A week following my Hot Chocolate 15K in late January, I went on a one-hour jog and felt surprisingly confident in my endurance. Therefore, I instantly registered for the Publix Georgia Marathon for the second consecutive year, giving me less than two months to prepare. I understood I needed to push myself to be adequately ready in time and thus trained six to eight times, amassing roughly eight hours, per week. Due to inconsistent and gruesome weather in most of February, I often relied on a cycling machine, treadmill, and pool to keep my heart rate up, virtually training for a triathlon. I believed this to be a wise way to avoid overstressing my joints. However, I faced trouble properly recovering after each workout session, as my body was unaccustomed to hours of cardiovascular exercises without a break.
Two days prior to the Publix Georgia Marathon, I attended its Expo and had the opportunity to meet and converse with three athletes who have participated in the IRONMAN World Championships. One of the three competed in four separate world championships, including the most renowned event in Kona, Hawaii, just in one year. Watching various documentaries on the sport, I had recently set my ultimate athletic goal to becoming an IRONMAN in Kona. Talking to those with experience motivated me that, with dedication, this dream could be achievable. I have already reached the marathoner status last year, but if anyone would have told me I would eventually be running a marathon three years ago, I would have called him or her crazy.
I had already once conquered the Publix Georgia Marathon, so I knew what to expect in terms of its course, specifically the ceaseless brutal uphills the second half. With more frequent and effective training, I had faith I could improve my run and finish time from those of the year before. I set my sole objective to completing the race without walking, as I was unable to do so the first try, heavily due to my painful stomach cramps that remained for the final eleven miles. Hence, I unprecedentedly focused on my diet, eating abundant meat until race week, when I would increase my consumption of carbohydrates. I knew I had done all in my power to perform to the best of my ability, although the ongoing heavy rain on race day caught me off guard. The first fifteen to sixteen miles proceeded as smoothly as I had imagined, but because of my adversity on mile seventeen last year, I became nervous and afraid. My head continued to tell me to start walking uphill with eleven miles left in the race to conserve energy, as my body rapidly cramped up and legs could not move even remotely as fluidly and quickly as they did the first half of the race; nonetheless, my heart repeated, “Physical pain is temporary. Giving up would stay with me forever.” From this point forward in the competition, each time I faced uphill, I deliberately looked to the ground, as I presumed running hills as half psychological; if I looked down, I would not have visualized the slope, which would have helped distract my mind from the intimidating angle. After 4:45:44, I finally achieved my target of running the entire course. As soon as I crossed the finish line and received my finisher’s medal, I sat down and all of my leg muscles simultaneously tightened. I barely stood up with the help of a volunteer, who assisted me to the medical tent to tape ice onto my locked-up knees for fifteen minutes.
I cannot lie. Even though I planned to run the entire race, I was unsure my mentality and physicality could carry me to the finish line without my walking a single time. This may have been my greatest athletic achievement to date. After a few days of rest, I will consider whether I want to transition to IRONMAN immediately or give that more thought while continuing to run.