This post was originally posted on my personal blog on 11/21/11. I have since transferred it to here.
I did it!
Yesterday I ran the Shin-Tomei Marathon, my first marathon, in Japan.
My goals for the race were to finish, have fun, and complete the race in less than 5 hours, if possible. I met my first two goals and finished in 5:40:23 (chip time).
It was a beautiful day for a run. The sky was a gorgeous shade of blue and there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight, which was a miracle considering the previous day was chock-full of nasty rain.
I didn’t sleep well the night before. Not only was I anxious and nervous, but I still had a bad cough and it kept me up for a long time. I went to bed early and woke up early to catch a shuttle bus to the race.
My friends, Christian and Marc, also ran the marathon, so we met up on the train and rode the shuttle together.
The race was to commemorate the opening of a new highway in Shizuoka prefecture. The Shin-Tomei highway will open soon and the marathon was a one-time only event (since the highway will have future traffic on it).
For the most part, I felt the race was well organized and put together. There were a lot of people running the full marathon, but there were many volunteers and medics along the otherwise secluded course to cheer for and help runners. Some locals set up camp along the highway overpasses to cheer for runners as they came through, too, which really meant a lot to me and helped keep my spirits up.
The race began on time, right at 9:30.
Miles 1-3: I was feeling pretty good. I started running with Marc and Christian and got caught up in the excitement of the crowd. My first two miles were WAY too fast (9:10 and 9:15) to be beginning a marathon. I slowed myself down to a more comfortable pace and realized my legs felt weak. It had been a while since I ate breakfast, so I went ahead and took 3 Shotblox. I also stopped to use the toilet at the 5K mark, which added another 3 minutes to my time.
Miles 4-10: My legs were still feeling weak, so I took 3 more Shotblox at mile 4. I could feel the sugar getting into my system and I started to feel better soon after. I was running comfortably, but the sun was getting high and the day began to feel very hot. My legs began to feel like lead toward the end of this stretch and I was sort of wishing I was only running the half marathon.
Miles 11-12: Longest miles of my life. I was expecting a water stop somewhere in here, so I kept drinking my water, but the stop never came and I ran out of water. I was hot, thirsty, and running towards a turnaround point that just felt farther and farther away. I saw Christian on the other side of the turnaround and asked where Marc was, but I never saw Marc. Mile 12 was the point where my legs started to give me Hell.
Miles 13-17: My legs were killing me and felt like lead. It was all I could do to run a quarter mile at a time before surrendering to walking as quickly as possible. I started to feel disappointed in my legs not cooperating and aggravated at my music at 16.23 miles, so I called Jeremy and told him to talk to me. He reminded me that I could do it and told me to keep going. I called him again around mile 17.5.
Mile 17-20: The miles felt so slow and I wondered if I was even moving. I continued to push myself to run as much as possible, but my knees were aching and the lower, front part of my left knee had a stabbing pain. I refused to give up and ran as far as I could before walking, then repeated. I saw a lot of fellow runners on the side of the road with medics at this point. There were also a lot of runners sitting and stretching. I knew if I sat down I was done for, so I just kept pushing.
Mile 20-24: I started dedicating miles to people I love and tried focusing on those people instead of the pain. Mile 20 was my brother. Mile 21 was my dad. Mile 22 was my mom. Mile 23 was Jeremy, my husband. Mile 24 was God. And mile 25 onward was ME. The outer edge of my right foot began to hurt, so I stopped, removed my shoe, and tried to massage it, but the entire foot began to tense up and charley horse on me.I grabbed some mikan from the fuel tables and that helped me feel a little better—It was the best mikan I’d ever tasted.
Mile 24-26.6: Around mile 24 I heard a voice say, “Hey Maria! Keep going!” I looked around, half-way afraid I’d lost my mind, and saw one of my former students from my days of teaching business English classes. I’d saw him and said hello before the race, but I’d figured he was long gone. He said it was his first marathon, too, and he was having a rough time. We pushed each other to keep going. There was a tunnel about 2K before the finish and I said, “When we reach the tunnel we are going to run until we finish.” He agreed and we took off—my legs were barely cooperating and I wanted to stop so, so badly—he kept reminding me, “No stopping, Maria, no stopping…”
It felt like the tunnel and the distance ahead to the finish line stretched on for eternity, but eventually I saw my husband standing on the sidelines cheering me on. Jeremy had made a shirt that said, “Yatta! I am so proud of you! 11/20/2011”.
I went through the finish chute and grabbed an onigiri (rice ball), water, and my finisher’s medal before laying on the ground. I had done it. I finished a marathon.
After the race we caught a shuttle bus back to the station and went out for dinner. I had a hamburger and fries (the only thing that sounded good) and the restaurant’s famous apple pie.
It was good pie.
Some post-marathon thoughts:
- I am very proud of myself for setting a goal, training, and completing the goal. When I set out in July to train for a marathon, I thought it was very probable I would get injured and never even make it to the start line. But I finished the race in one piece and with a smile on my face.
- Time is irrelevant to me. I really thought I’d feel much more disappointed in not making my goal time, but as I pushed myself forward (and realized my goal time was quickly slipping away) I just felt happy and proud that I wasn’t quitting, even though every muscle in my body hurt. Goal times are nice, but there are just so many things that can go right or wrong on race day.
- I hate racing. I did enjoy the experience of running a marathon. I truly enjoy running long distances and just zoning out for a few hours. This was my third race (two 5Ks previously) and I’ve never liked a race. I hate crowds of people, having to dart around others the entire run, and being unable to zone out. I love running, but I am beginning to believe racing is not my thing. Medals and T-shirts are nice, but enjoying the run is even better.
- I don’t know if I’d do it again. Never say never, but I don’t know if I’d run another (organized) marathon. I’d love to do the distance again on my own and just for fun, though.
I am officially a marathoner!