I remember my first marathon as if I ran it yesterday.
Furthermore, I never considered running the marathon distance in those four years.
You get set in on the distance you think you will eventually run and are too caught up to think of anything further.
My First Marathon Was The NYC Marathon
Of course, the 1600m and 3200m runs were my favorite events.
I started running the 1600m as a freshman in high school running my first in 5.30. I would graduate as a senior with a 4.25 personal best.
The 3200m was my favorite event.
I began with an 11.30 time my freshman year. Ironically, I finished both my junior and senior years with a 9.46 personal best.
Running for 26.2 miles is something I never thought I would do.
It was crazy.
Marathoning was never in the question
I joined the Army in 2002 for many reasons.
The job opportunities I had in Canton, Ohio at the time were slim. I finished with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education from Malone University. In addition, I owed $32,000 and working as a substitute teacher and part-time personal trainer wasn’t doing the job.
Substitute teaching and getting payed minimum wage with a college degree just didn’t seem to be worthy of all the time and effort I put in to finishing college.
I chose to do something challenging and join the Army.
Early College Days
I competed for one of the top NCAA Division II teams in the country under the tutelage of Jack Hazen.
Jack was named the head distance running coach for the 2012 USA Men’s and Women’s Olympic Distance Running team.
The thought of running for that long at the time was ridiculous until I tried it for the first time.
If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.-Tim Ferris
Obviously, I am a huge fan of Tim Ferriss so you will see me reference him quite a bit on rundreamachieve.
Everyone can do what is easy
Easy tasks are not difficult. You can do them without thought, almost on autopilot. Running the 1600m and 3200m in high school was a challenge but compared to the marathon they are easy events. Furthermore, you’re done with the race in a few minutes.
My first marathon was the 2002 New York City Marathon.
My finish time was 2:51:24 but my net time was 2:43:36. Why the significant difference in time? We were not permitted to start until every runner had crossed the start line.
I was a part of an Armed Forces team running for lung cancer research. Chase Manhattan Bank would pay $1 for every runner we passed. I started in 32,189th and finished in 253rd place as the team’s top finisher.
I was still a part of my first military unit at Fort Carson back then. In addition, I was asked by the sports specialist of the Army World Class Athlete Program if I wanted to be a part of this team.
The longest I had ever run was 18 miles. I had just run the Army Ten-Miler in October of 2002 with a then-PR of 53:12.
It was a sufficient enough time to get a sniff from the top athletic unit in the Army so I accepted the offer.
- The importance of fueling Do NOT make the mistake I made in thinking drinking the equivalent of a small glass of water for the entire distance is sufficient fluid intake. You’re in for a rude awakening if you do.
- 26.2 miles is certainly not the 1600m and 3200m events I ran in high school. It was far more difficult then I ever imagined
- The New York City Marathon has probably the best crowd support I have ever seen in a marathon. I have run about 15 marathons to date and the experience I have from that first attempt I’ll never forget.
- Take your time and don’t try to make up distance in one mile. If you’re off 10 seconds one mile don’t try to run 20 seconds faster the next.
- I should have never shied away from running the distance for so long. I was 25 at the time, possibly the best age to run your first marathon but wish I could have gave it a shot a couple years earlier
- Take in more calories. I was walking and jogging the last 10 miles of the race. Furthermore, this happened from not taking in enough sugar and fluid to replace what I was losing in the race effort
Fortunately, having to wait for every runner to cross the finish line was a blessing. I didn’t have the opportunity to run too fast the first mile.
What was my first mile? 16 minutes flat. Yeah, I was cruising. I spent the first 7 miles running through a sea of people. I had no idea what I was doing, how fast I could run, considering the start position (32,189th place!).
Always push to do something you have never done, you’ll never know unless you give it a shot.
- Finished as the top military member on the team
- Went from 32,189th place to finish in 253rd place
- Raised a lot of $$ for Lung Cancer Research
- Finished my debut marathon in 2.43.36 starting in last place
I have thoroughly enjoyed the marathon ever since. I would go on to break the 2:20:00 marathon running 2:19:35 at the 2007 California International Marathon.
Testing the will
The greatest thing about competing in a race of this length is it proves just how much the human body can withstand.
It took five more years to go from 2.43 to run under 2.20 but my debut attempt at the distance will be one I will never forget.
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