Pat's Story, (Iowa)
This marathon thing can become sort of addictive! While I was training for my first I kept thinking I might be crazy. Those long walks are killers! Especially if you are a slower walker because you are committing 5-7 hours to walking every other weekend. And, please understand I'm 53 years old, 40 pounds overweight, have a small dose of chronic fatigue, and found every excuse in the world not to "dress" for physical education in high school!
I have always enjoyed walking and the idea of walking a marathon (or at least a long-distance walk) has been in the back of my mind. I have a group of friends on the internet who either had or were thinking of doing a marathon. One friend had done the Portland and said it was extremely walker-friendly. And, I believe that is important for the first time.
So, after the first of the year I signed up. I have been involved in Volkswalking for several years and have walked fairly long distances, but nothing like 26.2!
So, 18 weeks before the marathon I started training. I got a training schedule off the internet that looked livable (but my friend thought it was too stringent). You basically walked 4 miles 3 days a week every week, and on the weekend you do a "long" walk. These start at 8 miles and build up to 24! (I never did the 24; the most I did was 21 and I was fine on marathon day). The long walks are like this week 1 - 8 miles; 2 - 10 miles; 3 - 8 miles; 4 - 12 miles; 5 - 8 miles; 6 - 14 miles, etc. The last two weeks of training are a wonderful thing. They are "tapering" weeks and you don't walk a lot on those weeks; the week of the marathon you are encouraged to walk no more than 1-2 miles at a time.
The day before the marathon I have to admit to being REALLY afraid. I kept thinking about how everyone here at home had looked at me in horror and disbelief when they heard what I was planning to do. I kept thinking I wasn't going to be able to do it and would have to come home with my tail between my legs. My family was with me and witnessed the total meltdown I had the night before the walk. I just fell apart. But the morning of the walk was cool, clear, and exciting. Being in the throngs of people starting the walk was great. And, I never really had much trouble. The main trouble I had on long walks was blisters and I had none on marathon day.
Portland respects the walkers and had lots of support along the course. They clapped, whistled, gave us water/Gatorade, and kept reinforcing that we were ATHLETES. The idea of ME being an athlete was just what I needed around mile 20.
I have to say that, besides giving birth to my two wonderful daughters, the completion of the marathon was my single most self-directed accomplishment. For a long time afterward it would suddenly pop into my mind "I walked a MARATHON" and I would feel great! (Pat is now planning her second marathon.)
This weekend was my first MARATHON! And I did it!!!!!!!!
I can't really describe the feeling except to say that it was right up there with giving birth.... hard, scary, empowering, painful, and ultimately exhilarating and awesome.
Last week I was really overwhelmed with this bad poison oak, taking prednisone, being very emotional and uncomfortable, and doubting whether I could do it. I heard from a sports-medicine doctor that one of the side effects of taking prednisone was muscle weakness, and I might just keel over at any point. So I was truly nervous.
When we arrived in Nashville there were almost 1,000 other Team in Training marathoners there (mostly runners, but about 2-300? walkers) and we had a very inspirational pasta party. John "The Penguin" Bingham talked about that Moment during the marathon when you know for sure you are going to make it. I was thinking, will I ever have my Moment? Then we heard some incredibly moving stories from people whose lives have been devastated by leukemia/lymphoma, to keep us focused on why we were doing it.
I fretted all night about all the details should I wear shorts or leggings? Would it be too hot? Too cold? etc. We got to the starting area at 5:30 AM, and there were free pre-race massages, which was an amazing treat. We ate bagels, had water and fruit, peed as much as we could, and lined up in our corrals, walkers last. We were about 3 blocks away from the starting line when the gun went off.
Mile 1-7 was a breeze, very enjoyable and fun. We enjoyed the country music bands posted along the way, and lots of runners who were walking/running in combination. Lots of people out giving support. Miles 8-13 was a little tougher for me, when I started getting achy. The course was much more hilly than I'd expected, just lots of ups and downs, nothing dramatic but it just never got really flat. It helped if I jogged down the hills, and brought some pressure off my feet. We passed the runners who were at their mile 18, coming the other way, and it was a little hard knowing we were 6 miles behind them. We passed the halfway point, 13.1 miles, at 3 hours 27 minutes and I knew that I would have to do the exact same pace if I was going to make it in under 7 hours, which was my goal.
I was drinking a cup of water and a cup of Performa at every water station, roughly every mile, so there were lots of pee breaks which slowed me down. It started raining after mile 14. Passed this incredible group of older AfricanAmerican women, under umbrellas, on the side of the road. They were like in a trance, and just kept making eye contact with each marathoner who passed, pointing straight at them, saying, "I am proud of YOU. I am proud of YOU." It gave me the most amazing burst of energy and emotion, and kept me going a few more miles.
At mile 20 I was getting discouraged. We had to pass directly by the Stadium where the finish line was, then go on another 6 miles around and loop around. When we passed the stadium, there were hundreds of runners leaving to go home, with their medals and foil blankets. They'd already finished, eaten, partied, had a picnic, they were going home and we had 6 miles to go!! Then I really had to pee, and no port o potties in sight. The cops at every block kept saying, "It's in the next block." Finally I found the outhouse and even stopping for two minutes made my muscles seize up.
I really didn't think I could make it.
Then we headed into this little park, actually a big park, beautifully lush and green. It felt absolutely empty. There was this great band right at the entrance, singing some country song about walking. That did it. I had my moment! I started dancing. We hit mile 23 and I thought, just three more, I CAN DO IT! I got the most amazing burst of speed. My feet were numb and not in pain any more. I just poured it on. Some people said, it's just around the corner. When I turned the corner and saw the 26 mile marker, I just burst into tears. My coach was waiting at the very end and she walked with me up to the final 100 yard mark. I was bawling. Then I saw the finish line and the timing clock which said... 6 hours 57 minutes... I made it, under the 7 hours!!
We were so full of endorphins we even went line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon that night. Team in Training threw an incredible victory party. Pretty amazing. I'm ready to sign up again, and to be a Team in Training mentor this time. Anybody want to sign up to do the Dublin (Ireland) marathon in October????