Well, like I mentioned back in January, one of my major personal goals for this year has been to complete my first marathon. I started training back in December and followed Hal Hidgon’s novice training program. I only missed a few runs here and there but was able to stay pretty consistent throughout the 18 week program. Sometimes it got a little tricky while traveling but thanks to the GMaps Pedometer, LogYourRun.com, and my Garmin Forerunner 305, I was able to figure out decent routes on the fly.

I trained for the Ogden Marathon, which was held this past Saturday. We had to get up at 3:45am to drive into downtown Ogden to catch the buses at 5:00am that shuttled us up the canyon and into the mountains. We arrived at the start line around 6:00am where we found some bon fires and about 50 green porta-potties lined up in a row. There were about 2000 runners, which is max-capacity for this marathon.

My wife and I found our friends we’d been training with and joked around until the start of the race, trying to reduce the nerves as much as possible, hitting the porta-potties occassionally, while trying to stay warm. It was very cold up in the starting area — cold enough to see our breath. But we also heard we we’re going to have record-breaking heat later in the day, somewhere in the 80-90 F range.

After a short motivational speach by Jeff Galloway, the race started promptly at 7:00am and there was no turning back. The first 8 miles of the race was mostly downhill, running down a small canyon into the valley of Pineview Reservoire. The next 10 miles required us to run around the reservoire. There were several long stretches that never seemed to end and only one hill worth mentioning. The route took us to the top of Ogden Canyon, where we began our decent into downtown Ogden. This final canyon decent was about 6 miles long (from miles 17-23), at which point we got on the Ogden River Parkway running path for the next few miles until we emerged onto Grant Street and could see the finish line a mile down the road. So the course was mostly downhill — and is generally considered easy — but it didn’t turn out that way for me.

There was a great deal of excitement, energy, and adrenaline in the air when the race began. So like an inexperienced first-time-marathoner I started out way too fast. My normal long run pace is a little under 9:00/mile and I ran the first 3-4 miles at a 7:30/mile pace. I knew I was probably running a little too fast for my own good so I slowed it down to an 8:00/mile pace, which I held for most of the first half. At mile 13, my time was about 1:48 so I was totally on pace to crush the 4:00 mark, which was my main time goal.

Going out too fast was my first mistake but not the only one. I also ate and drank too much early in the race. I had a banana, a gatoraide, and a Gu before the race began. Then at the first few aid stations I ate whatever they gave me. I think this amounted to a few more cups of Poweraide, another Gu, and an orange slice. In the end, it was too much stuff, and I started feeling sick to my stomach. So for like the next 10 miles or so all I could handle taking was water, and I could feel my energy levels depleting. At mile 13, it was also starting to get hot, much hotter than the weather we were used to training in.

I hit my first major wall around mile 15 and knew I was in trouble. After the half-way mark, I slowed my pace down to my normal 9:00/mile pace but after mile 15, I was having trouble even maintaining that pace. I still felt a bit nauseus but I also knew I had to get more carbs in my body or I would never make it. So I put some more Gu down and took some fruit at the next aid station and did my best to keep it in. I also started using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk technique at this point where I’d run for a mile and then walk for 30 seconds. This helped conserve what little energy I had left until I got to mile 20, where I hit an even bigger wall.

After mile 20, I felt like my body was completely depleted and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to propel myself to the finish line. When you start feeling like this, your mind starts playing funny games on you. It’s weird. And to top it off, all the running downhill started to hurt my right hip and knee, so I was dealing with some occasional sharp pains, which forced me to stop a stretch periodically. My intervals between run/walk started evening out, and my overall pace slowed down dramatically…closer to a 12:00/mile pace, but that didn’t bother me any more, because at this point my newly revised goal was to simply finish

When I finally emerged into downtown Ogden and saw the finish line, all I could think about was collapsing on the ground. When I got close to the end I saw my family and my son Michael joined me to the finish line. It was an amazing feeling to cross the finish line after such a long internal battle.

My final time was 4:19. So I didn’t reach my 4:00 goal but I was very happy to finish. I placed #826, which means that there were more people behind me than in front of me so I felt good about that. 😉

The heat definitely tooks its toll on me and many of the other runners. Over the last 5-6 miles, it was so hot that several runners collapsed off to the side of the course. I saw 3 groups of policemen trying to revive runners along the way, so I was glad to still have been dragging myself along to some degree. Before the race, Jeff Galloway said that when the temperature is over 60 F, most runners slow down about 30-45 sec per mile. Everyone I talked to after the race, ran somewhere between 20-30 minutes slower than they wanted to so Jeff’s estimate was pretty close given my limited sampling.

But heat aside, I think my other two mistakes of 1) going out too fast, and 2) eating too much early on had already done me in. I have much more respect for the race now, the difficulty level, and the importance of training properly and running the race smartly. If there’s one thing I learned, it’s the importance of running the race just like the long runs in training. There were some amazing athletes out there zooming by me with plenty of energy left at the end of the race and I couldn’t help but admire them.

In the end, it was a lot of pain but I’m glad I did it. Although I didn’t win any prize money, I did lose 25 lbs, which was the real purpose behind the goal. I feel much healthier now than I have in a long time.

Now the million dollar question: will I ever do another one?