The Green Girl's Very First Marathon

When the phone rang at 03:00 with our wake-up call, I felt like I had just gone to sleep. I quickly hopped out of bed and into the shower. We both got ready and hoped we weren't forgetting anything. True to form, I snapped a quick shot of myself before we went out the door.

When we got to the hotel lobby at 04:00, it was already packed with people from Team in Training. We checked in at one of the tables and then congregated with the rest of the Long Beach team. The excitement and nervous energy was palpable.

To avoid having to pee incessantly, I avoided water that morning and opted to stick to lemon Gatorade. That's one great thing about training - it's like a dress rehearsal leading up to the big day. You learn what does and does not work for you.

For breakfast, I had two peanut butter Fiber One bars. If there was one thing that was impressed upon us it was the fact that you do not - under any circumstances - try anything new the days leading up to and the actual marathon day.

We took a shuttle over to the starting line area and assembled to the right of the first Corral. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the elite runners.

It was still dark when we got there. We all did a myriad of things as we waited for the race to start. We lined up for the porta-potties. We stretched. We ate our breakfasts. We took pictures.

Music was playing and some people around us were dancing to the catchy beats. Marlene and I decided the best course of action would be to conserve our energy so we sat down and tried to relax.

As time passed, the sky became lighter and more and more participants arrived. I decided I should probably join the porta-potty lines so I headed over there. It's not always easy to gauge the best time to hit the porta-potty because if you go too early you will probably feel like you have to go again because of nerves but if you go too late, you run the risk of getting stuck in the line.

Our coach suggested we find an opening in the barriers so we just wait for the different corrals to go by and then when we saw people in our corral, we could slip in. You could identify a runner's designated corral by the first digits of the bib numbers. The smaller the number, the faster.

Just before the race began, there was the obligatory singing of The Star Spangled Banner and then before we knew it, the crowd was moving towards the Start Line.

I believe the majority of my Team in Training teammates ran in either pairs or small groups. I knew beforehand that I would run it alone because there wasn't anyone that ran at my slow pace so as we started heading towards the crowd, I wished my teammates well and went off on my own. I stood on the side and watched the people slowly creep forward.

Suddenly, I felt like I really needed to pee again. Luckily, the lines had died down significantly so I decided I pay the porta-potty one last visit before I started the race. I'm glad I did, too, because it turned out I had to pee a lot.

After the much needed potty break, I snapped one last picture of myself and then joined the crowd to start walking towards the starting line.

As I crossed the starting mats, I broke into a light jog. As I moved forward with the crowd, I was struck by how many purple shirts there were out there.

Before I knew it, I was already at Mile 1. Because I started a little later, I knew my time was really around 15 minutes. I had crossed the Start Line about 7 minutes after the official race clock started.

From experience, I knew this was a good long run pace for me. I tend to average about a 13.5 minute mile for short runs and 15 minute for longer runs. For the really long runs, I start out with a 15 minute mile and then I slow down to 20 minute miles - this usually ends up averaging between 16.5 to 17.5 minute miles in the end. I run non-stop for anything under 5 miles - I do run/walk intervals for longer distances. I usually do a 7:1 walk/run ratio but for the marathon, I opted to go with a more conservative 5 minute runs broken up by 1 minute walks.

I ran past some cross-dressed Team in Training cheerleaders. They were hilarious. My teammate, Marlene, later told me she overheard one male runner commenting that even though they were men he couldn't stop himself from looking. Too funny.

I was pleased when i got to Mile 2 and saw I was still holding steady at 15 minute mile. I was also feeling really good. I have my good days and my bad days and one of my fears was that marathon day was going to be one of the latter. My legs didn't feel heavy and my calves and thighs felt good.

I saw the first band, Tom Courtney & His Blues Buster, during Mile 2. I was excited because I had read there were going to be at least 27 bands so I assumed that meant one band per mile. I had contemplated up until the last minute bringing my mp3 player with me but decided against it. Before joining Team in Training, I had grown accustomed to listening to music as I ran but due to safety issues, we were not allowed to train with music all season, so I became used to going without.

I reached the 5k mark feeling strong and confident. I was still right on track with the 15 minute miles. I was actually ahead of schedule by a few minutes when I got to Mile 4 so that made me really happy.

The entertainment was a welcome distraction and I started to really look forward to seeing the acts.

I was still doing a consistent 15 minute mile when I got to Mile 5.

Every time I saw Leukemia survivors cheering all the Team in Training participants on, I would get really choked up and my eyes would fill with tears of emotion. It truly made all those months of training worth it.

I finally saw an Elvis with an inflatable guitar run by me. I didn't get to see as many Elvii as I had expected. I guess the Elvii are all faster runners and were way ahead of me?

I got to Mile 6 still holding steady with the 15 minute mile. I couldn't believe how good I felt. I couldn't help but think how all that training really paid off.

I did another 15 minutes to Mile 7 and Mile 8 as we headed onto the dreaded banked freeway portion. I got to Mile 9 in another 15 minutes. It was amazing to me that while I was going from mile 9 to 10, the front of the packers were already done.

