On Sunday, December 11, 2016 I completed the Dallas Marathon. It is a 26.2 mile run in and around several neighborhoods and districts in Dallas, TX. I finished in 6 hours and three minutes, about 27 minutes shorter than the cutoff (the required time set by USA Track and Field on how long it can take you to finish).
Through this “How I got Here” series, I’ve been learning a lot about what you guys want to read. Surprisingly enough you want to read more about my life and the weird things around it than you want to read my crappy political takes. Isn’t that something? So you’re going to get more about my life and less crappy political takes.
So I’ve been training for this thing for months with Luke’s Locker. It’s been an amazing journey because I never thought that I would be someone who could actually finish a full marathon. They took me every step of the way with a weekly plan and supported long runs on Saturdays. The weekly plan was to help get our speed up and the long runs on Saturday were to get our distance up. I can’t say enough how good they were and how well they had us prepared for the race.
I had a pretty simple plan: Run 13 minute miles with one of my coaches, a lovely older man who has done about 45 marathons or so. Stick right on his hip and take the whole thing nice and easy, stopping at all the water stations and finishing at around 6 hours. It was a good plan.
When I got to the expo I talked to him about my plan and learned that he was only doing the HALF. I was surprised to find this out (there’s a lesson here).
I figured that I could go alone at the split (for this race, the marathoners and the half marathoners ran together until about 10 miles in, where the half marathoners run back to the finish and the marathoners run elsewhere) and be fine enough. I had run miles by myself in training so I figured that I could do it even if it was slow.
I couldn’t sleep the night before the race. I may have gotten 5 hours max. But not much more than that. I woke up, made it to the race site with my partner and then we filtered into our corrals (A corral is a sectioned area at a race’s starting line, where race participants are grouped according to their expected finishing time. The fastest runners are usually in the first corrals and the slowest runners are in the corrals at the back. The runners’ race bibs usually indicate which corral they’re assigned to. Source). I was in the last corral and stuck with my coach.
When the gun went off we stuck together. I noticed that he was running much faster than we ran for any of our training runs. I didn’t ask him to go slower even though I could have. I lost him at about mile 4 and came across the 5:30 pacer (A pace team is a group of runners led by an experienced leader who run together in the marathon. The pace leader runs a steady pace and keeps track of that pace so that the group can achieve their goal of finishing the marathon at a particular time. Source). I stuck with the pacer through highland park, the M streets and Greenville but lost her on the Dolly Parton Hills on La Vista.
Running with a pacer was a lot more important to me than I thought. Even though the pacer herself was doing a walk/run and walking through most of the aid stations, I found it very difficult to go on without that group. By the time I made it to the lake on mile 14 I was doing a lot of walk/run, which is tough for me because it’s hard to get me running again after I start walking.
The lake was very windy both coming in and going out. It was really hard to keep my resolve around it. I thought that if I could get to the lake the rest would be easy because we do the lake and the Santa Fe Trail during our group runs. It wasn’t easy and my body hurt. I even took a small cup of beer from the crew that was passing it out under the bridge on the Santa Fe Trail. It didn’t dull the pain as much as I thought it would.
I also felt what I believed to be cramps in my legs while going around the lake. I had never felt them before, but they were very painful. It felt like I would be unable to go on while I felt them. They would come and go every couple of miles or so. I had to drop down to a walk when I was feeling them. I felt them in both legs by around mile 20.
By the time I got back to Swiss I was a wreck. Luckily my friends were there for me. They had set up shop on Swiss and were waiting for my partner and I to get there. It was a joy to see them. It gave me the resolve that it took to get to the end.
Going back into town it was clear that the race started to shut down. Many of the water stations were winding down and the classic cars that were going to be on the “BMW mile (a mile with many BMW’s including classics) were gone. I understand that it’s a matter of serving the most people but it didn’t feel good to see all of that gone. The officers were still out there directing traffic. I thanked all of them for what they were doing for us.
