26.2 Thoughts on My First Marathon

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This is what it looks like to finish a marathon.

It’s taken a few days to process all my thoughts on Sunday’s accomplishment. The cliches are true…the stamina and pain required isn’t just physical, it’s emotional, mental, all the -al.

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Hey, I don’t care how long this thing takes me!

I’ll start with my “.2” thought. I’m not writing about my time. If you want to look it up, it’s out there. I had friends who also ran, they can post their times. I won’t. Somewhere after my first half, which was fairly solid, I began giving myself permission to not focus on time. My goal became just to finish. I was glad I made this goal when I received a text from a MARATHON finisher before I hit mile 19. I tapped into everything I work on in yoga and in therapy to really be carefree about this, to not tell myself I sucked, and to focus on the task at hand. And it worked.

26. Did I really forget to start my Garmin because I was so excited/scared/confused about my wave starting 5 minutes early? Yep. Didn’t start it until Mile 1 so I could track then. Of course, I also was so excited/freaked out/blabbering at the finish I forgot to turn it off. Oddly I’d had an anxiety attack about forgetting it period.

25. Portapotties, or lack thereof. I waited 25 minutes before start, then gave up with probably 20 people still in front of me. Passed a few stations with long lines and finally gave in before the hill up to the bridge. Started timer after a few minutes in line…at least 8-10 minutes were wasted waiting.

24. So glad that Hilary was down for splitting an Uber for our ride down there in the morning. Needed to see a friend before I started this crazy thing. Really wish Muni and BART would run early service though! Also, Hilary is AMAZING for completing her first half marathon, especially that HILL-filled (ha! pun) first half of the course. Goodness. I knew what was coming, but seriously, so. many. hills.

23. My first course conversation was with a couple, about 20 years older than me, catching up on the man’s FIRST 26.2 of the day – he was an ultra and started at midnight. Motivation.

22. On the slope by Ghirardelli Square, a raccoon came charging down to check out what the heck was going on. He was skittish about joining the marathon or just going back to his den. I started laughing, pretty hard. Those who didn’t spot him probably thought I was crazy. A park ranger chased him away.

21. Somewhere near Fisherman’s Wharf I spotted one runner helping out her other runner friend, a little person, with one leg. They were adjusting the latter’s crutches. Going the opposite way (with the fast people), on the bridge, I saw a man who may have been a burn victim. Crossing back over the bridge I passed a firefighter with his full pack on. Motivation.

20. Under my shirt I wore my Decadent Oasis camp medallion from one of my other “nevers,” Burning Man. It also reminded me how incredibly supportive my campmates have been for me during a ridiculously difficult last few months, even when marathon training and travel made me miss super fun things. Grateful to be a part of this wonderful community.

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This Tattly definitely helped me keep moving, too.

19. Felt pretty good on the hill up to the bridge, but felt overwhelmed by the crush of humanity once we started up the ramp onto it. The faster runners were coming back over while we entered. So much going on that I had my one and only stumble. Luckily I caught myself and a woman with a “Go Random Strangers!” sign dedicated it to me. Thanks, lady! Didn’t trip again! My other favorite random spectator was a toothless man on crutches, leaning on the trunk of his car in Potrero. I was struggling by that point, but he told me to “stay strong! you’re almost there.” Motivation.

18. The cops, SFMTA workers, motorcycle club guardians, high school volunteers, spectators were all awesome. The two SUVs I saw trying to run through the race, not awesome. One guy, in his Church finest, yelled “THERE’S MORE GOING ON IN THIS CITY THAN SOME STUPID RACE!” before unsafely speeding off down Guerrero. Another tried to run past a cop, who positioned himself in front of the car to pull the guy over. Thanks, officer! (Also, I’d like to see both of these mouthbreathers try to run any distance.) Back to the positive…I also appreciate the event volunteer, who after overhearing my super loud post-GU belch said “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

bridge317. I’ve run across the Golden Gate Bridge pedestrian walkway many times. Running ON the car deck alone kinda made the other 22ish miles seem worth it. We all know how much I love the bridge.

