My First Marathon


When I set out to run my first marathon, I had two goals: 1) Finish. 2) Do not poop yourself in the process.

In the end, I met both goals, but it was the most grueling event of my life.

The idea of training for a marathon came on slowly. I signed up for my first half marathon on a lark a few years back as someone who could barely jog a 5K and walked most of the way.After that, running a full marathon seemed like some Herculean feat that could only be done by the clinically insane.

I slowly started running for real about two years after the first half marathon as a way to facilitate weight loss. After six months of running with a goal and a training plan, I was able to run a half marathon and smash my previous personal record.I also lost 40 pounds.

An idea started to germinate: Maybe I could be one of those insane people and double the distance.

I ran three more half marathons and I was sold. My husband, Cameron, and I were set to embark on our first military move as a couple from Monterey, Calif. to New England a week after my November running of the Big Sur Half Marathon.Giddy off of that race, I signed up for a marathon in Rhode Island the following May.

There is no way to under-state what a terrible mistake that was. Up until that point, I had never run outside of California. In Monterey, there’s a great path along the ocean and the temperature is a perennial 65 degrees. I assumed training for my marathon from December through May in the Northeast would be just as easy as training for any of my other races.

Then winter laughed in my face. I recall trying to go out in a long-sleeved technical shirt, my “warm gear,” and nearly freezing to death. I had to buy all new running clothes to fortify myself against the harshness of bitter, bitter cold. My water froze once on a long run.It was miserable.

Between cold weather and actual colds, I missed several training runs.Cameron and our dog supported me through the longest runs by meeting me with water, energy gels and face-licks every three miles.

The day of the race, I was nervous. I told myself to walk as much as I needed to. Time didn’t matter.Finishing was everything.With that in mind, I made my way to the start area.

My cousin, Jenna, had flown in from California to run, too. She’s much faster and more experienced, so we didn’t plan to run together. But we lined up next to each other for the pre-race national anthem with all the other runners before the gun sounded the start. Nearby, Cameron smiled and gave me a thumbs up for encouragement.

Then the gun sounded, and I was off. To be continued …

Editor’s Note: To see how Julie’s marathon ends, check out next week’s issue.

Julie Zack Yaste has moved around the country with her husband, a Naval officer, and currently works at an engineering firm in Honolulu.

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