I promised myself I’d finish this post up before the end of October, so here goes!
On Sunday, October 4th, I finished my first full marathon, going the full 26.2 miles of the Portland Marathon!
I can’t describe how giddy I was after the race. When I signed up, I knew I didn’t have enough time to train fully and properly but despite that, I felt like I did an amazing job.
I always have a wonderful fulling of accomplishment after a long race, but I usually also wonder why I pay to participate in such a painful events. Often, I can’t ever imagine ever running again.
Now that I’ve done a few long runs and have a few years of running under my belt, I’ve grown out of that feeling— regardless, I was nearly ready to sign up for the 2016 Portland Marathon right then and there.
I won’t lie, 26.2 miles was a difficult distance, but I have never been more excited to do another race so soon after finishing one. I was also more sore than I have ever been in my life the following day. I could barely limp to work on the Monday and Tuesday post-race. I’ve also used “I finished a marathon this month” as an excuse to slack off on running.
I was so nervous leading up to my race that I was actually in a stage of denial. I didn’t think about the race, and I hardly comprehended it was coming up until I got to the expo, which was large and exciting. There were plenty of vendors and I finally picked up a stick massage roller (sometimes foam roller isn’t enough). I also picked up a bright yellow (short sleeve) Portland Marathon shirt.
For some reason, I end up with a ton of long-sleeved running shirts from events, but I prefer short sleeve when possible.
I created a race plan based on the fact that we only had about 2 months to train. After avoiding running practically all summer, I had very little training base to start on in early August when I signed up for the race. Even alternating walking with running, our top mileage on our longest training run was only 20 miles.
Our plan was to powerwalk the first 6 miles, then start our run-walk timer and follow that until at least mile 20. If we felt reasonably good, we could continue. The goal was to finish, with a secondary goal to “beat the gate.” Six hours into the race, a gate (located between mile 21 and 22) would swing shut, moving participants to an alternate finishing course.
I was still nervous and apprehensive about the distance until the day of the race. To top things off, I was badly stung by a hornet the day before the marathon. Race day morning, the swelling was the size of my hand and it hurt. I kept thinking about my lack of training, the distance, and the fact it would take me over six hours to finish.
However, once I was in the corrals, most of my doubts melted away. I was totally stoked for the start of the race. I was ready for the Portland Marathon and my first 26.2!
The Portland Marathon was the perfect race for my very first full marathon and we got perfect weather. Early fall in Portland is often beautiful, and my only complaint was it got a little sunny during the later stages of the race (partly because I’m slow).
Having planned to walk most of the marathon, I expected a very slow finish time, so Mom and I were placed in the last corral— corral H. Each corral had plenty of volunteers and porta-potties available and there wasn’t any confusion at the start.
The start was so exciting, we had to start running right at the beginning! There were so many people cheering for the runners. However, about halfway in, Mom and I fell back on our game plan and started powerwalking.
On race day, it is so hard to go out slow. There is so much adrenaline, so much excitement. I was on my way to completing 26.2 miles at age 26.
We wanted to run. We felt ready to run. But we walked. We followed our plan until sometime after the mile 5 marker, at which point we couldn’t hold back any longer. I put on our interval timer, and we started running at a easy pace.
We kept our running intervals short— 30 seconds. We knew we could sustain that for a very long time.
Running, we would go through arguably the most boring stretch of the race— out and back down Naito Parkway (about miles 5-11) and then the stretch down Highway 30 to the St. Johns Bridge (miles 13-17).
However, it was never boring.
I’ve been to a lot of races, including the large runDisney races and Rock ‘n’ Roll races. I can say, hands down, there was more music and entertainment on course than when I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver and there were just as many enthusiastic spectators and awesome signs as at any RunDisney race I’ve ran (but less costumes).
Around mile 12, some group was handing out beer and cupcakes to runners. I grabbed a handful of cupcake pieces while mom cheered at the idea of free beer (which was probably better than the beer itself.) Sticky cupcake frosting all over my hands… but worth it.
It also helped that we could look forward to seeing Dad around mile 13. Jason was on his bike, so he was spotting us at different miles throughout the course.
At mile 13, I realized, every mile after this is the furthest I’ve ever gone in a race. Somehow, that was an empowering thought.
I felt like I had run for a while, but I was nowhere near as tired as I usually was after finishing a half marathon. This was obviously good, since I had another 13 miles to go, but it was still encouraging.
However, I did realize that I was listening to my playlist from the Star Wars Half marathon, and I listening to “Mickey’s Soundsational Parade” soundtrack for the second time. It’s a fast-paced running song, but I usually avoid overplaying it….
Leading up the St. Johns bridge, there is an infamous hill. Every blog I read that recapped the marathon has mentioned this hill and it is quite steep. It isn’t too long, but I could see that if you planned to run it, it could sap your energy very quickly. Mom and I power walked it, but the steepness made it feel like stair climbing.
No other hill has quite the same payoff however, as at the top, runners turn onto the St. Johns Bridge, which is possibly Portland’s best architectural landmark.
Mile 17 is smack dab in the middle of the St. Johns Bridge and having made it this far, I was pretty confident. Running across the bridge was exhilarating and there is a beautiful view down the river to downtown. It was wonderful thinking “We started all the way over there” but then sad to think “and we have to run all the way back there….”
