family smiling for you its just such a GREAT feeling!! I will never forget my first race and even if I dont run another one again I am certainly grateful for the experience i.e lost toenails, messed up ankles, amazing solo early morning runs, and the all the family/spectator support. That said….OMG my stomach was so messed up the week following I had to take two days off of work ….ughh!

  • Joy May 2, 2013, 9:18 am

    Wow! What a great story. I had tears in my eyes as I read it.

    I’ve done partial training for two marathons but was never able to actually run either marathon because of injury. The emotions I felt pulling out of those two marathons was intense. I’m STILL sad that I haven’t been able to run a marathon, but honestly I don’t know if my body can do it. I still have a bit of ankle troubles and now when I run my hamstrings get so incredibly tight that it hurts to run.

    But I really, really want to do a marathon. I’ve been running for about 15 years and just feel like I’ve been SO CLOSE to be able to run a marathon, yet that accomplishment still eludes me.

  • Candice May 2, 2013, 9:48 am

    Thank you for sharing this, Jen! I’ve enjoyed all your race re-caps, and it’s kind of a treat to get another one out of the blue!

    You are an inspiration, all the time.

  • Sarah May 2, 2013, 10:13 am

    I have run one (and only one) marathon. I have run several half marathons since but have not attempted another full marathon. I don’t really know what I was thinking but I actually ran a full marathon before I had ever run a half marathon race (I guess I’m a ‘go big or go home’ type of girl). Anyways, I had a similar experience as you (it was a double looper) and oh my goodness… it was hard. I ran the Kiawah Island marathon so luckily the course was flat and had some beautiful houses…. but most of the course was blocked off to spectators so I only saw my family at mile 13 and then not again until mile 26. My dad jumped in to run the last little .2 miles with me. It also started raining in the second half of the race which felt kind of good bc it cooled us off. I totally cried at the end and drank a huge beer with my two older brothers (they were standing at the finish line with one right as I crossed) and then got a long, painful, massage with my mom. I keep telling myself I’d like to do one again but can’t seem to find the time in my life right now to dedicate to the training.

  • shannon May 2, 2013, 2:13 pm

    i just registered last week for my first marathon. i ran my first half this past december and got exactly my time goal. i know better than to have a time goal for a marathon for me. i’m just hoping to start and then finish in a standing upright position. 🙂 i’m so excited for all of it – the pain and suffereing, the learning experiences, and so much growth to be attained!! so great to get to run!! thanks jen for sharing your story!

  • Sarah May 2, 2013, 2:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this post and really appreciate your honesty. It’s definitely timely for me… that being said I’m curious about your thoughts on 2 marathons in 1 month. Bad idea? How bad?

  • Blaire @ Just Been Running May 2, 2013, 4:07 pm

    This was a great post!

    I have not ran a marathon yet, but I just completed my first half marathon in Charlotte back in April! The longest long run I did was 10 miles so I was a little nervous about how I would feel in the half. Unfortunately, we all know Charlotte is super hilly so it was a tough time on the back half of the course and my body cramped up a lot more than expected 🙁 I was happy with my time because I beat my goal, but I really did not realize how different my body would feel. I remember thinking to myself “wow I cannot believe that I would have to do this distance twice for a marathon”, but I know I will one day and I’m sure it will tough, extremely rewarding as well.

    That’s so amazing that you never gave up and I’m sure that was one of the best life experiences you have ever had!

  • Ally May 2, 2013, 7:07 pm

    Loved reading this. Love your heart. So glad you shared this!

  • Lisa of Lisa's Yarns May 2, 2013, 8:36 pm

    First off, I am new to Charlotte and new to your blog! 🙂 So hi!

    Secondly – I can really relate to your first marathon experience. I ran mine in 2006 and it was not my greatest race. I finished in 4:50, and walked most of the last 6 miles. My training went pretty well, but I totally messed up tapering as I started grad school about a month before the marathon and had a hard time balancing that + working full time + running. So I just sort of barely ran after my last 20 miler. Race day was awful and I definitely had the post marathon blues. And I said never again. And then I ran Portland in 2010 and had a much better race but said never again. But then I joined a run club when I lived in Minneapolis and it totally changed the marathon experience for me and I hope to do one once a year for as long as I can. But… I am currently dealing with a stress fracture and torn tendon in my foot so I am not sure if my body will let me… time will tell I guess.

