Running the Portland Marathon
Running our First Marathon
Sunday, October 5, 2008, my sister and I ran our first marathon. That's right - ran ! We both finished the race after a month of injuries and dealing with diabetes and asthma. We are exhausted and excited! The 37th annual Portland Marathon was held in Portland, Oregon on a rainy fall-like day (the first time it rained on the event in 25 years). Over 9000 runners participated, which made it difficult to get across the starting line, despite the "wave" start. And yes - Jeanette and I were part of the exuberant group for the Portland Marathon this year!
Jeanette was just back from an injury several weeks ago and our primary goal was just to finish. We hoped for a time of four hours, 30 minutes. Fairly respectable since we have both been running less due to overtraining earlier in September. Jeanette brought her friend, Chelese to coach us and cheer us on. Chelese is a Team in Training marathon coach, and provided us invaluable information for the days leading up to the race, the race itself and the days following. Thank goodness Chelese was with us!
In case you didn't know, or aren't impressed enough, the official distance for a marathon race is 26.2 miles!
Picking up our numbers for Portland Marathon
Lots of Great Running Books
Training for the Portland Marathon
My sister and I "officially" trained for the Portland Marathon for over three months. In actuality, however, both of us were in training much longer than that. Jeanette started running in November 2007, and was on a training schedule for a marathon in June 2008. While she ran a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in March, she decided she wasn't ready for the full 26.2 mile distance in June.
As for me, I've been running for more than 20 years. I started running often in college, and completed a number of shorter road races - my favorite distance is a 10K (6.2 miles). Years later, I went to law school, got married, started a family, etc., etc. I kept up my running, but never thought that I could do a full marathon distance, particularly after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2003.
After all the anticipation and wondering, we are finally ready to reveal our experience of running the Portland Marathon. Not only that, but if you think that you can never accomplish such a goal.... well, think again. We worked hard and overcame a lot of hurdles. Neither one of us would have ever believed we could run 26.2 miles straight. But we did!
Days turned into weeks, which turned into months. We had some ups and downs along the way as we prepared to run 26.2 miles. Each of us had injuries and had to take some time off from training. About 6 weeks before the race, we were not sure we were going to make it.
Still, once October arrived, we knew that all those miles had to count. So, off to Portland we went - ready to run the race.
Steph Running at Mile 24 of the Portland Marathon
Two Sisters Run the Portland Marathon in 2008
I've been waiting to publish this hub on running the Portland Marathon until Jeanette wrote down her own experiences running the race. Well, its now nearly a month post-race, and I think its time to just go ahead with my perspective. I guess I'll have to vouch for my sister!
We started out in Portland on Saturday - the day before the race. Jeanette, me and our coach, Chelese, went to the Portland Marathon Expo first. We picked up our numbers, browsed lots of goods, and basically got really excited! Jeanette and I both bought silver charms that say Portland Marathon on one side, and 2008 on the other. Chelese advised that we should not sample any of the treats, drinks, etc., because that would be contrary to what we normally eat and drink before a big run.
After the Expo, we went across the street for the Pasta Feed. Being Diabetic and on insulin, this was a new experience for me. I wasn't sure how "carbo-loading" would work for me. Nonetheless, we ate heartily. Jeanette, Chelese and I got back to our hotel room by 8:00. We set everything out for the next morning and requested a wake-up call by 5:45. The race would start at 7:00 a.m.!
The Morning of the Portland Marathon
Bright and early, the phone rang in our hotel room. I am much more of a morning person than Jeanette, but even for me - it was early!! Two minutes after the call, we dragged ourselves out of bed. I peeked out the window and saw that it was drizzling. Although I've grown up running in the rain (being a Seattle native), I really didn't feel like spending half the day in it!
