I Finished… I'm Alive…

I finished my very first Full Marathon this weekend. I ran the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN and it was an awesome experience. I was hoping to have written this sooner after finishing but that just didn’t happen. I’m hoping I remember all the important stuff I want to remember.

The Shuttle Ride

I rode the shuttle from UMD to the starting line which is at the Sonju Two Harbors car dealership just south of Two Harbors, MN. I was on the first shuttle which I had to be at the pickup location by 5:15am to manage that. Got on the bus and sat next to a nice college girl from Madison. It was also her first marathon so we chatted off and on throughout the race. We got off the bus around 6:00am.

There were hundreds of Porta-Potties and lots of water and powerade.

The Starting Line

They let the elite runners into the starting gate early which makes sense. It was pretty cool to see them, it was the closest I’d be to them. We all started filing into the starting gates shortly after the National Anthem was done. I was amazed when they had announced the National Guard Bulldogs would fly over at 7:23am and sure enough, at 7:23am they flew over during the National Anthem. That was pretty impressive.

Elite Runners entering the Starting Gates.

And We’re Off!!

The race started at 7:45am and I managed to cross the starting line at around 7:50am. Not too bad considering how far back I was from the starting line. The start was pretty standard, nothing too interesting happened. Everyone was excited and couldn’t wait to get moving.

Queued up and ready to go.

The First 5 Miles

I couldn’t believe how fast the first 5 miles went. I ran right around a 10 minute mile which was much faster than I expected I would. The sheer number of people made the run go so much easier and faster.

I also couldn’t believe the number of people already running into the ditch and woods to relieve themselves. Kindof gross.

The weather to start was getting up into the 70’s which was getting a little warm. I tried to run on the left side of the road whenever there was shade available. I think that really helped me keep my pace up, though it could have just been a mental thing too.

I took this picture while I was running. A guy next to me predicted the pic would be blurry. Turned out pretty decent I’d say.

5-10 Miles

This was a fun band playing along the way.

Between miles 5 and 10 I kept up with my pace and ended up coming up on the 4:30 pacer. That was one of the factors that kept me going and got my competitive side going. I had to pass the guy. The first time I passed him, I was stoked. I tried to text my wife the picture below to show her, but it didn’t send. I was very impressed when later on, I saw a guy carrying the pacer sign for the guy for a couple miles. I thought that was really cool of the guy. I was also amazed that he was keeping up that pace, he was a pretty big guy.

Passing the pacer became a bit of an obsession for me.

Halfway Done – 13.1 Miles

I was starting to get some real soreness in my hips by the halfway point. Mile 13 was when my GPS stopped working which was a bummer. The halfway point volunteers had 13.1 mile shirts which were pretty cool.

Check out the 13.1 shirts.

Pushing through the pain wasn’t too bad at mile 13. It was more annoying than sheer pain.

Mile 13 marker was a welcome sight.

Miles 15-20

The weather really started to change and clouds started rolling in and the temps started dropping. This was a great thing for the run. It didn’t really look like it was going to rain anytime soon, though.

Mile 17 was probably one of the harder miles. I think that’s when I really started to slow down a bit. My hips were really starting to hurt and my mind was starting to work against me. Not too bad just yet, but it was starting to get to that point where I was starting to think I might hit my wall.

This was also where we starting rolling into Duluth and the scenery was changing. This is also where the hills start appearing. My phone also died during this period of the run, which is why I have no more pictures.

Miles 20-23

The course gets so messy around the water stations. You have to be careful you don’t slip on cups.

These were by far, the hardest miles to complete. My mind was at it’s worst in terms of positive thoughts. It was manageable but I remember just thinking it would be great to be able to just quit. How strange is that?

This was also the point where walking actually hurt more than running. This was a surprising twist which made it much easier to run because I didn’t look forward to walking.

We also started really getting into the downtown area. I was amazed at how well I did at the large hill at the London Road jct. I passed tons of people going up that hill which was a huge confidence boost for me. I wasn’t going very fast, but somehow I had saved some energy for it.