I decided the freeway section was a good time to eat a salt packet. I'd never eaten just salt before becuase I would always add the packet to my Gatorade but a few of my teammates had mentioned how good it tastes and how it really helps you.

Remind me again what I was warned about trying anything new? Yeah about that. I regretted this decision instantly. I poured the salt under my tongue and my stomach started cramping immediately. I ignored the screams of my intestines and pushed on.

Despite the freeway slant and my stomach cramps, i managed to maintain a 17 minute pace to Mile 10. I really took advantage of any downhill sections and did uppercuts to help push me up any hills. The desire to fart was really strong but I was terrified I would poop all over myself if I dared.

Just before Mile 11, I gave into the intense stomach pain and decided I better hit a porta-potty before the situation got any worse. I wasn't quite at that 'cold sweat goosebumps' point but my stomach hurt enough to warrant the stop. I'll spare you the gory details but I was very happy to have made that stop.

That bathroom break caused me to fall a bit behind schedule so i was a little late getting to Mile 11 but I was feeling much better. The clock at Mile 12 was broken but according to my watch, I was back on track with my 15 minute miles.

I ran into my teammates, Blanca and Carolina, and they offered to take a picture of me.

I got to the halfway point, Mile 13, at exactly 10:00. I was so happy to see I was still averaging a 15 minute mile because my watch chronograph showed I had been running for 03:16:51. Whoo hoo! I was on time and feeling really good. I carefully took small sips of Gatorade slowly to be gentle on my poor stomach.

The crowd really thinned after the 13 mile point. I would assume it's because all the faster runners were way ahead of me. In addition, a lot of Team in Training participants were only doing the Half Marathon so they were all gone now. (There is no official San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon but the Team in Training group has special privileges and is able to offer its participants a half marathon option.)

I was feeling really good so I called my family to tell them I had reached the halfway point and I was doing well. My Mum had gone out with my sister so I told my Dad to relay the message to the rest of the family.

Mile 13 was Margaritaville. There were very few runners at this point - almost everyone was walking. I slowed down to a 17 minute pace to Mile 14 but I was still feeling strong.

Shortly after Mile 15, I decided to make a stop to change my socks and apply more BodyGlide to my feet because they were really sweaty and I didn't want to get any blisters.

Feeling refreshed and ready to go, I hit the road again. Around the corner, they were handing out oranges. Oranges and pretzels are my all time favorite running foods.

That stop slowed me down to a 21 minute mile to Mile 16 but I sped up slightly to just under an 18 minute mile to Mile 17.

At this point, I was starting to get tired and the entertainment became few and far between. There was also growing concern we were going to get picked up by the evil scooper truck. One girl commented that she would take one for the team and if they tried to pick us up, she would throw herself on the group and throw a fit like she did back when she was 3 years old.

I tried to push myself to speed up but exhaustion suddenly hit me and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't muster up enough energy to do it. I continued my run/walk intervals but I started cutting the run time short and it took me 19 minutes to get to Mile 18.

Shortly after I passed the Mile 19 marker, some random guy came screaming into the street yelling that we had just missed the pick-up and that we were safe. A giant wave of relief washed over me. I had made it. I was in the home stretch. I was going to finish a marathon.

Despite my exhaustion, I was cheered up by the fact that I was right on schedule for my predicted finish time of 07:30.

Looking forward, I saw a bridge with a slight incline. I was filled with dread. I was getting really tired. I silently wrote off any possibility of a 07:30 finish.

At the foot of the bridge, there was a Team in Training tent handing out Otter Pops. My spirits were immediately raised - I loved Otter Pops when I was a kid. I hadn't had one in years. I was thrilled when the girl handed me an orange one - my favorite flavor.

I think that orange Otter Pop was the only thing that kept me going and helped me manage a 22 minute pace to Mile 20.

Mile 21 was really rough. It was dry and boring. I was hot and tired. I had never been more aware of my hips and the movement they make with each step I take. At this point, walking was painful - my feet hurt from exhaustion and my hips ached. Running jogging didn't cause me any pain or discomfort but I was too tired to keep up that movement so I kept returning to walking and then hating it because of the pain.

Delirium set in for me sometime around Mile 21. I was really annoyed by the guy with the Egyptian hieroglyphic signs because he kept saying, 'You get it? Walk like an egyptian - just like you guys are!'

It was at this point that I also decided I had lost one of the bottles in my hydration belt and this made me really sad (I never lost the bottle, it was in my hydration belt where it had always been when I got back to the hotel) but I consoled myself by pointing out the fact it was lost for a good cause. I also, for some reason, thought Mile 24 would be coming up next. This made me happy because I kept telling myself i only had 2 more miles.

If i had some way of contacting these people, I would handwrite thank you notes to all the cheerleaders who were still there when I limped by.

Anger set in when I reached Mile 22 because I was so sure Mile 24 was coming up. At this point, Mile 26 seemed very far away.

