Monday, September 23, 2013

The Marathon

I finished a marathon. Don't I look different?
(answer: nope) 
 I still remember running the mile in highschool PE.
I HATED it. I remember telling myself with each painful lap that as soon as my school PE classes were over with, I would never ever ever run again.

And then I gained 12 pounds my freshman year of college.
It's true. (read about it here)

So when I was planning a wedding at 19 (also true. this post is full of surprises!), I needed to get myself back into shape. Or at least, some kind of shape.

I started running. Here, and there. A mile or two.
I hated it.

We were newlyweds with terrible diets and little time, so I tried to keep up my low mileage runs, and continued to hate almost every step.

Three years later a baby was born. I would log slow and painful miles when daddy was home with baby boy, not so much loving the running part, but loving how quickly my body was bouncing back because of the running.

We moved from California to Utah and I signed up for a 10 mile race with a friend. I had no idea what I was doing, what to wear, or how on in the world I was going to run 10 miles.


I did it. Somehow I completed that race, and for the first time in my life I really, 
completely, enjoyed running. 
I was a runner.

So for me, I've been a "runner" for 7 years. I ran a few road half marathons, 6 Ragnar relays, gave up the road for good and ran a few trail races, 100s of miles on the trail just for fun, and three weeks ago I ran my first ever [trail] marathon.

"So wait a minute" 
you are thinking to yourself right now.... 
"you've been running for 7 years and you just ran your FIRST marathon? 
Then you haven't been a real runner!"

There is this thing in the running community that really drives me can start talking to someone about running and The Question always comes up
"What marathons have you run???"
uh, none.
"[lonnnnnng silence]..........oh"
and then the conversation usually ends.

I've heard people say
"well I've never ran a marathon, so I guess I'm not a real runner."
I've also known too many new runners who skip the 5k, skip the 10k, skip the 1/2 marathon, completely beat up their feet, trash their knees, and beat their body so they can hate every single step of 26.2 miles.....JUST so they can say they've ran a marathon, and therefore be accepted as a Real, Official, Runner.

I don't get it. 

If you run--any distance--and you semi enjoy it, most of the time, then YOU my friend, are a real runner.

Are you fast? Are you slow? Are you running? Then you are a runner.

Don't let a stupid number determine what you are.

In June I ran my furthest distance yet--20 miles (read about it here). It was a tough trail, with 4500ft to climb, but I finished feeling strong and knowing I wanted to do more.

In August I signed up for a trail marathon in Park City. I had four weeks to train.
I wasn't starting from scratch--I'd been running short distances, hiking, and climbing mountains all summer, but I was a bit nervous because I hadn't really got any decent long runs in.
I ran Timp, ran 16 miles with 3200ft of climbing, ran 22 miles (longest run ever! it felt AWESOME.) 
I threw in a handful of short runs and got excited....I was going to run a great race.

Race Day
It was a beautiful morning. A little warm, but I knew I'd be in the pines and aspens most of the way. My pack was loaded with lots of water, EFS, and S-Caps, and we were off.

Right away I got into a good group of runners. A good push--not too fast, comfortable, and small conversations here and there as we ticked away the miles.

Ok. So here's where this race report is going to be different....I usually break down race day mile by mile, lots of details, hills, bumps, feelings, emotions.....all of it. (see other race reports HERE)
But here's the kind of allllll blended together this time.

Smooth, perfect singletrack through giant pines and aspen groves (really--this trail was perfect). Roller coaster ups and downs--a very runnable course. Lots of aide stations, lots of friendly people to chat with in passing, and surprisingly no dark moments. No "hitting the wall"--just hitting the ground once....HARD.
I don't think I have ever crashed so badly--or laughed so hard at myself (by myself). While I felt mostly good mentally the whole way--my body was definitely tired, legs heavy, feet slow (oh you know, probably because I was a lousy trainer). Somewhere in the late teens of mileage my feet were heavy and too lazy to get up and over a big root and I flew--arms out, legs in the air, (all in slow motion, mind you) and sailed through the air, coming down sprawled out in the dust. It tweaked my knee, and I had to run through that for a few miles, but other than that and a few really awesome blisters, the miles continued to fly by--I couldn't believe it when there were only a few miles left to go.

Before I knew it I was heading down a stretch of dirt road that led to the finish.
look at my tiny two back behind me!!
ps. dorkiest picture ever

miles: 26.2
elevation: 2861 climbing, 4014 descent
time: 4:40
women: 24/121
overall: 82/284

I finished happy--I think I could have probably pushed a little harder, I definitely could have trained better, but overall it was a good race.

So question is.....
has my life changed since I finished a marathon?
Do I feel different now that I am a REAL runner?
Was it the absolute best thing I've ever done?


