Confessions of a First Time Marathoner!

Sorry for the length of this post!

First off let me start by saying I am now a Marathoner and I couldn’t be happier with that fact.  I am proud to join the approximately 1% -2% of people who will ever run a Marathon and I WILL Marathon again by the way!  On Saturday, October 15, 2011, I completed the Baltimore Marathon in 3 Hours 58 minutes and 4 seconds.  I will do a review of the Baltimore Running Festival in a later post but wanted to share my race thoughts first.

A brief history, less than a year ago I ran my first 5k (I lie, I actually ran one about 6 years earlier but the time was so bad I won’t count that!).  Since that time, I’ve completed 6 5k’s, a 10k, a 10 miler, a ½ Marathon and now a Marathon.  I’ve logged over 1800 miles so far this year and I felt good going into the Marathon on Saturday.  My goal was to finish under 4 hours but my real goal was to finish with a sub 3:30 pace so I will admit I’m a bit disappointed with my time.  I made the classic rookie mistake – I went out too fast!  The Baltimore Marathon route is a challenging hilly course.  The weather was almost perfect temperature wise (high 50’s at start time) but that was offset by wind gusts up to 20mph.

When the race started I felt really good.  I had told myself that it was ok to go out a little fast and I typically do that when I race – I now realize that wasn’t the best strategy for a marathon.  As you can see by my splits at the bottom of this post I was moving pretty good through mile 11.  At about mile 6 I caught up with the Geico 3:20 pace group and actually ran with them for about 2 miles (I love running with those groups btw!).  I noticed my pace slowing a bit at mile 12 and was ok with that.

At mile 13 I began to worry a bit.  The ½ marathon starts 1 hour and 45 minutes behind the marathon and merges with the marathon course.  Entering this area is interesting.  As you come down the street you see thousands of ½ marathoners waiting to begin and there were also crowds of people on both sides of the course.  As I was running down the hill I saw my parents and Tamara.  To my surprise Tamara jumps in to run with me.  I immediately look over to her and tell her that I came out too fast and I’m hurting.  That was about all I could say – Tamara tells me I’m strong, keep pushing and she would meet me at mile 18 – “its only 5 miles away”.  As I begin to go up yet another hill I start to get passed by both marathoners and ½ marathoners who have now started.  This bothered me mentally more than I thought it would, for the first time in the race I was in the slow lane and getting slower.  I found it challenging to run with all of the ½ marathoners who were fresh into their run.  I was at mile 13 and they were at mile 1.

I continued to push up until around mile 17 and this was where things started to get challenging.  I never felt like I hit a wall but I was experiencing things I never have before on any of my training runs.  All of a sudden I became super thirsty and was drinking anything I could at the water stops.  Then I got hungry (I have been training with GU on all my long runs and ate the same exact things before race day and on race morning but something different was going on) .  Someone was handing out bananas (I ate ½ of one), someone was handing out miniature Snickers (I took one).  This was also where I began to walk at the water stops.  I’ve never walked before in an event and this was mentally tough for me to deal with but I also began to use this as a strategy.  I lost the 3:20 pace group at this point, the 3:30 pace group went by – my goal at this point was to finish under 4 hours.

Around mile 20 I started to get cramps everywhere – my quads, my calf and I also had a sharp pain on my right side – Again, nothing I have ever experienced on any long training run.  I wasn’t sure what was up with my legs but I figured the cramp in my side was caused by all of the snacking I did around mile 17.  I also told myself it was ok to walk a little if needed.  I was doing a continual calculation in my head watching my Garmin and calculating the mileage left and how long it would take for me to complete it so I could finish in under 4 hours.

At mile 24 I see Tamara – she is waiting for me on an overpass.  I tell her that I’m hurting and I think I worry her a bit because I never complain when we are running but she knows I’m in pain.  Bless her, she was so upbeat and kept cheering me on but I was a little grumpy at this point.  She told me I only had 2 miles to go and it was all downhill.  When I look up I see a hill and tell her I see a hill and immediately ask where is the downhill?  She assures me that there is one around the corner.  I also can’t stop looking at my Garmin – I needed to finish in under 4 hours!  Tamara keeps telling me to stop looking at my watch, I keep telling her that I want to look at my watch.  As you can see by my splits I finally get it together at mile 25 and begin to push – I want and need to finish strong and I really don’t have any time to waste.  Tamara runs out in front of me looking back constantly to make sure that I’m ok.  She runs with me past mile 26 and then tells me “Congratulations – You are a Marathoner!”  In my tired/exhausted grump I tell her that I’m not a Marathoner yet I didn’t cross the finish line!  She tells me congratulations again and tails off.  I push through the final .2 and finish under my stretch goal 3 hours 58 minutes and 04 seconds.  I am a Marathoner!

Tamara is amazing by the way!  She has been dealing with a knee issue for a few weeks but decided to run the 5k – came in 4th in her age group and then proceeds to run another 10 miles through Baltimore chasing me, running with me and helping my parents navigate the city!).  This is the first major distance race that I haven’t started with Tamara.  She was on the course with me up until a few minutes before the start.  I won’t lie, I was sad when she walked away.  Although I was grumpy at times I was so happy  and thankful to have her support and encouragement along the course.

I have some thoughts on what may have contributed to some of the issues I had during the Marathon and will be sharing them later in the week.  But bottom line – I’m a Marathoner!!

I’ve added some post marathon thoughts here.

I’ve been sitting on this logo for a few weeks – Happy to be part of the club!!

Thanks for the support Mom and Dad!

Jeff and Tamara!


  1. Congratulations again! Holy Moly you ran the first half fast! Isn’t it great to have cheerleaders and a support team? You are so lucky! Pacing is the hardest part of the marathon. It is hard not to go out fast when you feel so good. Great job!

    • Thanks Jessica – I plan to have a much more even pace next time around and Yes – I’m grateful for my support team!! – Continued good luck with your running!

  2. Congratulations on a great race! A sub-4 hour marathon is incredible. I forgot to mention it in my race recap, but I had the same feeling of being hungry, what I like to refer as runger, during the race. I was also extremely thirsty but drinking more water or gatorade just made me feel sick. It must have been something about those hills that made us feel that way! That’s so wonderful that Tamara was able to run with you for those stretches! You guys make an awesome team. Congrats again!

    • Thanks Kristen – My first runger experience, I think I may have gained a few pounds during the run :) and yes, it was great to have Tamara there to get me through the tough miles! We r a great team!! Happy Running!

  3. Great recap – I felt like I was running alongside with you there, and at some point we were. That wind was crazy out there in the last 8 or so miles.

    Welcome to the marathon club!

  4. Congratulations! I bet with a consistent pace next time you will smash your goal!

  5. Wow, you did go out really fast! Congratulations on a great first marathon and remember that every race is a lesson in what not to do the next time, no matter how well it goes :)

  6. Great job. I ran my first Baltimore marathon too.

  7. great job!!! loved reading your recap. Very proud of you!

  8. Congratulations, Jeff! I’m about to do my first marathon (MCM) so I appreciate your taking time to post your insights. Looks like you learned a lot and hopefully will set a PR in your next one. So thank you: I WILL NOT GO OUT TOO FAST ;-). I’d like to do a sub 4, and some 1/2 times put me near this but who knows. Hope you’ve recovered. Nice job on the 7:30 at mile 26, btw! Always nice to end with a little grace…

    • Thanks Lisa and Good Luck to you!! Yes, recovered nicely and I will be running my next one real soon. Have a great run! Come back and let me know how it went!!


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