A week ago, I finished my first ever marathon with a painful time of 3:30:42. I’m ecstatic. It’s about 15 minutes faster than I hoped for, or a little more than ~30 seconds faster per mile than what I trained for. Despite that, 42 seconds is going to haunt me for quite some time. A lot of people have asked me what it was like, so I decided I’d write a recount of events of the whole thing from start to finish.
For some reason I wake up at 3am; an hour before my alarm. As I get up and change, I hear my roommate returning home from the bars which I find hilarious. I prep my breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, and a blue Gatorade. I fill up my camelbak, put in my contacts, and hop on my Vespa to pick-up my bib from my work since they picked them up for us the day before.
I am told I should pick my bib up from the bus coming from LinkedIn HQ in Mountain View between Howard and Harrison. Well, I get there on time and low and behind, no one is here. And it’s still pitch dark. I’m not going to lie, I am a little worried that they are going to be late and I won’t have my bib in time. Like every other time I worry though, it all works out and the bus arrives 10 minutes later.
My co-worker’s boyfriend works right by the start line, so I decide to take up his offer of using their bathrooms before the race. I’ll skip the details, but two words: life saver.
I arrive at the RUN365 tent and I start to feel the nerves. There is an absurd amount of people here and the sun hasn’t even come up. I’m starting to get nervous about things like not hydrating enough, only having 3 hours of sleep, and whether I’m going to have to use the bathroom during the race. My official wave is wave 4 which had an average pace of 9:00 – 9:30, but instead decide that I’d rather start at the pace I plan to run, which is 8:15 – 8:45 in wave 2.
The first wave is off. I hop the fence in our private booth to jump in the wave and target the 3:45 total time pacing group. I turn on my marathon playlist that I made and start my Nike+ run tracker. I exit the gates 4 minutes later after the gun and think to myself, “well, here goes nothing”.
Mile 4 (The Marina)
At this point, I’m in the Marina chugging at about an 8:15min/mile pace. I’m still with the 3:45 pacing group and can’t help but notice that there are a lot of cute girls in my group and they are all super fit. But I didn’t sign up for this race to meet women. I signed up to cross this off my bucket list AND beat my friends’ times. I’ve been taking one shot block every mile at this point and start to feel more tired than I usually feel at mile 4. I assume it’s the lack of sleep more so than the faster pace.
Mile 5 (The Hill before the GG Bridge)
I don’t know what hit me, but my mentality changes from this point forward. I start going up the hill before the bridge and something in my mind clicks: I want to run faster up this hill than the pacing group. I have been running these hills for 2 months and feel like I can maintain my pace going up them. I slowly start to speed up and leave them behind.
Mile 9 (The GG Bridge)
Coming back over the bridge, there’s a slight downhill. I decide that I should try and take advantage of the grade and start to elongate my strides and run a bit faster. At this point, I am consistently passing people and the groups have thinned out significantly. Every water station, I grab one cup electrolytes and two cups water to save the water in my camelbak for the remaining hills/end of the race. I still feel tired, but I tell myself the hardest part is over and there’s a long downhill coming up.
Mile 13 (GG Park)
I don’t feel good anymore. The smiles for the cameras have disappeared and I feel soaked in sweat from head to toe. I’m doubting that I’ll be able to finish the race at this pace and I should slow down, but I don’t. I just tell myself instead that I’m halfway done and I just need to get through GG park to get to the flat parts of the race where I’ll be fine.
Mile 14 (GG Park)
My Mom and her fiance said they’d be here. At the mile marker, they aren’t here, so I assume they must be further down the road. My Nike tracker is telling me that I’m running at a 7:58 mile pace, so I now know I’m on target to be below 3:30 and keep trying to bring that time down as the race goes on. About half a mile later I see my folks. They aren’t ready at all and when I wave at them, they scramble out of surprise to take a photo and show me the big heads they made of me. I give my Mom a hug and then sprint back into the race to make up for the lost time.
Mile 15 (GG Park)
More hills! I can’t believe how many god damn hills there are in this course. I’ve run this part before, but haven’t since my last long run of 24 miles three weeks ago. Surprisingly, I see the fastest guy in my training group ahead of me who said he was going for sub 3:30 before the race. I walk up behind him and say, “I told you I’d catch you”, and pass him. Yeah, I know, I’m kind of a dick, but in my defense, I said to him that I might catch him later. I didn’t actually mean it when I said it though.
