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.
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?