The 24 Hours Before My First Marathon

Every spring, I come up with a running goal that I want to achieve in the upcoming year. It’s usually a distance I’ve never done or a race.  This year’s goal: run a marathon.  However, one thing I didn’t realize about marathons is that registrations fill up fast.  In July, I tried to signup for the Twin Cities marathon that is held in early October. It’s a major race with 12,000 runners. Unfortunately, it was filled up. I began searching for another race. I came across the Mankato Marathon was still accepting applicants. And it also takes place in October. The only problem was that Mankato is roughly 80 miles away but my family encouraged me to go for it so I signed up on my 46th birthday.

The race was scheduled to start at 8am on a Sunday. I figured that driving 80 miles on the morning of the race would be certain disaster so we arrived on Saturday night and stayed a nearby hotel. On the drive down, we stopped for dinner at restaurant that’s famous for their burgers. I know it’s not the best choice for the night before a marathon but it’s too good to pass up when we are in the area.

After arriving at the hotel, I went across the street and picked up two fat-free yogurts and some Oatmeal Raisin cookies and had a bedtime snack. We set two of our phones to sound an alarm at 5:45am. One thing I was worried about was not being able to sleep well but actually, I had a great night of sleep. I think the drive helped.

Both alarms went off at the exact same second. We all headed down for the 6am hotel breakfast. The place was crawling with fellow runners already decked out in their racing gear. I rarely eat anything before a morning run so I was curious what others were having for a pre-marathon breakfast. Scrambled eggs with either a biscuit or a roll was the hands-down favorite so I went with it. After breakfast, I headed back to the room to gear-up.

The temperature was in the mid-40’s but they were predicting low 70’s. I figured that it would be in the mid 60’s by noon so I went with shorts and a long sleeve compression shirt with a t-shirt over it. I also put on some thin gloves at least for the beginning of the race. My running belt contained an 8oz bottle of water, 6 gels and my phone (for tracking). The last thing that I put on was a visor. Not only is it great for keeping sweat out of my eyes but it also makes me feel like my running hero, Craig Alexander.

Off to the races! We arrived at the start line at 7:25am. Just in time to see the start of the 10K run from our van. After they left, we got out. I strapped on the belt and headed for the crowd. The pacers spaced themselves apart. I was planning on running at 8:30 min./mile so I hopped in near the pacer with the 3:45 sign which was a pace of 8:35 mile/min. More and more people started gathering. Since they started the half-marathon and marathon races at the same time, there was a substantial crowd of 1800 runners and additional spectators.

The music was painfully loud and a lot of people were covering their ears. I’ve seen over a hundred live bands including The Ramones, Nirvana, Bad Religion and X and these speaker were louder than any of them. Finally, an announcer took the mike and the music stopped. Then running legend, Joan Benoit Samuelson came out to say a few words of encouragement and a gentleman sang the national anthem.

On your marks… get set… GO!