David J. Kearney

October 23, 2012

My First Marathon, Facing Failure & The White Flag

Filed under: Project Management,Running — David J. Kearney @ 5:22 pm

All-in-all my training plan to run the Columbus Marathon on October 21, 2012, was pretty sound and I was tolerating the long runs well. I was slightly ahead of the traditional schedule with a little wiggle room in case of injury or unexpected life events that may have prohibited a weekend long run. After reaching mile 19 in my training I began feeling a little bit of knee pain, but I really wasn’t too alarmed, in fact I planned for this (see my previous marathon planning post). Sure enough after some rest and easing up on my shorter daily runs, I was back and running 20 miles in a little over 4 hours. Again, after the 20 mile run I began feeling even more unfamiliar pain in my knees, hips, chins, and ankles. Again, no major worries…I figured I’d pull back a bit and let my body heal. Since I was basically a novice runner having only completed a half-marathon, I thought I would slow my pace up and just relax and continue to plan to complete the marathon. I figured if I wasn’t meant to run that I would be given a sign. Facing failure wasn’t really in the plan, since my goal was to finish 26.2 miles, not to match or beat any time.

The sign came, but certainly not in a way I expected or planned for. About a week-and-a-half prior to the marathon I started feeling like I was coming down with a cold. Again, not a big deal in my mind…a few days and I’d be feeling better. We’ll a few days later I was progressively getting worse and decided to Throw in the Towel 5 days before the race. The pain I was feeling in my throat was unbearable…a feeling of swallowing razor blades every time I swallowed and eating was excruciating, speaking almost impossible. On the day that I was to be running 26.2 miles I was diagnosed with severe Strep Throat, to the point where my throat was beginning to close up due to the infection and swelling. There was some talk about that if it gets any worse that I would need to have an abscess drained in my throat.

Now that I am beginning the healing process, I am reflecting on the lessons learned about marathons, marathon training, and testing one’s limits. Here are a handful of my thoughts:

1. Evening though you can’t plan for everything, thorough planning is a must.
2. Marathon training does involve much more time than just running time. After runs of 4+ hours, the rest of the day is pretty much shot. When running 10, 15, 20 miles, the energy used really impacts activity for the rest of the day.
3. Running long distances is more mental than physical. I heard it said before, but until you need to keep yourself mentally stimulated for hours while running, it is hard to image that keeping your mind going is more difficult than keeping your body going.
4. Getting going is hardest part…or as I heard before “the first mile is the hardest”. There were many early mornings that dragging myself out on the road at 5:00 AM was very difficult, but once I got going, it became easier.
5. You must have support of your family.
6. You must learn to consume calories consistently during long runs.
7. Training for a marathon needs to almost be exclusive over any other life activities. I think I had too much going on with my day job, family activities, career activities, and other life stuff.
8. If one does not push themself to an extreme, at least on occasion, you may never move forward.

At this moment, I have hung up my shoes to let my body and mind heal since starting this marathon journey. Although I don’t have the bragging rights to say that I completed a marathon and overall failure of the goal, I think I gained most of the benefits…better health, better acknowledgement of who I am, knowing I can push through thoughts of wanting not to run for 3 – 4 + hours, and knowing I can push myself to physical & mental limits.

Time for a much needed break…

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