Random Thoughts After A Marathon

I ran my second marathon last Sunday.

The so-called “City Of Oaks” marathon goes 10 miles through downtown Raleigh – the “City Of Oaks” – then, it turns onto the new greenway and the pain starts.

It was a fantastic experience.

Here are a handful of random thoughts – four days after the fact.

In no particular order and for no particular reason:

The race was a ton of fun. The organizers do a great job and I really can’t think of anything where there was obvious room for improvement.

I am really grateful to live in a place like central North Carolina. The gorgeous colors of the fall make some great scenery for a 4-hour run. Downtown it feels like a big city, but just a few miles away, you’re running through a ‘college town’ as you go past NC State. Then there’s a beautiful greenway. Even the early November weather is almost perfect for a marathon – although this year was pretty windy and that made the cold feel COLD. But I’ll bet there are millions of people in America who would love to run such a gorgeous race.

I did better than I thought. I wish I had pushed JUST a little harder. Three seconds a mile would have got me in under 4 hours, which was my goal. THREE. SECONDS.

The pacers are your friends. If your goal is 4 hours, find the 4-hour pacer(s) and stick with them. This is really helpful during the first half when you’re trying to decide whether to run faster or slower. As an added bonus, you’ll probably find that a few dozen other people are doing the same thing and you’ll end up running for 4 hours with the same folks. It provides a fun atmosphere and you can encourage each other effectively near the end.

Road surface matters. I could probably run all day on a dirt trail, but my feet get pretty sore after 15-20 miles of pavement. If I could change one thing about the City Of Oaks it would be to incorporate more non-pavement miles.

I went with a “water on my back, sports drink in my hand” approach and I liked it. There are no water stops on a training run, so I almost always run with a Nathan water backpack. At this point, I’m used to it and feel kind of naked without it. I can carry my phone, wallet, keys, 1.5 liters of water, a snack, hat, and gloves and not have anything in my hands or pockets. On a 3-hour training run, it’s really important to have everything you might need in a pinch. So for the race, I chose to wear the backpack, even though I knew there would be water stops every 2 miles. My idea was that I would just use the water on my back for the first 10 miles, and use the water stops to focus on 10 seconds of walking – and then start with the sports drinks on the second half of the race. This worked out really well for me. Sports drinks tend to leave a syrupy, gross feeling in your mouth. So a swallow of water a few minutes after a cup of sports drink works out nicely.

Pull out those ear buds. Seriously. You’re going to spend 4 hours torturing your body next to someone and never so much as trade names? Music on a run can be nice, but take a minute to just enjoy the natural soundtrack. I didn’t use any music on this particular race and I didn’t miss it at all.

“Carbing up” really isn’t a big deal. I ran this race the week after a bunch of dental work when it hurt to chew on anything, so I didn’t eat much in the days leading up to the race. And I was fine. Unless you’re running 40+ miles, you probably don’t need a huge store of calories. PS – the folks who had bananas and pb&j sandwiches at mile 16 and 22: you are my friends for life.

If you’re going to wear tights, wear some shorts over them. Please, for the love of all things good… Ladies: you are not fooling anyone. We all know that the only difference between you running in those tights and you running naked is that those tights pull everything up and hide your tan lines. You wouldn’t run naked, and you shouldn’t be showing us your booty like that. Dudes, same for you. Plus, ewwww.

I still haven’t figured out how to dress for a race like this. The race starts at 7:00 am with the weather in the 40’s. By the finish line, it’s low 60’s. Plus, there’s an intermittent breeze, and inconsistent shade. So if you wear light clothes, then you’ll be cold in the shade in the breeze, and if you wear heavy clothes, you’ll be sweating in the sun (and then REALLY cold in the shade with a breeze). <shrug>

It’s a lot easier than you think. Don’t get me wrong. It ain’t easy. But I have 3 kids, a pregnant wife, and no large intestine. If I can do it, then you can do it. If you have no desire to, then you’re off the hook! But if you think it would be awesome to run a marathon and you just don’t think you can: you totally can. And you won’t regret it. I promise.

That’s all I got for now.

Any questions?