Mary Runs a Marathon

"That's the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is." - Kara Goucher, 2008 Olympian Marathon: 3:52:01 Half: 1:51:24 10K: 48:42 5K: 23:26 In case you didn't know-I am a fan of all things running
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Wow, long time no blog. I know my 2 readers are missing me (yeah right), so here is an update: I ran a marathon and majorly PRed! 

My training for this marathon was really on point. I ran 20 miles on 4 separate occasions and got in a lot of other training runs- generally I ran 50 miles a week. I felt like I really mastered a good pace for myself through my long runs and shorter runs. 

This marathon, as does any marathon, had a unique set of challenges. First, the months of September and part of October were dedicated to studying for the LSAT, so running wasn’t really my first priority. I got my long runs in, but I had to skip out on some other runs when needed. My last week of training was 50 miles, though, which was generally characteristic of the 3 months leading up to the marathon. Second, it was the day after the Michigan State game, which meant I was all over town tailgating in addition to standing for 4 hours at the game. And when I say all over tailgating, I mean literally all over. Not exactly recommended for marathon runners, but I wasn’t about to miss out on my last big rivalry game at Michigan. 

It turns out I was totally fine despite these challenges- I just took an Advil after the game and rested for the rest of the game. Good to know for the future! 

The marathon started out cold but not too cold. I decided a long time ago that the best choice would be to run a conservative first few miles, because I found that I go out way too fast and think of that time as bank time, and that doesn’t really work. My first mile was about 9:10, and then I went more into the 8:50’s, which put me on pace for an under 4 hour marathon. 

The Ambassador Bridge was nice as usual, especially watching the sunrise. It was a little crowded, but nothing too crazy. Canada was also good, but I was bracing myself for the tunnel because I remembered it being horrible in the years before. It was still not awesome, but I survived. I got a Roaming message on my phone from being in Canada for 5 seconds, which was really weird. The crowd at the end of the tunnel came up fast, which was a huge morale booster coming off a big uphill, especially considering there was an Asian man dressed in a Mickey Mouse costume. I was happy to be out of there and back to the air, but it is always cool to say that you have run an underwater mile. 

The next few miles were pretty uneventful and I was feeling good coming onto the half. Before I knew it, we split from the half and were on the way to Belle Isle. I saw a sign that said “Run faster, binders full of women are behind you,” which made me laugh, although I really hope that is the last time I hear that dumb joke again. Something tells me it’s not. Anyways, we continued running down kind of a boring and desolate area, but soon hit some very nice and pretty neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed. Gu stations came up pretty soon, too, which was nice because I felt like I needed it. I was starting to get a little nervous at mile 17, because I felt a little bit like I was losing steam. Still, I blocked out the negative thoughts and just kept on going, because I know that if I slow down it is hard to get back to speed. 

Pretty soon we hit the 4th Marathon Relay switch at mile 19 and were on the way to Belle Isle. It was very sunny and pretty, a great overlook of the River. Belle Isle was basically a park on this Island in the middle of the Detroit River, and it seemed really nice. We hit mile 20 and I still felt great. I was surprised that I was flying through the miles, seeing mid 8’s at mile 20+. I realized that I only needed to run 6 miles in an hour if I wanted to break 4, which would be totally doable for me at that point. I felt great leaving Belle Isle and kept at a steady pace. 

The final 2 miles started to wear on my legs- I definitely felt them tightening up, but I didn’t slow down at all. We ran the Detroit River Walk, which was right by the water, obviously, and also very pretty. Once that leg was over, I knew I had a mile or so left, but it was still pretty tough. I saw my cousin about a half mile away from the finish, which was awesome. I finally made it to the last .2, and some guy started to make conversation with me. We pushed each other to beat the 4 hours on the clock, even though we would beat 4 hours easily on the chips. I kind of felt like I was going to vom, but I got across the finish line and got to hear my name on the load speaker! 

Sooooo YES I did beat 4 hours- by almost 8 minutes! 3:52:01! a 14 minute PR! I am extremely satisfied with this and almost couldn’t believe it- but I did work very hard and trained smart. Thankfully it paid off! I am amazed that I barely hit any major walls and stayed on pace the entire time- this is huge for me! I am very happy with how this race went. 

YES! besides that 9:36 one in there, I think I forgot to stop my watch, haha

YES! besides that 9:36 one in there, I think I forgot to stop my watch, haha

2nd 20 mile run this training cycle in the books today! 

NAILED IT. 

