I have a special guest post today from my friend Vicki. I coached Vicki this year for Grandma’s Marathon. This was her second marathon, with her first being Grandma’s Marathon 20 years ago! Enjoy!
Grandmas’s Marathon – 20 years later…52 minutes faster!
I finished Grandma’s Marathon in June 2019 which was 20 years after finishing my first, and only other marathon, Grandma’s Marathon in 1999. This time, I finished the race with help from Coach Jessie at The Right Fits and came away with much better results!
Grandma’s Marathon 1999
20 years ago, I wasn’t much of a runner. I was active in other ways (biking, walking, etc.) but really hadn’t done much running. When a girlfriend asked if I would consider training for Grandma’s with her, I said yes thinking “I’m an active person, how hard could it be?!” We trained using a Hal Higdon beginner plan and training went as well as could be expected for someone coming into marathon training with really limited prior running experience. We definitely weren’t smart runners though. We never took any fuel during long training runs and I only started carrying water after one particularly hot long run on a trail with no water fountains where we had to burst into a restaurant begging for a glass water! Where was The Right Fits to teach us back then?!
Unfortunately, race weekend 1999 didn’t start out so well. My friend and I arrived at our hotel in Duluth Friday evening around 8 p.m. before the Saturday morning race to discover they had no room for us! While we were stressing out in the lobby trying to understand what went wrong with the reservation, some girls that my friend knew walked in to the lobby. They were staying at the hotel and were kind enough to offer us floor space in their room. Problem solved! Race morning came quickly and what I remember from the starting line was being hungry. Again, not a smart runner. I had only eaten a banana that morning at the hotel. I guess I must have been worried about cramps or something, not understanding how much time you had between waking up and actually starting the race! Needless to say, with only a banana in my stomach and no plan for additional fuel, the race was very painful. I crossed the finish line in 5:11:15 with no desire to ever do that again!
Grandma’s Marathon 2019
Fast forward 20 years with much more running experience under my belt, I finally had the desire to attempt a marathon again. My ultimate goal in this marathon was to have a better training and race experience with a secondary goal of a finish time under 4:11 to best my 1999 finish time by an hour. Jessie crafted a plan to work for me and my lower overall weekly mileage preferences. She understood that, in order to enjoy the training and avoid burnout, I needed to be able to have time to continue to incorporate some of my other fitness passions, strength and HIIT classes. I never ran more than 5 times in a week and my peak week was 45 miles. That being said, I definitely put in the work doing a workout run each week (fairly new concept to me) and doing all the long runs. By the end of my training, I was feeling confident in my ability to finish in 4:10. I had experienced one small setback in May with some left quad pain (which I think was a result of too many weighted squats in a strength class) but otherwise training went really smoothly. To be completely honest, 4:10 was actually feeling like a fairly conservative goal based on how well my training was going.
Race weekend 2019 started out much smoother than 1999. I had a house with a comfortable bed to sleep in this time; I did not arrive at the start line hungry on race morning; and I had fuel at the ready to keep me going throughout the race. Weather was looking good with sunny skies and high temps forecasted to be in the 50s. I was feeling pretty excited! That excitement showed in the beginning as I definitely went out a bit too fast with most miles up to mile 16 below 9:15/mile vs my planned 9:30. I also was struggling with being really thirsty. Even though the temps were fairly cool, the bright sun was getting to me and I needed every water stop. Around mile 13, some doubt started creeping into my mind as my left quad started to feel a bit sore (remember that small setback I mentioned earlier, a post-race Dr. appointment revealed it was a stress reaction in my femur). By mile 16, the wheels started coming off a bit with my legs really starting to feel tired and my mental game falling apart. Knowing my husband, Jessie, and Dustin were going to be around mile 21, I continued pushing and did my best to hold it together until then. However, by that point, I knew 4:10 was slipping away and, after I saw them, I really started to lose the mental battle. I’m not proud to admit that I gave up in those later miles when I knew I wouldn’t hit my time goal. I walked a lot after mile 21 but was able to cross the finish line in 4:19:33.
OK, I didn’t get my 4:10 goal but did I achieve the ultimate goal having a better training and race experience?
Yes! I remember hating the training process 20 years ago but I can honestly say I enjoyed it this time around. Being a more experienced runner along with having a good coach who understood my desires and created a personalized training plan for me made a world of difference. Better training equipment (Garmin watch!), better clothing options (a lot less chafing this time around) and being older (totally OK now with staying in Friday nights before long runs and likely also Saturdays after a long run ☺) also didn’t hurt. I tried to enjoy and take in more of the sights and sounds of the race course this time. I’m not going to lie though, I did have a vision of crossing the finish line this time in a very euphoric state. That didn’t happen. I crossed feeling very sore and a little bummed. I’m proud of finishing but also still believe I was trained and ready to get 4:10. I know the stress reaction played a part but I also lost the mental battle.
Will you do another marathon?
I don’t know. Never say never, as I do feel I have a 4:10 marathon in me but I also know that the half marathon and 10-mile distances are more my thing. I’m excited to run my favorite, the Twin Cities 10-mile October 6th! Funny enough, 1999 was also the inaugural year of the Twin Cities 10-mile and I ran it that year as well.
Will you use a running coach again?
Definitely, yes! I’m excited to continue to utilize Coach Jessie in future goal races! I loved having a personalized running plan with run workouts (I would never do those on my own) and the accountability of someone seeing whether or not I did my runs each week.
Noticable differences between Grandma’s Marathon 1999 and 2019?
The finisher’s shirts! 1999 was a cotton tee:
2019 was much different!
And just look at the difference between the medals!
Good luck to all those running the upcoming Twin Cities Marathon weekend races and Chicago! Remember all the hard work you put into training and fight the mental battle!
Thank you Vicki for sharing your experience!