It was my first marathon, so that title might only be funny to me. But it was actually a great experience. Saturday night I went to bed as early as I could make myself. I set two alarms for 3:00am and read for a bit in an attempt to calm my mind and fell asleep around 9:30pm. I did not sleep soundly, though. My mind was too active. I was nervous and excited and a bit concerned about the heat. At about 2:30am I gave up trying to sleep and got up. I fussed around for a while, ate my breakfast of two eggs and a banana with peanut butter on it and headed out the door a few minutes later than I meant to.
I arrived at the shuttle buses right on time, thankfully, and hopped right on the lead bus in the line for the full marathon and off we went. I wasn’t with anyone I knew so I listened to the commentary around me. It was really nice to hear the people from out of town express their appreciation for Missoula and for the marathon organizers. Many of them were experiencing our area for the first time so I heard a lot of comments about how gorgeous it is here. I was really excited for them to get out on the course and see how gorgeous most of it is.
We arrived at the starting area and a volunteer hopped onto our bus to give us a rundown of helpful information. Once we all piled off the bus we were greeted by more volunteers, music and an announcer giving us more instruction. The atmosphere was very festive. Having never run a race before, I was mentally prepared for some confusion but honestly, things were so well laid out and organized that I had no trouble at all.
While wandering around the starting area, I came across one of the ladies from my Galloway class pace group. While we were chatting and asking each other if we’d seen any other classmates, an older gentleman (in his 60s maybe?) gave us quite a chuckle when he began to sing along with the song playing over the PA while he rushed frantically about. The song was “Call me Maybe.” After I put my gear bag away, got myself situated and used one of the many porta-potties, we got into the chute together with another lady from our pace group (yay!) and waited for the race to begin.
I was a little bit shocked when the fireworks started to go off, as we charged over the mat and out of the chute. Nobody had told me about that. But it was really cool and it was the first of many things that day that made me feel a little bit emotional.
The group starting at 5:00am was technically the walkers group, with a 6:00am start for runners. But as we started on our journey it was very clear that many of the people in our group were run/walkers (not necessarily Galloway style) and shufflers.
The night before the marathon, our class had been invited to a special pep-talk with Jeff Galloway. In addition to encouraging us and building us up, he cautioned us about the heat. Particularly, he advised us not to push harder in the beginning, even though it might seem like the thing to do, to get out in front of the heat. He strongly recommended starting out at a slow, easy pace and conserving our resources for the latter portion of the marathon when we would need them most. Given this advice, the three of us decided to use our training interval of 30 seconds running and 45 seconds walking.
Along the way we got to watch the sun rise over the mountains in the east and it was gorgeous. Before long, we started to pass a few folks out to cheer on their family members as well as the rest of us. In particular I was struck by a mom and her toddler son, waiting for someone special to run by. The little boy was adorable and had a little cowbell that he clearly loved ringing. I’m also fairly sure that the person they were cheering on was behind us or not very far in front of us for the first 2/3 of the race, as we saw them again a few times along the course.
We heard the fireworks go off again when we were a couple of miles down the road and checked our watches in confusion. It was only 5:30. I wasn’t sure how long it would take the runners to start overtaking us after their 6:00am start, but I was actually pretty excited about it.
Along the way, we chatted with the walkers and run/walkers that we passed or were passed by. That is, until Negative Ned (not his real name) came along. At our pep-talk the night before, Jeff had mentioned that some people approach marathons with a positive attitude and other folks are negative and whine. I’m not sure he had anybody like Negative Ned in mind, but it felt a bit like a prophecy coming true. See, Negative Ned is a run/walker as well and has been for quite some time. But he disagrees very strongly with Mr. Galloway’s approach and was happy to tell us all about how wrong Mr. Galloway is and why.
Now, I believe I have a healthy amount of skepticism and I don’t take every word Jeff Galloway says as gospel or anything like that. But here we are, three ladies who are really only able to participate in this marathon because of the Galloway method and Ned wants to tell us all about how it’s wrong? It was quite negative and unwelcome, but we were polite and nice and tried to chat with him in spite of our frustrations. But he just kept right on explaining and it didn’t seem like he would be open to changing the subject any time soon. So when Ned stopped off to make a pit stop at an aid station, we sped up in the hopes of gaining enough distance that he wouldn’t find us in the crowd, and began to joke and laugh and regain our positive attitudes.
It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me to learn that I drastically over-prepared for my nutritional needs during the marathon. My belt holds 4 water bottles. I filled one bottle with plain water and into the other three I mixed two gels each. I also packed 5 extra gels and 5 packs of gummies, in addition to my sunscreen, phone, blister tape and leatherman micra. This is especially hilarious considering that there were aid stations with water and sports drink about every two miles along the course. I’m just one of those people who would much rather have a bunch of things I don’t need than to be missing one thing I do need. But in my defense, I was concerned with the heat and how I was going to deal with it.
I began taking in nutrition early in the race, switching between gummies and honey-waters, with some plain water thrown in for good measure. At each of the many aid stations we came to, we were offered sports drink and plain water by a host of helpful, happy volunteers. After a while, I began taking the water, even if I didn’t strictly need it, out of a desire to keep from disappointing too many volunteers.
Somewhere between 6 and 8 miles into the race, the lead runner overtook us. Keep in mind that he also started an hour later. As he passed, we cheered him on. He went on to win the marathon with a time of 2:32:39. That just blows me away. Not too long after him, the ladies leader passed us as well. She went on to set a ladies course record of 2:57:44. Compared to my 5:58:09, that is smoking fast! And it seems funny, in a way, but it was exciting to be passed by the lead runners. I think starting at 5:00am was a great choice. I got to see both of the lead runners as well as lots of other runners, including friends. Granted, they were passing me, but that’s okay. I wasn’t in the race to achieve any sort of competitive time. I was in it to have fun doing something that most people never do, and I did.
I have much more to say about my fantastic marathon experience, but this blog post is getting quite long and it’s late. Come back soon for the rest of the Tale of the Nerd Girl Who Ran the Marathon!