I am so happy with how this run went! I ended up running 20 miles in 2:57 minutes, an 8:51/mile pace. I have barely been running this fast on shorter runs recently, so you can imagine my excitement. I am very satisfied with this, because it definitely puts me at a good point for a sub-4 marathon. I am planning on getting four 20 mile runs in the book so I can truly master the distance and prepare myself for the marathon. I think that this is what I have done wrong all my other training cycles- running 20 and calling it quits. Luckily I started early and had a great base, giving me a lot of time for all these runs. Next week I am going to do another half marathon distance day, then the week after I will do 20 again. This should help me get used to the distance, but not kill myself because I will still be running long every week, just not the distance of 20 mile haul.

I think that rest is definitely something I am learning this training cycle. Previously, I just wanted to run as much as I could, because, well, the more you run, the better you will be at it.

Not necessarily. 

High mileage is definitely important for distance events, but you have to be smart about how you divide it up. Like, hm, maybe it’s not so smart to go on your long runs on Thursday if Wednesday was 8 miles tempo and Tuesday was 10 miles of hills. Yeah, not so much. You’ve gotta have recovery time and you’ve gotta have rest. I would love to be able to run 60-70 mile weeks consistently, but I have found that 50 is a good number for me with my schedule- I get some middle distance runs in, have plenty of room for a long run, have recovery miles in there, and I have a day off. And I run once a day. Maybe one day when I am working and have a less hectic schedule I will be able to do two-a-days, but right now that’s not feasible. 

Going back to my run today, another great thing was how well hydrated I was. I think I owe it to my bringing water along, instead of being at the mercy of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation water fountains. What I novel concept- having a reliable source of water will help you hydrate better- I KNOW, CRAZY, RIGHT? The downfall of this is having to carry stuff, especially when your best mode of storage is a fanny pack. Yes, readers, I did wear a fanny pack to carry my water bottle. Yes, I was embarrassed. But I was NOT dehydrated, so it all evened out in the end. I just had to look like a complete and total dork. Whatever. Maybe I will buy a handheld water bottle and save myself humiliation. Or not. embarrassment builds character. 

Howdy ya’ll. Sorry for not updating in like forever…I just got busy and forgot to blog about my runs. Let’s see what I have been up to lately….

  • 3 weeks ago, my long run was an 18 miler. I wasn’t too too excited about this one just because my long runs have been maxing out at 16 generally, and it has been a warm summer, so 18 sounded like a whole lot. I made it though, and finished with just over a 9 min/mile pace, which is good for breaking 4:00. I wanted to get this run out of the way because the next day I was going home to meet my family for vacation, and I was sure the heat and humidity there would be way worse that it is here. And of course, I was right. 
  • The aftermath of this run wasn’t awesome, though, because I didn’t have very much food at home since I was leaving for vacation, and you can imagine that after burning 2000 or so calories, that is kind of a problem. Never fear, though, I did have chocolate milk and Blue Moon, and really, what else do you need to refuel after a run but carbs and protein? 
  • The next week I was in Florida and planned on running outside, but there weren’t too many places to run on the island we were staying at. As in, streets are not pedestrian/runner friendly. I opted for the beach one day, but quickly found that the beach is definitely overrated for running. I didn’t have a problem with the sand really, just that it was so hot and sunny, which really made me uncomfortable and gross. After that experience, I decided to treadmill it, which actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think the last time I ran on one, I was out of shape, so I equated it to a torture device. I got 8 miles in every day in an hour and change without much of a problem, though. I still prefer running outside any day, but it’s nice to have alternatives if need be. 
  • Once I got back on Sunday, I knew I needed to go on my long run for the week, since I didn’t run long on vacation. Equipped with some new tunes, I set out for 12 pretty decent miles (I am running long-long runs every other week…i.e. 18 one week, then 12, then 20, then 12, etc). Mission accomplished. 
  • This Monday I was wrecked and sore, probably from partying and running too hard, so I took that day off. Since I have been so consistent and good with my runs, I don’t feel so bad about taking time if I need it. 
  • Meant to go on my long run this week earlier, like Wednesday or Thursday, but I just didn’t have it in me until Friday. At first I was definitely leery of doing 20 this week, but I looped a little further out so I pretty much had to run the whole way, and I ended up feeling pretty good throughout the run, barring some quad tightness midway through. Wore my new lululemon skirt- they definitely designed that thing well if I was comfortable through 20 miles! I finished in just over 3 hours- definitely on track to meet my goal! Plus, I know the cooler weather will help me out a lot, from prior experience. 
  • The next challenge will just be to keep up my training throughout September- it will be a busy month! My biggest concern is fitting the long run in every week, but I think I will be able to squeeze it in some day. 

