How not to run a marathon: My Route 66 Marathon Recap

On November 20, I ran the Route 66 Marathon and to say that it was a disaster is an understatement. I made a lot of mistakes, both in my control and out of my control, that lead to a bad race. Here, I am going to tell you how NOT to run a marathon. It’ll serve as my race recap, and by the end, you’ll have a pretty good feel for what happened during my race. If you want to run a really good race, don’t do these six things.

Step 1: Run a 50K four weeks before your goal marathon

Exactly 4 weeks before Route 66, I ran my first ultramarathon. It was a pretty amazing experience, but it was not one that set me up for a good marathon in the weeks to come. Although I did bounce back rather quickly, the “fast” was zapped right out of my legs. I didn’t feel sore or injured, but I just couldn’t get myself moving at the paces I could before the race. I continued to push and gave myself only a two week taper heading into Route 66 after weeks of 45 and 50 miles per week (following the ultra). I remained positive and figured this wouldn’t hurt me too bad.

Step 2: Get super depressed that Donald Trump was elected president and just stop running

I had a lot of stressors heading into the race. There was a flood in my apartment, which booted Frank and I (and Elly and Sydney) out of our apartment for about a week. I didn’t have access to my stuff and felt generally unsettled. THEN TRUMP WAS ELECTED. I was depressed and couldn’t find the will to run. In fact, given what the world was coming to, I didn’t feel like running was all that important. So, I just stopped. I ran a total of 8 miles heading into the last two weeks before the race. This caused me to lose a lot of fitness and be in the wrong headspace for Route 66.

Step 3: Get your period the day before the race

This was totally out of my control. Unfortunately, with my period, I also get some mild intestinal distress. This time, it wasn’t so mild. I couldn’t eat too well, I was having trouble with liquids (they would go right through me, TMI, I know). I probably spent the day pretty dehydrated, but there really wasn’t much I could do. Note: I did know this was going to happen, but it usually doesn’t affect me this much.

Step 4: Run hard even though you are not really feeling it

I knew at the starting line that things were not looking bright for a PR. I thought about maybe just trying to run even splits for a 4:00 marathon. I figured that would be within my reach, and I still think it was. This would allow me to feel good and not be defeated by the distance. Instead, I ran at the pace I had decided weeks before the race and go for a sub 3:50 marathon (even though I realistically knew that was not going to happen). So, for the first 18 miles, that was the pace I ran at.

Step 5: Don’t slow down when your body is saying “this is too much”

I saw Frank at mile 14, and he jumped out on the course and ran with me for about a half mile. He gave me some water and asked how I was feeling. I thought about it for a moment and said “Tired. I am too tired for mile 14 right now”. I knew it at this point that I was headed for a massive disaster. Instead of slowing down, I thought maybe I should try to catch up to the 3:50 pace group. I figured they could help me through some rough patches. Frank told me that they were just a little ahead of me, so I pushed harder. I tried to ignore the tired and the sick feeling in my stomach and push forward. I never did catch up with them.

Step 6: Stop at EVERY port-a-potty from mile 18 to the end of the race

At mile 18, everything caught up with me. I didn’t hit the usual glucose wall, I hit the poop wall. My stomach flipped out. I stopped visualizing the end of the race, but was instead just looking forward to bathrooms. I ended up at every single port-a-potty until the end of the race. When I ran, I was keeping about an 8:45-8:50 pace, but I was spending 5 minutes at a time in the bathroom, so my 8:50/mi pace slowed to 10/mi and then 11/mi and eventually to 13/mi. I felt like crap (pun intended).

So, if you are running a marathon, don’t do what I did. I think I learned a lot during the race, but it was an overall disappointing performance. My final time (with pooping episodes) was 4:06:37, almost 10 minutes slower than Colfax. I felt pretty bad about it, and took 2 full weeks off from anything running related. Even after returning back, I was having trouble. I wasn’t feeling the usual burn or push. Then, last night, after a short 3-mile run, I came home and was talking all about PRing my half and running Colfax again this year. For the first time since the race, I was feeling like myself again, loving running, the process and all of the ups and downs. In reality, not every race can be a Colfax. Sometimes, they are a poop/bonk fest. Those races are important too.

