Sometimes You Have to Say “Screw It” (My First Marathon)

Sacramento Marathon, 5am Bus Pick Up

Today, I ran–and finished–my first marathon.

Yesterday’s post basically covered up to this morning. I’d committed to finishing, and then to achieve what was a very difficult (for me) stretch goal of completing under four hours.

Literally hours after I posted yesterday these two commitments, I met this awesome marathon coach/trainer at the CIM Expo and was asking her advice on the run today, what products to take, what to eat for breakfast, and how to pace myself for a sub four hour marathon. She was so helpful and encouraging, yet when I told her about my goal pace she asked about my training distances and times to date (which I exaggerated slightly to try to help my cause). She looked at me  and said “look, I don’t want to discourage you–but there’s no way you’re going to be able to do that pace based on your previous runs and training, especially with the rain and wind tomorrow–it’s supposed to be brutal. Just try to finish this one, I want to make sure you can finish.”

Raz at 4am marathon day, pretty scary hair!

This morning I caught the 5am bus, and who sits next to me? An ultra marathoner, and one of the pacers for the Sacramento marathon today. So she asks my goal, and I tell her to finish and then my stretch is a sub-four. She asks me the same line of questioning as the marathon coach last night, and based on my responses says “I don’t want to see you discouraged, but you can’t get close to four hours based on your prep. Even if you had a chance, everyone today is going to be off their target pace considerably because of the weather, the winds are gusting up to 40 MPH. Just focus on finishing this one, do your next one for time.” She really was awesome and full of helpful advice and super encouraging, and she was just being realistic.

But sometimes I hate reality. And a lot of times you can bend it.

It was like I was getting taunted, especially after my affirmations yesterday. Two really experienced marathoners, both telling me getting anywhere close to my goal was impossible. This happens to all of us in everyday life. And it’s so so so easy to succumb. Sometimes the wisdom makes sense to heed. Today, for me, it didn’t.

And this is what I know about myself: sometimes I need people to say “Hey dude, I believe in you” and other times all I need is a person–or two–to tell me at “There is NO WAY you can pull this off!” (incidentally, thanks to those who read my post yesterday and sent me kind messages).

So, I said screw it. I’m trying anyways. First to finish, then for a sub four hour marathon.

And here goes my first mile: 

Starting line: wind howling, it’s raining sideways, I’m wearing a trash bag. It’s in the 50’s and I’m freezing. Soaking wet. And excited. Oh, and I’m sick with a head cold. 🙂

Rich Razgaitis Just off Bus (video at the starting line of some CRAZY wind and rain going on, gusts up to 40 MPH)

At 0.1 miles, I get pretty emotional–yes, the teary kind. Ridiculous, I know, but three years ago I had two failed marathon attempts, 18-months ago I couldn’t run due to this nagging tendonitis, and four months ago I was starting my Sacramento marathon training with three mile runs at an 11-12 minute pace. Today I KNEW I was finishing a marathon. It was a bit of emotional overload. Oh, and the National Anthem was playing. That always does it to me, too. I am so in love with America.

At 0.4 miles, I throw up.

At 0.75 miles, I have to pee. Already. And waited in line for 90-seconds to do so (these 90-seconds become critical later).

Jitters, anyone? I start to settle in after that first mile.

So I’m running about a 9:12 pace the first half of the race. A sub four hour marathon is a 9:09 pace. So I was tracking close, but it was also only the first half and I was still fresh.

The second half I pick it up a tad, but I’m getting fairly fatigued. At 20 miles my legs are bloody screaming. At this point it’s mostly mental. Your body is begging at you to stop, slow down, or keel over. Each step feels like knives in your legs. And I keep thinking, if I just get to 23 or 24 it’ll be easier. Actually, it doesn’t. The reverse is true, it gets massively harder for each mile beyond the high teens. At mile 23 I debate making another (my fifth or sixth!) potty break, and opt to take the 35-seconds to stop. It’s about this time that I also finally ditch wearing the trash bag, as the rain and wind finally subsided and the sun starts to peek out.

Miles 24 and 25 feel eternal. But it’s a strange feeling of excruciating pain coupled with elation, because I knew I was going to finish, and my pace was improving–I was running 8:30 miles at this point, but wasn’t sure this would be enough to get me below four hours.

