The Evolving Mental State of an Amateur Marathoner

I have now run four marathons – one at an okay speed, two at semi-impressive speeds, and one terribly slowly. But even at my fastest, I am the turtle in the tortoise/hare story — only the hare most definitely wins. But I am a happy turtle, and something keeps me coming back time and again. For anyone who’s ever wondered, “What the hell is she thinking?” — and for my fellow distance runners who understand the obsession and for the loved ones who have to put up with it — this post is for you. I present to you the inner thoughts of an amateur marathoner before, during, and after the big race.

Probably near the 10k mark.

Buenos Aires Marathon, October 13, 2013. Probably near the 10k mark.

DAY BEFORE – Time to pick up the race kit with my number, T-shirt, etc. Husband goes with me. Check-in people ask if he has brought his release form, etc. I tell them I’m the one running. They try to hide their surprise.

NIGHT BEFORE – I tell husband for umpteenth millionth time that I am not sure I should do this. That my nose is stuffy. My sinuses hurt from the flight. I remind him (again) that I did not properly train. Do I have a little fever? I think I have a fever.  Husband tells me for umpteenth millionth time that he thinks I should run, that I can always stop. I ask husband again whether I should do this. Husband sighs and makes concerted effort – fortunately successful and really quite noble – not to strangle me.

MORNING OF – Oh my gosh, it’s so early. Why does it have to be so early.

TAXI RIDE TO THE START – This drive is taking so long. Oh my god. I have to run this drive twice. Wait, more than twice. Husband looks at race course map and jokes: At Mile 12, you can run to the hotel. I make serious mental note.

AT THE START  Oh my goodness, the porta-potty lines are so long. The race starts in like 15 minutes! This line looks fastest. (5 minutes pass.) This line is not moving. (Switches to different line.) Oh my goodness, are they really cheering that lady on, to encourage her to enter the porta-potty? “¡Sí, se puede!” Is it really that bad? It can’t be that bad. (Door to another porta-potty opens, a different lady stumbles out, gagging and uttering expletives.) Oh my gosh, it’s that bad. (10 minutes pass. Waiting continues.) Is that poop I see on the seat? Oh my gosh, that’s poop on the seat. I cannot do this. (Checks another porta-potty… poop on that seat too. Remembers that race course has very few bathrooms.) I must do this. (Chapstick drops out of pocket and falls on porta-potty floor.) Goodbye, Chapstick.

RACE START – Race gun goes off while in porta-potty. Exciting.

0 km – (Crosses starting line 5 min 38 sec after the start of the race.)

1 km – (Tears well up in eyes.) This is so beautiful. This street is so beautiful. These people are so beautiful. My legs are strong. My body is strong. What a privilege and a blessing to be able to do this. I am not running, I am flying. I am in love with this – with this place, with my body, with these runners. I am in love. How could I not do this? Why would I ever think of not doing this? This is beautiful. This is BEAUTY.

5 km (3.1 mi) – I am feeling good. Life is good. Look at that architecture. It’s fantastic. Look at those trees. This city has great green spaces. (Sees various male runners, each facing a tree.) Gross. But what nice trees. (Sees professional photographer up ahead. Puts hands in the air, takes long, high strides, smiles.) Wow, I am going to have the best race photo ever. I read the tips on how to make this look good. I’m going to be like that Ridiculously Photogenic Runner meme guy.

10 km (6.2 mi) – Oh yeah, I am one bad-ass. Look at me, still flying, going strong. Man, that Gatorade tastes terrible. Who mixed that stuff? But look how cool is this neighborhood! Maybe we can visit the market here later. Another photographer! Hands up! Chariots of Fire!

15 km (~9 mi) – Almost 10 miles. Almost to the double digits. New neighborhood now. Marathons have got to be the best way ever to see a city. So glad I did this.

20 km (~12.5 mi) – Is that my quads? I am feeling my quads a little bit. That’s okay. They just need a stretch, and maybe a GU gel. That will fix it. Oh, there’s the soccer stadium. That is really something. (Chats with fellow runner from Uruguay.) Nice guy. His first marathon… awww. I am so experienced. This is going to be a breeze.

