Hi everyone, my name is Terri McKenzie and I have been a friend of April’s since the first grade. I am honored that she asked me to write about my marathon experience. By no means am I an expert in running but I hope you are able to gain some insight about the sport and perhaps I can persuade a few to lace up their sneakers and go for a jog.
I started running six years ago with my friend/neighbor Michelle as we were both going through our own personal transitions in life. We both played sports in high school but as we entered our early 30’s we realized running may not be as easy as we thought. We started by doing the walk/run method; we would run for a minute, walk for 2 minutes, until we finished 5k (3.1 miles). Eventually we would find a destination (run to the next stop sign, run to the next mailbox, etc.) until we finished 5k. One morning Michelle came to my door beaming that she finished the course without stopping to walk. Because of my competitive spirit I ran the entire course the next day. I signed up for my first 5k race the following month. I was so nervous! The course was very challenging; more hills than what I was used to around my neighborhood. After mile 2 I needed a walk break and caught up with a 16-year-old girl who I noticed was wearing a knee brace. She proceeded to tell me she ran cross country for her high school team and recently had knee surgery. This was her first race after her procedure. We encouraged each other as we ran the rest of the race. I barely finished ahead of her with a time over 30 minutes and was so proud of myself that I “beat” a 16-year-old girl with a knee brace. I’m sure she was upset that she was bested by an amateur 30-something slightly overweight woman.
I continued to run around my neighborhood and mapped out a 5k course at my parent’s neighborhood too. I competed in other 5k races and increased my time somewhat. I actually was able to place in my age group in some of the races I did. Eventually I worked my up to 5 miles and then 10 miles. After running for 5 years I decided to train for a half marathon last summer. I met my goal of finishing under 2 ½ hours and ran the entire race. At the end of last year I decided I’d try to pull off what I thought would be impossible-the marathon!
First of all, I would not recommend training for a marathon if you have other time-consuming events occurring in your life such as planning for a wedding. Marathon training takes a lot of your personal time. There are many training programs out there and I decided to follow Hal Higdon’s method which is an 18-week program running 3 days during the week and long runs on the weekend. Each weekend, the long run gets longer, peaking at 20 miles three weeks before the marathon. There is a taper period which allows you to recharge before the race. The program also includes step back weeks in order to avoid overtraining. I did not complete the cross-training portion of the training as the running itself took a lot of time and energy for me.
Secondly, not only is marathon training a journey for you physically and mentally but it is also a journey for your support system as well. They have also sacrificed their time in having to pick up more chores around the house, taking on more responsibilities with child rearing, and giving up time with you so that you can train for this accomplishment that only a small percentage of people can say they did. I know without my fiancée I would not have been able to train for this race.
During the week I would run the courses around my house that I had mapped out. I have 3 mile, 4 mile, and 5 mile courses which I would add in order to complete a certain mileage recommended on a certain day (i.e. Tuesday run 4 miles, Wednesday run 8 miles, and Thursday run 3 miles). For my long runs I drove to a rail trail that extends from Maryland into York, PA. This was where the race took place. The scenery is so beautiful and it is a flat trail. I had to learn how to pace myself during the long runs that took me past 13 miles. One Saturday I was scheduled to run 15 miles. I thought it would be a piece of cake (its only two miles more than the race I did last year right?) Oh my! Was I wrong! After mile 13 I had cramping in my legs and by mile 14 had to walk to finish. Two weeks later I was scheduled to run 17 miles. I ran into the same problems only this time I was crying and had to walk to finish from miles 14-17. Afterwards I realized you cannot go out too fast and still expect to keep that same pace without encountering some problems. After some research I found that I hit “the wall” way too early in my distance running. Once I found a good pace for myself I was able to run 18 miles and then the 20 mile training runs. I actually started to look forward to these long runs as the weeks went by.
After training for 4 ½ months the day of the marathon had finally come. I was so apprehensive but yet excited at the same time. The comrade was so awesome! Lining up to the start were so many different people at different abilities. Everyone was smiling and ready to begin the journey.
The race began at 6:30am. I waved to my fiancée as he waited with the other groups of supportive friends, families, and partners. My plan was to run a 12 min/mile pace but after miles one and two I was sub-10. I knew if I didn’t slow down the finish would be very difficult. The race had so many encouraging volunteers. At every water station there were cheering teenagers, toddlers ringing cow bells, or adults reassuring you along the way. Close to the halfway point there was a band playing and volunteers were wearing Mexican hats! Even though you were tired just the energy from these people kept you going. Since the course is what is considered a “loop” course runners who were ahead of me started to run by. Even though they were going to finish before me some runners were very encouraging telling me to keep going, you’re doing good, etc.
I was still feeling good by mile 17. In the distance I saw a man ahead taking pictures of me. As I got closer I realized it was my fiancée, Mac. He had Gatorade and a sweat towel in case I needed it. I don’t think he realized just his presence was enough encouragement for me.
After mile 20 I started to get nervous as the training program only takes you this point. (A marathon is 26.2 miles). Questions started going through my head. At this point I started to count down the miles- 5 more miles, four more miles, etc. I started to think of the courses around my house that were these distances. Some runners were starting to slow down and eventually walk. Other than walking through the water stations to ensure proper hydration my goal was to run the entire race.
The course takes you off the rail trail, up a side road, and then into the track of York College. As I was running along the end of the trail which is near a side road, I saw my dad slowly driving past in his car.
He had his window down and was yelling for me to keep going. Tears started welling in my eyes and I thought about all the important people I have in my life who mean so much to me. I knew I was going to complete this race and the training from the past couple of months led up to this. I entered the track and the over the loud speaker I could hear, “Terri McKenzie from York”.
I came across the finish line in 5 hours, 12 minutes. No, I didn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon or place in my age group but at that moment I had never felt so proud of myself. I did it-I ran a marathon!