Five Truths about Running Your First Marathon

By BJ Knapp- Providence, Rhode Island

“Am I really ready?” I asked myself for the nine thousandth time in the days before the race. I experienced all the classic pre-marathon nightmares. Showing up at the starting line at the wrong time, discovering that I’d forgotten to pack my sports bra, and, oddly, the one about my boss asking me work questions before the start. “No, the software doesn’t do that. Sorry, that’s the gun—gotta go!”

The first truth of my first marathon experience, in October 2013, was that I didn’t feel ready. There wasn’t a single training run that I actually ran all the way through. I chastised myself when I slowed to a walk, “How are you gonna run 26 if you can’t run 3?” I consoled myself “At least you’re out here. You could be on the couch watching Castle re-runs right now.”

That’s the second truth about running a marathon; it’s all about choices. Sure, discipline helps. But consistently making the decision to get out and run when you could sit on your butt at home instead is your first decision. (Oh, but Castle is on. A marathon of re-runs!) After that first choice you have thousand little ones with every single step. Am I going to walk this one or jog? Walk this one? The next one? Most of the time I decided to run, but sometimes the urge to walk won.

The third big truth is that there’s no room for negative self-talk. It’s not about “I can’t.” It’s not about “My thighs are too jiggly.” (Come on! You’re training for a marathon! Throw on a mini skirt and rock those runner legs!) On the morning of the race it is most certainly not about “I’m not ready.” You’ve just spent the last three months of Saturday mornings hauling yourself out of your warm bed to get outside and hit the pavement for hours at a time. Instead focus on how strong you’ve gotten. Take time to recall those four mile runs you ran early on and compare them to the twelve you’re fighting through toward the middle or end of the regimen. It’s true that you can’t run twenty or even twelve if you didn’t start out struggling with four.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in October I packed my bag, and checked roughly thirty times for my sports bra. I felt assured that my boss, who resides in Kansas City, would not show up at the starting line. Instead it was me and thousands of strangers twitching, while waiting to start. I sent my husband a text message to let him know I started, so he’d know when I’d arrive at our meeting spot. That’s the fourth truth about running a marathon, having a support system is invaluable. He met me at least a half dozen times, each time he stood on the side of the road armed with water, Gatorade, and spray on pain reliever. After the race, I sat in the passenger seat as he drove me home, my eyes couldn’t focus I was so exhausted. Getting home safely after running 26 miles is important. Having him cheer for me is downright necessary. His arms around me at the finish and hearing him say how proud he is of me is a moment I will always remember.

I’ll spare you the gory details about the fifth truth of marathon running. Don’t even ask me how jacked up my toenails look—black, and blue and barely holding on. But honestly, I don’t cringe when I look at them. Instead I see ten badges of determination.

BJ Knapp is just your average woman trying to find ways to be healthier without the hype. She doesn’t go in for cleanses, or any sort of diet regimen that has the suffix “-free” in the title.
What she wants to do is to challenge herself to find ways to achieve a healthier lifestyle by setting goals. In 2013 she achieved her goal of running a 5K in the first quarter, a 10K in the second, a half marathon in the third and a full marathon in the fourth. She hasn’t yet decided what her goal for 2014 will be, and is open to suggestions. Though it may have something to do with conquering her cupcake addiction. The main idea is to change her unhealthy habits in as sane a method as possible.

BJ invites you to join her on her quest to living a healthier lifestyle through her contributions in RI Fit Magazine. She may succeed, she may fail, but she will always bring her can do (or can try) attitude and her sense of humor to whatever her wellness aspirations may be.

When she’s not trying to improve her health, BJ leads an active lifestyle sailing, scuba diving and tromping through the forest with her husband Todd and dogs Nemo and Potter. She has also single-handedly orchestrated hundreds of failed attempts at cooking.

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