Raz at Mile 25 of Sacramento Marathon

26.2 miles later, I cross the finish line and my NikePlus tells me I finished in four hours and four seconds. But I thought I’d started the NikePlus early, and that the chip would show a faster time. Alas, this afternoon I learned my chip time was four hours and 33 seconds, which is about a 9:10/mile pace. I needed a 9:09/mile pace to finish under four hours.

33-seconds over four-hours. So. Stinking. Close.

California Marathon Finish Line

I’m still thrilled. I finished and I chased a time-based goal that a lot of people told me I couldn’t come close to accomplishing today–and got pretty dang near to it in tough conditions. I had a blast. I learned a lot about myself in the process. I accomplished something that’s been evading me for years. And I was inspired by thousands of other runners in the process.

And I got a great reminder that at times you’ve just got to say “screw it” in the face of rational advice or things that seem to difficult. A lot of times you know in your heart what’s possible, and you’ve got to go for it, even when others tell you that it’s impossible.

Finally, I really want to express special thanks to all of those who have supported or encouraged me in the process of my first marathon, there were many of you along the way–from helping me pick the race and designing the training schedule, to various encouragement and checking in throughout, I’ll forever be grateful.

Raz Just Across Sac Marathon Finish Line

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12 Replies to “Sometimes You Have to Say “Screw It” (My First Marathon)”

  1. This is awesome and great job! it’s always dangerous to start sharing goals that close to your race but glad that you overcame those challenging comments! Feel great about that result given the weather and everything else… but those 33sec are likely to haunt you as 50 sec at NY did for me in 2008. However given the weather, you will CRUSH it next time? assuming there will be another….

  2. Hey Nick, thanks for reading and commenting! Much appreciated. I thought about your ultra run during my race, pretty inspirational stuff!

  3. Raz,

    What a wonderful accomplishment and a great accounting of the events of the day! You should be so proud of yourself. Keep it up.
    Hope you and the family have a joyous holiday season.

    Susan

  4. You look awesome Raz! Having completed 5 marathons myself I know the feeling of accomplishment and the pain before the finish. You have the body of a teenager, now go out there and do it again!

  5. Hi Gordon, so great to hear from you and thanks for your very kind words! That is AMAZING that you have completed five marathons, so inspirational. Tonight is actually my night to plan my next marathon(s)…and my REAL stretch goal is an Triathlon. But, I’m not telling anyone about that just yet. 🙂 Thanks for reading and also sharing the link on FB, best to you and your family.

  6. Rich
    What a nail biter! I love this story and am harking back to Friday in GCT when you said just that thing about people unwittingly laying down the gauntlet for you. Thanks for making my day. 😉

  7. dude nice job , long journey to the start line!
    2 thoughts…. there was no talk in your race report about nutrition ,were u eating
    gels or just drinking? theres a big difference btwn my pace was to fast and my muscles are screaming for fuel.

    i think u ran a 3:59.93 :^) my PR at half IM was a 4:59.80 i had no idea i was that close to going sub 5 dang

    lets talk re IM (shhh) it is so doable if u raelly want it! 17 hrs is ton of time , i walked 19 miles and still was sub 14

  8. hey pete, wow thanks for reading and commenting on this post. totally honored.

    love your 3:59.9 :), that still burns me a bit i could’ve shaved the 33 seconds in the last mile and really jammed on it, but was relying on my NikePlus timer and my iPhone was so wet during race it would periodically fritz but didn’t realize it was affecting the clock. next time i’m adding a running watch so i have an accurate measure. the sub four is still to chase. signed up for phoenix rock ‘n roll last night, it’s on jan 20th. will do it then. started training today.

    so re. fuel, this is bit where i screwed up my training (actually numerous training screw ups)…never really used the gels on my long runs, sometimes i would but not until 10 or 12, but at that point prob too late to replenish glycogen stores and i only did 15, 18, and 20 mile long runs (one each). in the marathon i did force myself to use them every five miles (abt 45 mins). but i should have incorporated into my training. talking to runners over the weekend, i learned importance of treating long training runs like prep for marathon–what you eat in AM, hydration, gels, etc. advice on this?

    re. the triathlon, prob nobody better than you to give advice and wld love to have it from you. i need to really trim up in next 90-days and get <10% BF and nail down the running, wld love reco's on some baby steps to take this year to get into tri and how to work into a bigger one.

  9. hey andrew, many thanks for the read, the comment, and the great voicemail the night before. my kids really thought it was Obama leaving me a voicemail, they were so perplexed. appreciate your words, buddy.

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