Alternate title: An Aging Runner- The Struggle is Real
First, some background. I started running fairly late in life, in my early 40’s. I had always hated running, but some friends started trail running and it sounded kind of fun so I gave it a try and fell in love. I never wanted to run a marathon- I was running for fun and fitness, and a marathon seemed like it would just be too hard on the body. The longest race I did was the Pineland Farms 25K, which I ran four times. Then I hit my early 50’s and apparently started my mid-life crisis by deciding it was time for a marathon.
Late in 2019 I signed up for the Sugarloaf Marathon. I heard that it's a fairly ‘easy’ course as marathons go, and I’d run the concurrent 15K twice. My training program called for a half marathon in early March, and I was surprised to find one nearby- the Lamoine Half Marathon. It fell on the right weekend and it was FREE. That race went well despite a temperature of 6 degrees with windchill and an extremely hilly course. It was so cold that the race director was encouraging folks that could self-time to start as soon as they were ready to go, rather than waiting for the 8:00 start time. I finished in 2 hours 30 minutes (56th out of 65 finishers plus 2 dnf), and felt quite smug about finishing 26 minutes ahead of a young woman in her late teens. At the time of that race, covid concerns were just beginning to build, and less than a month later Sugarloaf was canceled.
In December of 2020, Sugarloaf was on again! This time my training did not go as well- I really struggled with the longer runs. Lamoine was held virtually and I decided to skip it. When Sugarloaf was canceled again in mid-March, it was almost a relief.
In the fall of 2021 I recommitted to Sugarloaf 2022. My training was going… okay. I was definitely slowing down as I grew older, but plugging along. Time for the Lamoine Half Marathon. The weather was great- a balmy 16 degrees at the start and clear skies. I took advantage of the race’s flexibility and started 45 minutes early. I had listened to a podcast about marathon training and the trainer noted that many people find success with a combination of walking and running. I took that advice to heart and ended up with a time of 2 hours 50 minutes and dead last- uh oh. I was embracing the walking way too much.
The training weeks rolled by. The runs became longer… and then shorter. The Omicron surge came and went and Sugarloaf was a go! I went to pick up my bib the evening before the race only to discover I wasn’t in their system as a registered runner. I frantically searched my phone for a confirmation email… then my RunSignup account… nothing. I swore I REMEMBERED reactivating my deferred registration the previous fall. Luckily the race volunteer could see in their system I was deferred from previous years and had no problem reactivating my registration. Phew.
Race day! The weather was cool and cloudy with some sprinkles. Humid, but luckily the previous day's heat had broken. I felt pretty good for about ⅔ of the race. I had a few abdominal muscle cramps that disappeared with some gatorade and a hotspot on my arch that I put moleskin on. I spent 21 miles with an audiobook for distraction then switched to music. By then my legs and feet were so sore that I had trouble moderating my pace- I just couldn’t feel when I was pushing too hard until I realized my breathing was getting too labored and my heart rate was too high.
My finish time was 5 hours, 23 minutes, 514th out of 540 runners. I crossed the finish line in good spirits and super proud of myself. Two days later and my quads still hurt in a way I have never experienced before. Will I run another marathon? Highly unlikely. But there were times during my training when I thought, “If I can just get through this marathon maybe I’ll quit running.” Now I’m thinking, “Maybe I’ll do the 15K at Sugarloaf next year… and I can try for a better time at Lamoine… and maybe I could do the Augusta half again….”