My Love/Hate Relationship with the Marathon

As most of my runner followers know, there was a recent amazing girl power moment in the running community. Shalane Flanagan conquered the New York City Marathon, becoming the first American woman in 40 years to win that race. I watched her moment live on TV as she turned the corner and said “F Yeah!” knowing that she was going to achieve her long awaited goal. I am sure that I am not the only person that felt a rush of emotion as she broke through the finish line tape. I am also sure that I am not the only female that day that thought “I want to run (another) marathon.”

Ever since I watched the coverage of the marathon last Sunday, tracking my favorite elite runners, celebrities and local running friends that were fortunate enough to have gotten into the race, I have felt inspired. I have felt a fire burning within me like never before, telling me that I have got to run another marathon. If you would have told me a year ago that I would be anxious to do another 26.2, I would have laughed in your face.

My first marathon was tough. I had a few hiccups in my training – like, you know, signing up for a marathon that would be a week earlier than what I had planned on doing, and suffering a minor hamstring injury right after my 20 miler… one month before the big race. I didn’t do much cross training, I didn’t eat the way I should have, but I did have an amazing support system. Without my crazy running friend Staci – the person who initially asked me if I wanted to run a marathon some day – there is no way I could have ever done as well as I did at my first marathon and quite frankly I do not think I ever would have signed up. We were plagued with not so ideal weather conditions for the Detroit Marathon in 2016… with unseasonably high temps and humidity followed by a relentless downpour. Throw in a little food poisoning for my friend Staci and me being undertrained and  coming off injury… yeah! It is no wonder that day I thought “Okay, I did it. I crossed running a marathon off my bucket list. Whew! I never have to do that again!”

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2017… when a few of my running friends and I, under the influence of adult beverages, decided to sign up to run the 40th Detroit Marathon. Not only was I going to run another marathon, but I was running the same one! The one that I had told people wasn’t that great. In fact I had told the very friends who signed up with me that night that I would suggest running a different marathon! But yet here we were… at midnight… putting in our expected finishing times and thinking far ahead to October.

Just like the year before, things did not go as planned with my training for this year’s Detroit Marathon. I slacked on cross training, old injuries threatened to rear their ugly heads. But probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome for me was realizing I would probably be doing this race all on my own. I faced changes in my personal life that I never dreamed I would have to face. Then one day before the race I just decided… I was going to do this. I had done the training. I was stronger than last year. I was going to kick this marathon’s hiney.

I did not end up running the race alone. I ran the first half with a friend who was running her very first half marathon. And even after her and I parted ways, I only felt lonely for a little while. Running a big marathon like Detroit you hardly ever feel alone. Between the spectators and the other runners, especially with there being two separate half marathons run at different times, I always felt like I had a support system. On Belle Isle when the winds really started to pick up, I saw the other runners around me, struggling just as much as I was. That is one of the things that I really love about this sport – the comradery. Whether you are fast or slow, we all support each other. You really are never alone.

At the same time, I felt this great sense of accomplishment as the route wound back into the city. While I never really felt alone, I also felt like I did this. Just me. Nobody was there pushing me but myself. I recall moments during the race where thoughts overtook me and I felt myself getting ready to sob, but I just told myself to keep it together and to finish this race. It was never sadness, fear, anxiety, or exhaustion… it was a sense of overwhelming pride and love. I was proud of me. I love the person that I have become, I love that I am a runner.

I knew even before I crossed the finish line that I wanted to run another marathon. When I realized how close I was to finishing in less than 6 hours, I knew that target was one I wanted to hit. My husband told me I finished the race so strong, and he was so proud of me, and I knew I wanted to do it again. I won’t go as far to say that the marathon is my favorite distance, no way, but it no longer is a “I did it to cross it off my bucket list” distance.

So what marathon(s) will I do? Well, I will tell you that I will probably stick to these big races when it comes to marathons. While I hate the chaos of the big crowds, finding parking, and generally just getting anywhere around big races, I like the crowded feeling of the race. That never feeling like you are alone feeling. Friends of mine that have run smaller half marathons and marathons express a feeling of desolation. And admit that mentally it got to them. Nobody would know if they just stopped running. Took a nap. Turned the wrong way. So as much as I hate the hustle and bustle involved with getting to and getting out of a big race, I will deal with it to have that sense of not feeling alone. Because of that, I probably will not do any other marathon in Michigan, although they are on my Running Bucket List. 

There are three marathons that are really on my radar. 1… the Pittsburgh Marathon. But probably only if I do it in 2018 which is not looking entirely promising. The reason I would like to do this marathon in 2018 is because it is the 10th year and my best friend lives in Pittsburgh. Plus Pittsburgh is a beautiful city and it is a challenging course. 2… Little Rock. The race with the biggest bling. And my brother lives not too far from Little Rock. And last, number 3… Chicago. Chicago is one of my favorite places and I would love to say that I have run one of the World Majors.

I told myself I wanted a break from the marathon. Training definitely takes its toll, and I am struggling right now to get back into the swing of things. I feel lost without having a big goal or race to train for. But I also got sick of running by the end of marathon training. Okay maybe not exactly sick of running, but sick of following a plan. I just wanted to run for fun. And now I am ready to be on a plan again. I am actually antsy to do another big race. Another marathon. That is my love/hate relationship with 26.2. Thanks a lot Shalane… I’ve got the bug!

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