I finally reached another band, Zoo-2 and the music gave me a tiny much needed energy boost.

Next, I passed The Jones Revival Band. The girl from this band was hilarious. She kept enthusiastically yelling us how great we looked and then an couple of ambulances went by and she paused and then said, 'Not like them!'. Ha. I believe that brought a weak smile to my face.

As we crossed under a railroad track bridge, an Amtrak passenger train passed over us. The noise was deafening. I waved and waved at the people and the waves back really cheered me up.

It took me almost 23 minutes to get to Mile 23. How appropriate, huh?

It was around this time that I spotted my teammate, Jeannie, and her Mom. We also saw one of our other teammates, Marilyn.

Another group of kindred spirit cheerleaders energetically encouraged us to keep going.

I somehow found it in me to speed up to a 19 minute pace to Mile 24. Next, I passed the 40k sign. No matter how hard I tried to think, I couldn't figure out what that was in miles. An x1fm.com booth was still there and I was thrilled to hear more music.

I got to Mile 25 in 21 minutes. That's when it hit me that I actually had a chance to finish in my predicted time.

I quickly took an official Mile 25 self-portrait and tried my best to pick up the pace.

When I saw the handmade 0.5 miles sign, a burst of adrenaline kicked in and I managed to do just under a 15 minute mile to Mile 26. It also just so happened that my boyfriend called me on his work break at that exact moment (I have a special ring tone to identify his calls) so I quickly pulled my phone out of the back pocket of my hydration pack. He asked me how I was doing and I said, 'Good, I've got half a mile left' and he was like, 'Wow, it sounds like you are running?' and i said, 'Yes!' He got all excited and was like, 'I can't believe you're still able to run, that's great!' and his reaction gave me such a rush.

I ran as fast as a short, slow Green Girl can after 25.5 some miles. that last supposed 0.5 miles was the longest half mile of my entire life. I'm not kidding. It went on and on and on and then I finally saw it.

One of my teammates, Georgeann, was waiting on the other side of the finish line. She congratulated me and hugged me and offered to take a picture of me.

I thought I was going to get all emotional but honestly, the only thing I could think about was sugar. I asked her where I could get some oranges and she told me I had to get my chip removed and then make a small trek to the Team in Training tent.

The entire section behind the finish line was deserted save Georgeann and 3 people handing out medals. I got my medal and then I walked over to the chip removal area and got my chip cut off.

I posed for a quick picture with my medal and headed for the Team in Training area. I saw people walking around with metallic sheets with San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon logos wrapped around them but I guess they were all out because I didn't receive one.

I always get really hypoglycemic after long runs and I really needed something sweet. I spotted some food so I walked over as quickly as i could but all they had were Dole fruit cups. Turns out they had already run out of all the fresh fruit.

I followed the signs to the Team in Training meeting area and checked in.

I saw the Long Beach Team's campaign manager, Kristine, and she quickly came over and hugged and congratulated me. She asked me what my time was and I proudly told her it was right around 07:30. Another Team in Training coach overheard my response and quickly told me I probably shouldn't tell anyone my time. I just looked at him and walked on.

When I got to the tent, I was so relieved to see Team in Training still had an ample food supply. I grabbed four orange wedges and a bottled water. A friendly girl offered me a peanut butter sandwich but the sight of it made me gag so I politely declined. I sat down on an empty chair and devoured the oranges.

After I finished all 4 pieces, I started to feel really nauseous and wondered if maybe I should not have eaten those oranges so quickly. My teammate, Marilyn, came over and we chatted. She was happy because she beat her last year's time by almost 20 minutes. I was thrilled for her.

After I felt well enough to walk around again, we headed for the Team in Training shuttles to take us back to the hotel.

Aside from the upset stomach from the salt packet and the slight nausea from the oranges, I realized I was in really good shape overall. My stomach had recovered by the end of the marathon and I didn't feel sick from the oranges by the time we reached the shuttle. A few people commented they couldn't believe how well I was walking.

I think it really hit me when I was talking to my sister on the phone and she was like, 'So you are okay? You did 26.2 miles and you are walking around and everything?' And after I replied in the affirmative, she paused and then said, 'Wow, you are in good shape!' And I smiled and said, 'I guess I am!'.


  1. That was so great, I love the details of this major show that you were the star of!

  2. That was written so smoothly, I really appreciated it! On to the next run, and the next and the next!

  3. Aw, thank you so much, Rad Runner Girl!

  4. I followed a link from one of your posts on RA. Reading your description of miles 20 - 26.2 I can totally relate. I've felt just as bad and just as hopeless as you did even though I run marathons in under 3 hours. Congratulations on pushing through the mental and physical barriers to the finish - it's what all us 'marathoners' do. Way to go.

  5. I also followed this link from one of your posts. Really enjoyed your honest and detailed description of your experience. People usually gloss over the details mile to mile. Makes me more aware about what I will experience on my first marathon. Congrats on your accomplishment. It's a great feeling to know you completed a marathon!

  6. Thanks for linking to this! I really enjoyed reading it.


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