Last Sunday I ran the Naha Marathon. Considering my finish time, "ran" might be too generous of a word. The Naha Marathon wound up being my slowest marathon by 50 minutes (I came in at 5:24)! Yep, 50 minutes. At this point you're probably wondering what went wrong. In all honesty I can say on race day nothing went wrong. The race actually came together quite nicely.
However, about five weeks before the race I started to have hamstring issues. For those of you who don't run marathons yet, that is just about the time you should be getting in your longest long runs. I didn't want to cause lasting damage so I wound up cancelling my 20 mile long run and cutting short the 18 miler the following week. Yeah, when you cut out two of your longer runs it's not going to make for a pretty marathon.
For a few weeks I kept up a debate on if I'd run at all, but after a couple weeks taking it easy the hamstring felt better and I figured I could at least finish. Plus, I had committed to this marathon and people had sponsored me in support of Girls on the Run. I didn't want to let this great organization or my sponsors down.
I knew I was going to be slow, but I still found it funny when I realized the earrings I had decided on were turtles. I didn't even think about it when I put them in at 0530. I really don't have a lot of post earrings and I like turtles. They turned out to be an accurate predictor of the day. There was also a turtle sign beside me when I got in the corral. Hmmm...
This race was huge. There were over 26,000 runners and it felt like it for the first 40km (a marathon has 42 kilometers for those of you mile folks). Here I am looking nervous before the race start and with crowds like this there's no wonder I was feeling a little anxious.
It took me over 7 minutes to reach the starting line after the race began. It was packed!
This race might have had the best crowd support that I've ever seen. People of all ages were out there cheering, beating on drums, passing out salt, sugar, water, and snacks. I think I ate at least 6 or 7 mikan (local, sweet, delicious, mini oranges) during the run. While I loved the crowd support I really did not like having that many runners around me. I think in the future I'll have to find smaller races.
My race plan was to run the first 5K until things thinned out and then use the Galloway Method the rest of the run. Galloway is a run/walk system that new runners, runners getting over injuries, or just people who like having little breaks implement. I used a 7:1 ratio where I ran for 7 minutes and walked (or stretched) for 1 minute. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. There was no way I could stop at the 5K - it was just too crowded. I wound up running the first 13-14K and then switched over to the Galloway. It still hadn't cleared up at 14K, but I just started moving over to the opposite sidewalk and running there.
I did have some good distractions as I ran slooooowly with the mob. There were lots of costumes:
(Yes, the third picture is of a person dressed up as a poop head and no, the cow was not passing out milk, just water).
And ridiculously tall Americans with extra petite locals:
I've got to say physically I felt pretty good. The mental aspect of this race was a whole different story. I really struggled through the first half. I kept questioning why I was out there. I didn't have anything to prove, I didn't really want to be racing, and I'm pretty sure my sponsors wouldn't have minded if I postponed the marathon until the one in February. I was definitely in a funk. I really didn't enjoy running in such a tight crowd and felt like I could never find my groove. It was frustrating. I've never run that slow and my brain did not like it. Here are some pictures showing how crowded the race stayed. Here's the 15K:
And the 20K:
Luckily for my psyche, I got to see Chris around the 23K mark and he told me to keep on going. He did a great job biking around and meeting me at points along the course. It was just the pick me up I needed.
The course was still crowded at this point, but I felt like after seeing Chris I picked up the pace. I know I did because I had a 19 minute negative split. Here we are at 25K:
With some Avatar fans:
Sorry for the blurriness, but I had been running for 5 hours at this point.Trust me there were still a lot of people around.
I saw Chris at the final 2K and that really got me going. I passed tons of people in the last part of the race. When I got to the park entrance (about 1K from the finish) I really picked it up. The path was lined with high-fiving kids and a band playing "Oh When the Saints". I high-fived as many as I could and smiled my way all the way to the finish. The last 2K was definitely my favorite part of the race.
I was glad I had stuck it out because we received sweet glass "medals".
Things I learned from this marathon:
-42K really is a distance you should train for
-the Galloway method works
-you really need to put deodorant under both arms if you don't want to stink. I forgot my right pit and I was ripe!
-I need to work on my core - my hip flexors yelled at me for the last 15K
-ice baths and sports massage work - I was already out running a few, slow miles on Wednesday. I usually take at least a week to recover.
That's 3 endurance events this year: Mongolia trail marathon, Izena Triathlon, and Naha Marathon. That's the most I've done in a 6 month period and I've got to say I'm feeling pretty good. Next up: Okinawa City Marathon in February and a trail 60K in New Zealand in March. Bring it on!