This was the hardest thing I have ever done. After six months of relentless training, I took a few days off of work, jumped on a plane to Boston, grabbed my mom and my friend Katie, drove 7 hours up to Canada, and ran 26.2 miles of non-stop hills on an almost 80 degree day with barely any shade. Six hours of grueling pain later, I crossed the finish line. This is what it was like to run my first marathon at the Bay of Fundy.
Deciding to Run
I played soccer throughout my childhood and ran cross country in high school, so I was reasonably active before college. Last year, without organized practices to keep me exercising, I lost touch with this part of my life.
Last August, I started making my bucket list, and one of the first things I put on it was to run the Boston Marathon, a far-fetched dream at the time. I put together my school year goals, and decided to try to run a half marathon by the end of the year.
This is where Katie comes in.
My Running Buddy
Katie and I met at a summer program before our senior year of high school and became close going for early morning runs together before work. That summer we pushed each other to keep working, and we’ve continued to do so over the last 3 years.
To raise money for Camp Kesem, Katie decided she was going to run a marathon and I suggested I train with her up to the half-marathon. We’ve lived on opposite sides of the country for the last few years, and I figured we could keep each other accountable.
Before we decided to run a marathon, Katie and I skyped once a month to check in. Race training became our language as we texted running articles and training plans, snapchatted battle scars, and calling mid-run emotional support.
We ran our half-marathons within a couple weeks and decided to bite the bullet and run a marathon.
Choosing the Race
Don’t do what we did.
Katie is working in Connecticut this summer and I am working in Chicago, so we wanted to find a marathon that would work for both of us. My parents were wildly supportive throughout this entire process, and were willing to fly me back east to run the race. We ended up choosing the one that worked best for our schedules, Bay of Fundy International Marathon.
I cannot say this enough. Do not choose your first marathon based on your schedule. Runner’s World has a great list of factors we should have considered before registering.
Everyone I spoke to before and during the race was shocked that I had chosen Fundy as my first marathon. Fundy is a beautiful and small marathon, but is mostly hills. After training in super flat Chicago, I was wholly unprepared for this race.
Bridging the Half and the Full
Unlike training for the half, I didn’t have a comprehensive training plan I was working off of, and since I only had 11 weeks to get up from the half, it was a rough transition. I planned out my long runs on the weekends, but during the week, I did whatever exercise I felt like that day.
Sometimes I would just lift and others I would run 8 miles before class. This got even more complicated towards the end of the school year. Race training between final exams and papers is unbelievably hard to organize (and I thrive on organizing).
The milestone run for me was 18, when I ran from my apartment to the tip of Navy Pier and back. I had a breakthrough mentally, and realized that I was actually going to run the marathon. Race training can be a pretty emotionally process, filled with self doubt and anxiety, so when I made it to Navy Pier I called my mom and Katie and I cried.
While I kept building, Katie was fighting her own battles with injury and sickness. She decided to register for one of the shorter races at Fundy and postpone her marathon until the fall.
Due to finals, I had to taper for 3 weeks, rather than the two typical, which I think really affected my performance. I had a week of finals, a week of vacation at home, and then my first week at my summer job, so the race was on the back burner for a little while because sometimes life gets in the way.
And then, in a whirlwind, it was time for me to get back on a plane to run a marathon.
I packed all sports clothes in a hurry on Thursday night before catching my flight home.
On Friday, my mom and I ran around the North Shore buying snacks and last minute supplies. I picked up Katie from South Station and we went to bed early. Since the marathon required me to be on a bus by 6 AM EST, I had spent all week waking up at 5 AM CST to adjust.
Early Saturday morning, we packed the car and drove to Canada. I will not be able to sufficiently emphasize how amazing Katie and my mom are for coming to support me.
We stayed in the cutest AirBnB, and we were unbelievably lucky to have found it given how late we registered and started looking for a place to stay. Fundy is a really small marathon in a tiny town on the border of Maine and Canada. Usually there are about 250 runners staying in an area with only a couple small hotels, and the whole town comes out to support the runners.
We drove the course on Saturday afternoon and although I was unbelievably intimidated by all the hills, we got to see the gorgeous scenery. This is a beautiful area filled with kind people.
I’m not fast.
Over the last six months, I’ve done a few tempo runs and a little bit of sprinting, but on my long runs I generally sit happily at an 11 min/mile pace. However, all of that was on the wonderfully flat Lake Shore.
Running this marathon took me 6 hours and 15 minutes. I almost puked, I cried a couple times, and I got the worst sunburn of my life. Despite wearing long shorts and applying friction block, the inside of my thighs bled throughout the second half of the race.
The course goes forward for the first 16 miles until you reach the end of Campobello (with its gorgeous lighthouse) and then you run 10 miles back to Lubec, ME for the finish.
When I hit the lighthouse, I was demoralized and exhausted. I did what I usually do when I feel like this during a run and called my mom while I walked.
My mom and Katie were already on their way up the island to cheer me on. They then did the greatest thing they could possibly have done and stopped every mile for the rest of the race to cheer me on and bring me water and give me more sunscreen and motivate me to keep pushing.
I would not have finished this marathon if they had not been there.
There were smiling faces at water stations every couple of miles and so much support from the community. One guy was dressed in a Santa suit (even though it was nearly 80 degrees out), families brought me water to dump on my head, and a paramedic even walked with me up a hill (he was pretty cute, tbh).
It was an amazing and fulfilling weekend, and I am unbelievably proud that I finished. I am even more proud and lucky to have such amazing women by my side.
So if you’re going to run your first marathon, I think the most important thing you can do is have an amazing team behind you.
I might even consider running another one.
Your mom is pretty awesome for supporting you like that.
That was a pretty crazy tough first marathon you chose. I guarantee that your second (there will be a second one) will go far better if you follow a training plan (any one will do because you’re a relatively new runner, so you have lots of newbie gains) and an easier flatter course.
Congrats to you for finishing your first marathon. It was incredibly hard, but you didn’t give up and stuck it out. Kudos!