Friday, June 13, 2014

My First Marathon, with Four Different Climates

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, I reached a huge milestone life goal by completing the EMF Edinburgh Marathon (same for the Cordovas). I honestly didn't think I would finish due to the back problems I had early on and a nasty sickness at the end of my training cycle, which forced me to go into the race having only ran 15 miles as my maximum mileage. This also was my fifth or sixth attempt to run the marathon (and some that I registered for) since 2011, but had to bail, because of random injuries, surgeries, and/or sickness. I kind of got the impression that the Powers that Be were against me. But now, I can say that I'M A FREAKING MARATHONER!!! And nobody can take that away from me.
And not only that, but it was a pretty epic trip to England, Scotland, and France with some great people.

Thanks Martha for this image right before my race!
So, let's recap this thing we call a marathon.

We rolled into Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 23 (my birthday), which included activities, such as falconry (the best experience ever non-running related and will have a post on that later), whiskey tasting (um...we WERE in Scotland), and drinks at the Brew Dog Beer Pub (known for the world's strongest beer). I wanted to get there two days earlier to do touristy things on Friday and relax on Saturday. Mission Accomplished.

This is probably the best selfie ever with Puck the Owl.

Jim, Helen, me, Ray, and JL at the Scotch Whiskey Experience. There is over 300 bottles of whiskey in that room. 

Drinking a very strong and good beer at Brew Dogs.
And then we got the news...RAIN! It would rain most of the weekend, especially on marathon day. I wasn't so worried about the temperature or the rain; I was more worried about the 10-15 mph winds coming off of the coast. Yeah, the course was mostly a long the coast. Awesome.

We deemed this night Our Last Supper at Vittoria Bridge in which I had a wonderful salmon dinner. I highly recommend this place for dinner in Edinburgh. Thanks to Helen for getting our reservations early; people were being told that tables were ready around 9 p.m. early in the night.
I had a horrible night's sleep due to anxiety and back rub gel that JL put on me before I went to bed. I did it for the half marathon and loved it, but I had been going through hell with some kind of allergic reaction on my back. This basically intensified that and I couldn't sleep. I started freaking out until I remembered that most people do not sleep very well on the first marathon anyways. I felt like I joined a club or something.

Our Last Breakfast picture.
So, I fretted most of the weekend about what to wear on race day, including that very morning. After my breakfast of a piece of toast, with peanut butter and slices of banana, cornflakes, and some watermelon, I went upstairs to get ready for my FIRST EVER MARATHON. Thankfully, it was just drizzling that morning and not too cold. So, this is what I decided to wear.

Of course I was wearing my Texas Run shirt. I got a few compliments on the course. Also, you can't tell in this picture, but I was freaking out on the inside.
There was a rollercoaster of emotions pumping through me, including excited, nervousness, anxiousness, fear, dream like state, etc. by the time I got downstairs. JL was super nervous and I did what I could to take her mind off it by threatening to punch her in the lady parts so she wouldn't feel scared anymore. She politely declined, but you know what, she was smiling after that question. My wonderful boyfriend extraordinaire had brought us all rain slickers that kept the rain off and bonus points for being a bright orange color so we could see each other quickly if we got separated.

The Cordovas and I trying to release some of the nervousness.

Finally, it was time to go. Helen, JL, Ray, Jim, and I headed out the door of our perfectly located hotel (seriously half a mile from the start). We saw outside the window during breakfast how busy it was down there and now it was a mob of 8,622 people. We found our corral, did some stretching, went to the bathroom (men got to pee outdoors in the trough looking thing), and listened to some music until it was time to get in our corrals.

I originally wanted the Best Day of My Life song to pump us all up, which was used as the New York City Marathon's theme song, but didn't have it apparently on my phone. But Your the Best was of course the next best song and got us all smiling, especially when I performed some high kicks as a warm up.
Reason #2 for Jim being the best supporter and boyfriend; he thought to bring these slickers for us to help with the rain. #1 being because he's Jim and awesome and a giant.  

Seriously, this is the best boyfriend EVER. He allowed us to stretch our legs on him since the ground was all wet.
I immediately noticed that we (by we, I mean the Cordovas and I and not Helen) were in the wrong corral (Black Corral). It was closer to the front and we were the slow ones. Oh well. We decided to move to the side when we started. Although, moving to the side is different for Americans, because we generally move to the right when going slow and the British people move to the left. During the run, everyone was just flushed to the side if going slower than the traffic. So, we gravitated to the right.