    • Jen May 3, 2013, 8:09 pm

      hi! welcome to charlotte and thanks for reading! let me know if you have any questions about the area or if you need recommendations on anything!

      one marathon a year sounds totally doable. i can’t imagine being in a constant training cycle for one. interesting that your third was your breakthrough. i’m sorry to hear about your injuries…how did they happen?

  • Ali May 2, 2013, 10:54 pm

    I loved reading about your experience with your first marathon. I have to admit that I have always been a little curious about running a marathon and I know it would feel like such an accomplishment, however, I am just not sure my body would be up for it. Right now I am really just enjoying running and don’t feel like I need any extra motivation to continue working hard. Although I can definitely see the appeal in having a goal to work toward and the amazing feeling of accomplishment that comes with successful marathon completion.

  • Paige @ The Balancing Act May 2, 2013, 11:00 pm

    What a nicely balanced perspective on marathon running…You’re proud of your accomplishments and yet acknowledge the toll that it took on your body. I’ve never run a marathon, but I used to love running in high school and always wanted to do a half someday. I then suffered a hip injury and haven’t been able to run at all since. I often feel frustrated with my body and jealous of others who can run, but your post reminded me that I’m not the only one who may struggle with the physical stress of running, and that’s okay. 🙂

  • Cary May 3, 2013, 4:33 pm

    I’ve never run a full, because I figured I needed to get to where I felt good after running a half or longer. I ran three half marathons in one year, and felt sick to my stomach for hours after each one.
    I think everyone is just wired/built differently, and you just have to figure out what distance/course type is best for you. My best 1/2 marathon was Austin — which was super hilly, but I have short legs and do well on hills. We have a 15k where I live and I love that distance. I feel like that 10k-15k probably just works best for me. I am so proud of all my friends and family who have run marathons, but I just don’t think the real long distances are for me. I like variety, so maybe I’ll try triathlons instead 🙂 Love your blog 🙂

  • Annie May 4, 2013, 2:59 am

    I ran a marathon in 2006. The race was a blast and I definitely was very emotional after I crossed the finish line. No stomach issues, but I was feeling it in my legs at mile 22. The hardest part was the time it took to train. I am more of a half marathon running (in fact I am running my 27th half marathon this Sunday) because it takes much less time train, but I would love to run 1 more marathon (hopefully NY) just to see if I can get a better time now that I have had the experience with that race length.

  • Josefine May 5, 2013, 4:41 pm

    I ran the Stockholm Marathon in 2008 as my first marathon. I’d been doing quite a lot of training before trhe race in June so I felt pretty confident that I’d at least get round the course. On race day it was HOT, 30C, and since the race takes place on a Saturday at 2pm you caught a lot of sushine….my dad came with me and if there ws soemthing good about that weather it was that he had a lovely day watching me run!

    Stockholm in a loop race, but both laps aren’t exctly identical. There’s a steep bridge you have to climb twice, at 8k and at 33k, but having trained in the north of Sweden I didn’t find it all that daunting. I wanted to finish the race feeling strong so the first lap I was quite slow, not wanting to fatigue myself in the heat. The second lap I ran a lot faster than the first and finished the race in 4:10, as no 820 out of 3500 women (i total there are around 18000 running the race). I was happy with my time, and running into the Olympic Stadium from 1912 I did feel strong. My legs were proper stiff after but I generally felt pretty great!

    Since then I’ve ran two other marathons, Edinburgh last year in 3:59:54 (probably my most exhausting race ever, physically and mentally, and yet again it was pretty warm – around 25C) and Manchester last Sunday in 3:44:15. Now I’m looking forward to new challenges – ultra marathon in October and maybe a cheeky PB on the half marathon, not to mention running my first 10k race on May 18th!

