Marathon Training Update: 20 Miles

I have a confession: I have been dreading my first 20-mile run from the moment the idea of doing a full marathon popped into my head.

I solved this problem in my typical fashion of, well, ignoring it until the actual day arrived.

I mean, I was prepared. I had my snacks (I’ve been chewing on gummy candies…I need to get something that is actually made for runners), I was well hydrated (I’ve learned that the only thing that keeps me from drying out is to drink at least half a bottle of Gatorade G2 cut with equal parts water an hour before I run), and I had my course mapped out (starting at the bottom of Manhattan, then running 11 miles up the West Side Highway and then 9 miles back down). I was wearing one of my favorite running outfits. I had my music. I was ready.

But as I hopped off the subway in the financial district, I was utterly terrified.

It sounds silly, but the long runs, especially those that are a distance I have never run before, give me an extreme amount of anxiety. Anything could happen. I could get injured or feel horribly sick miles from home.

Okay, those are really the only bad things that could happen. BUT STILL.

In the end, though, I knew I had to just do it. I’ve found it helps if I don’t think of it as running 20 miles, but rather that I am going to run for three hours. I hate wasting time in general, and I tend to stress out when I feel like something is taking up too much time. If I just remind myself that I have cut these three hours out of my life just for running, though, my stress level calms and everything feels more manageable.

So I just started running.

I kept my pace slow-ish, running the first half at about an 8:30 mile pace. I also made myself stop at almost every bathroom for a quick drink of water, rather than waiting until I felt thirsty as I had done in the past. I deliberately planned to be at my least favorite part of the course (everything north of 90th street because there’s no where to stop for water or bathroom breaks) midway through the run — I knew if anything was going to go wrong for me, it would be in the last third of the run, so I wanted to be closer to civilization.

Around mile 11, I started to feel tired. But I told myself that I had run so much farther than that multiple times, so I wasn’t allowed to be tired yet. (I actually said this to myself in my head.)

Around mile 16, I was definitely tired (my pace was a solid 9:13), but felt pretty good otherwise. I started to let myself believe that this run was actually going to go well. When I hit 18 and felt infinitely better than I had during my 18-mile run, I was elated. A bad run can really mess with your head (“Am I just incapable of running this far? Has this whole thing been a horrible mistake?”), but a good run is equally as vindicating.

At mile 19, I let myself pick up the pace mostly because I just wanted it all to be over.

When I finally hit 20 and got to stop running, it was like a gift.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.
The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

I finished in just under three hours, which makes me feel pretty good about my race-day pace. It also helped that Saturday was the first spring-like day we’ve had in NYC in about four months — hopefully the weather will be similar in Paris once April 6th rolls around.

All in all, I’m just so relieved it went well. It’s so easy for me to start doubting this whole endeavor (and I do pretty regularly), but a smooth, non-painful run is tremendously encouraging.

You guys. I really think I’m going to run a marathon now.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too!


5 thoughts on “Marathon Training Update: 20 Miles

  1. I am so proud of you! I can’t imagine the courage it takes to sign up for a full marathon, let alone all the training that goes into it! Twenty miles is no joke. Go, you!

  2. Congratulations Justine. When I think about the experience coming to understand so viscerally the island’s dimensions and scope, I am reminded of a line from a Jefferson Airplane song, “Can you believe Manhattan is an island?” (Stated among many other sardonic comments, equally as deep). Anyhow, awesome!

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