What did I feel during my first marathon?

“If you want to run, run a mile but If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” -Emil Zatopek

When I was in school from 6th grade to 10th grade, I used to walk one and half hours both ways.
I remember I ran 100, 200, 400 and 800 meters races many times in school.
When I entered college I started to study science, there was very less time for extracurricular activities, I did not participate in any of those.
More than that, life happened and I stopped running.
This is not only my story, this is the story of every lower middle class family.
I’m not talking about the upper middle class or above, especially financially.
After college, I worked as a high school teacher.
I used to jog/run early in the morning for many years.
I was a kind of early bird from very early in my life and still I’m.
After coming to the USA, I ran many 5Ks,10Ks, and a couple of half marathons. In each of those races, I realized that even after touching the finish line I would feel I’m still in the mood to continue running.
This is one of the driving forces that pushed me to think about a marathon.
I know running a marathon is not easy, it’s not a joke, and I wasn’t taking it lightly.
Even before running a half marathon I always visited my physician for a final assurance of my vital organs, especially my heart’s ECG.

In all my life up to now I learned to read, I learned to write and publish, I learned to teach, I learned to do research. As a scientist now, I am also a curious mind who wants to do research on my own body, physically, chemically, and psychologically.
Nowadays, I’m very health conscious, I pay much attention especially to what I’m eating and how many hours of quality sleep I’m having everyday.
There is no way I can sprout wings and fly 26.2 miles, but if I take care of these two things, proper eating and proper sleep, I certainly can run.
This was my self confidence from my self care.

In the last two weeks before my marathon day, I didn’t read anything regarding my nutrition, body, and running. I had read a lot about them in the last one and half years.
But in the final two weeks, I tried to dissociate myself from running even though it was almost impossible.
At least I tried from my side.
I ate a lot of nutritious foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, and good carbohydrates.
Thanks to my wife Dipi for arranging everything and especially my personal favorites, almond butter and raw honey, for me.
There are always easy steps in life if family supports our goals.
I meditated a lot with one of my best focus words, ‘dad’.
I slept more hours than I normally do.
I watched the romantic movie “Love on the Sidelines”.
I read the romantic love story “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.

The night before the marathon I slept at 8pm, I locked the door from inside.
I woke up at 4am.
I did 30 minutes of warm up and body stretching.
At 5 am, I ate oatmeal with 2 percent milk topping with one banana and three pieces of strawberries.
I watched Indian movie “Kedarnath”; a love story between Hindu girl and Muslim boy before to go to marathon event at 8 am.

Running a marathon is one of the most fulfilling experiences of human life.
I have been dreaming about it for the last two years and preparing for it physically and mentally.
I was at the marathon spot.
In last two years only I read six books regarding running, endurance, and body physiology: Adharanand Finn’s “Running with the Kenyans”; Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run”; David Goggins’s “Can’t Hurt Me”; Meb Keflezighi’s “26 Marathons”; Tim Ferriss’s “4-Hour Body”; and Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”.
These six books shaped and changed my life in many different ways.
Of course, I will be writing about them in future.
I crossed the finish line 26.2 miles without a moment of stop or walk except momentarily stopping to grab the drink at drink stations.
After one hour of running, I’d run a little over six miles. Snow started, it was ok, the road was still dry but subsequent hours became more challenging and my pace decreased significantly.
After finishing half way 13.1 miles in little over 2 hour, I was in very good shape but after that there was a lot of snow on the road.
I finished 26.2 miles in 4:58:58, my target was under 4:30 but I couldn’t meet it.
I was exhausted, exhilarated, I had tears in my eyes. I saw tears in my wife’s eyes when I met my daughters, son, and wife at the finish line.
My boy was crying when he saw me at the finish line, not because I finished 26.2 miles but because I had disappeared for almost five hours. He knew I was with him there in the morning.
I was holding my boy and one of the organizing staff ladies who was offering me a banana told me, “ I salute you, you just finished 26.2 miles and now you are holding your boy and still walking.”
I couldn’t reply, I just laughed at her.
I was telling myself, I will never run it again.
But who knows what will happen in the future, life is unpredictable.
After finishing the 26.2 miles, I realized that our body is an incredible machine, the only thing we need to do is maintain it all the time.

There were many plateaus I hit during the marathon training and on the marathon day.
I never run more than 18 miles during my training.
The other thing I realized is our muscle cells become experts at processing oxygen very efficiently. All our muscle cells learn to use energy very efficiently. After passing 10 miles my pace was increasing. That happens due to practice in muscle cells. I was pretty good but snow interfered with my pace. I experienced that my cardiovascular system is really strong.
Not only that, my joints, muscles, and ligaments were learning to adapt to running. I also realized that in running this adaptation remains more important than our cardiovascular system.
It’s the same as our car, just think that the car engine is very good but wheels and tires are out of shape, what happens, we can’t drive.

