Monday, April 9, 2012

3/4 of a Marathon {Daegu International Marathon 2012}

I have only missed going to church on Easter twice.  Once when I like 3 or 4, I had the chickenpox on Easter.  I remember throwing a fit because I was going to have to stay home and not wear my Easter dress.  The other time I was like 24 and trying to run a marathon on Easter but ended up in bed instead of at church.

I am really proud of the training I did for the Daegu International Marathon.  I did 3 long runs of 20 miles each (plus a handful of other long runs).  I did my workouts each week (for the most part).  I spent 6 days a week for 19 weeks, thinking, planning, and preparing for the marathon.  And I did it all by myself.  I am proud of that accomplishment.  I never dreamed that I would train for a marathon, much less without a running partner or two.

Anywho, back to Easter.  Going into the marathon, I knew I was sick.  I had had a cold/flu for the last 10 days.  Most of my co-workers thought (and told me) that I was crazy for even thinking about racing.  But they had not spent the last 4 months of their lives training.  The amazing hubs and I talked about whether or not I should race and we decided to at least let me give it a go.  I knew going into the race, that I might not finish.  I, of course, thought that I would finish and PR.

Most of my memories pre-race were nerves.  My stomach was upset.  There were a lot of people.  I was trying to stay calm.  It is nice to race in your hometown.  We knew the bus routes and the downtown area.  Before I was ready, the gun went off and we started running.  There were 1,600 male marathon runners.  There were 150 female marathoners.  And there were 10,000 10k runners!  I was so thankful that we got to start before the 10km.  I don't remember too much from the first three miles.  I tried to soak up the experience.  It felt great to be running with other people and having people cheer for us.  I was really focused on getting to the 10k, then just 20 more miles after that.

My heart sank at the 4km mark.  The 4 hour pace group passed me right as I was passing the 4km mark.  I glanced at my watch and saw that I was ahead of my 3 hr 55 min. pace, so it was surprising to me that they were passing me.  And they were keeping a pretty good pace - I could not have gone with them if I had wanted to.  I tried not to dwell on the fact that I was now "behind" pace.  I knew that I would see Ian before the 10k mark, so I was on the lookout for him.

Yeah!  We found each other around the 5 mile mark - clearly this is when I was still thinking that I would finish and PR.

I had a water break scheduled at the 10km mark.  I shuffled through the aid station. (Sidenote: If you ever run a marathon shuffle through aid stations, don't walk.  Seriously, this is one of the few things that worked out well for me.  As soon as you start to walk, your legs start doing weird things.)  I do not remember all that much after the 10k point.  I knew the kilometers were rolling by.  My stomach was still pretty upset, but manageable pain.  I got passed by another 4 hour pace group.  I tried to hang unto this group.  They were probably 30 seconds to 1 minute in front of me for a good 4 miles.  I was starting to hurt (my legs, my mind, and my stomach) around mile 12, but I knew that the 20km was another aid station.  As soon as I started shuffling and drinking the water, I knew I was in trouble.  My legs felt like cement blocks and the water was not making me feel any better.  In fact, my stomach was feeling worse.  I had myself convinced that making it to the 20km water station was going to save me - so much for that.  I started pulling out all the memorized mantras.

"You are not physcially tired, just mentally fatigued."

"Don't worry about the miles to come, just enjoy the mile you are running right now."

"When I am weak, He is strong."

"Chuck Norris never ran a marathon!"

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can do all these things."

I kept repeating these sentences over and over in my brain.  Another 4 hour pace group passed me.  I went through 13.1 miles at 1:58 and some change (I was also wondering where that first 4 hour pace group went - they must have rolled through the half at like 1:50 or something).  I was elated because that meant I could run the second half 3 minutes slower and still make it under 4 hours.  I had friends cheering for me at the 14 mile mark (or at least that is what I thought).

I was hurting pretty bad, but convinced that I could just make it to 14 miles and see my friends and then go from there.  {Yeah, I miscalculated where the course was going, so they were actually at the 15 mile mark...longest mile of my life!}

I don't know if I knew Ian was taking this picture, but I definitely was in pain at this point in time.
I tried to give them a smile while I passed (Thanks Jared, Emily, Lucy, and friends for coming out to cheer - ya'll are rockstars!).  About 2 minutes later I called Ian and was like, "I can't do this!"  I think I would have started crying at this point in time, but I did not have any tears.  He suggested that I walked for a bit.  I really did not want to start walking at the 15.5 mile mark, but I did not care.  I just wanted my stomach to stop hurting.