And then, the countdown started. OMG! I was about to start my marathon and I could already feel the tears just hinting to start. I pushed them back, because it was too damn early for this to happen.

This was my first international race. American races always play the Star Spangled Banner before each start and I guess I was expecting something like bagpipes for this one. They didn't. We also took off our slickers, because the rain had completely died and the clouds were lighter.

The plan was to do a couple of miles slower than normal to keep our legs rested for the rest of the marathon. Helen would stay with us for a mile and then take off since she was trying to get a Personal Record (PR)/Personal Best (PB) for the Brits. However, at the start, I did the one thing I was warned not to do; I ran faster than average speed. I couldn't help it. I was caught up in the moment and the runners and with Helen. I kept looking back to the see the Cordovas trailing behind and it finally clicked to me why I was ahead of them. DUH! So, I slowed down and eventually Helen left us.

Mile 1:  OMG! I'M RUNNING A FREAKING MARATHON! Excitement, craziness, speedy were all things happening to me at once. The scenery was beautiful and people were running and cheering. We also got to see Jim taking photos of us on a wall and I threw him my jacket, because it was already getting hot. This was the last time I saw him until the Finish Line.

This was the start and took us awhile to make it to the actual start line. It was a lot of starting, stopping, starting stopping.

Yay, my first running step in my first marathon.

Ray, JL, me, and Helen waving to Jim. This is the only shot of all of us on the course.

We made it to mile 1. WOOOHOOOO!
Miles 2-9:  The Cordovas and I kept a good pace doing 5 minutes run, 1 minute walk. It wasn't fast or slow, but just where we wanted. It started to get windy and then the clouds parted around mile 5(when we hit the coast). To have sun in Scotland or the UK is rare, so everyone was out. You could tell some people didn't even know a marathon was going on at all. The coast was beautiful and I couldn't stop staring. I was in such a great mood and enjoying my time saying thank you to everyone until about mile 5 when I went to the bathroom for the first time. It would be the first of many long bathroom stops for me on the course. I'm not sure what upset my stomach, but whatever it was, sucked. I do have some theories including too much water, pasta lunch the day before, nerves, etc. Thankfully, they had toilet paper. I like to note that each time I stopped, I grabbed some paper for the road, which proved to be an awesome idea towards the end when the toilets ran out of paper. Mile 5 was also the time the sun came out and stayed out until probably mile 18. Mile 9-10 was about the time that JL started to have issues with her IT band and my phone died, which prevented me from updating Jim on where we were. At mile 9 is also where the course splits from the Finish Line area and starts the big roundabout for the rest of our mileage back to the Finish Line. I was hoping to see Jim there to just hug him and get the banana in his bag, but no sign of him.

I'm not sure where this was, but it was in the beginning mileage.

Mile 1-2 had some of the best scenery.

I'm not sure where these drummers were, but they were amazing. You could hear them miles away.

The Scottish coast was beautiful.

Not only am I running a marathon, but I'm learning, as well. East Lothian is home to the Scottish Flag.

Even Ray still has a goofy smile.

This was taken somewhere around Mile 5.

We made it to Mile 7.

Miles 10-13:  As I mentioned before, JL started to have issues with her IT band and had to walk a great deal. This section of the marathon is when it got really bad for her and we walked most of the time. I wanted to stay with them, but I couldn't keep up with all the walking. So, I told her at mile 13, I would be taking off on my own. And when mile 13 hit, I bid adieu to the Cordovas and wished them well.

