One week ago I ran the Copenhagen Marathon.
It was my first ever marathon, and I ran the whole thing. The first 31 km were surprisingly easy, and everything after 36 km was just hell. That pretty much sums up the experience.
I wanted to write this post last Sunday, when I was sitting on the couch of a lovely Airbnb with my mom and aunt who were visiting. Despite having just run 42.195 km and only eaten two protein bars, a handful of small sweet buns, and a scoop of ice cream all afternoon, I was still pretty energetic. But I guess the reality of my achievement hadn’t really sunk in yet – not to mention my hormones were completely out of whack (and I thank them for being so, as they contributed to my fastest split time being between the 25 and 30 km marks).
The whole time I was training for the marathon, whenever I pictured myself crossing the finish line, I imagined myself crying. Even imagining myself crying then almost made me cry during my training runs. So when I crossed the finish line, I was already programmed to burst into tears. Of course, I couldn’t “burst” into tears; having skipped the last water break at the 40 km mark for fear of being sick, I was pretty dehydrated and ended up just smearing my dirty, sweaty hands under my eyes.
Last year, after hiking the Bruce Trail in Canada, my dad wrote a great post about post-achievement depression. It’s been seven days now, and I’m really starting to feel it. My legs stopped hurting on Wednesday and I no longer have to brace myself to walk down the stairs. I can see my medal hanging on my mirror every day, but I can’t wear it as a badge of honour in the streets anymore. Other than some confetti on Islands Brygge, I haven’t seen any traces of the fact that Copenhagen hosted a marathon a week ago (which, considering the amount of plastic cups and energy gel packets lying around during the race, is pretty impressive).
I do feel a surge of pride for what I accomplished every time I run into or talk to a friend that I haven’t seen since before the race, and I get to tell my story. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), since human brains tend to focus on good memories rather than bad ones, I’m already starting to forget just how brutal those last few kilometres were, and I tend to focus on the parts of the race where I felt really great. It makes the whole feat feel less impressive than it was.
But it really was a big deal for me. I can’t remember the last time I set a concrete goal, took painstaking steps to practice for it, and then actually accomplished it and did better than expected. I started the race behind the pacers with balloons marked 4:40. I can pretty consistently run 10 km in 63 minutes, but I didn’t expect to be able to keep that pace for a whole marathon, and I figured I might have to walk a couple of kilometres at some point. In the beginning I was worried the 4:40 group might be too fast for me after all as there was suddenly a big distance between us, but I knew from my training runs that I’m a slow starter (it would take me 20 minutes to get to the park but only 15 minutes to get home again).
At around the 7 km mark, I skipped the second water break and lost track of the purple 4:40 balloons. A bit after the halfway point of the race, I caught sight of the orange 4:30 balloons. I was feeling really good at that point, and eventually passed them.
I didn’t see any other ballons for the rest of the race. My final time was 4:28:01, just a bit longer than if I’d kept my six-and-a-half-minutes/km pace for the entire marathon. And I am damn proud that I was faster than I expected.
Towards the end of my training, when I wasn’t enjoying forced long runs, I kept telling myself, “Once you run this marathon, you never have to run again if you don’t want to.” But now that it’s over, I already miss it a little bit. Maybe I will be signing up for marathon number two at some point…