Dan Batchelor: “I’m a geologist working in the environmental consulting field in New England. It was in July 2009 when I decided to take up running again. I had never been an avid runner, but circumstances in my life changed and I needed an outlet. After my first few runs in running shoes I came across Vibram Fivefingers and the concept of minimalist running. Discovery of minimalist running changed the way I perceived running and opened my eyes to the joy of running. Running has since changed my life and I cannot imagine a life where running is not part of it. I am only at the beginning and I look forward to where this journey will lead me.”
I was training in Massachusetts in temperatures below 40°F for my first marathon to take place on February 19, 2011 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
As race day approached, the extended forecast predicted temperatures in the upper 60s. My goal for my first marathon was to finish, but I did have a time goal of 4 hours 30 minutes. On race day, at 6:00 AM, the temperature was in the 50s. I located the 4:30 pacer and felt confident that I could run my first marathon around that time despite the warmer weather.
At 6:30 AM, the cannon fired and the pack began to migrate towards the start line, I started my run and I was feeling great. At around 6 miles, I found that my pace (10 min/mile) was starting to slip a bit, yet I was still ahead of the 4:30 pacer so I was still on track. The temperature at this point was somewhere around 50-60°F and a slight wind was starting to pick up.
After a few more miles the 4:30 pacer with pack in tow were on my heels. Despite pulling ahead a few times, the group eventually passed me somewhere around 12-13 miles. This was my first realization that I was not going to finish in 4:30.
With little cloud cover, the sun hung bright in the sky and I started to noticed the heat around 6 mile. At 8.25 miles the hotel buildings, located between our route and the beach, provided some shade and relief from the sun, but this ended around mile 13. I had reached the halfway point after approximately 2 hours 20 minutes, and it hit me that there were still 13.1 miles left to go. I was already starting to feel the fatigue and I realized that this race was going to be a lot harder than I anticipated. I slowed my pace and just focused on finishing the race, which at that point I was sure would still be under 5 hours.
Things were looking grim in Mudsville. At mile 14 I slowed to a walk for the first time as I entered the 14-mile water station. It was here that I realized I had seriously miscalculated my hydration strategy – I was getting dehydrated – I drank down one cup and poured a other over my head I knew I was in trouble, I told myself that I would walk through each subsequent water station (about every 2 miles) to take in fluids and electrolytes. I didn’t quite make it to the next station before I found myself walking again. At mile 16 the wind seemed to have picked up and was blowing against us.
As each mile past the end seemed further and further, I had slowed considerably. As the day continued to warm and the wind persisted, my fatigue got exponentially worse between miles 16 and 20. At around 3 hours 40 minutes into the race, I reached mile 20 and I remember thinking how impossible the next 6.2 miles seemed. I thought about how I had run 22.6 miles in December while training for this race and how quickly I recovered after it, which gave me the confidence I need to feel ready for this race. Yet at mile 20, I couldn’t seem to comprehend that I had actually run this distance before. I knew the heat was taking its toll, but somehow that didn’t seem to register. Every step I took for the next 6.2 miles was a mental battle.
There was one moment when I realized that by not reaching the finish, would mean that I had quit the race. Quit? Where did that come from? Quitting had never before even crossed my mind – it was never an option and wasn’t going to become one. I knew then that I was going to finish. I dug deep and pulled on sources of strength that had always helped me through in the past. Getting to the end was a combination of running and walking, knowing that the more I ran the sooner I would get there.
Finally, after 5 hours 21 minutes 30 seconds and a temperature of 70°F, I had finished my first marathon.
I learned a lot on this day, not just about running a marathon, but also about myself. After I had a chance to hydrate and cool off, I began to think about my next marathon in October. I registered for it months earlier – there was never any doubt, after all, that I would run another.
(Spoken like a true marathoner, Dan. Thanks for the post! ~Alan)