I love this picture, because I'm just caught in the moment of running.
Miles 14-20:  What was I thinking leaving the Cordovas? I was alone; my phone died and had no way of contacting Jim and hadn't seen him in awhile. My stomach was causing me all sorts of issues. I realized at some point that it might be the water causing me problems. In the beginning, I would grab two bottles of water and chug them immediately so I wouldn't get dehydrated. Eventually, I started only grabbing one and then slowly drinking it all, which decreased my stomach pain/digestive issues drastically (more on that later). I was also hot and was now sunburned from the sun, because no one thought to bring sunblock on what was supposed to be a normal rainy day in Scotland. Poor Jim came out with a sunburned head. I started talking to people running with me, but for the most part it was just me and my thoughts. Somewhere around mile 16 or 17, I started to hit my low. I hadn't seen a bathroom in a long time, the turnaround point was much farther away than I expected, and I was about to go throw up on the side of the road. I was contemplating giving up completely when out of the crowd, I hear, "TEAM TEXAS." It was Helen yelling for me on the other side making her way back to the finish line. I just perked up immediately and gave her a hi-five or a hug or something. At that exact moment is when I needed to see her face or somebody I knew to keep me going. It put a pep in my step and I started talking to more people, smiling, and before I knew it, I was hitting the turnaround point at mile 18. And then, the clouds came back as I headed into what would be the most beautifully boring miles to run. It was cold, there were very little supporters left (except for two big groups; one group played La Bamba outside their house), and the roads were muddier and rougher to run on than the other part of the course. It was my least favorite part of the marathon and I was thankful to get out of there quickly. You could see and hear the thunderstorms in the distance and what looked like right around the finish line (Jim did informed me that they got soaked). And then around mile 19, the rain hit starting out as a drizzle and then slowly getting harder. About this time, I started talking to a lady and I told her that I am hoping to just get to mile 20 to put a fire inside of me. She asked me why and I responded with, "Because it's in the 20s and there's barely anything left of the marathon." She replied, "Well, I'm hoping that will be at 0.2 for me." I laughed. I never saw her again and I hope she made it.

Miles 21-25:  It wasn't mile 20 that did it for me; it was actually mile 21. I kept up the 5 minutes run/1 minute walk intervals after I left the Cordovas; however, at some point (can't even say when), it turned into 5 minutes run/2 minutes walk. But at mile 21, I went back to 1 minute walk. I also started to run just a tad bit faster. A house was playing Chariots of Fire and I began to smile and picked it up even more. Somebody yelled out to me that they were glad I was still smiling after all these miles. I also noticed people went from "Good job" to "Good effort," because I was basically at the back of the pack. People were packing up and there weren't many supporters left. At mile 24, the rain stopped and I just ran and ran and ran. I didn't want to walk anymore, I wanted to get it done.

Miles 26-26.2:  I finally caught up to this lady that I trailed most of the marathon. So, we talked until the final turn...the 0.2 left to go. I couldn't believe I was about to finish my first marathon. I picked up speed. The rain was completely done and the supporters were limited. And then I saw Mr. Boyfriend Extraordinaire on the sidelines taking pictures. I wanted to rush over to him and hug him, but I needed to finish. I immediately teared up when I saw him. I picked up even more speed and finished my very first marathon in 6:15:47.

This is me trying not to cry.

And then I saw Helen rushing over to hug me in celebration and I couldn't stop the tears. I have no idea what I mumbled to her, because I couldn't form sentences or think. She walked me over to get my medal and my finisher's shirt where I learned they ran out of every size but extra small. I grabbed it anyways. We headed over to the Finisher's section to take photos.

Thank you Helen for being there for me at the end! 

 I'm looking pale for a marathoner, but who cares really? I just ran a freaking marathon.  
After we got our bags and the Cordovas bag, I saw Jim walking towards me. I wanted to run to him, but I couldn't. He just picked me up and I started crying again. I wanted him to pick me up and carry me to wherever I needed to go, preferably with beer and food, but we needed to wait for the Cordovas. I was almost positive they got picked up by the late van (picks up people that wouldn't make the cutoff time of 6 hours:30 minutes). Jim set off to find someone to tell us where they were since it was passed the cutoff time. However, they were still announcing racers crossing the finish line. After much confusion, the Cordovas crossed the finish line just under 7 hours (so much for that strict cutoff time). They didn't get any supporters, a medal, or a finisher's shirt. But they finished.

Then, the rain came crashing down on us as soon as the Cordovas showed up. This nice volunteer drove us to the buses where we had one of the most amazing bus rides back to our hotel. This awesome group of Scottish people (I think they drank some booze in celebration) started to sing. We sang the whole freaking away home. They asked for Texas songs, but the Cordovas and I were just too tired and zombie like to remember Deep in the Heart of Texas. We tried. The best was when they sang Proclaimers, I Will Walk 500 Miles. It made the long bus ride home that much better.