16. My nutrition strategy worked pretty darn well (though I was saddened not to find Mint Chocolate GU at Sports Basement on Saturday). I ate two eggs, three strips of bacon, Angelina’s granola and a banana for breakfast, along with a Blue Bottle New Orleans Iced Coffee. I chomped on shot blocks every 5 miles, and “enjoyed” a GU (Mocha, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate) every 8. My friend Chris and I nicknamed GU “runner’s cum” on Saturday, so that provided endless entertainment every time I needed to take one. Extra treats on the course included bananas when we marathoners looped past the end of the first half, the incredible “buffet” at my house (more on that later), and clementine slices in Potrero.

15. I only hit one “official” stop that had GU/chomps for the slow runners. I skipped, since I brought my own, but boy howdy was there a mess at Vista Point. I actually had to scrape a GU chomp off my foot, as it started picking up debris and I thought running 19 more miles with shit stuck to my foot probably wasn’t a good idea.

14. Maybe around the bridge I started pacing with a 40something/70something mother/daughter combo. They both clearly had been more elite runners in the past before age/injury took them back to the “slow pile.” I know this because they commented around mile 23 about how “when you’re in the back, you’re all alone.” These two became my inspiration to change saying “I’ll never do this again” to “maybe I’ll do it again when I’m old and need to validate my existence.” But seriously guys, it’s gonna be at least another 10+ years.

13. Let’s face it, I was not built to run marathons. I haven’t been athletic since puberty layered me with a healthy dose of hips, tits and ass. I guess I check “athletic” now on online dating profiles after Weight Watchering myself out of “curvy.” And this race was to celebrate exactly that, five years of taking control of my health and body. But you know what? There were a LOT of non-athletic people doing this thing. People with signs about their weight loss, cancer, depression, eating disorders. And that was awesome. Motivation.

12. I made a fellow runner laugh at mile 17 when I said “only three 5ks left!” I also spotted a volunteer wearing a Team Challenge hat and gave a little shoutout. More on Team Challenge in a bit!

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Sometimes selfies are okay during runs.

11. During the first chunk of the race I thought “why are all these people stopping to take group photos/selfies? This is a run!” Then I realized that many of the runners ARE NOT FROM San Francisco. They came here as a destination! And I’m spoiled! I get to live here. So I joined in a little…until my phone battery seemed questionable.

10. I’ve alluded to the first half of my year being crappy. And I spent a lot of my training runs working out in my head issues with negative situations I’ve been dealing with. During the marathon, I didn’t really focus too much on those folks. Surprisingly though, around Stow Lake, I shouted (in my head) a big FUCK YOU to my 7th grade gym teacher, who was a total bitch about slow runners. She made me feel totally worthless for running a “slow” (over 10 minute) mile. So even though I had a 15 year aversion to running after that, damn if I didn’t overcome it and run a fucking marathon. Suck it, suburban gym teacher! (Motivation?)

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Visualizing this beer really helped.

9. Maybe the reason I hated running in 7th grade was lack of proper motivation. Around mile 22 or so, the marathon folks made up for the lack of portapotties by coating the course with “Sierra Nevada Beer Garden At the End” signs. This is when I actually visualized an ice cold, big frothy mug of beer floating out in front of me. I was starting to actually get loopy around this point (mile 23-24) so I needed ANYTHING to keep me moving. Once I was walking for a minute and some inner part of my brain kicked up and was like “Yo, start running or you’re gonna fall over.” Visualizing a beer seemed like a nice distraction instead of passing out in Dogpatch.

8. Although I didn’t fall again, a woman in front of me bit it hard on the way back over the bridge. Quite a few of us stopped to help her up and make sure she was okay. Luckily she was AND she kept going. Bad ass. Motivation.

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Passing mile 25, listening to my Best of Heg’s mix. (Thanks for the photo, Derek!).

7. Obviously I have a LOT of music on my playlist for a run this long. I don’t recall each tune step-by-step, but a few stand out. When I SPRINTED those last .2 to the finish line, INXS’s “Disappear” was faintly playing in my ear. The Boss pushed me through the pain in Dogpatch, as I muttered along to “Thunder Road” (Yes, Becky & Craig, the Best of Heg’s mix was the last album on my list). Biggie’s “Hypnotize” hit just as I pushed to the top of the Fort Mason hill. I’m forever grateful to my friend Sam for purchasing Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles” and Molly selecting Robyn’s “Indestructible” for a playlists past, they’re great to have come on after mile 9 or so. Tycho’s most recent album is perfect for running across the bridge early in the morning. I’m glad I recently heard “You! Me! Dancing!” on the KEXP runner’s podcast, because it came on almost in the exact same location as that day, rounding the corner at Stow Lake and the joyousness of it brought me into LCD Soundsystem’s final album which guided me through the Haight and Mission.