I tested my blood and got more bad news. My blood sugar was 250! Normal range is 80-120. That meant lots of insulin and no breakfast. I took a big shot and then waited 1/2 hour to have an energy drink (with sugar and caffeine). Jeanette, Chelese and I walked the 8 or so blocks toward the starting line. It was still dark outside when we got there. Fortunately, the rain had stopped. The biggest issue for us was to find our spot in the 9000 other people. It was supposed to be a wave-start, which means the fastest runners go first. Unfortunately, we couldn't get any closer to the start than the 5-hour finish pacer group. When we heard the air horn go off, our blood really started pumping!! Three horns later, it was finally time to start moving and run the Portland Marathon!
The first mile was VERY slow. Lots of people and crowded streets. By 1/2 mile in, we passed a super drum group. Everyone was cheering! I had the hugest smile on my face! By about 1 1/2 miles out, things barely started to break out. We were trying really hard to get our pace. Not too much longer - by about mile 3 - we were cruising. There was an uphill segment of about a mile, and it was already time for a bathroom break! We were totally cruising and loving life until mile 6. That's when things turned interesting.
Steph Finishing the Portland Marathon
Running the Marathon
Poor Jeanette was recovering from an IT band injury in September. She had done really well in resting and not running very much during the last two weeks before the Portland Marathon. Jeanette was going to a specialized massage therapist and seemed to be on the mend. Well - at mile 6 - her leg started acting up. We walked a bit, then ran again. Repeat. And again. Things were not looking good for my blood sugar, either. Instead of going down like it usually does, it was going up. And I didn't wear my insulin pump. After 7 miles of walking, then running, then walking again, Jeanette finally talked me into leaving her behind. I was heartbroken and worried. She wanted me to start running harder so that my blood sugar levels would go down. The rain had started again and I was very worried about Jeanette's leg. She told me that it was buckling. Last thing I wanted to hear about was that she was found in the middle of the street somewhere!
Finally, just after mile 13, I decided to go ahead. I knew that I would see Chelese after mile 16, and Jeanette's husband would be there too. I was stressed, but also relieved to start running again. Two miles later, my blood sugar was down to 80 and I was able to take some Gu.
I ran the rest of the way after leaving Jeanette. When I got to mile 18, I saw Chelese and Jeanette's husband. They took some photos and I pulled over to give them the update. I heard later that when Jeanette got there, Chelese ran the rest of the way with her. Very happy to hear that.
How to Get Through 26.2
Everyone talks about "hitting a wall" during a marathon run. For some, it comes around mile 20. Chelese referred to the last few miles of a marathon as the "Bite Me Zone." Well, I was so proud of myself, running along. I got to mile 20 - feeling good. Kept on for another few miles. Still doing great at mile 23!! I thought - gosh, maybe I should be an ultra-marathon runner? Then, I hit it. The last 2 miles were excruciating. In my mind, I was telling myself it was only 2 last miles, but they were longer than ever. My hips were aching. My knees were aching. I distracted myself by using my little Flip videocamera to record the final milestones along the way (mile 25, then mile 26, then crossing the finish line).
When they announced my name at the finish line, I was overcome with emotion! My finish time was a bit slower than I had planned (4:37), but with all the walking I did with Jeanette, I figured I may have finished closer to 4:20 or so.
Steph Post-Race After Running the Portland Marathon
My Sister's Experiene Running the Marathon
Jeanette finished about 20-25 minutes after me. She had walked/run the entire rest of the Portland Marathon. She is nothing if not determined! We reconnected and then limped back to our hotel room. Unfortunately, Jeanette got sick about an hour after we returned - probably a result of taking ibuprofen on an empty stomach. Poor girl was sick all night! I played around on my laptop a bit and eventually crashed also. The next morning, we were both even more sore! We did some stretches and carefully gathered our belongings for our drives back home - 3 hours for each of us.
When I arrived home, my kids had made some amazing signs for me to congratulate the accomplishment! Check them out in the slideshow below!
Would I do it again? Definitely! I plan on running the Portland Marathon next year. In the meantime, I have my eye on a marathon race in Redding, California in January!
Have I inspired you? Did you enjoy the overall series about the Portland Marathon? Please let me know in the comment section below. Thank you!