November 26, 2013

My freakishly great first marathon

I promise this will be my last post on the Marine Corps Marathon. Yes, I'm still reveling in the completion of my first marathon but I realize some of you may not be quite as excited as I am about this race (still). I've had a lot of people comment on what an ideal first marathon experience I had and figured it was worth chronicling how my prep work paid off on race day. So here it is - my list of reasons that I had a phenomenal first marathon (and also a self-indulgent photo sharing post).

1. I trained hard. There are no magic bullets when it comes to a marathon. If you want to run well, you must put in the work. I was pretty much like a machine from June until race day. I didn't miss a long run and only missed one cut back run. It was a 10 miler and I split it over 2 days.

2. I monitored my diet like a hawk. Two weeks before race day, I cut out all junk including processed foods. I worked hard to eat whole foods and get a good balance of nutrients...maybe I should work harder to eat like this all the time!  I also cut out alcohol.  And I hydrated like a crazy person leading up to the race.

3. I raced exactly like I trained. Seems obvious but I kept the same run-walk intervals and a relatively similar pace.  And truth be told, my race pace was about 40 seconds-ish faster than my long run training pace…which if memory serves me correctly is pretty on target for most first marathon training plans.
Sure I didn't run past the Capital during training….
4. I respected the distance.  I had NO idea what the last 6 miles would hold and I was nervous.  There were days that I wondered if I would fall apart, mentally or physically or both, during the last 10k.  Luckily none of that happened to me and I was able to finish strong, but I believe that is largely due to my training and the fact that I didn't sign up for a marathon until I was ready to commit 110%.
Less than a tenth of a mile to the finish…
on the dreaded hill and the reality sets in
5. I had an experienced marathoner as my running buddy.  There really is nothing like toeing the starting line with someone who has been there before…with someone who can understand your nerves…with someone who can talk you off the ledge during training and during the race.  I will forever be grateful that Danielle wanted to run with me.  And we had SO. MUCH. FUN.  I will treasure that day with her forever.
Oh hi there! Can you tell we're having fun?!

6. I paced the race right.  When people advised me to start slow, I listened.  I watched a few people crash and burn the last 6-10 miles in marathons in the weeks leading up to Marine Corps and I really didn't want that to be me.  So we started "slower than slow" and picked it up from there.  And when Danielle cranked it up, I let her go ahead even though I wished I could have kept pace.  I was comfortable running my own race and didn't fool myself with illusions of running an 8:40 pace at mile 21.

7. I paid very close attention to my fuel.  During the race, I was constantly doing mental math to calculate when I should munch on some shot bloks or take a gel.  I downed an orange slice from an aid station and snagged a Clif gel but otherwise stuck to fuel that I brought with me.  During the last 10k, I was trying to choke down (yes, accurate picture here) a shot blok every mile to keep my energy and glucose levels up.  I might not have needed it but I avoided a low glucose-inducing crash so it worked for me.
A nano-second from crossing the finish line

8. I believed in myself.  This is going to sound ridiculously cheesy, but it's true.  I knew I could do it.  I had confidence in my training.  I had a few mantras and power songs to accompany them that I relied on during the race.  I brought all of my good luck cards and notes with me to DC - they lined the dresser my friend's home and some made it into my running belt.
Sure you can't see my face, but that was my finish line moment!
9. I waited until I was ready to run a marathon.  I genuinely believe this is the most important thing I did.  You all know that Mom ran her first marathon last January as part of the Goofy challenge.  While I wasn't exactly envious nor was I ready to join her, it grated on me a little that she completed one first.  I really wasn't ready though and I knew this.  I chatted with friends about the social pressure to run a marathon after you've completed a few halfs.  It took me some time to warm up to the idea of 26.2 miles.  I signed up when I was ready and ran this on my own timeline.  And for that I am forever grateful because this race was just right for me.

10. You supported me.  I will forever be grateful of having fantastic friends that read this blog who were good to me when I was in the throes of training, the possible cancellation of the race, and the day of the marathon.  Thanks for all of your support and love throughout this process!



  1. Christine, this made me cry! The pictures capture all of it so well. Reading about your journey has helped me SO much in my own training- I can't tell you how many times I've said to Matthew, "well, Christine did X or Y in her training and it worked for them..." I know I speak for many of your readers when I say that you are an inspiration- thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us. And congratulations again; I am so proud to know you :-)

  2. You totally rocked your first marathon and you have every right to revel in it for as long as you want to! (If we're being honest I'm still reveling in completing my first marathon and it's almost 2 years later!)

    I am so glad that we ran together, I had such a great time! People look at me like I'm crazy when I say how much fun I have running marathons, but it's true! Especially when I have good company : )

    I have to admit being with you definitely helped me with my fueling, I usually slack on it during a race because I get so caught up in everything else, but every time I saw you take something it reminded me to do the same!

  3. You bask in this glory all you want Christine, you've earned it! ~M

  4. Wow. Amazing. This almost makes me want to start wanting to run one! You should be so very proud of yourself and feel free to blog about it for as long as you want. It's a huge accomplishment and you are awesome!

  5. Ummmm, you ran 26.2 miles, you revel in that as much as you want! Anyone who reads this blog (or runs) know what an endeavor that is and how proud you should be of yourself, therefore, just keep talking about it. If I were you, I'd probably still be wearing my medal EVERY DAY lol. I'm planning on doing Goofy in 2015, which, unless something else comes up, will be my first marathon (yes, I know I should probably do one by itself first). All I can say is I hope it goes half as well for me and able to do/have half the things on this list. You are a rock star! :)

  6. I adore this post so much! I've not yet run a marathon and number 9 really speaks to me. People keep asking me when I'm going to tackle a full. Honestly and truly, I'm not even in love with running 13.1 miles at this point - the thought of running DOUBLE that terrifies me. I'm not ready yet. Definitely not. But maybe one day I will be, it definitely has to be on my own time. xo

  7. So amazing! What a great post. I'm starting the process for my first full and this is all good things to hear. Congratulations again!

  8. I love everything about this post. You should definitely revel in your accomplishment forever!! Personally, I love reading all your marathon posts...they help keep me motivated! Congratulations again, Christine!

  9. Great post! I love all of your pictures, too. MCM sounds like an incredible experience!

  10. love everything about this and how true everything you said is. be ready, be prepared and keep it "your race" and not someone else's. Congrats on the race and have fun in January