After 15 weeks of training for my first marathon it was finally time for the climax of the 18 week training…the once dreaded 20 mile run. It was “once dreaded” because I remember in the beginning of the training how impossible it seemed. Then after 7 weeks of training it became possible, but was still hard to comprehend how I could do it. Later in week 10 or 11 I started to look forward to it, and was excited to see what my body was capable of. Last week I was so excited I found it hard to contain as the time grew near. I was literally like a child at Christmas waiting for Santa to deliver the presents.
The morning of the run I was more than ready, though a little sluggish at 5:00am with a slight chill in the air. (Not pleasant when you have gotten used to warm Florida temps.) However, after eating and a quick stretch I hit the pavement equipped with gels, water, sports drink, and electrolyte capsules. The plan was was to consume one electrolyte capsule each 30 minutes, one ounce of gel every 40 minutes, 6.5 ounces of water every 60 minutes along with 10 ounces of sports drink, and run at a 9:30/mile pace.
My plan worked flawlessly, and I felt great for the entire run, except that I no longer have a solid idea of how fast I am running. This has become a problem lately because I fear I may run too fast at the beginning of the race and burn out too far ahead of the finish line. On this run I planned on a 9:30/mile and finished at a 9:06/mile pace. I am excited that I was able to fun so fast, but I am not sure if I can do it for another 6.2 miles as needed to complete a marathon.
The first indication I had that I was running a much faster pace than anticipated was when I passed the 13 mile point and I was well under 2 hours by at least 12 minutes. (Faster than I ran my first half marathon only three weeks earlier.) After the initial “Wow!” I was a little concerned I may burn out earlier than anticipated as well. But after taking a careful inventory of my physical state I realized I felt great, and had no real sign of fatigue. With the realization my body had obviously increased drastically in fitness I continued at the same pace.
Around mile 17 I was starting to feel a little fatigued, but still moving along OK. I still had enough energy to continue, and I was still in “the zone”. Now there was just a small hill in mile 19, and a downhill prior to reaching the 20 mile mark. I would tell more about it, but I really don’t remember much. I didn’t really zone out, but most of the last two miles were spent watching the clock and wanting to break 3 hours. I didn’t increase my speed, because I couldn’t, but at the same time I remember doing the numbers over and over in my mind as I crept closer and closer to the 20 mile marker…and rest. (Well, not really completed rest since I still had a one mile walk to get home.)
I didn’t manage to break 3 hours, and missed the mark by 2 minutes. However, I know now that I am more capable than I thought. I am learning more about myself every run, and have developed a true love of running. Not a love that comes from fame or fortune, but because of how running makes me feel about “Me”.