So, there are many great ways to prepare for a Marathon, and then there’s how I prepared for a marathon! Don’t be like me, be better. Here are some really awesome tips that I wish I would have known going into my marathon, as well as how my marathon training went from start to finish! All in all, I think there are great memories that I’ll have for life.
Words of Advice:
- Before you start training for a marathon, try to answer the question: Why am I doing this? Then write your answer down and put it somewhere you can see it daily.
- I would seriously consider checking in with your health care professional and a running coach or trainer before you get started. No harm in making sure you’re in good condition and on the right path.
- Get professionally fitted for a new pair of running shoes, or two to rotate!
- Pick out a good training schedule, and give yourself plenty of time to train. I wish I would have taken 16 or more weeks to prepare. There are a lot of training plans online, if you use one of these tailor it to your lifestyle and ability.
- Enhance your diet. You’ll want to keep your body fueled and hydrated for all of the miles you’ll be getting in. Your body is going to need adequate nutrition and hydration. Don’t short change yourself or your body will quit on you.
- Find your tribe! Running 3 miles alone isn’t bad. Running 15 miles alone is grueling. Find a running buddy or join a run club. Even if they can’t come out for the entire run, having someone there for 10 miles is better than having no one at all for 20!
- Don’t skip rest days. These are on the schedule to allow your body to recover. Take advantage of them, relax, and enjoy and epsom salt bath.
- Cross-train! Don’t skimp out on your strength workouts. You’ll want to build up a strong legs and a solid core for stronger runs.
- Invest in a foam roller! Name it and make it your best friend! It will save your IT Band and is amazing for shin splints.
- Have a schedule and stick to it. I know a billion things come up in life, but have a visual schedule with reminders.
I managed to survive my first Marathon (26.2 miles, Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans) in February (2017), emphasis on survive. My only goal was to cross the finish line by any means necessary, and it didn’t have to be pretty. I was prepared to walk, limp, or crawl if needed!!! Running a marathon was a major milestone for me since just a couple of years ago I refused to willingly run more than a 1-2 miles at a time. In fact, last year, just moments after crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon, a friend asked me to run a full marathon with him; I laughed hysterically in his face, called him crazy, and limped away (could he not see the pain my body was in from 13 miles?!).
Let me break this story down in three parts:
- The decision to run
- Something that resembled training
- Race Day
The Decision to Run a Marathon
My “I’m never running another half-marathon ever again” mindset didn’t last long. It’s like that feeling you get when it’s late and you’re so tired that you’re just ready to quit life, quit your job via text message, and not get out of bed in the morning; until morning comes and you’re refreshed and no longer quite that dramatic. Well, after all of the pain and swelling from my first half-marathon went away I started scoping out what run I could tackle next. Later that year, I set a personal record for my 1 mile, 5k, and 10k times, and I was content with that.
As a volunteer with an awesome local youth running organization, Youth Run NOLA, I run a bunch of races throughout the year with my daughter and hundreds of other amazing kids. I ran my first half-marathon alongside two amazing young men who put everything into training and running this race. While it was my first half-marathon, it was the THIRD for one of the kids I ran with; he is an amazing high schooler and has gone on to run his fourth half! I am so astonished by these kids that I made a mental note that as long as they are out there each year training to run 13.1 miles, I will get out there with them!
I was one of two women in the discussion, and the only woman of color. For numerous reasons, in that moment, I felt small and left out of conversation.
Around Fall 2016, I was attending a gala and found myself deep in discussion with a group predominately white males, who were sharing their marathon stories. I was one of two women in the discussion, and the only woman of color. For numerous reasons, in that moment, I felt small and left out of conversation. This conversation made me want to run a marathon.
They were raving about what awesome experiences their marathons have been. In my head, I was saying, “I can run a marathon” and “if they can do it, I know I can”. Perhaps it was my ego at play, I am an extremely competitive person. I am also the type of female that hates to be outdone by the guys. So, I made the decision right there to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon that would be coming up in a few months.
Often, when it comes to running and as a woman of color, I find myself questioning if I belong. When I am hitting the pavement, putting in mileage, I rarely see other black men and women running. When I do see them I truly get excited, and I immediately get that M&Ms on Christmas morning feeling and say “they do exist”! And not just black men and women, I rarely see people of color running at all!
I love getting in an early morning run down St. Charles Ave and Uptown New Orleans, and majority of the runners passing by are white men and women. The area my home is in is a predominately black neighborhood, and even there, I find it rare to see any fellow runners. I think it’s so rare to see anyone running my neighborhood that my neighbors were shocked to see me out there. I have started to be greeted with “girl you sure do be running” and “how many miles did you get done today”. When I am running a race and see other black women out there running, walking, or cheering us on, it absolutely makes my day! Deep down inside, I wanted to run a marathon to say “yea, ‘we’ run too”!
You call that training?