  • Karla @ myhighonlife May 6, 2013, 1:51 pm

    My first (& only to date) marathon experience was dreadful. I had the appropriate and almost perfect training going into it. I’m from WI and did the Nashville RnR in 2012… training for a spring marathon in winter in WI is interesting. Despite perfect training-I could not have prepared myself for upper 70s/80s, ZERO sunshine and the hills on that course. Like you I felt amazing the first half. Then I couldn’t keep gatorade/water/ANYTHING down anymore and was dry heaving/walking/dying for miles 16-25. But I REFUSED to get a DNF. I had spent 400+ miles and 50 hours training for this day.

    Luckily I was able to finsih with tears welling my eyes going into that finishers chute. I couldn’t eat until about 7pm that day and walking the hills of downtown Nashville after running 26.2 miles, having a wicked sunburn & the blood blister the size fof a half dollar on the bottom of my foot was dreadful.

    Ever since that day I haven’t had the urge to run long distance. It’s so time consuming. This past weekend I did a half and miraculously PRd with zero training so i think I may have finally got bit by the running bug again. This time I’ll focus on 10ks and half marathons–maybe somedayI’ll get that dream marathon that I want… & deserve. =)

  • Ali @ Around the VeggieTable May 6, 2013, 2:41 pm

    I signed up for my first marathon (Marine Corps) a few weeks ago and you just TERRIFIED me.

    • Jen May 7, 2013, 11:50 am

      don’t be terrified! you’ll be great. and i LOVE marine corps. it will be an awesome first race!

  • Jess May 10, 2013, 12:43 pm

    My first marathon was extremely hard mentally and physically. I honestly think the only reason I finished was my friend running along side of me. She could have finished faster but stayed with me and held my hand right through the finish line.

    I was totally unprepared for how hard it was really going to be. I had horrible tendinitis in both knees which swelled up to a child sized basketball by mile 19. I cried, dropped f-bombs, but I kept going. It took 5 hours. About a half hour slower that I was planning.

    I ran my redemption marathon in October, 15 months after having my daughter, and finished just under 4:12 on a tough course. I was much better prepared that time and I’m excited to do anyone one after this baby is born!

  • Christina May 10, 2013, 3:29 pm

    I really loved this post for the pure honesty but still had a great run and a great finish. I envision that finish line during all my runs, even if it’s just a 5k race. You may have another marathon in you!

  • Kerri May 10, 2013, 9:32 pm

    I enjoyed reading about your first marathon experience. I completed the Rock n Roll marathon in Savannah, GA in November 2011. I trained really hard and had some great training runs, even ran over 20 miles at one point before the marathon. I felt good about it and thought I was very prepared, but I too was shocked at all of the up’s and down’s that my body endured during the 26.2 miles. I ran the first half really strong and my split was above average. I had a great running partner whom I had trained with running with me, but soon after the split, I started having issues. I stopped for a much needed potty break (I waited way too long) and after had a hard time getting my momentum back. I had to take a couple of walk breaks and since my friend was feeling great, I requested for her to move on without me. She stayed for a little while but when I didn’t improve, she decided to move on. I felt really bad that we had set a goal to accomplish together and I just couldn’t stick with it. I felt like I was letting her down, letting myself down. I kept moving forward despite feeling fatigued. I could feel the onset of cystitis and could tell that I had not fueled or hydrated along the way as much as I should have. At mile 22, I noticed a gentlemen lying on the pavement with medical personnel working on him. He was bloody and not responding. I began to cry and pray for this stranger. I prayed that God spare him. I prayed that he would be able to see his loved ones again. This was a tough point for me, the toughest point in the race because it was already such an emotional journey, but to see this man struggling and not knowing if he would make it back to his family….it just gave me this realization that I was part of something major. Running this marathon wasn’t just an item on my bucket list, it wasn’t’t just this simple task that I had set out to accomplish. This was huge, and I wasn’t going to give up. At times, I was all alone. My mind played some mean tricks on me and told me that I would never make it, but I finally saw the finish line. I trained for a 4:30 finish and was very disappointed to see 5:20 on the clock, but when I took a step back and realized the magnitude of that event, I am so happy that I didn’t give up and that I crossed the finish line and collected my medal because I sooooo deserved it!

  • Steve May 13, 2013, 9:38 am

    This is an awesome post!! So proud of you for completing the full marathon. I felt the same way after i completed my first half last year and I am looking forward to possbily one day doing a full – you should be very proud of yourself!!

