Last Friday, I ran my first marathon. It didn’t go as well as I had planned. In fact, it was bloody awful.
At mile six, I knew that this run wasn’t going my way. My muscles were already starting to feel clunky and sore. By mile 13, halfway through, I had to pee terribly and had a blister on my right pinky toe that encompassed the entire appendage.
After peeing in the woods, bandaging my foot as best I could, and putting on dry socks, the running began again. I started to fall behind over the course of the next three and a half miles. At 16.5 miles, I was in severe pain, sobbing on the phone with my husband as I tried to walk/hobble forward.
I was upset that my body was struggling so much. I felt that I had done everything right, so why wasn’t I able to run at least 20 miles before breaking down. I felt that I had failed because I was walking, because I wasn’t going to get done in five hours. My husband said he would come get me. I told him I was going to finish.
From that point on, I ran/walked those last 9.5 miles. My friend Adam came on his bike and found me around mile 19. He stayed with me those last seven miles since I didn’t know the trail and was running an unsupported marathon with no volunteers or spectator, no aid stations, and no course markers.
Five hours thirty-seven minutes and thirty-six seconds after starting, I hit 26.2 miles. I had made it. Everything in my body hurt and while I felt grateful to Adam for helping me get to the “finish line.” I generally felt defeated. I tried to think positive. I tried to give myself credit that despite how I was feeling I didn’t give up, but I just felt ashamed of my time. Why didn’t I push myself harder? Why did I have to walk so much? Why did I punk out at only 16.5 miles?
I’ve spent the last few days ebbing between acceptance of the result with self-compassion and blood boiling self-loathing. I know this was my first. I know that I ran it in unusual and difficult circumstances, and yet, I can’t seem to be satisfied with having completed a marathon distance despite my time.
I think most people learn in their first marathon how much stamina they have and how much they can do. Mine showed me, my positivity and confidence seem to be tied to results and not effort. I could only think about how slow and how much I walked. Instead of the fact, I toughed it out and finished.
But then, not finishing never crossed my mind. Deep down, I never thought I couldn’t go 26.2 miles. So, I’m upset I couldn’t do them the “hard way” by running all of them. I think I thought most people thought this way so feared judgement. It didn’t occur to me that finishing it was something perhaps others wouldn’t do, so to me, it seemed less of an accomplishment.
This first marathon has brought to light that my perspective is a little out of whack and my inner critic has a megaphone. I ran 16.5 miles before hitting the wall and had to walk on my first marathon that I was basically running alone and unsupported in a damn pandemic but continued to run and walk until I finished. In what world does that make me a weak failure? Mine, apparently.
As my husband pointed out as I was tottering down the trail crying on the phone, most people don’t run marathons or strive for hard goals because they are afraid to try. I realize now that out there on the trail I had forgotten some solid running advice: “The only bad run is one you don’t go on.” This thinking would lead to: “The only bad marathon is the one you don’t do.”
So…in five hours thirty-seven minutes and thirty-six second, I ran a marathon. And that, isn’t bloody awful at all.