Throughout my marathon experience I learned several valuable lessons. Here a few that stood out:
* There is such a thing as over-hydration. I sweat like crazy, and everyone warned me about getting dehydrated. I've heard many first-time marathoners talk about getting cramps because of having a bad hydration/nutrition plan. Nashville's high on Saturday was in the 80’s with 60 percent humidity. My biggest goal was to not get dehydrated. I had a 16-oz. hand-held bottle which I filled up with Gatorade or water at every aid station. This was a very well-ran marathon, so that meant I was drinking that much every two miles! I was having to use the porta potty constantly because I would drink the whole bottle before I got to the next aid station. I knew I was drinking way more than enough because of the frequent bathroom breaks, but I didn't want my legs to start cramping up. Other than having to stop a lot, I felt great. There were 31,000 runners with 25,000 doing the half and 5,000 doing the full. The first half I would have to stand in line for 5-10 minutes just to go to the bathroom! After the halfers went their own way, I rarely had to stand in line, so that was nice. I really think over-hydrating took almost 30 minutes off my time. I did feel really good the whole time, though
• Just because you are training for a marathon doesn’t mean you can eat whatever or however much you want. You can eat A LOT during marathon training. Every long run Dad and I would talk about what we were going to eat when we got home. I rewarded myself with eating whatever I wanted. Running made me hungry all the time. I always thought I would get skinny from running, but I gained 11 pounds! That is a lot for a girl my height, and Noooo, all you sweet friends of mine, it was not all muscle! Thanks for trying to tell me that, but I know how much and what I was eating. Pizza and baked goods do not make muscle. I do love food and did enjoy myself, but I'm sure I would have done better and it would have been a little easier if I wouldn’t have packed on the pounds.
• My husband is amazing! This isn’t really something I learned because I’ve known it since the day I got my first letter from him while he was stationed in California in the Marines. He has been so supportive of me during this whole marathon journey. He would watch our little 4-year-old son while I would go out on my training runs. If I ever doubted myself he would say, “Jenny, you are doing great. You’ve come a long way, you don’t want to quit now.” He didn’t once complain while I was buying all of the running gear I just had to have. And best of all – he prayed for me.
• Sunscreen is a must! The worst part of my marathon recovery was my blistering nose. My face hurt when I laid on my pillow. I thought about putting sunscreen on, but knowing how badly I sweat, I was worried it would just drip into my eyes and burn. I rarely burn so I thought nothing about deciding against wearing it. Bad idea! Being in the direct 80-degree sun for six hours made for some horrible tan lines and an excruciating sunburn. My nose was still peeling two weeks after the race.
• Run the very best race you can run. My main focus on this marathon was just to enjoy myself and soak up the whole experience. I was in no hurry for this journey to end and took my time along the course. Looking back, I wish I would have tried to get the best time I could since it might possibly be the only marathon I ever do. My 6-hour time is a little disappointing. I ran my 20-mile training run in under 4 hours so I feel like I could have done a lot better.
• Schedule races in the fall or winter. Through my training and marathon I discovered I would much rather run in freezing cold weather than smoking hot weather. Also, after running this race, we found out that this marathon is ranked in the top 10 hardest marathons. I guess it's because of the long hills, so it probably would have been smarter to do a flatter, easier race for my first marathon.
• There are many amazing and generous people in this world. $963 was raise for my cousin Cara's family. I was blown away with everyone's generosity.