21 km (13.1 mi) – That’s a half-marathon, people! I am kicking butt and taking names! Look at all these slow people in front of me. And I bet I crossed the starting line way after they did. I am bad-ass. Wish my quads wouldn’t pinch so much. This course is getting boring. Are we really running under an interstate now? But it’s still interesting. Different country. Gotta see all the angles. Interesting.

25 km (~15.5 mi) – Damn, this quad thing is not improving. Maybe if I drink some more water. That’ll make it go away. Stupid sun. Go away. But let’s look at the river… pretty river, right? Whatever. Ow.

27 km (~17 mi) – I’ve passed the 16 mile mark, right? I’m gonna do this. Ohh, is that person barfing over there? Ohh, there comes the ambulance! Dear Lord, please let that person be okay and please, please don’t let that be me. I do not feel nauseous, I do not feel nauseous. Ohh, my quads. Where’s my Tylenol? Another photographer! How many photographers can this race have? Sheesh.

29 km (~18 mi) – Almost to 30. Once I hit 30, it’s a 10k! 10k is a normal race. So what if there are 2 more k after that? It’s still basically a 10k. I can do a 10k.

30 km – Why, dear God, why. Whose stupid idea was this. This is a terrible idea. This is not fun. This is not vacation. Wait, no negative thinking. Must not be defeatist. Only 10 more ‘til 40k! I’m definitely going to do this! Only 10k more! Another photographer. Great. FU, Mr. Photographer.

32 km (20 mi) – Why did I tell myself it was 10k at 30? It so wasn’t. Now it’s a 10k. Oh my god, a 10k is really long. I don’t know if I can do a 10k. But I just hit 20. I just hit 20. Maybe let’s just focus on getting to 33k.

33 km – One f’ing kilometer at a time. Nine more of these f’ers to go. Single digits. Is that my shoe cutting into the top of my foot? Stupid shoe. I really should stop and loosen that shoe. Nine f’ing more. You just keep on hurting you crappy foot, cause I am not doing anything for you right now. Ow, quads.

34 km – Seriously, that distance marker cannot be right. I have not covered just one km. Is that guy laughing? Is he seriously laughing and chitchatting? I hate him. Laughing in-shape marathoner guy, I hate you.

35 km – How many miles is that? I have to be close… 5 km to 40. That’s 3.1 miles. That’s a whole f’ing cross-country race. Those things used to kill me in high school. Ugh.

36 km – What the f— do you mean you’re OUT OF WATER! How do you run out of water at, what is this, like MILE 23 or something?! Mile 23 is the wall. You cannot run out of water at the wall. J—– CHR—. They better hope nobody dies from this. I hope I don’t die. (Takes bottle of fizzy stuff being handed out for free by soft drink promotional people. Takes sip out of desperation.) I am going to regret this. (Burps.)

37 km – (Sees honey of a husband waving in distance, with phone positioned for filming. Reluctantly picks up feet. Qué pena.) Husband: Doing great, babes! Looking great! Almost there! Me: They ran out of water! (Almost gets run over by moped. Video proof below.) Dammit. (Tries to jog energetically out of husband’s camera range. Returns to previous discouragingly slow crawl.)

38 km – Oh my god, I can see the 40 km marker. Are you kidding me? We have to run all the way around that lake and then turn around and go back? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! (Spots random camera man on race course.) Oh my god, please don’t take my photo. Nobody wants to see this. Mother F’er.

39 km – I can’t feel the top of my foot anymore. That’s nice. If only my quads would go numb like that. Oh my god. I am not going to make it. I am so close and I am not going to make it. How many of these things has Gordon Ramsay run? Over-achiever. So unnecessary.

40 km – 0.2 miles to go! I have run 26 miles. 0.2 miles is nothing! That big inflatable arc up there must be the finish line. Holy cow, I am almost there. (Reaches big inflatable arc, which is in fact another Gatorade advertisement.) ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME?! Oh my god, it’s not 0.2 miles. It is 2km. I am going to die.

41 km – F@#$@#$. S#$%. Good G$% D@#$. Is that guy over there yelling expletives in Spanish? Yes, yes he is. Wow, I admire that. You get it out there guy. We’re all with you. F@#$%.