Let me tell you, I had good intentions to train for this marathon the right way. I had five months to prepare, but being the master procrastinator I am, I waited until 8 weeks before the marathon to get serious! It was painful, it was hard, and it was tiresome! About five months out, a friend shared with me his training schedule and even gave me tips on how to modify it for me, but then life and procrastination took over.
I call it failing…
In October, a few weeks after making the decision to run, I found myself in the hospital with abdominal pains that rivaled those I experienced giving birth to my daughter! After a couple of days, several trips back to the hospital, and visits with a GI doctor, they finally figured out I had a bad case of E. coli. It took my body a few weeks to shake back from it. In November, I bought a new pair of shoes and named them my Marathoners. I started to ease my way back into running, but I was still experiencing stomach issues after my runs. In combination with my hectic school schedule (I am in the middle of a PhD program), I was failing to train! I didn’t run more than 16 miles for the entire month of November.
Only 8 weeks to train…
Finally, about 8wks out from the marathon I told myself I had to get on it. I had already committed to running the marathon, and even though my body had not been at full force, I wanted to see the race through. At this point, I had to accept that it wasn’t going to be the best experience and I just needed to get it done.
So like any amateur would do, I took to google to see how feasible it was to put together a serious 8-week-marathon-training plan (Please do not do this unless you are an expert)! I found a plan, tailored it to my schedule, and went for it. Christmas Eve I ran 10 miles, a few days later I ran 13, and every week I would increase my mileage. The long runs I went on were 10, 13, 10, 15, 17, and 20 miles one week out from race day.
I now know the error of my ways…
Look, this was some of the stupidest shit I had ever done! I was tired, my stomach was still irritating me, I had to learn how to quickly adjust my diet, I was getting runners knee (my IT Band was highly upset with me), and plantar fasciitis set in about two weeks before my race. My best-friends were a foam roller, Epsom salt, and google! Luckily one of my close friends and running buddies is an Athletic Trainer who kept my body from falling completely apart.
Completing the long runs was excruciating. Not just because in a short period of time I was running mileage that I didn’t have time to ease my body into and build up to, but because I was running 90% of my miles alone. Occasionally, a friend or two would get out there to get it in with me. I was able to get some of my long run mileage in with the amazing kids from YRN, who were in the midst of their half-marathon season. On the average day, I love running alone. It helps me clean off the day and clear my mind, but nothing made me happier than the days when someone wanted, or was willing, to come run!
Race day came and I was first day of high school nervous! The night before I was worried about my wireless headphones dying during the race, so I packed an extra pair; I was worried that my plantar fasciitis wouldn’t let me be great, yet I left my ankle compression sleeve at home that morning. My goal was to finish under 5 hours. I was calculating and recalculating where my pace; My mind was all over the place, but more than anything, I was excited!
I would be running the first 13.1 miles with my boys from YRN that I ran with the previous year. For them, I knew I had to stay around an 11 minute pace to get them to the finish line. All in all, I didn’t care how I completed the second half of the race. Like I previously said, I just needed to finish, it did not have to be pretty!
Mile by Mile
- Miles 1-8 were my favorites! The energy was high, bands were playing, and there were so many people cheering.
- Mile 9: I started feeling the pain in my right ankle and foot.
- Mile 11: My left foot caught a cramp like no other. It took me about a mile to run it off.
- Mile 12: I could tell it was getting hot. I was trying to intake a good balance of water, Gatorade, and energy chews.
- Miles 16-19: I had started cursing myself out for not training better. I was hating myself. Like, literally saying to myself “WTF were you thinking”.
- Miles 19-22: I ran into a familiar face for a couple of miles, this was everything! Unfortunately, this stretch of the race sucked! Literally felt like I was running through a dead zone. People were just passersby, and the music was trance like.
When it got bad
- Mile 22: My right foot, ankle, and knee were in excruciating pain. I finally had to walk. The pace I was moving at wasn’t more than a shuffle, anyways. I stretched my foot and hip flexors and walked for about a mile.
- Nearing mile 23: I gave myself a pep talk that consisted of “See this shit through! 3 more miles is nothing, get to fucking running!” And so I ran.
- Mile 23: one of my running buddies showed up with Advil, water, and a protein bar! He told me to get this shit done! Yes, there was a lot of cursing to get through the second half.
So I gritted my teeth, hit the reset button, and I ran the longest three miles of my life!
In total, it took me 5 hours and 12 minutes, but I finished…and I didn’t have to crawl!. The last 6 miles required me to dig deep into a place in my body that I didn’t even know existed to find the drive to keep pushing to the finish line. Then I drank some juice, got a rather disappointing medal and a pretty dope finishers jacket; and maybe shed a few tears of joy at the finish line! The greatest feeling was seeing my daughter (who had just finished her third 10k)! She’s my biggest fan. One of my only goals in life is to make her proud and to be an example for her.