I decided to split my typical "what I learned" post into two parts since my first marathon was such a big deal to me. Training and the actual race were two different beasts so I wanted to treat the post as such. If you missed what I learned from training for my first marathon you can read it here. Now onto what I learned from the race
1. If possible, have your spectator carry extras of everything
I was lucky enough to see my parents multiple times during the Harrisburg Marathon. I took the idea from the Ironman to have a special needs bag filled with stuff just in case I needed it. In the bag was extra GU & Shot Bloks, socks, bodyglide, chapstick, hair ties and other stuff that I am forgetting. At first I thought the idea was stupid but when my Shot Bloks fell out of my pocket at mile 5 and I didn't have any extra with me I was so glad I had extra in that bag. I saw my parents around mile 8 and never ran into any fueling issues.
2. Run your own race no matter what
I started the race with the 4:45 pace group because I didn't know where else to start. For the first 10 miles I stuck with the group despite that the pace didn't feel as easy as it should have. I knew I should have slowed down but I liked the idea of running a 4:45 and so I clung onto the group for as along as possible. Miles 10-20 were absolutely miserable because I was already feeling pretty crappy. Lesson learned. Pay attention to your body and don't get caught up in what others are doing.
3. You are always more capable than you think
I felt so crappy during miles 17-20 that I walked almost all of them. I was going to walk the last six miles too had Robert not come to the rescue. I ran the last six miles only stopping at water stations and felt pretty damn good for the last six miles of a marathon. I was amazed with myself the entire time. I had all but given up and then ended up passing everyone in sight and cruising to the finish. The mental aspect of racing and training has repeatedly proven to be my downfall.
4. Make friends with the people around you. 26.2 miles is a long time to get to know people
When I was running with the 4:45 pace group I was constantly talking to the others about what races were their favorites where they were from, what their goals were, etc. Despite how bad I felt it really made the time go by quicker. And those last 6 miles with Robert, they were something I never thought possible. I was in a lot of pain but we kept chatting and stopped paying attention to the fact that we were running a marathon. We talked about everything and just enjoyed being out there. And in the (delayed) spirit of Thanksgiving, I am incredibly grateful to Robert for taking me under his wing and helping me as much as he did.
5. 26.2 miles is a long time, period
The thing about the marathon is you can experience just about every emotion possible throughout the course of the race. Just because you are feeling great now doesn't mean you won't feel crappy later and vice versa. I learned the hard way that you can't dwell on things. No matter how bad you feel you will also feel better for times. Those hard mental times make it really easy to give up and throw in the towel but it is so important to just ride out the storm.
6. Running a marathon is 90% mental
Honestly, when I woke up the morning of the race I wasn't mentally into it. I didn't want to race that day and from the minute I crossed the starting line my legs felt heavy and slow. I was upset about not running New York and just couldn't get excited for this race. My attitude was bad and only got worse. Running a marathon is not something to be taken lightly. If you are not excited for it it will show in your performance.