Ever since I started running 7 years ago, I knew I had a marathon in my future. I gained confidence and experience from two half-marathons, and a few 10ks and 5ks.
My favorite race out of them all was the Skagway Duff’s Half Marathon, starting on the dock in Skagway, Alaska, and following the ocean shoreline to the turn around point. I ran it in 2017, with a time of 1 hour and 49 minutes.
I wanted the full Duff’s Marathon to be my first marathon, somehow. Because of Eagle’s location and climate, I can’t/won/t/don’t run in the winter. It’s too cold, it’s too slippery, and I’m far too busy running the dogs from October through April. Even if I wasn’t, after running all summer, I am through with running and ready to give it a rest. I typically start running in March (but not this year; I was too busy with my job and tours, and recovering from an bad cold to bother with running). Then, in April, when the roads are cleared of snow, I start training in earnest. That gives me just over 2 months to prepare for the marathon. Last year, I thought it was impossible. This year, I had a momentary phase of insanity after a great 6 mile run (must have been the runner’s high kicking in), and thought, “what’s stopping me??” I pulled out my calendar, and marked every weekend with a number. 8, 10, 12, 14, all the way up to 22 miles the weekend before the race. Those numbers indicated my weekly long runs I would have to complete before the marathon. I laughed when I saw how perfectly it worked out. Since I had just run 6 miles, I would only have to increase my mileage by 2 every week! This would be easy.
Every long run is imprinted on my brain. It was snowing when I was due to run my 8, 10, and 14 milers. I toughed it out for the 8 and 10 milers, but went back to bed when I saw 4 inches of snow on the ground on the morning of my scheduled 14 miles. Because I fell behind in my schedule, I had to skip the 16 miler and go right to 18.
I ran across the top of American Summit to get in my quota of hills. It was peaceful and beautiful–and killer. I really wasn’t sore the next day (I rarely am; my secret is the ice bath!), but I was completely drained. The next two days, I was practically falling asleep at work and heading straight to bed for a nap as soon as I got off. 5 days later, I ran 20 miles. I had to cram the extra mileage into one week because, in my planning, I had forgotten to add three weeks of taper time after my longest run. According to the experts, the taper is one of the most important parts of marathon training. You have to decrease mileage so your legs can rest and heal from the stress of running. Who knew?? I think I knew this last year, which is why I considered it impossible to train for a marathon in two months.
I couldn’t consider impossibilities at this point though; I had already signed up and mentally prepared myself. To console my nerves, I searched for inspirational marathon videos on youtube. The one that did me the most good was the one about a guy who ran a marathon without training at all. He finished, limping, in 6 ½ hours. That cheered me up considerably and I happily entered the taper time.
I had one day of relaxing after the 600+ mile drive to Skagway and before my marathon. The 13 hours in the car left me feeling sluggish and off kilter, but a sunny day exploring Skagway helped greatly.
There were very few runners lined up for the marathon the next morning. I was one of 5 women, and the other 17 runners were male. I love to pass people in races, but I knew this was not the time to be competitive. I held myself back and let the others go ahead. I was sure I was last for the longest time, until they told me at an aid station there were 5 people behind me. That was a small comfort to my competitive spirit. I had to remind myself I wasn’t there to beat anyone; I was running against the clock.
The hardest hills were right before the turnaround point. They were too steep for me to run up at this point, so I walked quickly up most of them.
I can attest that a large part of a marathon is mental. I had the mental part down until about mile 18. I had been running on adrenaline and good vibes up to that point, but then I kind of crashed. I wasn’t hungry or out of breath or super tired, just generally discouraged and in pain. Not finishing was never an option for me, but I could feel myself petering out, until I plugged in my earbuds and used the music to ride me through.
I managed to finish faster than I expected, with a time of 4 hours and 22 minutes. I am definitely going to run another marathon one day and improve on that time!