In retrospect, I think I hit the wall at this point in time (which is lame, but I was sick, so I guess you hit the wall earlier when you are sick?).  Not only did I hit the wall, I also got to start running up a hill.  I am not sure how long the hill was, but it felt like it was a mile long.  It just kept sloping upwards.  I finally got to run downhill, but noticed that people were running in the opposite direction, back up the hill.  For some reason, my brain thought, "Oh the turn around point is soon.  Just get to the turn around point (Ian was going to be there) and then it will be okay."  Yeah, it was another two miles to the turn around point.  I stopped at one point in time to stretch my calves.  I don't remember too much else.

Sometimes Koreans would pass me and say, "Cheer up!"  or "Fighting!".  I think around mile 18, this old man tried to get me to run with him.  He kept talking to me in Korean.  I was feeling a bit delirious by this point in time.  For the life of me, I could not remember how to say, "I don't speak Korean."  The only word that I could think of was, "Up-sigh-yo"  which means, "not here"  (like, "Where is your book, Jinho?"  "Upsighyo".)  I did not think it would be nice to tell the man that I was "not here" :)  So I shuffled along side of him.  We actually jogged together for awhile.  Sometimes I would stop and try to walk and he would start lecturing me in Korean, so I would try to shuffle along some more.  He finally left me to my running misery.

I was ready to kiss the 31km sign!  Finally time to turn around!  I got to see Ian!  I ran up to him (we have this part on video).  He was cheering, "Yeah, it is all mental!  You can do it!"  At this point in time, I knew I could finish.  I could walk/jog/shuffle for the next 6.5 miles, but I was not going to make it under 4 hours.  I might not even make it under 5 hours.  After the 5 hour mark, the traffic is allowed back on the street, so it is not really safe to run.

I do remember Ian asking, "Are you going to regret it, if you quit now?"  I replied, "Yes.  But I don't care."  I realized that I was 19.86 miles, so I decided to run to the 20 mile mark and then stop.  Keep in mind I went through the half under 2 hours.  I was at 3:22 when I hit the stop button on my watch.

We walked to the nearest subway station.  I went to the bathroom and tried to wash my hands.  I had gotten some running GU on my phone while I was running.  So I did the only logical thing, I put my phone under the faucet to wash it off.  Don't worry, my phone is okay now.  It is just funny to me, that at the time, running my phone under water seemed logical.

We got on the subway and I knew it was bad news bears.  To make a long, agonizing subway trip story shorter, let's just say that I spent time laying on a bench at some random subway station.  And then an old woman (who was praying with her Buddhist rosary) tried to get me to take some Vitamin C tablets.  Then another subway station bench (this time there were old ladies telling Ian that he was not taking care of me properly).  Then I tried to get off the bench and I knew that I was in desperate need of a garbage can.  We could not find a garbage can, so Ian whipped out a plastic bag (from Lord knows where) handed it to me.  I ever-so-gracefully knelt to the floor, amidst a group of Junior High girls, and upchucked into the bag.  I do not think this is moment in time is going to make as one of  the "Top 10,000 Moments of Alissa's Life".  I did a feel a bit better after this.

We did eventually get my shoe chip turned in.  After getting home, I went to bed for the rest of the afternoon.  I don't think I will forget this Easter.

Things I learned from this experience:

  • If the 4 hour pace group passes you, it is not the end of the world.  They might not even be on pace.
  • Don't run a marathon if you are sick.
  • Take your amazing husband to all of your races.
  • My identity is found in my Risen Savior, not in my ability to run a marathon.
  • Quitting a race stinks, even if you are sick.  I have never quit a race before.  I think next time I will crawl across the line :)
  • Speaking of next time, I learned that I don't want to run another marathon for a long, long, long time.
  • I need to practice running non-stop.  I always stopped running to take snack breaks during my longs runs.  You don't get to stop during a marathon (unless you want to loose time). 
So there you have it.  I ran 3/4 of the marathon and learned some good life lessons.  


  1. After the most recent marathon I ran, I actually swore off of them because of pace groups. I HATE pace groups... I'm sure they are encouraging to some people, but they always just made me feel terrible and pressured. I highly recommend trail running :) where you can run for hours and never feel the mental anguish of a marathon. Great job, sister, I've been there and it is such a tough experience. Keep repeating what you learned from it and stay positive!

  2. Alissa, my heart broke for you when I read this!! You did great despite the circumstances. I cannot even imagine... I am so proud of you for making the decision to stop. That could not have been easy.

    I think it is funny that you tried to wash your phone in the sink. I hope you get to feeling better soon, and that you're able to take a break mentally & physically. Maybe it's time to step back and focus on something different? Take a season to focus on speed or something, rather than distance. I don't know... I'm just rambling now.

    One thing I AM sure of... I cannot wait to have you come to Lima someday and we can run past the pretty houses and then go to Columbus and try Jenni's ice cream. Because I have been hearing a lot about that too, and have never tried it. :)