Fitness

My first marathon experience

October 28, 2015

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We did it, it’s done. Finally checked off the bucket list, the thing I’ve been planning for so long (read about my marathon prep here). It took 4 long and strenuous hours and while during the race I was begging for the time to pass quickly, I look back at it now and feel like the whole day flew by way too fast.

On the morning of the race, I followed the exact same schedule that I did for my first half marathon. I made sure to eat a warming bowl of oatmeal (with banana, almond milk and raisins) exactly three hours before start time and to drink lots of water up until one hour before the race. The goal is to go to the bathroom right before the start of the race to make sure you are perfectly fueled and won’t need to search for a loo during the run.

While I didn’t eat anything during my half marathon, I knew I needed to fuel my body properly this time. I came prepared with four energy gels (non vegan and highly processed, I know I know, shame on me…) that I was carrying in an ultra sexy running belt. I originally planned to have one ever 10 km, but ended up saving the first one for a bit later. I also snacked on some dried apricots and oranges that were provided throughout the race & forced myself to drink at every single pit stop. To be honest, I wasn’t even hungry after the race because I felt like all I had been doing was eating eating eating throughout the run.

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The first 7 km went by in the blink of an eye and I was really enjoying myself. The atmosphere, the cheering crowd, the music, and oh did I mention the view? It was a beautiful autumn day and the route was just breath taking: vineyards to the left, lake to the right with the already-slightly-snow-covered-mountains in the background. Definitely an improvement to the pouring rain I experienced during the half marathon in April. I must have been smiling like a happy little kid for the first 10 km because I was just so thrilled that the day had finally come.

From km 13 onwards I started feeling a little weaker and began to feel my knees. While Vic was still right by side, I noticed that she was pushing harder than I was and I felt like I was holding her back. Something didn’t feel quite right. I wasn’t even half way and I was already beginning to doubt myself. I even got a side cramp before we reached the half way mark. If I already felt like this now, how was it going to be at kilometre 30, 35 or 40?

But boy, when I hit the 30 mark, something happened, a switch flipped. 30 km is the longest I’d had ever run previously, so from this point onwards anything would be a major achievement. I was so exhilarated when I saw the sign, I could sense the finish line being near. I turned up the music another notch and got my game-face on. Let’s do this!

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The thing Vic & I were most scared of was hitting the oh-so-dreaded-runner’s-wall at 35 km. Essentially it’s when your body runs out of glycogen and you have no more energy. If people give up, it’s mostly then. But somehow, miraculously,  I just breezed through it. I felt like I was finally in my zone, experiencing the runner’s high and just moving forward with the end goal in mind. The right songs were playing at the right time, bystanders were shouting my name and I was high-fifing the little kids along the side of the road. And before I even knew it, there were only 3 km’s left to go.

I thought the worst part was over, but then suddenly my thigh muscles seized up and I got a major cramp in my left leg. The pain was so bad that I had to walk for a couple hundred meters, but one pitying “Oh that looks tough, will she make it?” look from a bystander made me suck it up and keep going. This is where the ‘mind over matter’ quote really came true for me. A marathon is run in the mind, and oh is this true.

In the end, Vic & I didn’t run through the finish line together, but it was still amazing to have her by my side. It’s funny to see how she experienced the race so different to me and how we had our up’s & down’s at different points.

Verdict? Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was a struggle. Yes, a couple days later I am still walking like a 90-year old granny with pain in my knees, joints and muscles and a slightly purple middle toe. But it was all worth it, for that high, that endorphin release, for proving it to myself.

And because it was oh-so-fun, I already signed up for next year’s Berlin Marathon together with my dad and his best friend. It has always been a dream of mine to run together with my dad, so let’s hope we make the cut. There’s over 200’000 applications but only 40’000 people are allowed to run, so we have to see if we get chosen. Looks like I’m not the only crazy person out there.

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Oh, and in case you wondered how i recovered from the race:

  1. Ice ice baby – This is by far the most important step. Unfortunately it is also the one that takes the most courage to do. I’m not sure I would have been able to do this without my ass-kickin’ boyfriend who basically forced me into the tub filled with what felt like minus-temperature water. But, from my experience at Phuket Cleanse where we would spend up to 30 min. in the freezing ice bath after a long workout, I knew that this would alleviate my pain the next morning. Little tip: You’ll want some distraction while you’re shivering away in the tub, so bring your laptop and watch an episode to keep you focused on something else.
  2. Foam rolling – Nothing beats the DIY convenience of a foam roller. It is great at releasing muscle adhesions and all you need is your own body weight. Does it hurt? Um, I’d be lying if I said no. But it’s short term pain for happier muscles and better running and recovery. I start from the ground up: calves, hamstrings upper traps and then slowly work my way up to back, shoulders and arms (yes, even those body parts hurt after a 4h run)
  3. Arnica oil – A 2007 study found that a homeopathic arnica solution has a positive effect on muscle soreness after marathon running and is particularly effective for delayed onset muscle soreness.

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