How I ran to Marathon #20

I got a very peaceful nine hours of sleep last night.  A much needed rest from the total chaos of work lately.  Today, I’m off.  So, besides just relaxing and trying to catch up with myself, and blog reading and writing, I will try to get out for a run today.  After all, I can’t forget that I have a pretty monumental marathon coming up in the not so distant future.

My last marathon, the New River Marathon, was over six weeks ago now.  Plenty of down time, plenty of recovery.  Time now to really get serious and focus on the next challenge.  Yep, marathon # 20 is just 32 days away!  Just typing that is just unbelievable to me.  Twenty marathons!  Back in 2010 when I first started cranking out two and three mile runs I never would have guessed that this day would arrive.  It’s a pretty amazing achievement.

I think that because this running adventure I’ve been on is about to hit another big milestone, I have really started lately reflecting back on marathons I’ve run up until now.  Each one has a story, and each one a medal of achievement.  A momento of accomplishment.  My race medals are loosely displayed on a book shelf in my bedroom.  Hung over books.  Dangling from shelves.  Wrapped around nic knacks.  Some days I don’t pay them much mind, but lately I have been looking at them more.  They tell quite a story of my journey.

I trained, I trained hard!  I hit the starting line in Myrtle Beach in February of 2012 with zeal!  Unknowing of where my running journey would take me.  I ran my heart out, completely unaware of what lie ahead.  It hurt, and I could barely walk back to the car, but with a 3:33:24 finish, I knew it wouldn’t be my last marathon.  What a sense of accomplishment.  I felt like I had achieved something very special.  Running that marathon changed me.  I felt like a Super Hero.  I knew about an hour later that Myrtle Beach would not be a one and done marathon for me.

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My inexperience and lack of respect for the distance immediately took over.  A few days later I signed up for another marathon the following month,  I needed that high again.  Marathon #2 at Tobacco Road proved a big bust.  Thinking I was Ironman, I went out with the 3:30:00 pace group, and clipped away great with the pack until about mile 7.  Miles 8-26.2 I quickly learned to respect the marathon distance, as I cramped, and limped, and struggled to a 4:11:27 finish.  I learned a lot that day.  The most important thing I learned was that this journey for me was not going to be all about speed.  I needed more than that.  I needed to learn lessons.

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Each marathon that has come and gone since then has been a learning experience.  Gaining knowledge about myself, and this sport I love.  I continue to love the marathon.  Each one is unique.  One of the things about running that has really come front and center during my journey is that I not only run with my feet, but with my eyes.  I need scenery.  Views.  I haven’t run Tobacco Road again because the course is monotonous and boring.  It’s a shame too, because it is a local race for me.

Once I figured out that speed wasn’t everything I still struggled over the next few races I ran.  Why?  Lack of experience.  Lack of knowledge on how my body responds to and the correct training I need.  It’s all a learning experience that just takes time.  My next marathon, the Outer Bank Marathon several months later was run with Plantar Fasciitis.  An epic fail.  A race I should not have even run.  That 4:13:58 finish still holds the record for my worst finish.  I learned lessons in the OBX though that I still hold on to today.  I listen to my body more now, I train smarter, I eat better, and proper hydration will make or break a race no matter how fast you run.

Marathons #4 and #5 were both finishes over 4 hours.  Asheville was all about the weather (8 degrees with windchill at the start) and Blue Ridge is considered the toughest road marathon in the United States.  Of my four hour plus marathon finishes the Blue Ridge Marathon was my biggest success.  A monumentally difficult course, I almost broke four hours, and ran a great, and smart race.  That 4:04:59 finish I consider one of my proudest accomplishments.

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By this point, my marathon journey was a year and a half in the making, and that 4:04 in Virginia back in 2013 was my last 4 hour plus marathon.  Lessons learned, new skills and techniques put to use.  Live, run, and learn.  I ran my marathon PR later that year at the City of Oaks in 3:32:24, and followed that up with a 3:41:41 in Las Vegas two weeks later.  By the end of 2013 is when I truly felt like I had learned enough lessons to really consider myself a seasoned marathoner.

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So many more races have come and gone since, and I still am enjoying every moment.  As I count down the days to my 20th marathon, I say thanks for my health.  I revel in the journey, as every mile has brought me to where I am today.  Marathon #20 will be run in Colorado on July 19th.  The Rockies Marathon will be a stepping stone for me.  It may get me to Boston.  It may not.  It will be a new adventure, and the perfect way to celebrate my journey.  A journey that will continue for another 20 marathons after that one, if I’m lucky.  With the Chicago and New York Marathons later this year, all I can say is that I am so lucky and proud to call myself a marathoner.

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7 thoughts on “How I ran to Marathon #20

  1. This was an absolutely beautiful reflection on your races and what you’ve learned since starting! I’m hoping to possibly do my first full marathon in Asheville in March, but much like you’ve pointed out, I’m going to really have to listen to my body and make sure it’s right for me.

    Seriously, gorgeous post ❤

    • Thank you! After what I thought was a great success after my first race, my inexperience taught me many lessons, and for those lessons, I am grateful. It’s all about the journey, and we wouldn’t be able to move forward without owning the past. Best of luck on your journey, if you need any tips or advice I would be more than happy to share. I hope to see you in Asheville, as I will be there, too!

  2. Such a wonderful running journey and still loving it which is so good. All the best for marathon number 20! Number 2 coming up for me, not sure I’ll get to 20 but you never know. If I keep reading inspiring real stories I might have to keep on going!

      • It is so cold! We had -3°C over night and it didn’t get passed zero on our run this morning. I’m doing Melbourne Marathon in mid-October. It feels like a while away but I know it’ll be here before I know it.

  3. Good luck on number 20 Paul ;);) even though I’m not competing in marathons I’m them for long runs ;);) I have been so inspired by runners like yourself and hopefully when I do have the funds to run marathons and ultras I’ll be able to run for charities and give a little back. I have been running very well lately ;);) I ran a 31 mile yesterday still feeling the affects today;) It’ll pass.. It definitely is a great way to test your body to see what needs to be improved or worked on. The most important thing I’ve learnt on my running journey is that love running and respect your body its an amazing tool;);)

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