What It’s Like to Run Your First Marathon

I woke up just after 4 am Sunday morning of the marathon. I immediately ate breakfast – the same breakfast I’d eaten and trained with for several weeks. I drank 24 oz of water and started sipping on an electrolyte drink. I put my IT bands on both knees, made sure my bib was fastened and my gear check bag was ready, and we left the house at 5:15 am. We parked, I finished my electrolyte drink, and then we waited. Rob prayed over me and we left to find our own starting corrals. Everything was going as planned, and everything was just as exciting as I had imagined. I found the friends I’d trained with, and the selfies began 😉 The air was humid. I knew it would be this way, and I’d made sure to drink a ton of extra water the two days prior to be prepared. Finally, the horn sounded and it was marathon time! Er, well, it took 11 minutes to get to the start line from my corral, and then it was time to go.

The first 3 miles flew by. The crowd of runners was thick, the sun hadn’t quite awakened yet, and we were running easy and chatting with each other. I needed to use the bathroom nearly right away, and usually on my training that feeling would go away about 2 or 3 miles in, but it just wouldn’t. Potty break right before mile 6 and I felt like I could once again conquer the world. I think it was around mile 8 that we split from the half marathoners, and when we made that turn to continue north it was quiet. So quiet. I think the new found space and the quiet let our minds wander and our pace picked up a bit, but we were feeling good. It was also after the split that we were no longer shaded by trees and neighborhoods, and the harsh sun was made a reality. It was definitely hotter than any training run the past 4 months. It was likely in the low 70’s at this point, and the temperature never got above 65 on any training run. My body was beginning to let me know that today was going to be hard.

Mile 9, climbing a hill I suddenly began to feel heavy. The kind of heavy feeling I felt around mile 15 or so usually. It was way too early to feel that. I began to slow my pace and the two girls I’d been running with kept going. I took my first GU and hoped it would help that heavy feeling reside. It.Did.Not. And I began to pray, Jesus help me. Jesus help me! Two other girls slowed and took a walk break and encouraged me to stick with them. It was their first marathon as well, and they had driven here from Tulsa to run. They were doing a 4 minute run, 1 minute walk interval and that seemed like a good way to deal with the pain I was already experiencing. (I seriously have been so blessed to meet up with other runners at just the time I was in need)

Unfortunately, it just got harder, and hotter, and harder. Between miles 11-12, out on Britton road, I spotted our friends from our church community group and that definitely gave me a burst of excitement. That quickly deflated when we crossed the halfway mark and I saw my split time. I couldn’t believe how slow I was running! I felt at this point like I should have just done the half. But I knew how many people have followed along with my training, and that there were people waiting for me at the finish line. I couldn’t give up. In my head I kept telling myself – you are a marathoner. You are a marathoner! You are going to finish this race no matter how long it takes.

The miles became a blur. A blur of unbelievable wind. Of dumping a cup of water on myself and drinking the second cup. Of unexpected nausea and dizziness. Of my entire back hurting from hunching over against the wind. Of nearly crying every time I stopped to walk. Classen avenue was every bit of misery as I’d expected. It was miles 20-24, going south against 25 mph wind. When I saw the sign for mile 23 I tried telling myself the mantra I’d repeated in the past – it’s only 3 miles. You run that every day like it’s nothing. You can do 3 more miles. So I would run, for about 2 minutes. Then I’d stop and feel dizzy and try to force myself to take deep breaths. But I couldn’t. Deep breaths made me feel like I would choke. One of my original runner partners met up with me again. We were both struggling and needed each other to get to the finish. We were swearing about the misery and encouraging each other simultaneously.

We turned the corner onto 12th street and saw the banner for “Half Mile Aisle” and said it’s time to do this! Let’s run like hunched over dying turtles and cross that finish line with dignity. And we made the turn onto Automobile Alley and the waves of emotion hit me. THIS right here was the moment I envisioned in my head whenever training got tough. The crowds on either side of the street, the grandstands, the huge FINISH banner at the bottom of the hill. My time no longer mattered, only the fact that I was about to cross the finish line of 26.2 miles. Rob was waiting for me and ran the last 50 meters by my side, and I began to sprint with every last ounce of effort I could muster. Not gonna lie, I sprinted ahead of group of about 5 people because I didn’t want them blocking my picture at the end! And then joy! Good golly the joy and relief was unexplainable!! Nothing in my life will ever match the feeling of crossing the finish line of my first marathon.

This wasn’t the race I imagined I’d have. I knew it would be slower, but nothing can prepare you for that kind of heat, humidity and wind when you just haven’t had the opportunity to train for it. Do I feel like I want to redeem this race? No way! There’s nothing like your first marathon and I have no regrets. Would I like to do it again as a stronger and faster runner? You bet!

I accomplished something I thought was impossible 4 months ago. I remember when I posted on Facebook that I wanted to try to run a marathon – I was terrified to say it. I didn’t want to say it then not be able to do it. But I did. You guys – I did!! And I feel so empowered to look at my life and ask myself what other hard things I’m avoiding due to fear of failing. Or thinking it’s too far out of reach. If this marathon has taught me anything, it’s that I’m far stronger than I could ever imagine.

I have more I want to share, lessons I’ve learned and plans for what’s next, but I’ll save it for another post. I just wanted to talk about the actual marathon while it was still fresh in my mind. And hopefully I’ll have official race photos to share later. Thanks for reading!

Hanging out at the Expo
4:30 am raceday and beyond excited!
The 50 meter sprint to the end – only smiling because I see the finish line!
Processed with VSCO with m5 preset
Can I just wear this out in public for the next few days?
Marathon Finish
I will be wearing this night and day for about a week. Not even sorry.

One thought on “What It’s Like to Run Your First Marathon

  1. Aw loved it Stephanie! So much to be proud of! Yeah, I wore my jacket for about a week after Fayetteville 🙂


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