Mile 19 (Panhandle)
Holy balls, I’m out of the park! Thank god because I only have one pack of shot bloks left and my legs feel really heavy. Oh wait…no, I don’t have those shot bloks because they apparently fell out of your camelbak. I panic a little because I feel like they give me a huge burst of energy everytime I eat one. Most likely it is pyschological, but luckily I remembered there is a GU station coming up in the Haight and I could just grab some food/energy there instead.
Mile 23 (Potrero Hill)
I’m cramping up in my hammys and calves. It’s not to the point where I can’t walk, but it’s sharp pains that hit me sporadically. It doesn’t hurt for more than a split second, and I imagine I look like something is shocking me in the ass. I’ve eaten both my GUs at this point and figure I’m about to run out of gas soon. However, I’m counting down the miles at this point, telling myself I only have X left. Also every time I cramp up, I am verbally saying out loud: “mind over body” and “you got this”. There’s another hill coming up on 16th and I feel like my body is about to break down going up this thing, but then miraculously Journey comes on with “Don’t Stop Believing”. It is like Manifest destiny and I keep my pace going up the hill.
Mile 25 (The Ballpark)
This girl keeps passing me and I keep passing her. I’m not sure if we’re both ultra competitve or my pace is fluctuating up and down. I’m feeling the cramps more often now, and am willing myself to the finish line. I see a lot of people walking and two guys who are laying on the ground from exhaustion. Nike+ is telling me my pace is 7:52, but I know it’s wrong because the mile markers are about a quarter mile off. I am too tired to do the math in my head, but I think I’ll be before 3:30, which is now the new goal.
As I look up, I see a guy in the distance from my running program who I wanted to run with pre-race but his target time was too fast for me. I am slowly catching up to him until I finally catch up to him to say, “surprise, I guess I should have paced with you”. His response was, “damn dude, you’re fast”. We are passing the ballpark at this point and I ask if we’re going to beat 3:30 and he says yes. I am assuming he started in front of me, so I trust him, but I still feel like I have some more left in the tank.
Mile 26 (The Embarcadero)
The sun is shining, you can hear the cheers in the distance, and I know I only have the equivalence of one lap around the track left. I pretty much feel a cramping sensation in one of my muscles every 10 seconds and it sucks. As I get closer to the finish line, the cheering makes my adrenaline start pumping. What’s the most logical thing to do at this point? Well, it’s quite simple…sprint. Yes, I kid you not. I decide to sprint the last 200m of the finish line. I wish I had a video because I felt like that is probably one of the most physically grueling things I’ve ever done in my life and my face shows it.
The Finish Line
I cross the finish line with a half-smile across my face and slow down to a halt right after crossing. Well, immediately both my legs cramp up completely and I fall down to a crouch. I’m sitting there for 2 seconds wondering if I can get up, but a lady comes up to me and asks if I’m alright and that I need to move out of the way. I tell her ok and look up only to see someone wheeling a wheelchair towards me. I laugh and wave it off. Then hobble my way away from the finish line. Every step hurts at this point, I feel like my nipples were grinded with a cheese grader, and there’s a knot in my shoulder like I’ve never felt before. I stop my run tracker and see it’s 3:31 and I can’t help but think “dammit” at first, but I’m still really proud of myself. I grab a boxed water and coconut water and then proceed to get brunch with my parents after.
The question I always get is: Will you run a marathon again?
Right now there’s no specific race I want to do. I would say that if someone challenged me to one, I would definitely consider it, but I trained for more than half a year. That is an absurd amount of time looking back and I’m honestly glad it’s over so I can go back and pursue other goals of mine.
I will say that completing a marathon is no easy task. Qualifying for Boston is probably impossible. I’m glad that I can cross this achievement off my bucket list, and am greatly thankful for all the support I got from my friends and family. Looking back, there were countless runs I did hungover on Saturday mornings. Many injuries that I had to overcome from bad shoes and running too fast. I think what I learned the most from this race is that I can do anything I put my mind to. Whether it’s physically or mentally challenging, and I can only attribute that to the values instilled in me from my upbringing. If my family wasn’t all so god damn competitive, there’s no way I would have finished that without walking a bit. I now am the only one in my family to run a marathon and I’m pretty sure it’ll be that way for a while :). In closing, I just want to say once again, thanks all who supported me and I hope this blog post will inspire you to run a marathon in the future!