I completed my first marathon in Columbus, Ohio on October 15, 2017! I feel blessed and fulfilled with my accomplishment. I finished in 4 hours, 31 minutes, and 3 seconds. My goal was to finish at 4 hours and 30 minutes, so right in line my goal! The weather was warm and humid, but only a brief several minute drizzle late in the race.
My months of training served me well, not only in my physical stamina but also in conquering my mental game as well. 26.2 miles is a long time to be inside of your head. The first 13.1 miles was crowded with half-marathoners, thousands of welcome distractions from my discomfort.
The second half was much less crowded, and was truly a mental challenge, not just for my increasing pain and fatigue but also questioning my goal and my ability to carry out the race. Due to challenges of working full time and fitting in training for a marathon, I had only completed a 17 mile long run in my training.
As I got past the 17 mile marker, I rejoiced at my success but also wondered if I could make it 9 more miles to the finish line. I concentrated my energy on pushing these negative thoughts aside. I consciously replaced these thoughts with the reminder the cumulative fatigue I had endured with my training. I would repeat to myself “You’re good. You’ve got this.” (Sometimes I would whisper it to myself as well.) The 50-60+miles of running a week increased my endurance and ability to withstand the challenge. The crowds of fans and volunteers were also amazing and full of positive talk to keep me going.
My Number One Fan
My husband was the most wonderful support for me during the race. He was my companion and chauffeur, and my #1 cheerleader. But more importantly, he was supportive and understanding during my hours of training for the 5 months leading up to the race. Running 40-50+ miles a week takes a lot of time and commitment for the athlete, but is also trying to the athlete’s loved ones. Several hours spent running means less time for your loved ones and other pursuits. My husband’s support behind the scenes was invaluable and necessary for my success with my running hobby.
Rest and Recovery
I am currently in my 2 week period of rest and recovery, with a leisurely and enjoyable return to running. I am catching up on much needed sleep and quality time with my family. I am reminiscing about the hours I devoted to not just the race itself but also the 20 weeks leading up to the race. I am so happy that my first marathon experience was a success!
My next running goal will be this spring: The Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6, 2018!
A good pair of running shoes and comfortable clothes are necessary to succeed at running. I have found seven other “nice to have” items to make your runs even better.
In the last year of training, I have ramped up my running slowly and steadily. At first, I was running a mile 3-4 times a week and huffing and puffing. Now, I am averaging 50 miles+ week, and feeling confident and proud of my progress. I spent the first 5-6 months training for my first half marathon, and the last 5-6 months were devoted to training for my first marathon. (My Columbus marathon is coming up very soon, on October 15!)
The 7 running gadgets and tools below have been very helpful and valuable. These are the ones I use daily and truly love! I have sequenced these from least complicated/least expensive to those products that are more pricey, but (in my humble opinion) worth the higher price tag.
1 Body Glide
A must for long runs, particularly if you have areas that chafe and rub. Go for a long run on a hot day, and you will know which areas apply to you. Body Glide is pretty affordable and worth the investment- I buy mine on Amazon for about $10-$15.
2 Running Vest
This is a must to stay visible if you run in early AM or late evening, when the lighting is not ideal and you are less visible to drivers. They come in various designs and colors. My running vest cost me about $15 on Amazon.
3 Buddy Pouch
I have tried the arm bands and the fashionable “fanny packs.” I don’t like how the arm bands rub on my arms and when I am wearing wired headphones, it can be awkward. The fanny packs also rub and slide, and bounce when I run. This Buddy Pouch, however, is really sleek and attaches to the waist of your pants with magnets. If you have contraindications to a magnet (e.g. pacer/defibrillator) this is not an option. Otherwise, though, if this does not exclude you, I think this is a well designed and reasonably priced product. It comes in several sizes. I got an extra large sized Buddy Pouch (big enough to hold my phone, snacks and keys) for about $25 on Amazon.
4 Milestone Pod
This is a really neat device to analyze your running metrics. It attaches to the laces of your shoes, and tracks your gait and the miles you have run. There are other products out there that do similar work, but I like this one for its low cost and usable app interface. I have not tried the other products out there, but I think this product, is worth the cost to give a go. The Milestone Pod costs approximately $30 (on Amazon). (You may see running theme here with my recommendations. I admit – I am an Amazon Prime addict).
I have definitely seen an improvement in my stamina and comfort levels with running as I have used this product. By analyzing things such as my cadence, stride length, and ground contact, I have steadily altered my running style for the better. I run more upright, with quicker, shorter steps. This is not only more efficient, but more comfortable and more sustainable, allowing me for longer, happier runs.
5 ROAD iD
I bought this later on in my training after worrying more and more about my safety and “what if” I had an accident or became unable to speak for myself. I decided to a buy a product that fits right on my FitBit band. It lists my name, birth year, and contact info for my husband. Not only does it give me some confidence running, it also gives my husband some peace of mind. There is also an option for an extra subscription for a tracking app . This extra tracking feature allows me to send an alert to my husband about where I am running and how long I will be out. It also will send an alert to my husband if I am stationary for longer than 5 minutes. My RoadiD was about $30, and arrived in about 2 weeks.
6 Run Angel
I bought this product after reading online accounts of others who have been taunted or assaulted while running alone. I prefer to run alone, mainly for convenience of my schedule and I like to be alone with my thoughts while I run. The Run Angel is a wrist band with a loud 120dB alarm that is triggered by me pushing a button. Once I trigger this alarm, it will also alert my “angel” (my husband, in my case) that I am in danger. It was a bit pricey, shipping from the company which is based in Ireland. There is an offer for 15% off of your first order if you provide your email. It cost me about $100. I think this is a worthy investment for some peace of mind.
