October 5th, 2014 marked the finish of my third Portland Marathon in as many years.  Running 26.2 miles can seem a bit daunting at times, after all, it is a long way of pounding pavement.  However,  it’s not just about showing up on race day and keeping your legs moving one foot in front of the other.  It is more about the 4 months of training leading up to the race starting line.

Training for Portland Marathon

Training started off gradually, building miles from 5 at the lowest to 21 at the peak about a month before the race.  In the beginning it doesn’t seem like much; just put your shoes on and get out the door.  As the miles build though, coupled with the fact that my training took place during the hottest part of summer, my resolve started to waver.

Working on my feet all day made after-work-runs in 90+ degree heat down right miserable.  I would start my long runs on the weekend earlier and earlier just to be home before the sun was at its peak. Getting up before dawn to eat, dress, and get your head in the game really makes you wonder if you have gone off the deep end.

“Don’t you get bored out there running for hours?”

On several occasions people would ask, “Don’t you get bored out there running for hours?”  I can’t expect everyone to understand and I just say, “Not really.” The truth is it gives me a lot of time to think. About everything. In fact, my inner dialogue would typically sound something like this:

“That breakfast probably wasn’t the best idea this morning.  I am going to need to find something else to try.”

“I just love running on these trails in the park. Oh, look! A bunny! What a beautiful surnise this morning.”

“My legs feel great, I could run forever. Holy cow it’s getting hot outside, go away sun!”

“I need to remember to do laundry when I get home.”

“Wonder what I am going to make for dinner later.”

“Running in the worst form of torcher there is, whose idea was this?”

“What a great run!”

My point is, that running has become time of reflection for me. I think about anything and everything when I am out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but my music and thoughts.

After all of that training, I feel like I am ready to conquer the day, but those pesky fears and doubts creep in:  What if I don’t make it? What if I take forever? I just have to keep telling myself that I didn’t sign up to win this thing. The race is so much more different than a solitary training run.

Hitting The Wall

I will not lie to you, running a marathon is painful. Both mentally and physically you are beat up and feel as if you have been dragged through the mud. You have to keep yourself on track with hydration, calorie intake and stay on your mental game. If you get this delicate balance wrong, you could end up with a DNF (Do Not Finish) after your name instead of a finishing time.

It is called “hitting the wall“. Usually somewhere around mile 20 you start to see people hit the wall. They just don’t have the strength to go on. I have seen many people sitting on the side of the road being tended to by a paramedic or police offier, unable to even walk.

Although hitting the wall can and does happen to some, thousands still make it across the finish line every year. When you round the corner on to Naito Parkway and start heading downtown, the crowds start to thicken.  People you don’t even know are cheering you on, yelling your name.  At that moment, you spot family and friends up ahead taking pictures of you.  You see how proud they are of you and the huge accomplishment you are about to achieve.  Two more corners, two more blocks and it will be over.  More screams, more camera flashes, and that finishers’ arch just ahead….and done!

Finishing the Race

Amidst the relief of finishing, the excitement and congratulations of those around you, a volunteer hands you your medal and tells you what a great job you did. At that moment it is all worth it.  The missed sleep, the running in the heat of the day, the aching muscles, pain in your legs and feet, everything! Nobody can ever take that away from you. You set a goal and followed the path to completion. There is no feeling like it in the world for me.

Will I run another marathon?  Of course! Next year is just around the corner. Even through the pain and sacrifice, the end result is well worth it. I have even thought about doing a triathlon…please, someone help me!  I must be crazy!

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