42 km (26.2 mi) – FINISH LINE. Hands up. Smile. That clock can’t be right. No, it can’t. I remembered the time wrong when I crossed the start. Where’s my medal. Where’s my F-ING medal. If someone doesn’t give me a medal in the next 10 seconds there will be hell to pay.

ONE MINUTE AFTER – Is that a swag bag? Are they giving away free stuff? I don’t care. I really don’t care. Shove your free stuff up your you-know-what. Thank god this is over. I did it! I want to go home. Now.

5 MIN AFTER – (Very on-top-of-it, supportive honey of a husband finds me just past finish line. Explains patiently that getting a taxi will be hard.) WHAT DO YOU MEAN I WILL HAVE TO WALK TO GET A TAXI?!

10 MIN AFTER – Walking is not happening. Not. Happening. (Collapses on grassy spot under tree. Husband contemplates next steps. Altered state of mind begins to recede. Happiness over completion ensues.) HOORAY! Husband: Where will next race will be? Maybe Rio? Me: What next race? I am never doing this again. Ever. Husband : Really? Me: Never. Stupid. Am over it. Not fun. Just not fun. I am done. No desire to ever do this again. Horrible. Horrible hobby. Horrible.

15 MIN AFTER – Me to husband: Rio. I’ve heard the race there is good. Well-organized. Yes, maybe Rio.


22 responses to “The Evolving Mental State of an Amateur Marathoner

  1. Oh, what a “fun” read! Your humor is over-the-top! Your self talk takes me back about 30 years…didn’t realize I had so many curse words in storage.


  2. Courtenay – I loved this so much! You totally nailed the psyche of a runner. I am an amateur, competing in my first half marathon this Sunday and this post couldn’t have been more timely. Congratulations to you – I can’t wait to hear how the Rio marathon goes 😉


  3. So much fun to read and I think you are crazy – 26 miles??!!! Who does that?? Keep it up! Looking forward to the before, during and after at Rio :)))


  4. That video clip is awesome! Love the hands!


  5. Oh Courtenay, this is awesome! I loooooved it! I am actually training for my first half marathon. I found my love for running just seven months ago and now I am addicted. I know I can always go that extra mile and loved the humor in your blog entry. Best wishes for Rio, I know you can do it!


    • Hi Manola! I’m so glad you liked it. I saw that you just ran 7 miles recently – that’s awesome! The Seattle area is such a great place to run, so enjoy it to the max. Can’t wait to hear about your first 13.1!


      • Courtenay! I had an awesome time at my first half and after a few more I am ready to run the 26.2 in a week! I am excited and a little scared. But I know I can do this.
        Hugs to you and your family!


  6. I never thought of running a marathon as an alternative travel experience. The top of a double decker tourist bus will still be my preferred view. Swimmers see the same view in every city, the pool tile line.


    • Yes, I discovered marathons as an alternative travel experience when I went to Iceland with some friends who were running there. All these marathons from all over were there for the race! I also discovered that marathons tend to be scheduled for the most ideal time to visit a place, weather-wise – so they’re good indicators for that too. 🙂 I would only want to do one toward the beginning of a trip, though, ’cause you can’t really relax (at least I can’t) until after it’s over.


  7. What an awesome blog entry, my Mom Bindu Rammohan forwarded your site. We just ran our first 1/2 marathon and I thought I was going to die. Not sure a full is ever in my future. Thanks for the humor (and reminder!).


    • Hi Kalyani! Thanks so much for stopping by to check out the blog. More importantly, congrats on your first 13.1! That’s awesome! I don’t think the full is all that much more work than a 13.1, honestly — once you get up above a certain mileage, it sort of all just blends together. At least until maybe Mile 23. :)))


  8. Hi. La. Ri.Ous. As someone who’s most physical exercise is jumping to conclusions, I can only stand back in awe and incredulity. Well done!


  9. Congratulations! I, too, am a turtle. Fantasizing about a half marathon in Feb. Maybe. Possibly.


  10. Pingback: Five Facts to Know About Road Races in Barranquilla | Barranquilla or Bust!

  11. Pingback: Run in Peace, My Luu. | Barranquilla or Bust!

  12. Pingback: Races in Medellín: A Runner’s Guide | Barranquilla or Bust!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s