My husband bought my Charge 2 for me about a year and half ago, and I wear it daily. I had a FitBit Flex a few years ago, but I prefer the Charge 2 due to a bigger display and more tracking options. I like how it tracks not only my steps and miles, but also the elevation I have climbed per day, measured in flights of steps. The app is user friendly and offers options to follow and compete with your friends. This is one more way to keep you disciplined and motivated in your exercise and training. My Charge 2 currently retails for about $150.
A Few of My Favorite Things
These are a few of my favorite running things. Now, of course, you should invest in a pair of comfortable, reliable shoes and comfortable breathing running clothes to start with. But these additional “nice to have” accessories are my personal favorites that have made my runs more comfortable and fun.
I have gravitated toward distance running since high school. I played soccer and also joined my high school track team, opting for the longer 3200 kilometer race. My tendency toward endurance sports likely means my body has more “slow twitch” fibers. Or perhaps I have a penchant for long, grueling processes. Whatever the case, I continued to run both in high school, and afterward.
Later, in college, I joined Naval ROTC, where running was a key part of “PT” (physical training) sessions and a component of the physical fitness test. I loved how much I improved with regular training exercises with my battalion. I also am a perfectionist and a habitual practicer, so I would run on the side to improve my performance at the PT sessions. This, of course, improved my physical fitness even further, and led me to further enjoy running.
Falling off of the Wagon, i.e. my Time Away from Running
As I transitioned to medical school and then residency, busy life took over. I blamed my degree of stress and overwork on why I fell off of my beloved hobby. However, as I have mentioned in other posts, I now realize I was also suffering from Graves Disease, which caused exercise intolerance, shortness of breath upon exertion, and palpitations. I was unaware of this, thinking I was simply “lazy” and busy, and blamed the symptoms on poor conditioning and lack of willpower.
My Return to Running, with a Vengeance
Fast forward now to fall 2016. This was the time of my Graves Disease diagnosis. Once the diagnosis was made, I realized my fatigue had a secondary cause. My mind was blown. And also, my confidence grew. I resumed running here and there. And then, January 1, 2017, I made a “New Years Resolution” to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. The longest I had run to that point was probably in the ballpark of 3-5 miles. I was nervous but also excited to challenge myself, and see how far I could go.
I carried out the training dutifully, finding a free beginners training plan online. I entered the workouts into my calendar, and tried to juggle these around my already busy life. The first couple of weeks were pretty rough, I will not lie. I admit I was embarrassingly out of shape. But I persevered, primarily because I had set a goal. I had also registered for the race furthering my commitment. Internally, as well, I did not want to shortchange myself – I wanted to know if I could do it, and do it right!
I finished my first half marathon at age 35 in 2:23. Not too bad for my beginner-level training and several years of couch potatoed-ness preceding this!
A couple of days after finishing, I was incredibly sore. I got Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness with a vengeance, mainly because I did not train on hills leading up to this hilly race. I did not incorporate any strength training into my Half Marathon training. I also ran faster in the race than I had been training (the adrenaline made me do it!). However, mentally, I was buoyed and very proud of my accomplishment.
About 2 days after my race ended, I was motivated to next take on a marathon. I logged on that day to the Columbus Marathon website and (wisely or unwisely) registered myself. My very first marathon will be in Columbus, Ohio, this October, 2017.
I have been training for this marathon now for 3 months. I have a little less than 2 months to go before my race date. The training is grueling and time consuming. I will admit it is not all gumdrops and rainbows. I have good days, and bad days! I have also begun more strength training this time around, as I have read several books and articles highlighting why it is important to be a well rounded athlete.
I admit I neglected strength training altogether with my Half Marathon training, as I am busy and like to cut corners where I can. But incorporating about 10 minutes/day of body weight strength training most days of the week has improved my health, my sense of accomplishment, and my physical fitness. I think my physique has also improved. All of those smart trainers and exercise physiologists are correct – it pays off to be well rounded!
Thought the training is hard at times, I have come to look forward to my runs. I have also opted to move my runs to the morning. This ensures I get the workout done. I also feel accomplished and more productive early on in my day. The runs are a time for me to focus on me. I push my body with my harder runs, and let my subconscious take over with my easier runs. It is cathartic, a form of mindfulness and meditation for me nearly every day.
Why Should You Exercise?
Now, I realize not everyone enjoys running. But I think there is something everyone’s body is inclined to doing, be it walking, swimming, cycling, etc. I challenge you to start doing this regularly, for example, 4-5x/week for 10 minutes a session at first. Pencil it in (electronically or physically) into your calendar. This will hold you accountable. You will feel guilty ignoring the event, or worse, scratching it off or deleting it. I also encourage you to consider working out in the morning. As I have mentioned, it gets the workout over and done. Also, your mind will be stimulated by the physical activity so early on in the day. I suspect you will perform better and be happier with the rest of your work and life activities later that day.
Most importantly of all, exercising regularly not only helps your mental health, it also improves your physical health. You will have lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. With the rising overweight and obesity epidemic in our society, I think these are all unfortunately becoming too commonplace in my day to day practice as a family physician. Please do your darnedest to avoid these diseases! It is so much better to avoid the diseases altogether, than to try to treat them once they are present. Part of your risks come from genetics, age, and sex, which I realize are not changeable. However, your physical activity and exercise habits are something you CAN change. Please do so!