First of all…AHHHH!!! I am STILL on a runner’s high two days after MCM! I really surprised myself on Sunday. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so proud of myself. I had no doubt that I would cross that finish line and I was not too nervous about my primary time goal which was to break four hours, but I wasn’t happy that four hours was my primary goal. As race day got closer, I couldn’t stop thinking about a potential BQ, but I brushed off those thoughts for the most part. Why did I brush off the thought of a BQ? Well, it was my FIRST marathon and my current best half marathon time is 01:49 which is a slower pace than I would need for a BQ. Even when I told myself to stop thinking about a BQ, the thoughts were still there. My tempo runs were on track for a BQ and I was feeling STRONG!
I was so torn. Part of me wanted to tell the world that I was ready to BQ and another part of me was thinking that a BQ was a five year goal and not a reality right now. Well, I guess the part of me that believed in myself was right!
Still early in the race - feeling FABULOUS!
We picked up our race bibs on Thursday which was great that we got it out of the way, but it made Friday at work go by SO slow. I was ready for the weekend and even more ready for Sunday! After work on Friday, I went out for an easy and Garmin free 4.5 miles. I had to really tell my legs to take it easy… they were itching to take off which made me even more excited for Sunday! We relaxed for most of the night, I picked out my race day outfit (Anthony thinks this kind of “girly” stuff is super funny and ridiculous, but I tried my outfit on for him anyways….and then ended up wearing something different!), and we watched (fell asleep to) a movie.
Anthony at Haines point...feeling good!
Saturday was an early morning of grocery shopping and an easy 3 mile family run with Anthony and Brutus. We ran some more errands in the afternoon, including a trip to Panera to pick up some bagels for the morning, and I couldn’t help myself…I had an apple pie bagel (gotta love having carb loading as an excuse to eat an afternoon treat!) Anthony and I were both extremely calm and ready to go on Saturday night. We got to bed by ~9:30 and had a great night of sleep.
Sunday morning could not have been more perfect. We woke up at 4 which gave us plenty of time to eat a big breakfast, have some H2O and coffee, listen to some jams, and give Brutus some lovin’. We took off for the metro around 6:00 and had just enough time to go to the bathroom, chat and head to the start. We got into the start corral with very little time to spare, but Anthony surprised me and started the race with me!! We hardly ever start races together, so this made me really happy. The race started and we shuffled with the crowd toward the start line. Anthony high fived me and said something like “we’re doing it!” I lost it, I was fighting back tears…at the start of the race…a couple of years ago I swore I would never run 26.2 and here I was SO EXCITED to conquer this race. I was an emotional mess.
Anthony ran with me for about 100 yards and then we parted ways... I had mentally broken the course up into 10 sections. Rosslyn/courthouse loop, key bridge, Georgetown, rock creek parkway, Arlington bridge to Haines point, Haines point, mall/capital, 14th street bridge, crystal city, and the final push. At about mile 2, I threw off my long sleeve throw away shirt. Although I only had it on for 2 miles, I was SO happy that I had it. The first 3 sections of the race flew by and I was pacing myself just right. My goal was to start with a 9:00 pace, see how I felt and take it from there. My first 5k was a 9:02 pace – right on!
On the rock creek park section of the race I talked to a girl for a little while. It was her 10th marathon and she had been to Boston three times. She asked what my goal was and I explained that I was trying not to think too much about a BQ, but my legs were feeling really good. She told me that she thought I could totally BQ based on my current time and feeling. I did not get her name, but that belief that she had in me really encouraged me. I started picking it up a little bit in hopes of getting that average pace closer to 8:12 which is what I would need in order to BQ.
I was able to speed up almost every 5k until the 35k point. My fastest 5k was the 25-30k which was a 7:34 pace and my average pace was BQ worthy at ~25k! Now all I had to do was keep that average pace <8:12. I could do this! The next few sections of the race felt good, no they felt great! Then I got to the 14th street bridge and my calves started to cramp. I made a point to land on my heels and this seemed to prevent the cramps from getting the best of me. I was eating one Clif shot block every 15 minutes the entire race as well as grabbing H2O and Gatorade at each water station and I was confident that I was not going to hit “the wall” or bonk, I had the energy to finish strong, I just had to concentrate on “mind over muscle.”
The entire Crystal City section of the race dragged on for me. I kept telling myself that if I run faster I’ll finish sooner and repeating my mantras– these thoughts sped me up a bit, mile 23 was 7:50 pace, followed by an 8:30 mile 24. After that 8:30, I was fearful that I was going to lose that BQ, I sped up again and held 8:10s for the next two miles and shuffled up the final hill to a BQ! I was in shock!! I couldn’t stop smiling. I got my phone out of my flip belt and saw a text from my dad: “Awesome work!!! Margaret Nelson, Finish, 3:34:11.” That was confirmation that I BQ’d in my first marathon!
Miles 22-26.2 didn’t feel good, but really it was only the last mile or mile and a half that really HURT for me. So, I can officially recommend Hanson’s Marathon Method. GREAT book & GREAT training plan! I was able to follow this training plan extremely close aside from a few days when I had to listen to my body and take the day off or replace a run with an elliptical or cardio weight session in order to avoid injury. Anthony also followed this plan extremely close and ran an impressive 3:18 (machine!) without any issues! Highly recommend!
MIND OVER MUSCLE...last mile!
Overall, my first marathon experience was more than I could have ever imagined. I am SO thankful for my body and my mind. I was not sure how running MCM would change my thoughts on Ironman Lake Placid in July, but it definitely just made me 100000x more excited to become an Iron(wo)man on July 27!!