written on december 30, 2014.
thanks to insomnia, i am going to fill in these old reports with as many details as i can remember. because i think someday i will want to remember them. also, FRB is the place i share most of my thoughts on the internet, running or otherwise.
so this is a report on my first marathon -- des news 2005.
the story goes that i was a soccer player all through junior high and high school. i also did track and field, but i was a sprinter and a high jumper. in 9th grade, i jumped 5'2'' in the high jump, which i was told was pretty good, but i didn't know. this news spread to the high school coach, and he decided he was going to turn me into a champion high jumper.
the "seriousness" of it all started out with me signing up for high jump camp at BYU over the summer between 9th and 10th grade. then i started watching old olympic videos of high jumpers, studying their form and their approahces. i practiced arching my back over and over again on the trampoline. i worked with a special coach doing box jumps and leaps and jump rope, and a couple of days a week i would go over to my dad's cement basement and do drills and plyos and other rolling arounds in a weighted vest.
then i lost a bunch of weight. over 20 pounds. i recall weighing about 112 or so in 9th grade, and by the end of 10th grade, i weighed 89 pounds (i mention this because this because the happening throughout this process are what eventually got me on the running path). suddenly, i was terrible at everything that i was once good at (running, jumping, and soccer). i was weak and had no muscle mass and i could no longer find the power to sprint or jump high or really do anything like i used to. i had a horrible track season in 10th grade. i would go to every meet and sit in the high jump pit by myself. very rarely did i ever clear the bar even one time. there were many meets where i scratched all three jumps on the lowest setting and was immediately out of the competition. i would spend the rest of the meet watching everyone run around the track, but i never ran because i was too slow for sprinting and couldn't do the distance events because i had to "save my legs" for jumping (even though i couldn't jump!). it was all very depressing.
i kept my focus on soccer through my junior year, but i started running with the cross country team in the summers so i could get in shape for fall soccer season.
i put on a bit more weight in 11th grade, and that helped me to start running better. but i was still too small and weak to be any good at soccer, and i slowly lost interest in the sport as it became more demanding and ruthless and political and mostly just completely horrible in every way. i dreaded going to practices and games. we would start off each practice by doing xx minutes of running, and i found that to be my favorite part -- really the only part i enjoyed. i coasted through my junior year of soccer, mostly being a bench warmer, which i was fine with me because i really didn't want to play anyway. i realized i was just wasting my time.
once track season hit in my junior year, i had been running enough with the xc team that they all encouraged me to enter some distance events. the coaches agreed, and this was the subtle way for all of us to acknowledge that i was terrible at high jumping and had no future there. i ran in a few meets in the 400m and 800m, mostly as part of relay teams. then one day i jumped in the mile and took second behind our #1 runner, and everything changed from there.
senior year -- i tried out for soccer again, for some reason. i made the team but i was a bigger bench warmer than the year before. i spent the entire summer running with the xc team and i even managed to go to a few practices before/after soccer. i also started running in the meets on the weekends, and i did pretty well. i became the #2 runner on the team, and my times were improving each week. i had no idea what i was doing, but i loved the sport of xc. i had never participated in anything like it -- racing around on grass, through trees, jumping hay bails, etc. i especially loved how all of the spectators ran around the course and screamed and yelled in different spots throughout the race. it was so awesome and i knew that this was my "thing". it was something that just clicked for me and i instantly loved it and felt like i was in my element.
i ended up making it to state and i took 10th there. that suddenly opened up some opportunities for me to run in college. i was contacted by a few local college coaches and presented with scholarships and i had no idea what was going on or what i was supposed to do. i had only really participated in the sport for a few months, and this was completely overwhelming to me to think that i would be doing it at the college level.
the thoughts of spending enormous amounts of time training and traveling and racing with a team sounded scary and awful to me (pre-college allie was even more of a social wreck than i am now). i was also concerned about my ability to do well in school if i had to spend too much time with the sport. now that i'm older and have been running and competing for many years, i regret my decision to not run in college. that said, i think i made the right decision for me at the time. i can't see 18 year old allie doing well at that -- i very likely would have cracked in one way or another. but, i don't want to look back on it with regret, because my running life took a different course that may not have happened if i had run in college (maybe i would be better off now, or maybe worse, i will never know).
ANYWAY, all of that back story is setting up the real story, the stroy of why i decided to run the des news marathon when i was 18 years old.
i ran the des news 10k with my mom in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. we were riding the bus back up to research park after we finished, and i remember seeing a "mile 22" sign on foothill. i watched in terror-awe as people ran by, looking really tired and shriveld and terrible. it looked like they were being tortured. i remember turning to my mom and telling her that i was going to sign up for the marathon next year. i wasn't sure if i was serious or not, but the idea stayed in my mind throughout the next year.
later that summer, i watched deena kastor take 3rd in the olympic marathon in athens. i remember watching the start of the race on a sunday morning before church. i watched for 30-40 minutes (basically as long as i had ever run), and then turned it off and went to church. i went home an hour later and turned it back on and could not believe they were still running (because, i had been at church forever!). the commentators were talking about deena and her training regimen and how strong she was and what a great competitor she was, and they kept showing her running strong and gaining ground on the field and battling through the heat and humidity that was completely melting everyone else. once again, i saw how painful the marathon is. everyone looked so tired and strained, like they were pushing themselves to their deaths. i watched deena cross the line in tears and i saw the relief and joy that swept over her face. it was then that i was convinced. i was going to run a marathon. side note: i still watch the clip of deena finishing all the time for motivation.
