7 lessons I learned whilst running my first marathon

7 lessons I've learned whilst running my first marathon

Running a marathon is one of those things that sits on one’s bucket list. My life list also includes bungee jumping, seeing the aurora borealis, admiring the polar bears from a very safe distance and petting a unicorn.

Last Sunday, I finally ticked “marathon running” off my list. It was tough both mentally and physically. I did it in 5 hours, 32 minutes and 36 seconds. It was the longest 5 hours, 32 minutes and 36 seconds of my life. It took every ounce of my willpower to not give up, detour and take public transport to go back home, lie in my comfy couch, pop the corn and binge watch on Netflix.

Opera House backdrop

I did train for it for twenty weeks (minus a few weeks because I had bronchitis. ugh!) with the awesome Sydney Striders Marathon Training Group. There were eleven of us in the group, eight of us participated at last Sunday’s race. The fastest member (hi Andrew) did it in 4.18 hours! It was his first marathon too. The longest training run we did was about 35kms. The plan was to reserve the last 7kms for the real thing and give all that you’ve possibly got on race day. Go hard if you can.

My lovely ultra marathoner husband said I should aim to finish it in around 4.45 hours. Bless him and his sweat wicking socks. But I knew that there was no way I could do that. Not with my “slow, easy (read – finish the damn thing and not die!) I need to pee” approach. Housing four kids in your womb equals not the best bladder on the planet anymore. I got to pee when I got to pee.

Having said that, I did learn some important lessons. Here they are for your reading pleasure:

1. Bring extra gels. I had eight with me and I thought that was enough. Forever optimistic me was hoping I’ll finish in just a bit over five hours. The plan was to drink tailwind to last me for the first hour and then take gels every 30 minutes thereafter. The race started at 7.20AM and I finished around 1PM give or take. Twelve gels would have been more than enough. The last 3kms were me and my tummy fighting it out. Tummy: Curse you Brenda for doing this to me. I am hungry!! You must feed me now!! How do you expect to run this thing when you’re starving me to death!! Me: Shut up!! We’ll eat ALL THE FOOD later. Just stay with me. We can do this. OMG! I am so hungry, is that KFC that I am smelling??!!

2. When it starts to drizzle, it’s time to channel Ms Natasha Bedingfield and repeatedly sing the chorus of “Unwritten” to yourself.  For those of you who don’t know who Natasha Bedingfield is, let me educate you by sharing her video.

Can’t be bothered to watch it? Here’s the all important lyrics:

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Life your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

If that doesn’t get you through the rain, I don’t know what will.

3. Rinse and repeat your personal mantra when the going gets tough. When everybody around you is just physically and emotionally spent and they start walking, it’s time to bring out the big guns and do a Dory. Just keep shuffling, just keep shuffling, just keep shuffling. I have so much respect for the back of the pack. It takes a very special person to still go on and not give up when you see tables and chairs being packed away, porta-loos being boarded up on the trucks (I think my heart just broke into tiny little pieces when I saw the “green and yellows” being hoisted up. Take everything away but not the porta-loos. Nooooooo!!) and the sweeper vehicles being driven ever so slowly a few hundred metres behind you. Not the most uplifting scenario. RESPECT to you my hardcore comrades.

4. You will be in absolute daze when you cross that finish line. Your mind will go blank and  you will suffer from short term memory loss. I think I now know what it feels to be in a desert and see mirages. I was so hungry I was ready to eat my own arm. I may or may not have wolfed down 10 slices of oranges in five seconds flat. World record right there.

5. That even in absolute daze, you will still have your wits about you and take the all important post race selfie.

post race selfie
6. You will lose it when you see your kids cheering you around the 30th km mark.

7. You will lose it again when you see them near the finish line holding their labour of love sign. The bitten donut did it for me.

IMG_2128
Will I run another marathon again? You betcha! Let me just recover by taking a few hundred nanna naps first.

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