Miles 23-26.2

These miles were the most painful but also the most enjoyable. Right at the start of mile 23 I felt a blister pop on my left pinky toe and then instant pain. Instantly I started limping. I was still in my mental wall so I started thinking negatively about that blister, but then something struck me and I told myself that I had expected this was going to happen so get over it. Push through it. It took probably a half mile and the pain was no longer at the front of my mind.

That was good because at about mile 24.5 I started getting cramps in my right calf muscle. It never turned into a complete cramp. I was able to catch it before it seized entirely. I made sure I stretched it as I ran and was able to manage that pain. It scared me, I started thinking it might stop me from continuing if it did cramp entirely but again my brain did something awesome and I told myself that even if I cramped up, you just have to run through it, even if it makes my leg useless.

I decided when I started getting the cramps in my calf that I better not stop to walk anymore otherwise it would fully cramp, so I sped up. I don’t know what my pace was on my final 2 miles, but it had to be a little faster than 10 minutes per mile.

At about mile 25 was when I started getting a side ache. I probably had stopped breathing properly so I started to get cramps in my left side. That was pretty easy to ignore though.

Running around the DECC and coming around the corner was actually the best feeling I’ve ever had anytime I’ve run that portion of the course (the half marathon uses the same finish line). I was feverishly searching for my wife Kelly. I didn’t want to miss her and I also wanted to be able to show her that I was fine. I needed to finish strong otherwise she might never let me run another marathon again.

About 100 yards before the finish line I saw Kelly. I think I hooted or something and pumped my arms in the air when I saw her and my brother and then I sprinted to the finish line. I have no idea where I got that energy but I sprinted and passed a bunch of people just before finishing. I even heard my name announced which then I raised my arms again.

Grandma’s Marathon Finisher

This is the heaviest medal I’ve ever gotten.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I thought I might throw up, but I get that feeling everytime I sprint across a finish line. It did make me nervous because nobody wants to throw up in front of so many people. Luckily, I was able to breath through it.

I got my medal and the rest is history. This was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had finishing this race. My official chip time was:

Notes of Interest

I forgot to note the other interesting things I saw that I wanted to remember.

At mile 22 or 23 I saw the paramedics strapping a guy into a stretcher to take to the hospital which was a little disturbing to see.

Heard an insane amount of sirens around mile 23 or 24 also which was weird. It could have been totally unrelated to the race though.

The 3 Elvis’s

Barack Obama and Mitt Romeny, why can’t we be friends was pretty funny.

Saw a bicycle for sale along the trail which I thought was hilarious. Still not sure if it was for real or not.

The guy telling everyone they were 83.23% done was pretty funny.

Some great signs along the way

Run like you stole it

Keep Going, Keep Going… That’s what she said

You’re almost there… That’s what she said

My Twin is running my half of the marathon

This is the worst parade… Where’s all the marching bands?

Faster Daddy… Mommy said we can’t have lunch until you’re done

You’re looking great… How do I look, I just got up from a long nap?

I’d do a marathon… Runner


4 thoughts on “I Finished… I'm Alive…

  1. Excellent! Congratulations on beating the distance and earning the title of marathoner. I was also out there running this weekend and really liked this race, though my experience definitely came with some problems. I liked your description of your near-cramps in your calves because the same thing happened to me.

    Time to relax (finally)!

  2. This brought back nice memories of my first marathon. I got photos of my first as well, because a friend followed me around the course on a bike. I was smiling like a fool all the way around, because I was so happy just to have completed the training, which was a lot tougher than the actual marathon. Sounds like you had a pretty good experience too.

    • I’m so glad I finally did that first full marathon. I’d done several half marathons before so had no idea what to expect. I’m not sure the full marathon bug has hit me, but I will definitely be doing more half marathons in the future. Glad you found my blog and thanks for visiting.

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