After my first marathon experience, I was sure I would never run a marathon again. That feeling lasted about a week and then I signed up for my next marathon, the 2016 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.
I had never even heard of the Cleveland Marathon before signing up, so why Cleveland? Once I decided to run another marathon, I wanted to do it right away. I convinced myself that it would be smart to give my body time to heal and properly train, so the timing of Cleveland worked out perfectly. It’s only a 3-4 hour drive from where I was moving and the idea of running in a new state appealed to me.
My first marathon experience (read about it here), left me with a lot of questions. Would I have done better if the weather wasn’t so insane? Would it have been less painful if I had gone on more long runs in training? What should I plan for next time?
I didn’t really know the answer to any of them, so I had to guess. I estimated that if I had trained properly and run under better conditions, I could have finished about a half hour faster. In any case, now that I had experienced the ups and downs of a marathon, I should be able to anticipate all the difficulties and finish stronger. I decided to set my time goal at 4 hours for the next marathon.
While I gave myself adequate time to train, I failed to anticipate several difficulties. The first road block came when moving back to my home state of Michigan (I had been living in Jerusalem for the last year). Trying to get us moved into our new apartment and settled in a new country (even one we were born in) was not as easy as I thought it would be.
The weather also made training difficult. I didn’t have a gym membership, so I was trying to run outside in the Detroit winter weather, which was not pleasant and often nearly impossible.
Nonetheless, I managed to get in a good amount of training and it looked like I’d be well-prepared for the race. Then I got a new job. I started working nights from 10-6 in a hot bakery kitchen. Moving around on my feet all night on a 100 degree kitchen didn’t leave me much energy for running.
To Run, Or Not To Run
A few weeks before the marathon I realized I was less prepared than I had been for my first marathon and I didn’t know if I would even be able to make it through the race. I considered not going at all, so at least I wouldn’t fail. In the end, I decided to push myself and see how it went. I knew I could push past quite a lot of pain and I couldn’t imagine that it would hurt as much this time. I was wrong!
I wasn’t able to get away from work for the weekend, so I decided to drive down to Cleveland late Saturday night. I was going to drive with my brother, but my wife surprised me and told me she would drive with me. We got up at 2AM to begin the 3.5 hour drive. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep before a marathon, or so they say. I got a solid two hours of sleep, so I had to make do.
With a May marathon, in the Midwest, the weather is a bit unpredictable. It’s not all that unusual for it to be in the 40s, or 70s. What I didn’t expect, was freezing rain and snow. At one point on the ride, we hit an ice patch and spun out of control. Fortunately, we didn’t hit anything and on the positive side, the adrenaline woke me up and made me pay more attention to the road the rest of the way.
By the time the race started it warmed up to high 30s and the snow turned to rain and hail. I figured that as bad as the weather was, it couldn’t get as bad as my first marathon weather. It sure got close!
Getting to the starting line was relatively easy. My wife dropped me off by a hotel a few blocks away, where they were holding my race packet. I walked over to the starting line and found that I was really early. I took advantage of the time to walk around downtown Cleveland and explore the public bathrooms (that’s what everyone does for fun, right?). The Cavaliers were starting their playoff run and it seemed like the city was slightly obsessed. Much to my annoyance, as an anti-cleveland sports fan. Eventually they ran out of semi-famous people to parade out in the cold and were ready to start the race.
Here We Go
After waiting so long in the cold, I was more than ready to get the running started. I started off fast, getting ahead of the 3:45 pace group. Perhaps the most common marathon advice is “don’t start off too fast” and every marathoner knows better, yet…here I am running way faster than I should. Unlike my first marathon, there were a ton of spectators cheering us on and their energy really does make a difference. I cruised through the first 10K in 1:02:58, a reasonable, theoretically sustainable pace.
I Think I Can, I Think I Can
The first half continued more or less as planned. I was going a bit slower, but that wasn’t unexpected. I made it to the halfway mark in 2:16:04, still on pace to beat my first marathon time by more than 10 minutes. My confidence started building and I really thought I was on my way to a new PR. I got so confident that I accepted a few cups of beer from spectators (stupid, I know).
Once the half-marathon runners were off the course, it got a bit less crowded and started feeling a bit lonely. I should really run with a group, but I don’t like to socialize and I run with music instead. Hopefully in the future I’ll get over myself and learn to talk to people, who knows, I may like it.
WTF Was I Thinking?
Around mile 18 reality started setting in. I was not prepared to run a full 26.2 miles and my body couldn’t be tricked into thinking that it was. The weather was taking a toll on me and it was a struggle to just keep moving. The good news was that not running was more difficult than running, because of the cold. I was cursing myself for not following the training plan, but there was no way I was going to admit defeat, so I kept going.
My pace slowed to a crawl by mile 20, but I was feeling optimistic and the weather started clearing up. After the start in downtown, the middle 20 miles of the course were more than a little boring in terms of scenery. The home stretch was along the lake, moving back to downtown, so a little more exciting. As the finish line came into sight, the sun came out and made everything seem better.
I Did It?
I crossed the finish line in 4:53:08, roughly 10 minutes slower than my first marathon time. The feeling of crossing the finish line was completely different this time. At the end of my first marathon, I was holding back tears and the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. This time, I was more shocked than anything. I couldn’t believe how hard it was and I was proud that I stuck it out, even though I was on the verge of collapse and once again, running in horrible weather.
I’m Never Doing This Again!
I didn’t regret running this race and I didn’t go through the post race “Marathons are for morons” phase, I knew right away that I was going to run another one soon, but I swore I would never run another marathon without proper training. I should have learned my lesson, but hey what would life be like if I didn’t constantly do stupid things? 🙂