26 Things I Learned from Running My First Marathon

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If you told me seven years ago I would be running in the New York City Marathon…

I would have laughed in your face.

I had just started the Couch to 5K program to get back into running, and mix up my workout routine. A couple of years after starting this program, I decided to add running a marathon to my bucket list (preferably the New York City Marathon). I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I was ready for something life-changing.

After not being accepted into the marathon for several years, through the lottery system I was accepted in to the “Class of 2014” NYC Marathon. This is what I learned from running my first marathon (that’s 26.2 miles):

Mile 1 – One percent!

I finally get to count myself in the approximately one percent of Americans that complete a marathon in their lifetime.

Mile 2 – Hey Brooklyn

Gotta love a thick Brooklyn accident cheering and screaming your name.

Mile 3 – Three Modes

Three modes of transportation (subway, ferry, and shuttle bus) were used to transport the runners to the start villages. I felt like I ran a marathon before I even got to the starting line.

Mile 4 – Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Forty degrees on race day. Brrr. Time to throw out all your summer/warm weather training.

Mile 5 – 50,000 Pounds

50,000+ pounds of clothes were donated from the clothes the runners discarded! Thank you to all the diligent volunteers who collected the discarded clothing.

Mile 6 – Dodging the Walkers

Not that I condone lying by any means, but you may want to “fib” on your predicted finish time when you register. I was in the last heat and the last wave. It was challenging trying to get around all the walkers. Not to mention the extra pressure to finish in a decent time. I had awful visions of being the very last person to cross the finish line.

Mile 7 – Bumpy Ride

Bump and be bumped! I prefer to call these “running love taps.” With the volume of participants you will inevitably bump in to other runners and they do the same.

Mile 8 – Getting My Eyes Checked

What I though was going to be mile 8 turned out to be mile 9. What a relief!

Mile 9 – Million Cheerleaders

One Million+ spectators come out and support on race day. They hand out tissues, candy, water, and other items.  Take the time to read their signs as you pass by they are funny and motivating. Be sure to have your name on your shirt so strangers can cheer for you. They always seem to know when you need an extra boost. I really thrived off of them. I must have been a professional athlete in a past life.

Mile 10 – Love those Volunteers

10,000+ volunteers come out on race day to help and support the community. Thank you all! (Side note: sorry to the volunteer whose cup I knocked out of your hand by accident.)

Mile 11 – Bridges….Oh Bridges

Bridges, bridges, bridges! New York City is a surprisingly hilly course.

Mile 12 – Chaffing

Twelve miles into my training program was when I learned the hard way about chaffing in shorts in the summer! Body Glide becomes your very best friend. And yes, you will discover more area that chafe the more and longer distances you run.

Mile 13 – On my Runner’s High

At mile 13 I hit my runners “high” and crushed my half marathon time by 6 minutes.

Mile 14 – All Over the World

The diversity of the people participating in the marathon and on the sidelines is incredible. From all the different countries being represented to all the various challenges the runners overcame to complete the marathon is unimaginable. Why can’t we all as human beings act this way in everyday life?

Mile 15 – Spit It Out

You become very good at spitting (sorry Mom!).

Mile 16 – Need More Sleep

If you are a light sleeper, sleeping in the city the night before the marathon is probably not the best idea. Running the marathon on approximately one hour of sleep was not fun.

Mile 17- High Five!

You will high five hundreds of strangers, and then later eat an energy chew with that same hand. Good thing there was not an Ebola scare or anything..Oh wait…

Mile 18 – Banana Peels

This sh$t is bananas! Fact: Bananas peels are slippery. Around mile 18 bananas were handed out and the peels were then discarded on the course. Watch your step! It was like a video game trying to safely navigate the peels.

Mile 19 – Training Miles

Over 190 training miles were completed on my road to the marathon.

Mile 20 – Windy in the City

Twenty+ mile per hour winds! Not ideal for a marathon let alone my first marathon. The conditions on the bridges were quite scary at times. I was being blown all over the place. The pros even struggled as the winner had the worst winning time since 1995.

Mile 21 – Hand Me the Tissues

Mile 21 is the point where I almost cried. I was in lots of pain, and to top it off my music stopped working. This is when I had to tell myself to ‘dig deeper,’ and thought about all the motivational sayings I had in my pocket from friends and family.

Mile 22 – Speaking of Music…

When it comes to music I would definitely suggest anything with a higher BPM. You will naturally run a little bit faster.

Mile 23 –  Old Injuries

Overcoming injuries was a great challenge during training. I was hit by a car, and continue to have severe shoulder pain. I also hurt my ankle, and had an upper respiratory infection which substantially held me back in my training. I learned how to push through. I also learned that not following the program to a T does not by any means mean you are not ready for race day.

Mile 24 – How to Drink and Run

You become an expert at drinking and running (this would have come in handy during those college years).

Mile 25 – What a Relief

Mile 25 brought great relief, and I really pushed myself the last 1.2 miles

Mile 26 – It’s a Blur

Once I hit mile 26 it became a quite a blur.

The Final Stretch (.2 miles)

After running 26 miles, the  .2 miles should seem like nothing, but it just seems to go on forever.

The Finish Line

It was very emotional to cross the finish line. I felt relief, happiness, sadness, confusion, and accomplished.

The walk to the family and friends waiting area took about an hour walk (read: crawl), but I was so happy to see my Mom there. I want to thank her, the volunteers, EMT’s, and NYPD for showing their support and keeping everyone safe on race day!

This was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I have ever done. I am still in shock and continue to go through the highs and lows. A part of me is relieved it is over, and another part of me is sad.

I encourage anyone who wants to train for a marathon to follow your dreams. You can do it!

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About the Author

10262195_10203660726460857_6765159708273476371_nLauren Groundland is a dancer, fitness buff, and sunshine-seeker, living in Wilmington, DE. As a huge advocate of fitness, she is constantly looking for new and fun ways to stay active. She spends her free time volunteering and working at a children’s hospital. You can follow her on her blog or on Instagram.

2 comments

  1. Uncle Spencer

    Way to go Lauren! It takes a lot of grit and determination to accomplish a task like this. It shows the strength of your character! We are proud of you!

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