so, back to high school -- as track season drew to a close and graduation loomed, i consulted my awesome coach, nan kennard, about how i should continue to train and stay connected to the sport since i would not be running in college. i pulled out that hidden thought in my brain about wanting to sign up for a marathon, and she very enthusiastically approved of this idea. she told me a story about one of her friends/teammates who ran a marathon at some point after high school and that she was encouraged to do it while she was young/healthy/fit and could take advantage of this time (something along those lines, my memories are fuzzy, which i why i need to write this down!). it was really from nan's approval and support of my idea that i got the confidence i needed to commit to it. ultimately i credit nan for getting me into the world of marathoning (and later getting me into the world of competitive marathoning, but that's a different story -- ogden 2007). so i signed up for the deseret news marathon in june and started training for the race on july 24th. i had no idea what i was doing.
my training went something like this: i ran six days per week. i ran 4-7 miles per day, with a long run on the weekends of about 10 miles, sometimes 11. i did one super long run of 14 miles about four days before the race.
as usual with des news, i got up extremely early on race morning. 2:30 am. i did all sorts of weird things to prepare based on what i had read online about chaffing and blisters and such. i think i used a full jar of vaseline on my body and at least two bottles of hairspray. i filled a waist pack with jelly beans and i wore a red bandana around my wrist, thinking i would need it to sop up sweat. :0
i drove up to salt lake city (from highland) and caught the bus. as is the case with any marathon requiring a bus to the start, the ride was long. scary long. i started wondering if i was going to die.
i ate a power bar and stood around in the tent feeling so nervous and stupid for being such a rookie. everyone around me was talking about other marathons and seemed to know exactly what they were doing. they were all eating bananas and had bandaids on their noses and shiny legs and short shorts and the air had this weird smell of suncreen, hand sanitizer, band-aids, and porta-potties (i've since learned that every marathon starting line has that smell). it smells like nervous.
i started the race very slowly and took it one mile at a time. i had a rough goal of running 4 hours, but i really didn't know what that meant. i was just told that it was important to have a goal, so that's what i came up with based on the paces i usually ran for my 4-7 milers. i remember seeing my grandparents at mile 5. they were working the aid station and when i went by they both gave me a huge hug but they also had very concerned looks on their faces -- i still had 21 miles to go and my hairspray was already wearing off.
i distincly remember a point near the exit of emigration canyon where i felt a rush of energy (probably after a jelly bean, zoinks). i remember getting into "the zone" for a bit and thinking how i wanted to do this again -- how i wanted to make this my sport. i dedided right then that i would sign up for another one. and i still had over 12 miles to run in this one.
the des news course used to be a bit different. if i recall correctly, it went down sunnyside and did an out-and-back through research park before going along foothill (now it goes up above the zoo and on wasatch drive). i remember starting to feel pretty bad around reseach park. my legs were aching and seizing up and hurting a lot, but i was still moving and still feeling "all there". i hit a point somewhere on south temple (mile 23ish), where i finally stopped doubting that i could actually finish. i was sure i was going to finish. my muscles and my gas tank had enough left to run three miles, i could feel that. i was running next to a guy who was really struggling and he kept telling me that i looked strong (he was lying, but it helped and i thought i was awesome). i kept picturing deena kastor finishing at athens and i couldn't wait to experience what it would feel like when i crossed the finish line.
sadly, i don't actually remember the details of finishing that race. as with most marathon finishes, it's all a blur in my mind. i do remember that my family was there, as well as a few of my high school friends. my legs were completely seized up and i couldn't walk. they were all staring at me with huge, concerned smiles on their faces and i just kept making stupid jokes about porta-potties and broken knees.
i was so sore after this race (as is always the case, but this being my first one, i just assumed this was what marathon soreness was like). i had to take a full week off from running and everything hurt. my arms, back, neck, and shoulders were all sore, in addition to my dysfunctional legs.
with plans to move to logan for school in august, i looked to see if there were any marathons in that area. i remember thinking that the "top of utah" marathon sounded intimidating, like there would be a lot of mountain climbing involved. i saw that the date was in mid-september, and i liked the thoughts of having something on the calendar that i could focus on and look forward to in the event that college life was horrible and i needed a distraction. i also thought it would be a good way to make friends and meet new people.
this began a tradition of running des news each year on july 24th (except for 2007 when i was living out of state for an internship, and 2011 when i was out with an injury).
this is a race i love because it is unique. it is difficult in that the downhill is laid out in such a way that it will completely destroy you if you aren't careful. it is in the middle of the summer, and conditions are always brutally warm. it goes along the parade route at the end, where the entire city is out on the sidewalks with more bbq equipment and party toys than i have ever seen in my life. it's a race that celebrates the history of the state of utah, the state where i grew up and where my roots run deep. it's a race that my grandparents have volunteered at for years, long before i got involved with it. on more than one occassion, i have finished that race and fallen into my grandmother's arms (the 2009 des news article captured a photo of this moment, and it's one of my favorite running memories, ever). as with every marathon experience, it's unpredictable. i've had great days and terrible days at des news, and i've also had a few days where i didn't know the difference and didn't even have a definition for a great or terrible race. my only goal was to finish. but all of them have been thrilling, exhausting, and memorable. this will always be a special race for me for multiple reasons, #1 being that it was my first marathon.
i have a picture somewhere of me at the finish looking like a complete clown -- i'll have to find it...