Monday, April 26, 2010

My 1st Marathon (and why I didn't want to write about it)

It's not very often that I'm at a loss for words. I do the word thing pretty well, most days. But it's a lot easier when the words I write are for someone else to use. When they are words for me, about me, it gets a little harder. The words are now personal. And me, I become vulnerable.

I've wanted to write about my first marathon since I ran it on April 25, 2010--the 10th annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. But the words weren't falling into place like they usually do.

When I write, my fingers can't pound out the words fast enough. My brain is in overdrive. I know what I want to say and I can't type it fast enough for fear that I won't capture all those words swirling in my head. The words spill out effortlessly on the page.

Why not now? I just ran my first marathon--something I have been looking forward to, training hard for. But I don't want to talk about it.

For the past days, I've been dodging questions of my family, friends and co-workers, "how did it go?" They got the fake smile and "Good, it was good," as I pray, please don't ask me anything more. I got a lot of praise, a lot of "I'm proud of you." Yet, why do I feel I didn't deserve this? I think to myself, "Don't be proud of me. I'm not proud of me."

The race was one of the best supported I have ever seen--a water stop every mile, crowds cheering you on virtually everywhere on the course. There couldn't have been a better run race. I just wish I ran it better.

Things started great. I was running a 9:50 min pace. I kept thinking about what Coach Jeff told me. Think of the race in 3-mile segments. If you're off pace, you have 3 miles to get back on. It worked really well for me. I kept focused and adjusting my pacing through about mile 17.

The course wasn't hilly, but had slight uphills, what felt like the entire race.

The weather was perfect, a little windy, but wasn't bothering me...until we hit the lake at mile 14-17. The wind slowed me down, but I still felt pretty good.

Mile 20, THE WALL. I got very light headed. Part of me wanted to push on through, forget the pain, it's in your head. Go. Then reality sank in. If I don't get something in me besides water, I'm going to pass out. Next aid station, oranges. Hung out for a little bit. Decided I was doing ok. Time to push on.

I get to mile 23 and start crying. I don't cry often or easily. But it seems when I'm really angry, I cry. I looked at my damn watch and realized all that hard work was flushed away. Gone. Can't get it back. There was no way I was going to finish this in my 4:20 goal. I felt like just let the world down. I let me down. Big time. My legs felt fine. Nothing was cramping. I was really tired, but who wouldn't be after 23 miles?

Yet, I felt like I had no excuse for that time I saw on my watch. No injury. No IT band issues. No ankle issues. No knee issues. I got lightheaded. What excuse is that?

I stopped crying. I really don't know what the turning point was. But I thought: shit, you're not first, but you're not last. Finish strong. Take it home.

And I did: 4:35:03, a 10:30 pace.

It's taken me a week to write this with lots of deletes, rewrites and editing. One of the big reasons why I want to write this is I have a lot of people I need to thank.

First my coach, Jeff Kline. I would never had made it to OKC without you. Only had the pleasure of working with you for 2 weeks, but I made it there without injury!

My girlie Marci! She stopped en route to Kansas City to watch me cross that finish line! I love you more than anything!

My VP and co-workers. You guys put up with my juggling meetings, crazy stories, wearing pink KT Tape to the office, and watching me run circles on that track in loud colors.

All my Twitter friends. You all gave me so much support. I thought about you all a lot out there. I'm going to miss someone, but here's a few: Jen, Joe, Josh, Mel, Kris, Doug. You all played a huge role in telling me I don't suck and being uber supportive.

Very special thanks to Glenn. You always had the right words when I wanted to throw the towel in. Thank you for your friendship, your advice and telling me to shut it when I wanted to throw it in.

And to anyone else I missed, I apologize and love you too!

Marathon #1 is in the books. It's not always what you want it to be, but the marathon does one thing. It humbles you and keeps you coming back for more.

Chicago -- 10:10:10 -- It's where I get my revenge. I'm not quitting. Try harder. Do better. My mantra.


  1. I got a lil teary eyed reading this. I can only imagine what it was like. Its so hard to run a race without a time goal in mind. But then you have to realize it was your first and you cant know what is going to happen until it does. You should be proud of yourself. You can only let your mind take you so far and now you're even more ready to take on Chicago! I am so excited to meetup and I know youre going to be telling me the same thing 6 months from now. Hugs, youre a marathoner! SMILE :)

  2. Suann, Like you I'm not happy with how my first (and only so far) marathon went back in November. You described exactly a lot of what I thought afterwards, I was soooo frustrated & disappointed especially after I had several friends tell me that they thought I would either BQ or come darn near it on my first. As a matter of fact I still haven't put my 26.2 stickers on my truck and only last month got the 26.2 tattoo that I'd planned for afterwards.