  • Becki May 21, 2013, 2:25 pm

    I love that I found this today. My first marathon is in five days and I was plagued with injury that has resulted in much shorter runs than I had hoped. My one and only true goal is to finish, but it’s great to read such an honest post about the experience.

  • Megan@eatmybeets May 29, 2013, 11:28 am

    I really enjoyed reading this! I am pretty sure (99%) that I will never run a marathon (no desire). So it’s interesting reading about the experience.

  • Rachel August 4, 2013, 4:57 am

    Wow this makes me cry !! I’m training for my first marathon on 6th oct and I am already an emotional wreak it was really great to read your experience and I know I can do this ! I’m currently struggling with a strained groin and my right calf has always been a problem so I’ve got the fear but I’ve got time to recover and my pace is becoming less important ! I’ve got a 15 miler next weekend that will be the furthest I’ve ever run !!! This is an amazing emotional experience thank you for sharing yours 🙂

  • Liz @ ourbusybee(s) August 7, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Do you have any tips for first time marathoners? I know you said you just cannot prepare for it until you run it, but if there was anything you wish you were warned about beforehand, please tell me! I am doing MCM this year and am nervous!

  • Ashley August 22, 2013, 10:52 am

    Thanks for the post. It is always inspiring, motivational and provides a sense of community when hearing or reading about other runners especially when the topic involves marathons and marathon training. I ran my first marathon last year, December 2, 2012 (Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas marathon). I struggled to say it nicely and did not hit my goal time but I can say that I did it. A few months went by and I did not know if I would ever do one again for the same reasons you mentioned above but I also did not want my only marathon experience to be a struggle so I registered for the Disney Marathon taking place on January 12, 2014. I have started a You Tube channel (http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA3l6Z-PlUq03J2dxHU-3rw) and am documenting my training as much as I can. All I can say is the second time around training has proven to be much harder and I don’t know if it is because I feel like I have to do more in order to hit my goals or if it is just not as “NEW” as the first time I trained but I want to try 🙂

  • jen February 4, 2015, 5:42 pm

    I loved reading this! I start training next week for my first ever marathon! I can’t believe I’m really about to do this! I love reading about others who have gone before me. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Ramana March 22, 2017, 2:49 pm

    Great article. You had me in tears 🙂

    I was never a serious runner and started running since 2015 when I ran my first HalfMarathon here in Charlotte, the Thunder Road Half. I went in to the race knowing it had lots of rolling hills and I did incorporate hills into my training. But the longest I ran during my training was 10 miles and at mile 11 I started to feel beaten and little dizzy as miles 9-11 are pretty hilly and the sun was in my eyes. I carried my bottle then well, it was a 32z gatorade bottle with water. i finished the race with a finish time 2:02:18. The following year I decided to run a flatter course and ran the Myrtle beach mini marathon. I did train for this but I didnt put that much effort into the training plan and I switched runs as I couldnt make time and we been travelling places pretty frequently. I did 2 long runs before the race 10 and 11.
    On race day, till mile 11 I was in pretty good form, plan was to run a sub 2. But at mile 11 when i picked up pace I felt a sharp pain in my left calf and had to limp couple of times. I slowed down my pace a little and decided to atleast beat my previous time, but ended up running 30 seconds slower than my first race. i felt i lost couple of minutes here and there like, i carried a 500ml bottle with a band to hold not those professional ones, that hurt a little and i carried some dates in zip lock and i was tired to tear open it with hand and had to tear that with mouth 🙂 so next race I plan to get somee gu instead and invest ina good water bottle.

    Couple of time when I was driving my car and I see the avg mileage 26.2 on the display. I began to think is that a sign that I am ready for a marathon 🙂
    This year I had been thinking about running the full but I couldn’t make up the courage.So the plan is to put atleast 15-18 mile long runs and then enroll in a race. ATleast thats how I did my first half when I felt confifent I can run atleast 8 miles, I decided to register for a race.

    • Jen March 23, 2017, 7:59 pm

      Hey Ramana,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story. The first time you race any distance is just a huge personal milestone and SO tough physically and emotionally. Congrats on finishing your half.

      Totally test out some longer long runs but know that you can do it with adequate training, bodywork and fueling.

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