The ‘Herstory: She Can’ series profiles women who pursue their passions. Each have stepped up with courage, a message, and a willingness to share her own odyssey.
This is a first person account from one of our Machu Picchu trekkers, Emily Woodward, who just completed her first marathon.
I never planned to run a marathon. This wasn’t some bucket list item that I was dying to accomplish. It was merely a result of circumstance.
Sacramento has a great running community, and most of my running is done around town with a group. Late last summer rumblings of the 35th California International Marathon (CIM) started to infiltrate my running group, and many were signing up. At first, I ignored these rumblings, but after a while, I started to think that if there was ever a time for me to give the marathon a try, this had to be it. I’d be training with this unbelievably supportive network, so I wouldn’t have to take this challenge on alone. I simmered on it for a few weeks, and then I decided to sign up.After hitting the official sign up button the natural progression was to question everything about this life choice, then accept it as reality, and then do a butt load of research on training and fueling. After all, I only had 18 weeks to become a marathoner.
Two main things stick out from my 18 weeks of marathon training. The biggest thing is how quickly the human body and mind can adapt. There’s a point in training where I ran 10 miles for the first time and it felt like such an accomplishment. However, I couldn’t begin to imagine almost tripling that on race day. In a few short weeks, 10 miles become an easy “step back” run. Towards the end of training, I was running a quick 10 miler after work as one of my week day runs. The human body is literally nuts!The second thing that sticks out to me, and this applies to life in general, is that no matter what goal you are trying to reach, there are going to be both bad and good days. There were days where I wanted to quit, days where I was exhausted, days where I finished a run near tears, and days where every mile felt like running through quick sand with bricks tied to my ankles (Want to train for a marathon yet?!). However, there are also wonderful days: days where I felt like super woman, days where my legs felt like they could run hundreds of miles, and days where it felt like nothing in the world could stop me. The challenging days made me stronger, and the good days brought me back for more.
With just two weeks to go before the race, the taper began (reduction in mileage and resting for the race). I actually found these to be the hardest weeks of training, especially mentally. I thought that all of the work I put into training was going to fizzle away in these two weeks. I knew this wasn’t logical, but that’s the fear that crept up towards the end of training. With just 5 days to go before the race, I started questioning everything.
Did I train enough?
Is my race day fuel plan going to work?
Can I do this?
What the heck did I get myself into? Thankfully, I kept a daily journal during my training. I went back and re-read my entries. This reminded me that I put in the time and miles, followed the plan, and was ready.
When race day finally arrived, I got up bright and early at 5:00 AM. I ate half of a bagel with peanut butter, half of a banana, and chugged a glass of Gatorade. I drove to the start with four of my running friends. We planned to run the race together. The start gun went off at 7:00 AM; it was show time.
Both my body and mind felt unbelievably strong on race day, and I had a blast. I was singing along as we passed crowds blasting music, laughing at the clever and hilarious signs that people made, and above all, I was having fun! I got to run past my boyfriend and a group of my friends around mile 21. They made a giant cardboard cut out of my face, which provided a much needed moment of laughter towards the end of the race. It wasn’t until mile 23 that my body started to waiver. My legs were tight and my pace slowed. This is when the mental battle began. I kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other.
The mental game I played these last 3 miles was harder than any physical issues my body was trying to overcome. The race ended in downtown Sacramento, and as I got closer and closer to the finish line, the crowd noise grew louder and louder. With just steps to go, I put the biggest smile on my face, and I ran across that line with both arms high in the air.In my mind, when I crossed that finish line, I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t have been successful without a super supportive network of family and friends: my run group that helped me get through some really tough training runs, my family and friends back east that sent messages during training and on race day, my friends here in Sacramento that cheered me on during the race, and my boyfriend who put up with me for 18 weeks of training and also biked along the course to cheer me on. It takes a village…
I told my boyfriend after the race that I don’t think I’ll ever do another marathon. I’m writing this post merely one week after my race, and I must confess something. I already started looking up marathons and even ultra-marathons in the area. The bug bit me, the bug bit me real hard. If I have one final takeaway from this entire experience it’s to never doubt what you are capable of once you set your mind to something.