    But we did do the distance (and you beat me by 5 minutes, lol!!!) so own it girl! YOU ROCK!!!!!

  3. The first marathon is hard because it is filled with so much unknown (and for me the second one was even worse). But that doesn't take away from the fact that you still ran the whole thing, you never gave up, never quit.
    Sometimes just running through the toughest mental blocks are something to be proud of.
    Can't wait to for marathon #2!

  4. Funny how we both seem to have had similar experiences in our first marathon's. I actually sensed from your tweets and lack of blog posting that you were less than happy with your performance. However, we're having the opposite problem in writing about it.

    I was able to write my race report fairly quickly and succinctly (yet, I have another blog post in the can expressing my thanks and gratitude to everyone who helped me along the way, that I can't seem to get right). At first, I was trying to figure-out exactly "what went wrong." Writing about it and talking about it to anyone who would listen actually helped me process the whole experience, although I still haven't put my finger on that elusive "what went wrong."

    I have however come to accept the fact that I may never figure it out, I have learned some lessons to apply to my next marathon, and I've grown happy with what I have accomplished. The best part of it all is that my 3.5 year-old daughter keeps telling everyone that her "Daddy won the marathon!" This somehow makes it all worthwhile. Now whenever anyone asks how I did I tell them that "I won because I finished." Not only that, but I raised almost $5000 for Children's Hospital in the process...

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that whatever your feelings are about your PERFORMANCE, it WAS your first marathon. Nobody can plan for all of the variables and unknowns. You pushed yourself through what would've BROKEN any average human being. Most people won't even venture so far as to ATTEMPT to run a marathon (I believe the statistic is somewhere just shy of 1% of the population). So, you WON the marathon because you FINISHED the marathon, and you have to be happy with that!

    Now, because you are obviously a competitive person (even if it's only with yourself), as am I, it's time to take the lesson's that we've learned and apply them to our next marathon! Just think... Neither of us have peaked as runners, so it's quite feasible that all of our performances for the foreseeable future have at least the possibility of being PR's! how awesome is that!

    I am VERY proud of you! You simply ROCK! you're going to kick-ass and knock-out a HUGE PR in Chicago!

  5. you should still be proud. Finishing a marathon is hard, very hard and not many people can do it. You now have something to look back on and learn from for your next one. I didn't see anything in your blog about nutrition other than when you said you needed to get something in you besides water. So I'll write this as if you didn't have anything but water leading up to mile 20. Mile 20 is the classic location for when you run out of glycogen in your blood. This will explain the dizzy lightheadedness you feel. Classic symptoms. Plan and simple you need to eat or drink calories when you run long. Start practicing now for Chicago. If you can handle Gu, one every 5 miles is a good idea. If you were taking in Gu during this race, try upping the amount. Running a 20 miler in training is not the same you may not bonk. Because you are going slower and haven't reached your limit yet. Stay the course, it looks like you have a good coach and your training is going well. If you can master your nutrition, not an easy task, you will be much happier on the long stuff. Practice now on your long runs, even when you don't think you need to, do it, so when the race comes your stomach will be accustomed to it.
    Once again, congrats on finishing your first marathon, let go the negative and soak in the accomplishment because it truly is an amazing feat.

  6. I am sitting in my cube crying after reading your blog. Suann, you are a ROCK STAR! You finished your first marathon in 4:35! I would kill for that time in Chicago!!

    We are all SO proud of you! Even if you had crawled across that damn finish line, we'd still love you and admire you for your speedy pace and strong determination.

    I have no doubts you'll be even faster than 4:20 in Chicago!

  7. Really enjoyed the post. It sounds like we had similar races, unfortunately it was my 7th marathon. I only say that so you won't be so hard on yourself. Sometimes it just doesn't go as well as planned. The amazing thing is you've run a MARATHON girl!

    Chicago will be easier regardless of how you feel while running it. The WALL just feels different once you've scaled it a time or two. It still sucks, but you've tasted it before and know what's on the other side.

    See you Chicago! Or at the grocery store.

  8. Thank you all for your kind words. As much as I dreaded writing this, I feel better now that I have. Thanks again!

  9. I left a message for you on dailymile, but after reading this I wanted to post one here as well. Congratulations on your accomplishment - because it IS an accomplishment. I'm a cyclist and can't even fathom running 26.2 miles (which is perhaps WHY I'm a cyclist)...the mental courage and strength you must have is an inspiration to me - and right now, I need a bit of inspiration! You'll see what I mean if you should visit my blog ( It ain't easy doing stuff like this, is it?

    Congrats again and thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  10. Sounds like your did fantastic for your first marathon. I reached a wall on mile 18 of my first marathon and basically had to will myself not to puke for about 5 miles. Horrible experience. But you live and learn. I just had to do more long runs before my next one. Great work!