There was a time I said I’d never run a full marathon. I know that because I posted it on this very blog. However, the kids are older now (giving me more training flexibility) and I’m not getting any younger, so I gave myself a goal of running a full marathon by the time I turn 40. Other folks I know that have done this have made it something of a “destination race,” but honestly, I just wanted to get the thing done rather than wrap it up in a vacation.
Thus, I signed up for the Kansas City Marathon: it’s close to home; I have run in the half marathon version before; and it’s in the Fall, so training over the Summer was relatively reliable, as opposed to a Spring marathon, where the Winter months could make training difficult.
I should note that this is a journey that started back in July 2013. It took me about a month and a half before I ran my first 5K distance, though not in a race. My first official 5K race was in Hannibal in 2016, followed by another in Colorado. Since 2016, I’ve been keeping up with 5Ks, 10Ks, and 15Ks, as well as two half marathons in Kansas City and Louisville, KY. It’s kinda crazy to think that I’ve been doing this for 8 years!
Anyway, there are, perhaps, countless ways to train for a marathon? Many of the plans you can download or read about fall in the 12-16 week training range. I went with one offered by Strava (technically made by McMillan Running) that followed a 12 week regimen. Generally, I ran on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then had a long run on Sunday mornings. The long runs started small, only an hour or so at a time, and then gradually stepped it up until I ran for three and a half hours and did 20 miles (with a lot of stopping and walking along the way…).
The unfortunate thing is that it was just so blasted hot these past few months in Missouri! There were a few weeks where we had a reprieve in temperatures, but even into October, we had temperatures in the mid-80s, and only dipping down into the low-to-mid 70s overnight. There wasn’t much relief, which makes running pretty miserable!
This past week, however, temperatures finally cooled off, just in time for me to not run as much because I needed to “taper” into the race this past Saturday.
I still jogged a bit last week, but gave myself two days off prior to the race. This is partly because it’s just good practice to rest up before the main event, but in this instance, I was also nursing my right foot a bit. My extensor hallucis longus (EHL) tendon on the top of my right foot (which lifts the big toe) was inflamed, causing not just soreness and swelling, but also a solid amount of pain that sets in after about 4-5 miles. I spoke with our exercise science faculty on campus and they said to use a muscle roller and take some naproxen leading up to the race, so I started that mid-week.
We reserved a hotel a few blocks away from the starting point of the race, which was in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It was pretty close to the Plaza, so that gave us some restaurant and entertainment options. We went to dinner at Buca di Beppo around the corner to load up on pasta. After that, we went back to the hotel and tried to get some sleep (spoiler alert: I slept terribly, but I always do before a race).
The race started at 7:00 am. My original plan was to run a marathon in 3:30, but believe you me, that goal was ambitious (which I eventually realized during the training regimen). Instead, I adjusted and hoped to run it in 4:00 or less, which was a bit more manageable. It was 44 F at that time, and would remain in the 40s for the first 3 hours of the race. By the time it would cross 10:00 am, temps were supposed to reach the low-50s, so the temperatures were nearly perfect for a marathon.
There were quite a few people racing! There were 943 running the full marathon and 2,435 doing the half marathon. Folks running the 5K and 10K started at 7:30, so they weren’t at the starting point with us.
Actually running the race is mostly a blur for me at this point, though I remember aspects of it. I made it a little over 15 miles before I stopped to drink anything, so that was a good change from the months of training in Missouri Summer heat. There were restroom/water stations every 2 miles or so, but I had a 20 oz collapsible bottle of Gatorade with me if I needed it.
After 16 miles, though, my left medial calf started cramping up on me. My right foot was still inflamed, but I took two naproxen pills before the race (and two the night before….), and I put some moleskin on the top of my foot to limit friction. The injury I was worried about didn’t end up mattering, all that much, as all focus shifted to my calf for the last 10 miles. About every half mile or so, I had to pause and massage my leg, and stretch it as best I could. I had banked time running faster than I usually do for the first few hours, so it wasn’t the end of the world if I had to stop a few times….but the pain was certainly frustrating! I feel like I could have done quite a bit better without the cramping, but I suppose that’s what happens in a marathon: something’s got to hurt.
Brooke and the kids found me along the route a few times. I had LiveTrack set up on my watch, so I sent the link to a few folks if they wanted to follow along with my progress. Brooke noticed that I slowed down, so she texted some encouragement. The kids made signs, too, and had fun cheering for everyone. I think they kinda “got into it” a little bit, based on what Brooke told me, in that they cheered for other people, gave other runners encouragement, and were at least a little entertaining for the participants.
In the end, I crossed the finish line at 3:58:43, which is just under the 4:00 goal. I placed 44/100 in my age group and 288/943 in the marathon, overall. I was a bit surprised at how not crappy I felt, as the 20 mile run I did a month previous did not have a particularly fun aftermath. Perhaps it was the endorphins and adrenaline, but honestly, I felt pretty good after I was done! My calf finally stopped cramping up after I stopped running (shocking, I know…), and I met up with Brooke and the kids after grabbing a bottle of water.
We chatted a bit and then walked down to the festival for a few minutes. They left to go catch a movie at a theater, while I stayed behind to have a pulled pork sandwich and a beer. Because the hotel was only a few blocks away, I was able to walk back and chill out in the hotel room for a bit, getting some much needed recovery.
Ultimately, I’m glad I did it. The first few days post-race featured a bit of difficulty going downstairs (my quads stayed pretty tense…), but by today, I’m feeling mostly back to normal. My right foot is still a bit inflamed, but that’ll subside. I’m not going to run as regularly as I have, as I’m going to try shifting to cycling as much as I can to help lower the chances of impact injuries on my legs.
But I still have 89 miles to run in 2021 to reach 1000 mi this year. Can’t stop just yet! Onward!