I wish we were in the right mind to take video, because it was priceless.
We finally got back to the hotel to shower and go out for food. One thing we should have done beforehand was made reservations or picked out a place to go after the marathon. Many places were packed and one pub shut down on a 6 p.m. We ended up at this one dark pub that had some good fried pub food and good beer (loving Scottish's Three Hop beer). Then, it was time to go to bed. I did not take an ice bath like suggested, because I was freaking cold. I didn't get warm until probably 9-10 p.m. I couldn't move to foam roll and I just didn't think about an Epsom Salt bath, which we bought in England and learned that it's used for constipation. However, I'm not sure it's the same. I took an Epsom Salt bath the morning after, but it didn't soothe me.

Helen eating her medal like an Olympian.
I bet the beauty queens haven't ran a marathon and then went on to win a beauty contest...but we did.

The happy couple with their temporary medals.
My giant taking care of me.

I'm a marathoner.
And since I didn't want to bombard you lovely readers with tons of photographs, I decided to make a photo video presentation instead.

My overall thoughts for my first marathon was that my time wasn't my best by far, but I knew that going into the run. I was hoping for sub 6; I think walking in the beginning and long bathroom stops hurt me in the end. I know what I need to fix in order to improve my time for Route 66 Marathon, November 23, 2014. It was also crazy having basically four different climates in one marathon:  cold, rain, wind, and sun.

The Good: 
  • This was my first marathon and that experience and feeling alone can't be taken away from me. Plus, it was in a beautiful city.
  • It was a nice flat course, with very little uphills. The scenery was beautiful.
  • They had a decent amount of bathrooms in the beginning and throughout the course.
  • The volunteers were great, especially the one that drove us to the buses.
  • They weren't strict on the cutoff time or the bus tickets.
  • I loved the finisher's shirts and long sleeved shirt.
The Bad:
  • When we couldn't find the Cordovas, only one person out of all the people we talked to could tell us where to go if they were picked up by the late bus. The information booth had already packed up and left. That man told Jim to go to the Main Gate where they dropped off the people; however, no one at the Main Gate even knew that gate was called the Main Gate. It took forever to find them and we didn't know where they were. It was quite scary and we didn't like it.
  • The website proved to be hard to navigate and well, not true. We could have music and there was no strict cutoff time. And when I bought the bus tickets for Jim as a spectator, there were different descriptions than when I printed the tickets.
  • They ran out of all sizes (except xs) for me and had already packed up the shirts when the Cordovas crossed the finish line. We were all required to give our shirt size and they were supposed to have shirts and medals for everyone. I feel this was a big letdown.
  • The park part of the run was boring.
  • From mile 15-19, there were no bathrooms or any bathrooms that I saw and no water.
  • The bathrooms ran out of toilet paper.
Would I run this marathon again? I probably would. They need to fix some stuff, but so do I.

I want to take the time to thank the Cordovas for randomly saying yes (well, JL said yes and Ray was told) when I asked if they wanted to come run a marathon with me in Edinburgh. I'm so glad they went on this journey with me and hope for many more to come. And thanks to Helen for being there, as well and being there when I needed you most (both times). You were so supportive before, during, and after. Thanks to everyone that ran with me during the training cycle or just gave me advice, especially to Jim (the other one) who was like a coach to me. And last but certainly by no means least, thank you to my wonderful giant, Jim. You were absolutely amazing to take us around, support us, hang out for six plus hours by yourself (while getting sunburnt and rained on) just to see me cross the finish line, carry my stuff, find the Cordovas, and everything else you did that day/night. I love you so much! 


  1. Whew! That was such a fun read, Kristi! I love the way you celebrate so much about your experience...or should I say appreciate. The 4 climates, the bathroom issues, the beautiful views, the support of good people. It's all the good and bad that makes up the wonderful memory! I'm so glad you finished and that Jim was there to see you! Way to go!!!!

    1. Thanks Beth! It was a great experience. This post took me forever to write, because I just couldn't get everything out of my head and on to the computer.

  2. what an amazing experience! you are incredible!!!!

    1. Thank you so much Cintia! I'm so proud of you, too and what you have done.

  3. What a great post! Can't believe it's been this long since I've caught up on blogs but nice work Kristi! You will definitely be able to better your experience racing and running a marathon - but now you know you can do it and that's a huge thing. Well done on it and keep it up!

    1. Thanks so much Petra. Still sad we didn't get a chance to meet, but maybe when you come here.


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