Usually in the summers around this time, I am forced to take time off due to heat advisories, but luckily I have gotten around that so far and it’s almost August! The rest of the week looks mild and temperate. score. Anyways, here is what is going on with running.

Last week I went on a really good long run on Wednesday. I averaged 9:10 a mile for 16 miles, the best long run I have had since before the marathon. I figure that if I am running that well in 80+ degree heat, fall running will be even better and feel great. I just have to stick it out for a month or so longer. I also found an AMAZING water fountain towards Ypsi…it was SO COLD and refreshing. 

Last weekend was my 21st birthday, which unfortunately meant little running, so I got most of my running done during the weekdays- about 47 miles. It was a smart move as I was definitely busy celebrating during that time. I went for a 3 mile jog thing on Sunday, which was great to get myself to start moving again.  

my birthday meant I got to indulge in some running swag with a gift card to lululemon from my parents. Generally, when it comes to clothes, i don’t really care about buying expensive stuff unless it’s Lilly Pulitzer or J.Crew (although I ONLY buy sale J.Crew because or else it’s way overpriced), but lululemon is definitely another exception to this. As soon as I saw people wearing this skirt at races, i HAD to have it, among several other pretty pricey running articles of clothing I’ve seen on the site. I believe I have been hooked. Oops. Anyway, the point is that I ordered this in black and I am super excited for it to get here because it is adorable.  

I went on another long run today- 14 miles. It also went pretty well, like the last one. I am alternating how long my runs are for right now, and building mileage every other week. Next week I will probably aim for 18 miles, leaving with a somewhat shorter long run for my vacation in Florida. I looked on the website of the place we are staying, and it said there are running tours offered- ha! I can tour myself around the Island for FREE! 

The record triple digit temps finally decided to blow this popsicle joint and give us a break from the relentless heat and humidity. Thank God for the sake of my sleeping and running schedule. 

With lower temperatures, my schedule was a lot more flexible for running- I wasn’t barred to running early in the morning, which by the way, I hate and am generally unsuccessful at. I don’t know what it is, my legs just do not go like they do in the late afternoon. I like having my run done in the morning, giving me more flexibility in the evenings, but it really is something I do only when I have to. 

Anyways, some notable running things from this week:

My legs have finally felt good enough to go faster, and I ran an 8 mile tempo run at something like an 8:45 pace. I felt really good about this run- I feel like I have had a hard time getting back to my pace this spring. It definitely has to do with the heat and just general recovery from a marathon. 

I set out for a long run on Saturday morning, but 2 miles into it, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I turned around and made it a 4 mile run. I think it was my legs protesting from the 40 miles I already run in the week, plus my general hatred of heat and sunshine for running weather. Either way, I decided not to push it and be miserable, because that’s no fun at all. 

Long run ended up happening Sunday evening- still really warm and I felt like at 7pm the sun was still really bright…ugh, #michiganproblems #edgeoftheeastcoasttimezoneproblems. Anyways, it ended up going pretty well- 13 miles in 2 hours, not too horrible. I felt dehydrated at a couple of points, but thankfully found some water fountains…still, I have to be better about drinking water all the time because I know it will help me out so much in the long run (hahah pun intended). I got kinda mad by the end because I passed 2 guys on the trail who were just chugging along, but started to speed up as soon as I passed them….ok, you should just face it, I am a girl and I am faster than you. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Ugh. 

I also officially registered for the Free Press Marathon- will I most likely hate myself for this? Yes. If it wasn’t the $125 dollars my bank account now lacks, it will definitely be the fact that I will be training for this race, still be a full time student, studying for the LSAT (taking an LSAT class that meets 3 times a week), serving as the president of a huge student organization, and generally living, which hopefully includes sleeping and eating. Yeah. /end pity party 

This week I am going to try to get my long run in on Thursday, since this weekend is my birthday and I do not foresee any running unless it is running from one bar to another. Oops.  

I think an unavoidable topic concerning running lately has been the heat. Last week wasn’t so terrible, since I ran long on Monday, when highs were in the upper 70’s, and continued to be somewhat mild with a few exceptions. I hit a 50 mile week without too much thought and planning, and even took a rest day on Sunday. 

This week, not so much! 

I took Monday off, and then Tuesday I felt like I should run. Ya know, since I was on vacation and all (with Megan in Grand Rapids!) for the 4th of July and generally not caring too much about my health. I set out for an hour or so run, but ended up with 4.5 sweaty, hard miles in somewhere less than 50 minutes. Ok, not bad, but seriously hot and uncomfortable. With temps in the upper 90’s and 100’s, not to mention blinding sunshine, going out and sweating 10 pounds off of my body is not the most appealing idea. 

