There were many important, sometimes quite painful lessons from my first marathon today. The initial marathon experience is different for everyone, but some lessons learned are applicable to everyone if, for no other reason, than a cautionary tale.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – For the last few days before the marathon, I had been drinking a lot of water, but I noticed it forced me to have to go to the bathroom quite often. To try to avoid stopping during the race, I ended up “going” multiple times before the race while only taking in about 12 ounces of fluids on the day of the race. Big mistake. It probably led to serious cramping half way through the race, which, in turn, caused my injury (pulled calf muscles). Also, I realized that while running on a warm day, you perspire the fluids anyway and end up not having to go to the bathroom much during the race.
- Go out as fast as you feel comfortable – I ended up going my desired pace for the first 11.5 miles. I needed to slow down slightly afterwards but was still fine for a while. Then, disaster struck with the cramping midway through the race. My initial pace probably didn’t cause the cramping and injury, as I’ve gone out on similar paces on long runs before, but I’m curious to see what would have happened if I had gone out just a bit slower.
- Medical tents are useless unless you have to stop – At mile 19, when my calves started to have indentations in it and I was no longer capable of running, I stopped into a medical tent, hoping for a massage or some cure-all. Nope. I got a banana and some Gatorade, while the staff took down my name. I don’t think real doctors give out bananas and Gatorade. Oh, and they offered me a ride to the finish line (turned that down).
- When you can’t run fast, run slower; when you can’t run, power walk – By midway through the race, my running was limited to running a few hundred yards, stopping or going slow, stretching and then trying again. By mile 19 though, I was physically incapable of running. Efforts to try and start running led to the pain in the calves stopping me dead in my tracks and almost causing me to fall a couple of times. BUT power walking, however, I could do. I ended up power walking the last 7 miles without anywhere near as much pain as running. The most painful thing was just watching people pass.
- If nothing else, enjoy the scenery – Marathons are an amazing thing. Very few people run and complete them. Taking the time to appreciate that fact during the race is important. There are so many people who come out and clap and support, and that usually helps push you through in the toughest times. Enjoy the surroundings and beautiful sites as you go through different neighborhoods.
The only good thing is that after calming down and thinking it over, I’m more than determined to learn from mistakes and get ready for the next one.