I really underestimated how much it meant for me to have people to talk to during the race. For about the last 2 miles I hung with a lady from Black Girls Run who was doing the marathon as well. I was reaching pretty hard for conversation pieces when I asked her what she thought was necessary to make fitness a priority for the black community. She said I could go on and keep running, which felt like “yeah please leave me alone.” I kept running.
Coach Todd was at the mile 26 mark. He was there coaching the MDA team for the marathon. He had been at miles 4 and 9 and was a welcome sight to see. He is the reason that I am still doing open water triathlons (more on that story later). He cheered me on and was great to see. Rick, my career coaching friend also met me at the finish line as well as Chris, who was there awaiting his daughter’s finish. My partner had been at the finish line for about 45 minutes waiting on me.
It was an unreal feeling when I made it to about mile 25 and all but confirmed that I was going to finish the marathon in the allotted time. I had never really believed that I could really finish a marathon, nor did I really want to. I still haven’t fully grasped the magnitude of what happened that day.
If you click the map above you can take a closer look at each mile, elevation and several other things. What was important to notice was how much my time fluctuated on the back 12 miles. There were fits of starts and stops on the back side. I really have a hard time starting and stopping like that.
I will try to get my full splits on here. Again, the pacer was doing a run/walk fashion and I wanted to keep with that group but I fell behind early. It was difficult to keep running and I lost my run/walk stride around the lake.
Notable on the course
The most notable thing that I saw on the course were the presence of several police officers in full uniform, some of them in running shoes and some in boots. They were part of a delegation of officers from California running in solidarity for the slain officers from the July 7th ambush. Many of them walked, some of them ran. They all were in full uniform, which includes an extra 60 pounds unevenly distributed around their waists in the form of their equipment belt. It was very impressive to see.
Things I noticed about myself:
I noticed several things about myself while doing this race and after. Here are a couple of them:
I have to have a plan C and that has to include running alone: I had a plan A, and that was to run with my coach. That fell through and I had a makeshift plan B which was to run with the 5:30 pacer. I lost them and had to revert to a plan C which was run alone. That has to be a plan that includes me running alone for large blocks. Whatever that means, including run/walk blocks
I can’t coach people to run while I am training: I tried to have a group of people that I was coaching somewhat while I was training for this. We were supposed to run together while I trained for this and then do a relay at the same time that I was doing this. I dropped that team and didn’t coach them. I have too much on my plate to do that as well as this. I’m going to have to come up with some sort of alternative plan in order to do everything that I need to do. I don’t know what that looks like yet but it might mean that I can’t train people at the same time that I am training. I mean, I still have a job and bills that I have to take care of.
It was amazing having a #squad support me: I’ve done plenty of races without a squad. It can be depressing to be out there running without anyone to support you, even if it’s just a high five. This time I was fortunate enough to have a group there supporting me. There’s no way you can know what it means to have that there for you when you are coming around the corner near the end of an event like this. They are amazing. I later learned that they supported other runners who came across. Simply amazing.
I have to come up with an alternative electrolyte strategy: During the training we stopped at each water stop and I basically filled up my bottle with gatorade, giving my body the electrolytes that I needed to keep going. During this race I walked or ran through every water stop, getting much less gatorade, which led to cramps in both legs. But if I had’ve stopped at each station then I might not have finished within the cutoff. So an alternative strategy is going to be key there whether it’s more water bottles or salt tablets or something else.
It can look however it needs to look: I had dreams of how i wanted to do this race. I wanted to run the whole thing and do it really quickly and whatever. But it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. And I’m still a marathoner. It doesn’t have to look a certain way as long as it gets done. We forget that sometimes. but I remember it after this. My marathon didn’t look the way I wanted it to but I’m still a marathoner.
Overall, it was a good race. Everyone’s asking me if I would do it again and the answer is yes. Now that I know that I can do it, I am ready to do it again. After a couple more days rest.
If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments.