Running the Mankato Marathon: The Best and Worst Experience I Ever Had

Over the past four months, I’ve been training to run the Mankato Marathon, which was held this past weekend. Over the course of four months, I ran twice a week, and worked out 3-4 times a week on average. All of this on top of school, homework, a job, on-campus clubs, and a social life to keep me busy. Was it easy? No. I had to sacrifice time with friends, time to work, time for school, and I tried my best to stay in shape, making healthier meals and choices when I had to. This past weekend, I ran, trotted and walked 26.2 miles all the way to the finish line. It wasn’t easy, but I’d do it all over again in a heart-beat. This is my personal account of how it felt to run my first ever marathon.

I started training and preparing for the marathon four months before the race. If I learned anything from the past four months, it’s that the first rule of running or preparing for any type of long distance running is to stay focused. Nobody going into this race wakes up and decides to run 26.2 miles. Everyone had to train ahead of time, so they wouldn’t have to suffer throughout the day of the race. Focus is key because your body tends to respond to the way you think, and if you start to think negatively, it kills you as a runner. Throughout my training sessions, I tried my best to stay in shape and eat right. Somedays would be fun activities where I played basketball or baseball, other days I’d have strength training to get me in shape, doing squats and bench press mainly. I had days where I’d eaten horrible, and I had days where I felt I didn’t have my best workout. I felt confident going into the marathon though, because I knew I had the desire and passion to finish this race. I did this for four months straight, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

It’s 5:30 a.m., as I awake to the sound of my alarm. It’s the day of the Marathon, a day I’ve been waiting for the last four months. I get out of bed, make a trip to the bathroom, and begin preparing breakfast, my last meal before the marathon. My meal consisted of two bananas, four slices of peanut butter toast, and three large glasses of water. It was simple and easy, and it calmed down my stomach. After my meal, I decided to test out my Bluetooth headphones, which had been giving me problems for the last couple of days, cutting out randomly during my training sessions. They seemed to be in great shape on this particular day, as I began listening to music with headphones. I began to add new music to my marathon playlist. Everything seemed to be working properly, so I got dressed, and left my house to go to the starting line.

It’s 7:15 a.m., as I arrived in the orange parking lot behind the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus. I get out of my car, and the first thing I do is make another safe trip to the bathroom (because you can never be too careful) so I didn’t feel like a nervous wreck going into the race. As I bolted out of the smelly, feces-infested port-a-potty, I dashed to a nearby table to receive my racing bib, and hand over my sweat-gear. I then went to go find a quiet place with nobody around to begin self-meditating before the race. I said a little prayer, and I began stretching out my legs and started to let the guitar-riffs of Metallica take me away to a new dimension in time. I completed my warm-up routine, and I jogged to the starting line of the Mankato Marathon.

It’s 7:50 a.m., as I reach the starting line. It’s a beautiful day outside, as it was quite warm for an October morning. The national anthem begins to play softly in the background, as we all took our last moments of silence before the race. After the anthem, the runners and their families hug and say their final goodbyes. I begin preparing mentally, setting up my music, and getting ready to roll. As I attempt to turn on my Bluetooth headphones, I realized something terrible was wrong. I realized that they wouldn’t turn on. I knew my headphones were fully charged the night before the race, so I knew that wasn’t the problem. On race day, out of all days, my headphones decided to become obsolete. As I was cussing out my headphones for how crappy they are, I ended up placing my Bluetooth headphones in my left shorts pocket for the remainder of the race, and used my backup headphones (thankfully I remembered to bring them!) for the remainder of the race.

It’s 8 a.m., and the race begins with a bang (literally)! I start running at a good pace, the best pace I ran ever in my entire life, including my training sessions. I was hanging in there with the big guns up in the front row of the race. The first eight miles of the race, I completed with ease. I was on top of the world, and nothing could bring me down, except for hills. The hill around mile nine slowed me down most, all the way down. Believe me, I’ve ran up hills before, but this specific hill was a killer. I did my best to recover at this point, but I could sense at this point of the race I was weakened by this hill. Nevertheless, I recovered and kept on running.

It’s 9:47 a.m., and I’m halfway done with the race! I beat my average pace from the previous half-marathon I’d ran a year before by an extra five minutes! I felt good about myself at this point. As I’m cruising down the street, with the sweet sound of Purple Rain by Prince blaring in my ear, I felt very comfortable about finishing this race. As I completed mile 16, I noticed something wrong. Every time I tried moving at a fast pace, it felt as if somebody was trying to stab my right upper thigh with a knife. For the next ¼ of a mile, I had to slowly jog to keep up with my pace. It was like this for the next couple of miles. Every time I ran, the pain would get worse. As I completed mile 20 of the race, the pain was at its peak. It was so bad, I could barely even bare to walk. I knew, at this point of the race, I partially pulled my right quad.

It’s 12:40 p.m., and I’m almost finished with the race. It wasn’t so much of a race anymore, as it was more of a race between myself and the finish line. People had passed me, and people in front of me had also looked as if they were in unbearable pain, and so was I. Never did my legs feel more dead than during the final miles of the marathon. I finally crossed the finish line at 12:49 p.m.. It wasn’t the time I’d wanted to finish at, but it was the best I could do with the cards I’d been dealt. I could barely stand after the race, as my friend was waiting at the finish line for me. He practically had to pick me up after the race my legs were in such bad shape. Nevertheless, I did what not a lot of people can say they’ve done in their lives, and that’s I completed a full marathon.

My words of advice to anyone who feels that they have the ambition and strength to run a marathon is to start running early, and to train your body the best way you can. I followed a small training plan that I’d designed myself, so it was fun to do my own workouts. It’s very difficult to stay on the plan, as things come up we can’t necessarily control. All I’ve got to say is that if you’re truly willing to do something like this, find something that keeps you on track and motivated. It’s very easy to fall off course during training, so my advice would be to make small goals each week. Thankfully, I had a good supporting cast of people that pushed me, and it helped give me the drive to finish. This was an experience I’ll never forget, for the good and the bad.

 

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