Training for a marathon for the first time is inevitably filled with a lot of firsts, usually in the form of ‘first time I’ve ever run x miles’ or ‘first time I’ve ever felt pain like that‘. Today, Lina and I experienced our last ‘first’ of the training program by completing our 20 mile run. I can’t believe how well it went, and I have been floating on cloud 9 since we finished. Lina wrote a great post about her experience with this run, so check it out here. As for my take on today, here’s what went down:
We took a train out to where we began our run. Our plan was to run along the Schuylkill River for roughly 18 miles, and then meander along the streets of Philly until we hit 20 miles and neared Lina’s house. The first few miles (begun at 8:07am) were unfamiliar to both of us, and we were really pleased to have found this looooong stretch of bike path that was not only by the river, but also nicely shaded and not too busy. This was a huge score in terms of running routes. It’s hard to find places to run for more than 10 miles, so the fact that we have found a good 20 mile run is gold.
A note on my water belt: it bounces around A LOT LESS if you wear it properly, i.e. with the bottles/pouch in front rather than in back. It worked like a charm this way. I feel silly. I didn’t realize there was a wrong way to wear a water belt orr at least, I feel silly for not problem solving prior to this by experimenting with the positioning. I’m stoked though, because I was pretty down on the water belt after the Valley Forge disaster; today I was reminded of why it’s great and how it can be used effectively. I’m still happy that I won’t have to wear it during the marathon, but it’s good to know that I can hydrate with it this summer without being terribly inconvenienced.
But the water belt revelation isn’t why we are in high spirits, so let me get to that already.
We agreed to keep our pace hovering around or just below 9 min/mile for the beginning, around 8:45 for miles 5-15, and then allow ourselves to push the last 5 if we felt up to it. I didn’t feel great for the first 8-9 miles because my legs wouldn’t loosen up, so I was more than happy to keep a conversational pace in the beginning. Lina and I had a great time talking on this run. We both had a lot to tell each other, and as always, this made the first hour go by quickly. When the run became familiar to both of us we had run about 10 miles. That we were more than half way done and in familiar territory must have inspired us, because at that point we started steadily dropping our pace. (Actually, we started dropping our pace after mile 11 because we spent all of mile 11 dodging the athletes and spectators of a rowing meet.)
At mile 15, we hit 8:30 pace and never went back. I didn’t start really hurting until mile 18.5, but at that point I just wanted to be done so I all but refused to slow down too much. My right foot didn’t seize up or pull at all on this run, and it made a huge difference in how I felt overall. I think this, in addition to the beautiful weather, great company, and carbo loading I did the night before, made for a run where I felt like my best running self. I knew the run went well but I didn’t even pay attention to the overall time when we first stopped – I was too busy thinking about staying loose and continuing to walk. But then Lina asked me what our time was (she and her Garmin didn’t get along today), and I looked down and saw 2:52:47. WHAT?!
That time means that Lina and I could slow to 10 minute pace for the last 6 miles of the marathon and still break 4 hours. We couldn’t be happier. I have been feeling like I was overreaching to expect to run a sub-4-hour first marathon, but this run has told me that I should strive for that. It’s well within my abilities. Even if I crash and burn on race day for some crazy reason, I have this run to say that I ran 20 miles in under 3 hours. For that, I am very excited. Here’s the proof (from MY Garmin Forerunner 305!!):
We were good about refueling and hydrating – Gu at miles 6 and 12, and lots of water (especially for me…I was SUPER thirsty today). We even planned to take a third Gu around mile 17 or 18, but both of us were not in the mood at that point and, honestly, I didn’t feel like I needed it. I tried the Jet Blackberry flavor today and wasn’t thrilled. It was fine, but the Triple Berry is much better. My second one was the Just Plain flavor, which I’ve always liked, so there was nothing new there. I think I’m going to stick with Triple Berry, Espresso, and Just plain from now on. Also, during our stop around mile 16 to refill water bottles, another female runner asked us how far we were going; we told her we were doing 20 miles, to which she responded, “Hey! Me too! What race are you doing?” We told her about Providence, and it turns out, she’s doing the same race! In retrospect we should have gotten her contact info because it was incredibly cool of her to connect with us, but maybe by some miracle we’ll run into her at the race. That would be awesome. Philly runners unite!
After the run, Nick (Lina’s boyfriend extraordinaire, remember?) made us crepes. They were completed with Nutella, strawberries, chocolate, and whipped cream, so needless to say we complemented our endorphin high with a sugar one. It was all so good. We took some pretty
cute weird pictures too, so I hope you love them. Lina had to take two of these pictures because she put up her 2-0 backwards and I, apparently, sweat like a sumo wrestler underneath my top layer.
We had a blast today. The last few miles hurt, but no run has hurt as badly as our 13 miler did, so we can’t complain. In fact, we can rejoice because the taper has officially begun!