Running Fools
My First Marathon

Format for Printing

Format for printing

Request Reprints


By justpatrick
May 7, 2002

Posts selected for this feature rarely stand alone. They are usually a part of an ongoing thread, and are out of context when presented here. The material should be read in that light. How are these posts selected? Click here to find out and nominate a post yourself!

To review, Sunday I ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon, my first. (More info at ... although the elevation map does a poor job of showing the ups and downs.) I've been training for the last 6 months towards this end. There were a couple of goals that I'd set. Here they are in order of priority.

- Have fun!
- Make it to the starting line healthy
- Make it to the finish line with no "permanent damage"
- Break 5 hours
- Get a negative split

My theme was "start slow, finish strong." I did almost all of my training on a treadmill with the exception of my long runs. The plan was to walk at every fluid station for 1 minute.

Anyway, onto the race. A friend of mine from college, justBill, had started running 2 years ago and came into town to run with me. Our plan was to run together for as long as it made sense. We made it to the starting line by 7:00 for the 7:45 start. We lubed up, hit the restroom, wandered around in our trash bags and warmed up a little. We looked for the pace teams, but they were all standing together...from like 3:45 to 5:00 were all together. So, we stayed a bit further back from the starting line. By now our trash bags were in the garbage.

The start! Standing, shuffle, shuffle, stand, jog, shuffle, okay there is the starting line, remembered to start my watch. Miles 1-8 we took pretty slow. We had a good time talking with people. I noticed that at mile 9 I broke a sweat. This was mostly due to the cold weather and slow pace. However, the sun, the rolling hills, and miles were starting to take their toll. Also, the 4 person relay teams passed us often during this part.

Mile 10, cross bridge #3 (all 5 of the bridges were not easy) and get to the bottom of "the Hill." We knew we were going to walk this to save our legs for later, but it was cool that not many people passed us because they were having trouble going fast.

Next stop, mile 13.5, this is where our "fan club" was waiting. I was still trying to keep our pace slow, but justBill was speeding us up a bit. He crossed the 1/2 way mark (13.1) at 2:20:22 and I crossed it at 2:20:24. Now my goal was set, 4:40 finish. I didn't need any supplies from the family. They waved, we waved. Time to keep going, turn a corner and go up another hill that wasn't on the map. :) We would see them again at mile 21 and then again at the finish.

From here my thinking became less clear. I stopped at the restroom at mile ~16, but there was no line and even though justBill kept going I caught him in another minute or two. mile 17 I was starting to get into trouble. My pace had slowed, justBill's was picking up. I let him go on.

Mile 18 and I think a spectator snuck out on the course and attached a sandbag to each of my feet. Surely this couldn't be "the Wall", it was too early, it has to be later. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, where is that damned fluid station so that I can walk. justBill is now no longer in sight.

I downed another pack of Gu, water, and some Powerade. By now I wasn't tracking how long after fluid stations I would start running again. I suspect that it was longer than a minute. :) Still not much rational thought in my head. I had not been able to figure out how far off the pace I was for the last 3 miles. The one thing that I did think was that my goal in life now was to catch justBill, the only way to do that is to pick up the pace, move those legs.

Between fluid stations there were people with cups of water as well. I took one and dumped it on my head. I did this again about a mile later. Feeling better, pick up the pace, gotta catch justBill.

Mile 21 coming up and my wife, the non-runner, is running down the road at me looking pretty concerned. She verifies that I'm alive and starts taking pictures, running back to the rest of the family. I ask how far justBill is ahead of me and they say about 2 minutes.

Okay, the fans are picking up. The bands are playing. Some crazy runner is inciting the crowds to cheer us on by running back and forth and yelling at them. I stick to the middle of the road...too tired for anything but the "optimal path." Then in the distance, I see justBill...and he is walking. My goal insight I catch him just in time to go down a big hill (what goes up, see mile #10, must come down). He runs along with me. My legs are burning. JustBill can't keep up the pace and tells me to go ahead.

Now I seek anything to keep running. I'm passing a lot of people. That keeps me going, especially passing the relay teams!! Fluid station ahead, just make it to there. A band is playing, step to the beat.

Mile 23, everyone is saying "just a 5k left to go!!" Wait! 26.2 - 23 = 3.2...a 5k is 3.1. Okay, if I realize that I am okay to keep running. If I'm okay to keep running, why not chat along the way. So, I encourage a few folks. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, where is that damned fluid station so that I can walk.

Mile 25, I know there is one more fluid station before the stadium. I get to the last bridge and figure that the fluid station must be on the other side, so I run the bridge even though the way up and the way down is killing me. Now people are yelling 1 more mile to go!! Now I've got it figured out, the closer to the end I get the more disoriented the spectators get. 1.2 miles left is a long way from 1 mile left, but that is okay I knew how far I had to go.

The end...after going 3/4 of the way around the stadium the course goes into a tunnel, down a ramp and onto the field for a final lap around the track to the finish. I break into the light of day with three thoughts on my mind. Try to recognize my family, look for myself on the Jumbotron, and smile for the picture at the finish. There is the Jumbotron, there is the camera pointing at me, why am I not on the screen? Oh wait!! That is me. Cool. Turn the corner for the finish. Family? Where is my family? There they are and clock time is now 4:48...4:49...I can beat my goal by 10 minutes! Go, go, go! and Smile! I hit the line smiling, then look down to make sure I don't trip on the mats. Click. Finish line photo might come out with a funny look on my face. :)

So, my clock time should be about 4:49 and my chip time 4:47. I missed the negative split by 11 minutes (2:20 was clock time, chip should be 2:18), but I feel great. I'm working on recovery and pondering my next marathon. :) I'm going to take the next month off. Any runs I do will be for fun, not training. *grin*

For those who were curious, my family was now concerned. They had been expecting justBill since he was looking good at 21 and 2 minutes ahead of me. He came in at 5:04 and is fine. I had gone from 2 minutes behind to 15 minutes ahead over a 5.2-mile span.

Final notes: According to the UPMC website right now, my final time (bib #1009) was 4:18 with a chip time of 4:16. This is wrong, but so are many of the other times (unless everyone started running 4-6 minute miles during the last 10k).

Anyway, for the record, a sane person might run 26.2 miles. They have no idea what they are getting into. On the other hand, someone who does it a second time is obviously crazy. Sign me up on the crazy side of the house. Chicago is starting to sound pretty good!!


P.S. THANKS TO ALL FOR THE HELP AND SUPPORT. I say all because if you posted on this board I've read your post at least once. :)

Become a Complete Fool
Join the best community on the web! Becoming a full member of the Fool Community is easy, takes just a minute, and is very inexpensive.