For me the whole running experience remained fantastic, it was me, my body, my motion, the sound of my shoes’ pat, pat, pat; and, of course, so many more thoughts in my mind.
My marathon journey was possible only due to the support from my family, especially my wife Dipi.
My wife Dipi bought energy drinks, gels, running shoes,and a waist pack for me.
I never became a shopping guy, to be honest I don’t enjoy it. I don’t know why. Nowadays my daughters help their mom.
Dipi pushed me to try everything during training, to test and feel everything during my practice runs.
One thing I’m learning very clearly is that if we get support, especially from our family for anything in life, we prosper in our choice of endeavor.

During my marathon when I hit around 20 miles, I almost gave up, I had no energy, my legs were dead.
Running a marathon burns about 2600-2800 calories, but remember, our body can not store more than 2000 calories of carbohydrate.
I used all of my glycogen.
My body began burning fat which is a much less efficient energy source.
I am not a professional runner like an Olympic athlete so my body doesn’t know how to switch from glycogen to fat to release calories.
This switch becomes efficient only by practicing longer runs, tempo runs, and many interval workouts.
I refueled with energy drinks and gels to add the glycogen supply and I also maintained proper pacing.
At this point I used my meditation technique, I visualized my two and half years old son, his face and visualized that he is waiting for me to hand over a drink at the finish line.

There is power in visualization which I learned from my meditation practice.
I pictured myself accomplishing something which my brain could imprint.
I was creating more vivid images with sights, sounds, motions, and my shoes’ tap-tap so that my mind was assuming it as more realistically.
Brain power is amazing, over time our brain will accept these visualized images as reality.

In the last 6 miles, my pace decreased a lot, I didn’t have any glycogen, I was only giving chocolate gels and energy drinks.
In addition, there was a lot of snow on the road.
I visualized my daughters, my wife, my parents, all standing at the finish line.
I was bringing my dad’s face constantly in my mind when I was hitting around 22nd miles.
When my two and half year old son sees my medals hanging on walls at home from my previous runs, he always says, baba, run, run, run.
I visualized him, pushed myself further and touched the finish line.
I felt that I’m no longer the same person before the marathon.
I felt like I’m becoming an incredible machine.

Remember, thinking about running 26.2 miles doesn’t need only endurance, it also needs a lot of courage and a lot of positive arrogance.
Yes, arrogance but positive arrogance.
I don’t think it’s good for everybody, I thought multiple times to quit but I kept running.
I remembered Dean Karnazes who ran 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days in all 50 states, it helped me to push my tired legs further.
Mahatma Gandhi has said beautifully that strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will.
Long term endurance is basically conserving energy which is done by the brain but performance is shown by the body.
Remember, our brain is only 2 percent of our body weight but demands 20 percent of our total energy.
I brought these statements over and over again in my mind and finished 26.2 miles anyway.

For me, finishing a marathon is the same as adding a PhD after my name, getting married and having a baby, a different milestone in my life.
This is an extra bullet point in my resume.
When I crossed the finish line, I felt like I’m a member of an elite crowd.
Believe me, finishing a marathon changes our life forever.
I’ve seen and met many people who fantasized about running a marathon before they die.
There is a saying that if you run a marathon in your life, you will never die from a heart attack.
I’ve also heard that when anybody runs 100 miles, a person enters in Zen state, becomes Buddha, that person definitely brings peace and smiles to the world.
I don’t know how true these statements are but one thing is sure there is something hidden here about running.
I can certainly say that I am no longer the same person I was before the marathon.
I was postponing this marathon as a long due activity of my choice but I did it this time.

For the last many years running has been creating life energy for me. Engaging with running, and even talking to others about running, creates excitement and energy for me.
My brain releases a lot of endorphins when I run.
Recently in my life I’ve learned a lesson.
Before I can get where I want to go, I need to know where I am.
And to know where I am, I need to know who I am.
Knowing who I am and where I want to go are essential elements of building my marathon vision, that gave me the horsepower to get to where I want to go.

I learned that no matter what the outcome is, eventually I’ll look back and think “Running a marathon was a beautiful thing. I’m glad I did it”.
Finally, I simply love running, I love its spirit.
The biggest thing is I love being healthy, fit, lean, and happy.
I simply want to use my body that nature gave me in the way it’s meant to be utilized.
I’m going to keep running not as a professional runner but as a recreational runner.
I’ll keep going to races and other running events.
I’ll keep running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and probably marathons in the future too.
I’ll run for many different reasons in the future but ultimately to make this world a beautiful place for us and for future generations.

Thank you for your time.
-Yam Timsina