There are no photos of the race, because I was very sad and crying, so I guess Frank didn’t feel compelled to record that. So, instead here is a photo of Sydney (my cat) sitting on her favorite window sill.

She’s very cute.

Important Note: I did make it to the port-a-potty every time, so I did succeed in not pooping my pants in a race. Go me!

What’s your worst race? Have you ever had stomach problems on a race course?


13 thoughts on “How not to run a marathon: My Route 66 Marathon Recap

  1. Awww Kerry, I’m so sorry you had such a SHITTY race 😦 These things just happen though, it’s part of the risk we accept as runners that makes the sport so exhilarating and also so heartbreaking. That terrible race still gives you more marathon experience than you had before, which will help you learn and grow stronger for the future. It’s cliche but it’s true! Anyway I’m glad to hear that you took time to grieve and are feeling like your old energetic self again!!!


    1. Hey, bad races happen. The good side was that the race was put on well and there were enough bathrooms for me to finish the race. I considered DNFing, and I certainly would have if the port-a-potty situation hadn’t been so good (they were clean too!). Honestly, I was kinda laughing as I wrote this post. I was being a serious moron thinking that I’d go into the race and PR. I wish I had run even splits for like a 4:10 and not gone for the PR at all. It doesn’t feel good to go from 8:45/mi to 13:00/mi.


  2. Thankfully, I don’t fall prey to stomach problems. Knocking on wood.

    I’m so sorry it wasn’t a great experience — of course they can’t all be, but that doesn’t take the sting out of the bad ones.

    Oddly enough I got my period right before my half — which was a huge surprise, considering I though I was post menopausal. It made traveling suck, but thankfully had pretty much stopped by the race, so it wasn’t really a factor.

    We learn something from every race. I’d say you learned a whole lot from this one!


    1. Periods on race day are the worst. It has happened to me before, but never this bad. You’re lucky that you don’t have stomach issues. It has a way of making running the most miserable thing ever.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think generally faster runners are the ones with stomach issues. Although I do know some slower runners that get them, it seems that my speedy friends are more likely to experience them.I also hear they’re more prevalent as you get older.

        I think you actually had a great finish time considering the circumstances!


  3. Marathons are BEASTS. I think they have a mind of their own; once in awhile they think we’re getting cocky and purposely just pull out all the stops to make the race as bad as possible. Or something. I’m sorry you had an awful race, but you persevered and learned a few things, so that’s a plus! Congrats on finishing, though, and with a time I’d be proud of, even if the experience was awful.


    1. A lot can happen in 26 miles. And I did get cocky after Colfax and my ultra. I figured I was just good at racing and since I had run 32 miles, I certainly could do 26. I gotta say, those 26 were WAY harder than my 32 in Omaha. It was a good reality check and it will force me to always take marathons seriously.


  4. I’m sorry you had a crappy marathon. 😦 It sounds like waiting to write about it gave you some perspective and you gleamed something from it that you can learn from!

    I did run after the election but only to make myself feel normal. I was very depressed for a long time. Depressed and scared. Now with this Russia thing and Trump not trusting our CIA and FBI I am even more scared!


  5. I’m really sorry to hear you had a bad race. We’ve all been there. Stomach issues are the worst. I ran a race where a girl did poop her shorts and you could even see the load while she was still running. The smell was godawful too. I felt bad for her, but I heard other people comment that she was a “trooper” for not stopping.


  6. I’m sorry you didn’t have the race you hoped for but you’re right, it looked liked things leading up to it weren’t working in your favor so you can’t really blame yourself. ❤ Congrats on making it to the finish!


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