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Training for My First Marathon: A (Wet + Successful) Half-Marathon Report

Gearing up for a battle.

[Follow—and cheer for—Pam, a #motherrunner of two in Decatur, Georgia, as she trains for her first 26.2. Previous entries.]

Cape Cod Half Marathon

My initial goal: Break 2 hours

My modified goal: Gain enough badass street cred by racing 13.1 in a nor’easter that merely running 26.2 is a breeze. (See what I did there?)

It doesn’t get better than this!
I stepped into the corral, surrounded by fellow BAMRs, raindrops, and 20+ mph winds gusting up to 50+ mph. I didn’t know what to expect out of myself, but there wasn’t a single place on the planet I would rather have been in that moment.

I set off with the latest Train Like a Mother podcast featuring Race Q&A with Coach Amanda in my ears; I had it on largely out of habit as I tend to run solo. A mile in, I pressed pause in order to chat with a couple of local #motherrunners who were making jokes about the conditions. We shared stories of past races, and they gave me some restaurant suggestions (which I promptly forgot), and I left them with a cheerful grin midway up the first true hill.

That grin never left my face.

I forgot to turn my podcast back on. I had no interest in looking at my watch. I tuned into my body, and felt the wind and the rain on my face. I watched the periodic sprays of ocean across the breakwater. I sang the Peppa Pig theme song as my feet splashed through the puddles (Peppa’s favorite activity).

I caught up with fellow BAMR Sarah, basking in her energy as we ran side-by-side through some rolling hills.  Nearing the four-mile mark, I began to see purple BAMR bibs passing toward home on the out-and-back course and ran near the center line to exchange high-fives.

The tailwind’s coming soon!  The tailwind’s coming soon!
And then came the relentless headwinds: quite literally a wall of wind, rain, and hail, pelting my face and my frozen limbs, daring me to stop, to walk, to curl up in a ball and cry.

Nothing in the world motivates this contrarian like a head-on challenge. The turnaround was close enough to be tantalizing, but far enough away to seem like a mirage. Fellow runners were dropping like flies, but I chose instead to laugh in defiance, draw my shoulder blades together, and move forward in absolute joy, knowing that I had the strength of will and glutes to continue to RACE.

I began chanting, “The tailwind’s coming soon!  The tailwind’s coming soon!” First internally, then out loud. Then really loudly to my fellow weather-warriors as I picked up speed, a beautiful line of orange cones finally in sight.  Turning the corner and feeling the wind at my back, I took refuge in the ally that had seconds ago been a mortal enemy.

How often do we get the chance to test our mettle, to persevere against the elements physically and mentally, to see what we’re really made of? How often does a Georgia runner have the opportunity to face a nor’easter head on? I felt stronger than I ever have, and I knew I had it in me keep on fighting and still have something left to finish.

The best thing about these hills?
Soon after the turnaround, Sarah and I once more fell into step, sometimes talking, often in silent solidarity.  As we began to climb the biggest hill on the course, I asked, “Want to know the best thing about the hill? Nobody’s going to make us to jump squats at the top!”

First Marathon

We also had some friendly wind gusts help us out from behind, which was an unexpected bonus. Add that to the tailwind, and it was like realizing you have a $5 in-store credit to spend on top of the gift card you received for your birthday. And every time the Atlantic Ocean crested the breakwater, this displaced Florida girl felt the running tide lending me its strength.

Somewhere around mile nine I pulled a bit ahead of Sarah, even though the sensations in my legs and lungs matched the sting of the rain on my exposed face. I was actually pretty stoked by the pain, though: a well-executed half marathon should hurt at this point.

First Marathon
Dimity here: Pam was in such a groove, she didn't want to stop for a photo. (She's the one in black headed out the left side of the frame...)

At the same time, I felt confident that I had more to give. By the time I passed the mile 11 flag, my brain was ready to quit, but my legs knew better and kept propelling me forward. They carried me to Dimity and her BAMR cheer squad.

The sooner I finish, the sooner I stop!
By the time I passed the mile 12 flag, I felt like I was barely moving. My body was on autopilot, driven solely by the physical and mental muscle memory ingrained by the 4:30 am alarms, the missed brunches, the miles and minutes pounding the streets of Decatur, GA, the burpees down the block.

“The sooner I finish, the sooner I stop,” I told myself over and over and over.  I thought I must be speeding up because the closer I got to the finish line, the greater concentration of people I picked off.

As the finish line appeared, I called on the physiological promise of that final kick.  Garmin says I crossed the finish line at a 5:34 pace, netting a sweet 30-minute half marathon PR at 2:08:14.

First Marathon
All smiles with Sarah after a glorious race!

What I didn’t know I needed
My goal heading into the race was to surpass the badass quota necessary to run my first full marathon.  Check.

My biggest accomplishment?  For the first time ever in a race, there not one single moment I could or would have done anything differently.  I wrested every ounce of performance my body was capable of on that day in that race in those conditions.  AND I enjoyed every second of it.

I’m entering into marathon training knowing that I ran a race entirely by feel, so in tune with my body that I knew exactly when I needed to hold back, and when could push and how hard, in order to achieve optimal performance.

I emptied the tank, right down to the last drop. That knowledge is both powerful and exhilarating, and I can’t wait to carry it with me into a marathon!

14 responses to “Training for My First Marathon: A (Wet + Successful) Half-Marathon Report

  1. I love, love, love this! So inspiring and so awesome to see how you took what could’ve been a negative thing and turned it around and used it for good. Props to you and congrats on a kick ass PR!!!

  2. The biggest take away from this was the positive energy that you maintained throughout the entire time. Most people (self included) would have gone to “Debbie-Downer-Mode”. You stayed strong and true and radiated! Congrats on a great run and continue to persevere in your marathon training!

  3. TEARS!!!! What a wonderful day made even better for the time I got to spend with you! Congratulations on a kickass race and thanks for this lovely post.

  4. This was really fun to read. Great job!! My least favorite running condition is wind so not sure I would have been able to do that. Way to go, Mama!!

  5. OMG, Pam, this write-up gave me the chills! What an amazing effort! What inspiration! Congratulations on the phenomenal PR in completely bada** conditions! And thanks for the inspiration! I didn’t realize how much I needed you in my life until I met you in person!

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