On October 12th, the first annual Dirty South Marathon took place in West Monroe, Louisiana. Though small, this town has become well-known as the home of the Robertson family and their Duck Commander duck call business. On this particular Sunday morning, Willie Robertson came out early (along with about 500 runners) and blew a duck call to kick off what would be my first full marathon!
My mom and I drove in to West Monroe that Saturday. We picked up my race packet at the fitness expo and checked into our hotel. This was my first visit to West Monroe, and as a Duck Dynasty fan I had to visit the Duck Commander headquarters (which is pretty much just a gift shop). We later ate dinner at Willie’s Diner, where we had Miss Kay’s meatloaf–perfect pre-marathon fuel (not to mention the service was great–would definitely recommend this place).
The next morning, we lined up at the start line at 7:30. There were about 180 of us running the full, and about 370 runners who were only half crazy. The weather was perfect–in the 70s and overcast, with a slight breeze. We prayed and said the pledge. Willie blew the duck call and we were off!
There were lots of spectators along the half-marathon route, and at least one water station every mile. We ran across the Ouachita River, through downtown Monroe and the quaint antique district, and back across the river. There were some hills, but nothing too grueling.
After the first half-marathon, there were less spectators, fewer runners, and less water stations. The course became very quiet and peaceful. We ran through a gorgeous park with a paved trail through some woods. There was a Cane’s dog park, where Cane’s employees were handing out lemonade (yum!). At this point I had been running for 3 hours and 30 minutes, and I was on mile 18. I was hydrated and energetic, and right on track to finish with a sub-5-hour marathon.
My hips, knees, and ankles ached as I looped back through the hilly park. My muscles felt like rubber bands stretched to their limit. As I exited the park, I grabbed some water at an aid station. The volunteers offered Aleve to runners with their water. I almost turned around to get in on that. Almost. But isn’t pain part of the marathon experience? If I had taken that Aleve, the next 6 miles would have been a lot easier…but I didn’t want to take the easy way out.
Mile 20. I had been running for 4 hours, and all I had left was a 10K. In theory, I could still finish in under 5 hours. Spectators cheered me on, commenting that I looked great–I was barely even sweating. True: by not going out too fast in my first half-marathon, by drinking at every mile, and by periodically popping sports beans to keep up my electrolyte levels, I’d managed to make it this far without feeling bad or getting fatigued.
However. My legs were in pain (which is to be expected). It was at this point that I began taking walking breaks. It even hurt to walk. And I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Other runners had begun to walk at this point, and some of them were moving pretty slow.
The route went through subdivisions and roads–which were not closed off to traffic and didn’t have shoulders. Spectators and stations seemed few and far between. Not once, but twice, I missed a turn and got off the course (so technically, I ran more than 26.2 miles!). The clouds went away and it suddenly became much warmer.
My last 6 miles dragged on forever. I guess that’s what they call hitting the wall. I felt as though I was trekking across the Sahara desert, with no end in sight. And then a man called out, “Keep going, just one more mile!” Could it be? I jogged up the overpass, and sure enough there in the distance was the finish line. I was going to make it! I almost cried.
My mom and her friend were waiting for me at the finish. Finishing near me was a professor of pharmacy who I met on the run (this was his 2nd marathon, his first being in Montana), and a guy who is planning to run the New York Marathon in a couple of weeks.
Overall, my first full marathon was a great experience. The weather was perfect, the route was nice, and the race was well-organized. Lots of volunteers and spectators came out. I had fun and achieved my goal.
I hobbled around for the 3 days following the race. My joints were stiff and aching, my muscles tight and sore. It was quite humorous actually–a 24-year-old athlete having more trouble getting around than a geriatric patient.
Now, two weeks later, my muscle and joint soreness is gone. I tried running last night for the first time, and discovered I still have some discomfort in my left knee. So I’ll need to rest for a few more weeks and maybe do swimming and strength training.
I’m already looking forward to my next race–the Louisiana Marathon in January, where I’ll be running the 5K and the half marathon, earning the “Deja Vu Award”. I did this last year and had a great time. After running a full, I know I can do anything 🙂