You guys, I'm here to tell was just another race. Just another run.
I was EXTREMELY happy to finish--don't get me wrong, but I feel the same happiness at the end of any race. Any goal accomplished feels good.
There were great parts and hard parts and funny parts. 
I got dirty (I finished with a dirt-stache), I ended with a smile on my face....and that's why I liked it. 
And THAT'S what makes me a runner--not a number, not a time, just the feeling I get when I'm running (and sometimes falling).

Just get out and run! If you like it, then congratulations, 
YOU are a runner.

So I'm a big time marathoner now. What's next now that I'm legit?
I'm thinking a 50k might be fun(?) within the next year.....what does that make me?


for my fellow running friends with technical questions....
all my gear was exactly the same as it was in THIS post--check it out I have every single detail for you + fav products.
(seriously can't say enough good things about my favorite North Face shorts!)
food was all the same too except I had chicken and veggie stir fry for dinner the night before.


twinsontherun said...

Wow, really great job! Good insight on 'being a runner'.
I have been running for 18 years...since I was 14 and on the track team in junior high! And I've NEVER done a marathon and don't really care to. But I've run thousands and thousands of miles/dozens of races so I've always considered myself a runner. Back when I started no one ran...everyone I knew hated running. But it has exploded in the past few years like I never imagined. It's fun that so many people are enjoying it now!

Dave and Catherine said...

I'm a relative newbie to your blog; a sister missionary serving in our ward who's also a runner told me about you!

I love your story. I just wrote an article in our local community magazine about mine, though I'm relatively new to runner-dom, having started in January. My first half marathon is in 6 weeks! I totally agree that loving running makes you a runner. I think I became a runner when I crossed the finish line of my first 5K in February. I walk/ran it with my double jogging stroller - finished in 45 minutes or something ridiculous like that - but when I was done, I wanted more (I too hated running the mile in school) & committed to my first half marathon then.

Thanks for sharing! (And even if that were the dorkiest picture ever, at least you look pretty when you run! That's my new goal in life. ;-))

jen johnson said...

This post! I had a hard time after my marathon because it wasn't the epitomal angels singing experience I expected and heard it would be. It felt awesome to finish, and I am enthusiastic for anyone who wants to do one, but it felt just as awesome as my other races like you mentioned. Plus I had a hard time with the amount of time it took for training, it required so much time away from my young family, especially during the times I wanted most to be there, and I was not about to lug Jane with me for over 5 hrs. I won't be running another marathon for a while, at least until little kids are in school. Until then, smaller (non-road) races are hopefully in my future. That is, when I become a runner again.. gotta get back out there! My experience reiterated that there is a season for everything in life.

Robyn said...

50km...yes, that sounds crazy...but wow you are motivated!! You are a runner! I read recently a good quote saying' I've never met a fake runner yet'.

kassidi bridge said...

Awesome job!!

melissa said...


also--haha, in high school when i ran sprints i would literally sneak out the back on the days we were supposed to do "long easy" runs. yeah right i said. now i'm just dying to work up my endurance to a happy long easy run again. (3 miles isn't any fun.)

Lacey Parr said...

I love reading your race reports. They inspire me to pull out that jogging stroller and get on the road! And I just HAD to zoom in on that photo. Just for fun ;)

danalynn said...

Sheena. You were a real runner long before this marathon. You inspired me to become a real runner 4 years ago! As a road runner, I read your posts in awe. My runs are so much about numbers (which I love, numbers drive me), your runs are about an experience. The mountains you climb, things you see, the unknowns of trail running. . . inspire me. I keep saying one day I'll join you, and I mean it! Love you miss you!

thecityspace said...

Thanks for your words of encouragement. I like that you say "if you enjoy running, you're a runner." I just did my first half marathon this summer after being a runner for 4 years and only doing one race prior to this. It was heaven for me. I'm glad you enjoyed your marathon and feel that accomplishment. Thanks for your writing.

Made in Sonoma said...

I loved this post. Congrats on your first marathon! I've only ran 2 5k's and I definitely feel pressure from certain ppl that you need to go further to be a "runner". I agree, if you're out there running you're a runner, no matter how far you go! :) Thanks for the encouragement.

Lucinda Smith said...

Congrats on the accomplishment! Though you're absolutely right about using a broad definition for "real runners". Like you said, it's not the distance that matters but what you get out of it. Keep running with that joy. And keep taking photos... they're beautiful!

The Webbs said...

I feel ya. I did a few other races before my marathon and sometimes I felt great, sometimes I was extremely under trained, and every time it was different. I love what you said about being a runner, I congratulate myself and anyone who has just stepped outside and spent time running. I am so grateful I love running. I feel like I have an individual relationship with running that has nothing to do with anyone but me and my feet!