Endurance Races – A Humbling Experience

Every Race Brings a New Experience

I remember training for my first marathon. I thought to myself that 26.2 miles really wasn’t that far. I had done long backpack trips and that was with a pack on. I was in decent shape and the worst-case scenario meant walking. No big deal, right?

I figured I should try a half marathon before the big day, so a month and a half before the 2002 LA Marathon I did a half marathon in Orange County. It took me 1:50:00 to complete my first half and I learned a valuable lesson that day, 13.1 miles was farther than I thought. I was cool until the 10-mile mark, and then my legs were done. I walked it home, sore. I realized I was in big trouble for my upcoming race.

The next Monday at work one of my colleagues, Shelly, asked me how it went. I said my legs were killing me and that I had broken down at mile 10. A few months before he had completed the Chicago Marathon and recommended Jeff Galloway’s book Marathon. I went out, bought it and read it. I learned a great deal about getting ready for a marathon and how I was doing it all wrong. First of all I didn’t have any runs longer than 10 miles under my belt. My mind was not in the right place and I had not given enough respect to the task at hand. I knew I would not be properly prepared yet I started to do Jeff’s run/walk program.

My goal was sub 5 hours and I had bet friends $300 I could do it. Win or lose the money was going to charity so no big deal, now I just had to finish, hopefully under 5 hours. Race day came, the day was hot and the race started 45 minutes late. I started out slow only because there were so many people and with the race being delayed everyone needed a bathroom break in the first mile. Any bush or building did for many of us. The next 13 miles were uneventful yet I was starting to feel it.

My friend Jason met me at mile 16 and had planned on running with me to mile 20 where Michele and Shelly were going to help me down the final six miles. Jason was great and ended up running us all the way to the finish linne, carrying my water belt that was heavy and bouncing around on my hips. I owed him and still thank him. I finished the last mile strong only because Shelly told me I would find something left in the tank. I did and ran mile 26 in 8:07 for a 4:59:09.

I was beaten up and sore for a week. Going down stairs was torture. I had learned respect and how humbling long distance running could be. I tell this story because 7 marathons, 4 half ironmans and many other dozens of other endurance races later, I am still humbled every time I am on the starting line. I respect the necessary training, the mental aspects, everyone racing, and the volunteers.

With many races coming up in the next three months I offer this to remind all of us to show some humility out there, be thankful for all you have, listen to your body, thank everyone out on the course supporting you and train properly.

Train Focused, Steve Mackel, Beach Runners Head Coach and Program Director


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