So I accidentally, kind of sort of ran a marathon. Well, it wasn’t so much “accidentally” as much as it was “unintentionally” but either way, I didn’t cross the start line intending to run the San Francisco Marathon. I know that sounds really obnoxious and before you get the wrong idea, I didn’t run a marathon I didn’t train for.
The reason I decided to run the San Francisco Marathon in the first place was because my good friend Gregg had registered to run the ultra marathon of the San Francisco Marathon, for an amazing cause. (They start at midnight, run the SF Marathon backwards, then turn around and run the marathon!) Fifty-two miles of San Francisco hills sounded a touch aggressive for me but I told Gregg that I would happily run the marathon and drag him across the finish line should he need me.
So why didn’t I want to run a marathon I trained for? Well, right as I went into my taper, an exciting last minute fall marathon was added to my 2015 calendar. I spent days Googling “Can I run three back to back marathons without hurting myself?” hoping that an article would appear along the lines of, “Of course Kelly! That’s a great idea! I don’t know why more people don’t do just that!” (That article doesn’t exist.) I asked my physical therapist Mike Riccardi at Finish Line Physical Therapy what he thought and he asked me if running all three was worth risking an injury and not being able to run for the rest of the year. With that sound logic, I decided to drop down to the half marathon and pursue my two fall marathons instead.
I did just about everything you aren’t supposed to do when you’re running a marathon.
- I didn’t taper. I did speed work the Monday before the race and 5 miles of hill repeats with November Project the Friday before the marathon. (Oops.)
- I did endless amounts of touristing. The day before the marathon, my friends and I walked a good 3-4 miles around San Francisco with my selfie-stick snapping all sorts of groovy tourist inspired pictures.
- I ate all the junk food and drank all the drinks. IN MY DEFENSE, I WAS ON VACATION! I didn’t think I was running a marathon so who was I to turn down cheeseburgers, cookie dough and delicious local craft beer!?!?
- I didn’t sleep the night before the race. I stayed up late visiting with family and then making a late night supermarket run for race morning bagels and bananas. (Rule #1 about traveling for a race, make sure you have a race morning breakfast!)With a 5:30am start time, I only got 3 hours of sleep.
Everyone told me the same thing, “You’re going to get going and decide to do the full thing.” “NONSENSE!” I’d proclaim. “Who in their right mind decides to run a full marathon over a half marathon? No one!” Well…I did exactly that.
Anyone who runs knows how helpful spectators and the support of your fellow runners out on the course can be. During my first marathon in 2013, I lost it at mile 13. I panicked when I saw how far away the finish line was and I dissolved into a puddle of tears. This man grabbed my hand and goes, “Run with me. What’s up, you OK?” He launched into an inspirational speech straight out of a Disney movie, built me up, asked me if I was ok, and ran off. I would never have been able to finish that race had he and the countless other runners not patted me on the back or encouraged me along the way.
Gregg and I decided to walk the hills and then take a quick walking break whenever he needed it. While we were on the Golden Gate Bridge, I realized that I couldn’t leave him. Despite the huge smile plastered on his face, I could tell he was exhausted. I decided that it was my job to make sure that he had as much fun as possible AND…I mean…we were taking so many breaks that I convinced myself that it wasn’t really like a marathon! (It made sense at the time…)
This was the most rewarding race I’ve ever run. Because we took our time, Gregg and I got to talk to dozens of runners—most of whom were running their first marathons. While we were in Golden Gate Park, I was firing off jokes to Gregg and reading him text messages from our friends when a woman asked me how I had so much energy. We started talking and she turned away as she started to tear up. She was running her very first marathon and she was starting to have some doubts. Gregg launched into an inspirational tirade that gave me goose bumps and I thought THIS is why I’m running this marathon. Because even though we all run for different reasons, we all share the same doubts and needs to push past our limits.
We are all pounding the pavement to try to do the thing we once thought was impossible.
I’ve never run a race where I had the opportunity to meet people along the way. To actually take my time to enjoy every mile After all, it’s a race—the whole point is to race! But with this marathon, my goal was to simply help Gregg have as much fun as possible and finish. Every single person we talked to made my heart grow 10 sizes bigger. The hardest part about running a marathon is training for a marathon and honestly, I was feeling a little burnt out going into San Francisco. Unintentionally running the San Francisco Marathon was a beautiful reminder as to why I run. Right now I’m more in love with running than ever before! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience watching my good friend cross the finish line after running 54 incredible miles (They ran an extra 2 miles the night before because they got lost!) and getting to meet dozens of first time marathoners and hear why they run.
This may have been my slowest marathon to date, but it was hands down the most rewarding one yet.
It’s hard not to get caught up in running for time, but I’ve found that sometimes being a supporting player to someone else is infinitely more rewarding than running a personal best.