6. Coming into the Haight, I caught up with a woman wearing a shirt about how this was her 22nd marathon. She told me first timers like me were her motivation to keep at it.  I felt more useful though that I could tell her where to buy Gatorade on Haight Street. I guess after 22 marathons you can totally stop and go into a corner store!

5. I feel like my whole life changed since I started training for this race. My boyfriend (because I no longer have one) did not meet me at the finish line with champagne (though more on my MOAR AWESOME finish line crew later). Other personal relationships have shifted tremendously over the year. I tried to find myself across America and Europe (and ran everywhere I went), but spent most of those trips in a post-breakup crying zombie haze. Finally emerging from that whole mess, two weeks before the race my company went through a merger and I found myself in a dream job. It often felt like this marathon was the easiest thing I had to tackle this year.

4. There were two people that sold me on running the marathon. The first is one of my bestest and most I-can’t-even-pick-an-adjective friends of 20 (!) years, Mary Ann, who ran this last year. MAB supported me from the get-go with a marathon-themed birthday gift (including the MUCH needed post-race massage) and finding me a training plan that worked with my hectic schedule. The other is one of my best SF friends (who I am forever grateful to my former work friend, Paul, for introducing me to) Amber. Amber served as an ambassador for the marathon this year, tackled the second half (after a not-so-awesome 2013 experience),  AND muled spaghetti for me from Emmy’s the night before the race. I am so grateful to these two women for making me do this (although my quads may say otherwise).

3. I never expected the virtual support I got! The good luck messages before the race. The battery-draining messages DURING the race (I had to turn to airplane mode!). The OVERWHELMING messages, texts, greeting cards, phone calls, all of it once I completed that thing. You guys will never know how much it means. I feel so incredibly loved. But there’s gotta be a way to feel that loved without running 26.2 miles, right?

2. Not only did I run a marathon, but I ran it FOR something. Thanks to everyone who helped me meet my goal of raising $1,000 to make the streets I ran on just a little safer. If this post inspires you at all, please considering supporting Walk San Francisco with a donation before this Friday. I’m so thrilled to be a part of this great organization!

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Look at this crew!

1. My friends are the fucking amazingnest crew you’d ever want to know. The entire awful seven miles through Golden Gate Park I counted down until mile 19.5. Little did I know they’d have a whole cheerleading squad and brunch buffet set up not just for me, but for all the runners. A huge thanks to Sadie, Omar, Molly D., Theresa, Maxwell, Carolyn, Mary Ann and Chris T. for being the best oasis in the Haight. Then I got more cheers and high fives from friends Chris and Susan at Haight & Divis. Another cheer boost from Keith at 16th & Valencia! Then my former Team Challenge teammates, superstar runners, and dedicated fighters of Crohn’s & Colitis, Sharon & Derek for stationing themselves at the CRITICAL Mile 25 and pulling me out of my death spiral, encouraging me to turn up the juice. I actually screamed when I saw them, startling the aforementioned mother/daughter pair. THEN Chris T. and Mary Ann positioned their final cheer duo just before the finish line, making sure to yell just as I sprinted by (seriously I don’t know where the energy came from), and collapsed into a pile of gooey tears after I crossed (and forgot to turn off my Garmin, of course). The tears quickly turned to smiles as my finish line supporters, the best friends a girl could ask for, escorted me off to that perfect beer.

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And then they give you a medal and a cape!

 

 

 

 

 

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About Meghan A.

creative & professional creative professional | communications, content & community | nasty woman | adventurer & inspiration seeker | bicyclist & feminist | walk san francisco board | current: Adobe Typekit Product Marketing Manager, former: TYPO SF magic maker
This entry was posted in Brew To Bay, Challenges and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 26.2 Thoughts on My First Marathon

  1. You. Are. Amazing. So grateful I could help you this year. So glad I know you. AHHH there’s something in my eye.

  2. Pingback: Episode 11: Meghan Arnold - San Francisco People Podcast

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