Soon after running across the bridge, we found the true cost of that killer hill. It wasn’t our energy, it was our muscles. Our calf muscles tightened up to the point that running and walking were difficult. Around mile 19, we came across an aid station where a first aid lady had a stick roller. She quickly rolled out the muscles which made a world of difference. Suddenly, we could move freely again!
Around the same time, some aid station was giving out potato chips. Over the course of the run, I had had gels, gel blocks, a smashed cupcake piece, gummi bears and pretzels. I thought potato chips would be gross and too salty, but wow. Best snack ever. I could not believe how much I loved them as a race-time snack and they were way better than the pretzels.
Speaking of aid stations, we made the decision not to run with water and I’m glad we did. Although it did get warm, we never felt like we needed water. There were plenty of aid stations with water (although I’m not a fan of the Ultima sport drink they provided).
By mile 20, mom and I were still in high spirits. Yes, we could feel the fatigue in muscles and sore feet, but we were still moving and knew we were in the latter stage of the race. Ironically, the hornet sting on my left hip was bothering me more than anything race-related.
My brother Taylor, with his dog Ada, was waiting just after mile 20, and Dad and Jason had also caught up there. “Our people!” Seeing people yhou know cheering for you by the side of the road is such a boost. Grinning like idiots, we ran over to give hugs (and pet the dog, of course). But we dared not stop for too long— if we stopped, could we ever get our legs moving again?
We were now retracing much of the Holiday Half marathon route, which is a beautiful run through tree-lined neighborhood streets and past the University of Portland campus.
At some of the houses, neighbors had thrown parties on their lawn, drinking beers and eating snacks and blaring music while the runners ran past.
We were still running, and thought we were on track to beat the gate, but by now, runner’s brain had set in. We couldn’t really remember where the gate was, what time it closed, or how the alternate route differed, so we just kept moving forward (we did find out later we beat it).
Past the adidas campus (probably around mile 23), I started hurting. However, there was now only a 5K left, so I knew I would finish, even if it would be painful. Even a downhill stretch didn’t help.
We were still following the interval timer, partly because walking hurt just as much, if not more, than running, so switching between the two was the only logical choice.
The hill up to the St. John’s bridge might have been the massive hill, but it was the short incline to the Broadway Bridge that I struggled on. I was too tired to pay much attention to crossing the broadway bridge, but I do remember right after crossing I had a weird argument with mom about stepping off a curb. Crossing the bridge, we had ended up on the sidewalk. She basically said “come on, step back into the street” and I refused, because I didn’t want to step down.
At mile 25, that step down off the curb just seemed a little too hard and was to be avoided at all costs. The argument was negated when the sidewalk was blocked, forcing me to move back into the street, where the course was clear.
The last mile, we were back in the heart of Portland, but my legs had failed. After being on intervals from mile 5.5 to mile 25, I suddenly couldn’t do it anymore. A persistent issue in my right hip flared up again, and combined with the fatigue, I had to slow down. We switched from run-walking to “walking-walking slower.”
We had a short stretch on Naito next to waterfront park, then right before turning toward the finish near the elk statue (SW Main & 3rd). My grandma and aunt had joined Jason and Dad to cheer us in this last little bit, which gave us the boost we needed to start running again.
Even though we were coming in over four hours after the first marathoner had crossed the line, there was a huge crowd that was cheering wildly. An announcer was talking about the finishers and even asked first-time marathoners to raise their hands. Mom and I did as we ran toward to finish line.
And all of a sudden, we made it!
I shakily received my medal from the volunteer, grinning as I put it around my neck. It was a beautiful medal design this year. Then I headed straight for the med tent.
I grabbed ice bags for both hips— one for that blasted hornet sting (which had swelled up even more) on the left. and another for the hurting muscle on the right. Past caring, I shoved both into my tights, (which gave me a ridiculous hippy figure). Luckily, Portland Marathon provides jackets at the finish, which I tied around my waist.
As a finisher, I received my rose from a volunteer. Some 15 years earlier, as a girl scout, I was the volunteer with the roses, a thought that made me smile. In addition to copious amounts of food, we also received a tree seedling, our finisher’s shirt, a medallion and a pendant. It was all getting rather difficult to carry, so of course, finisher’s photos were next and we set it all down.
Picking the stuff up back off the ground after the photo was incredibly difficult. We were hobbling back down the street toward the family reunion area and the promise of lunch.
We had lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery, where we saw other marathoners with the same bright idea.
Time: 6:24:44 (14:41 pace, which I’m quite happy with)
Ran With: Mom
Worst Mistake: My playlist. It was not designed for a marathon length run. I listened to the stupid Soundsational parade about 5 times, which is 4 times too many.
Best Moments: Seeing relatives there to cheer (the benefit of running my first marathon locally), crossing the St. John’s Bridge, and then the finishing line.
Size of blister: One blister only, but the size of a nickel.
Days it took to recover: 3 days until I could walk normal. I went for a short run a week later and tired quicker than normal.
Overall, completely worth it. And yes, I do kinda want to sign up for the 2016 Portland Marathon!