Although I do now know how to sweat 10 pounds off if I ever need to! 

That was my only run this week until today. I really wanted to run long today, since I know it will be extremely warm tomorrow, and I like to get my long run done before the weekend, just because I generally have a lot of plans that may not necessarily mix well with optimal running. 

I set out at about 4, because I looked at the weather and saw that it was only going to get warmer later. Anyways, the first 2 miles were hell, and I was already sweating like crazy. I already doubted how long I would stay out. Luckily, though, some clouds covered the sun and helped with the heat a whole lot. I was also lucky to get some breezes periodically. I was at about 8 miles in Gallup park and felt good, so I decided to loop back through the arb, down Washtenaw, and down Huron to finish out the miles. I finished with a pace in the mid 9’s, nothing to write home about, but considering how warm it was, I was happy to finish 15.6 miles today regardless. I was definitely sweaty and really gross by the end, so I apologize to everyone who had to look at me. I am not enjoying summer running as much as winter, spring, and fall running because of the potentially dangerous heat, but I realize that as long as I am staying safe, not pushing too hard when it is really hot, and hydrating, it should pay off tremendously in the fall. Running will feel easy when cold temps finally grace out presence again! 

I still much prefer Michigan heat to North Carolina heat + humidity, though, because I know if I were home, running would be absolutely out of the question. 

Let’s hope I can get myself up and out to run early tomorrow before we are given a death sentence in the form of heat! 

So I will cut to the chase- 4:08:48 was the time for the day. Here is the story behind that number, though. 

I spent Saturday resting and not really doing anything at all. I went in the morning with my cousin and aunt to a strawberry festival in Ypsi, and then to Briarwood to pick up my race number for the next day.

After that, I sat around at home and watched TV while I ate carbs. I went to the food co op later that day to pick up bananas to make smoothies with and then to mass at 4:30. I made some pasta once I got home and then watched a movie before hitting the hay at about 11. I probably only slept a few hours- maybe 4 or 5, but it doesn’t really matter since generally sleep deprivation like that catches up to you a day later, so what is most important is getting enough sleep the night before. 

Anyways, I set my first alarm for 5 am, a finally got up for real at 5:45…I had my breakfast of oatmeal and a banana after getting dressed and then I was off to the finish line. (P.S. my life has been changed after changing my race breakfast from whole wheat bread and PB to oatmeal…so much better to eat first thing before a race!)

The starting line was about a mile away from my house, which was kind of a pain to walk to, but I figure it loosened up my legs from my night’s rest. 

Not a bad place to have the starting line of a marathon, if I do say so myself! 

Turns out I love standing awkwardly and getting my pic taken by a stranger before races. 

Anyways, after the gun went off and we started running, the course went up Main Street and turned right to Liberty Street. There was a little hill to run up, but nothing crazy. I was careful not to get over-zealous with the first mile- a mistake I frequently make and pay for. I reigned it in and probably clocked the first mile in at 8:45 or so, which was great and right on target (my goal pace was 8:45/mile). After that, we ran down Geddes Road and then a crawl up Huron Pkwy- not all that fun, but it was still early and I was feeling good. We ran through North Campus a little bit and then ran back to Huron Pkwy to run down the incline we just climbed. I took a gel at about mile 8. Once we ran back down Huron and took a loop through Gallup Park, we had another incline up Fuller Road. This was at about mile 12, and I started to question my goal for the race and weather or not it was feasible or not. I was already really hot and sweating buckets, as the weather was in the 70’s and extremely humid, and the hills already knocked a lot of energy out of me. I slowed it down a bit while evaluating this in my head, realizing that if I am already this tired, the wall will be absolutely terrible and I better try my best to conserve what I had. I was keeping good pace with 8:45/mile prior to this. 

After Fuller Court/Road, we ran through the Arb, which quite frankly, sucked a lot. It wasn’t very long, but it was pretty steep and I felt like I was crawling. Once we got out and passed Markley, and as I saw more and more people drop back from pace groups or walk up hills, I decided that my goal today would be to finish. I went into this race knowing that it could be really warm and that the course would be tough (I definitely underestimated just how bad it would be- I thought there would be 2 major inclines and the rest would be rolling, but there were definitely more hills than that and they were steeper than I thought) and I was mentally prepared to abandon goals-like going sub-4- to make sure I finish the race safely. After all, I wasn’t running this for the purpose of getting a PR, I wanted to run it because it was the first Ann Arbor Marathon, which is super awesome anyways. That being said, it is annoying that this race doesn’t reflect my training efforts- all the weeks of more than 50 miles, all the long runs of 8:40, 8:50 miles, and my really great race at DX-A2. 

The next leg, another out and back (Seriously…what is up with all these out and backs with this course??? It was super awkward and weird to me) was Washtenaw Rd…on the way back I saw mile 17 and was still not feeling too stellar anymore. I just wanted to see mile 20 and I felt like I was hitting the wall way too early. I definitely think I hit it at mile 18- super annoying to me, I ran training runs farther than that and survived! Someone on South U had a sprinkler, which was nice and refreshing! Also, at this point, the crowd definitely thinned out a lot and there was good distance between runners. Once we got to State street, it was super boring and seemed to stretch on forever, and there were still more hills. ugh. I walked through a couple of water stops to properly drink up and get more than 1 cup of water. 

Briarwood Mall was also a huge drag…basically we ran a loop around a mall. Nothing special at all. It definitely started to get warm, plus the sun started shining a bit, so the pavement started radiating, and I was really uncomfortably hot. Thankfully, once that was over, we were at mile 22 and I started to get a second wind. Before we completely the loop back to Main, though, another huge hill, which was definitely frustrating and super tough. A girl passed me and saw me struggling and told me that I had this! I believed her, hahaha. I took another gel at about 24 and definitely sped up a little bit- before that I had been running 10 minute miles, but I dropped to the mid 9’s. I was so happy to see mile 25 and 26 and then have a downhill stretch to the finish line…I booked it there because I just wanted to be done with it and I was so spent. I was hoping that my second wind lasted until I got there, and it did thankfully! I wasn’t sure if I would make it before my previous PR, but I did! My cousin (who, btw, got 4th place in her first 5K earlier that day!) and her fiancee were there to cheer me on, along with one of my best friends Mary! 

So even though I didn’t get in under 4, I still did better than my last marathon, and under worse conditions- the course was probably equally as hilly as City of Oaks, PLUS the weather wasn’t my ideal running conditions. I am not disappointed at all- in the end, I remember that finishing a marathon is always an accomplishment, especially when it is as hard of a course as the Ann Arbor marathon. I am already planning to run a fast PR at the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October- a flat course with a more runner friendly date!

Highlights/interesting stores

There was a man dressed up as a Chinese takeout box running the marathon. Cool story bro.

There was a band in Gallup Park that I literally thought featured Yoko Ono as the lead singer…oh my God, it was terrible. I am sorry, but just, no.

Ran by several places where friends live/lived. Not surprisingly, it was a little to early to encounter college students on a Sunday morning. 

Medals had a block M on them and featured the Big House. How cool is that? 

I had 2 friends also running the marathon, one ahead and one behind me, so the out and backs were cool because I got to see them and say hi. Kevin and Emily both ran great races and I was happy to see them at the finish line! 

Turns out everyone ran slowly- commentators apparently were discussing how people seemed to trickle in, probably due to the tough course. Also, only 4 people finished in under 3 hours- I feel like that isn’t really typical for a marathon of over 500 people.

I ended up in the top half of the race- something like 189/500 or so people. woo. also, 8/27 in my age group, hell yeah. 

This race had special 26.2 stickers that were blue and green with the Ann Arbor marathon logo on them. SWAG. 

Definitely almost lost a toenail at mile 24- once I looked at my shoe and saw I was bleeding through it, I was convinced that it would be donezo when I took my shoe off, but turns out it’s still hanging on…

Even though I may have not gone sub 4, I did order the correct size shirt this time! Yay for having a wearable marathon shirt (I always buy them either too small or way TOO BIG- you should see my DX-A2 one, it is HUGE). 

There is never cream cheese to put on bagels at the finish line…why is that? I really hate it because I can’t really eat finish line bagels plain. 

I am real sore today- it was super hard to make my way through the stacks, especially when books were on the top or bottom shelves, requiring leg movement…ugh :/ Stairs are my arch enemy right now…we are not on good terms. 

My friend Meredith made me a funfetti cake that said “congratulations” with a runner on it. I loved it! 

I am not sure if I would run this marathon again, just considering the course and the potential weather of the time of year…unless I ran it with a friend who was running his/her first marathon and wanted a slow running buddy/pacer, which is something, btw, I really, really want to do sometime. I feel like I spend so much time alone running and so much of it is all about me, so I would just really like to help someone through a marathon or just have fun with a friend! So readers, hit me up if you ever want a pacer or just someone to run a [slow] marathon with, i’m your girl!  

Anyways, that’s all for now, folks!