26 Miles, 26 Songs - My First Marathon
Ever wonder what endurance runners think about as they continuously pound their sneakers into the pavement for 26.2 grueling miles?
After recently completing my first marathon, I can say first hand that thousands of fleeting thoughts raced through my mind as I painfully stomped towards that finish line...
Why did Fil talk me into this? Is it too late to back out?
Should I take a potty break now or wait until my bladder explodes?
My spare toilet paper sheets have fused with my GU Chomps. Do I toss or eat?
If you're a slow runner like me, repetitive thoughts like these can eventually deplete brain reserves for many daunting hours. To keep these senseless musings from adversely impacting your race performance, I recommend creating a heart pumping MP3 playlist that curtails both marathon monotony and boredom. Music not only tempered my internal chatter, but also kept my mind alert in case I inadvertently careened off course or plowed into fellow runners.
Since I would not have survived my first official 26-miler without my 2015 Honolulu Marathon Mix, I felt that song titles from this particular setlist would shed light on my overall thought process and mental state as I passed each glorious mile marker. The following 26 songs represent an entire gamut of emotions ranging from initial collective excitement to full blown runner duress.
Let the race and musical accompaniment begin. Ready. Set. Play.
Pre-Race Warmup: Bad - Michael Jackson
"You know I'm bad. I'm bad. You know it." Nothing gets the blood pumping more than pre-race affirmations and booty shaking Zumba at 2:30am. This video features early risers, mostly Japanese participants, grooving to Michael Jackson and gearing up for race start.
Starting Line: Ready to Go - Republica
After several hours of pre-race anticipation, I was completely fired up and ready to sprint across that starting line with my GPS watch, Nike Flyknits, and GU gels in tow. "On the rooftops shouting out: Baby I'm ready to go." Let's do this.
Mile 1: Counting Stars - OneRepublic
Only a few minutes have elapsed, and I'm still seeing residual fireworks (stars) from starting line festivities. Loved the light show, Honolulu!
Miles 2, 3, and 4: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da - The Police
Still early so I made sure to establish a steady, rhythmic, repetitive pace. Perfect song and ideal tempo for squelching any remaining race jitters.
Mile 5: Feelin' Good - Pussycat Dolls
"It's a new a dawn, and a new day, and a new life, and I'm feeling good." Only 21.2 miles to go. At this point, I'm quite optimistic that I'll finish the race at goal pace/time.
Miles 6 and 7: Gonna Make You Sweat - C&C Music Factory
Humidity has taken over and every single runner is drenched. Several guys brushed up against me while coating my entire arm with their sweat. What was I thinking when I felt those sweat beads cascading down my arm? One word: "Eeeeeeeeeeeewwwww!!!!!!!!!"
Mile 8: Don't Disturb This Groove - The System
I was dreading the initial ascent towards Diamond Head and had to devote all my mental and physical resources towards this slow and steady elevation climb. "Disturbing my groove" was not an option since I could barely squeeze by thousands of runners making the simultaneous trek with me.
Mile 9: Here Comes the Sun - Beatles
Hawaii is known for its relatively hot temperatures during winter months. Since I trained in 40 to 60 degree San Francisco temperatures, I was ill prepared to run in such stifling heat. So my goal for the first 9 miles was to run as far as I could before I completely liquified. Since it was already 72 degrees before sunrise, melting already commenced and boiling heat was looming in the horizon. "Run, Myra, Run!"
Mile 10: Cruisin' - Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis
I clearly remember passing the Mile 10 marker and thinking how effortless the run had been so far. Diamond Head was behind me, and I simply had to "cruise" for the remaining 16.2 miles. "Easy peasy." In retrospect, I may have been a tad cocky.
Mile 11: The Future is So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades - Timbuk 3
Time to whip out my new Bertoni photochromic sunglasses that I specifically puchased for this race. These lenses darken when exposed to UV rays, so it was perfect for shielding my eyes against the penetrating Waikiki sun. "Things are going great, and they're only getting better. The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades."
Mile 12: I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
"At first I was afraid. I was petrified." These opening lyrics definitely reflect how I initially felt during the weeks leading up to the big race. As I passed Mile 12, however, that initial trepidation faded away as I repeatedly chanted, "I know I'll stay alive, and I'll survive. I will survive. Hey Hey."
Miles 13/14: I Ran So Far Away - A Flock of Seagulls
Halfway done and bewildered that I ran as far as I did without incident. That was no easy feat. My pace slowed slightly, but once I hit mile 14, I knew I had just surpassed 2 half marathon milestones already under my belt: The US Half and the Santa Rosa Half Marathons. Whoot!
Mile 15: Breathless - The Corrs
I'm slightly winded and had no idea how much further I had to traverse before the course meandered back towards the finish line. In the meantime, Mile 15 was the perfect stopping point for capturing this picturesque snapshot. Running in paradise has its benefits, and this scene left me "breathless".
Miles 16/17: Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
I've been running for several hours now, and my mental and physical faculties are beginning to deteriorate. Despite my anguish, these lyrics kept me moving until the next crucial mile marker: "But I keep cruising, can't stop, won't stop moving. It's like I got this music in my body, and it's gonna be alright."
Mile 18: Come Undone - Duran Duran
Every runner dreads hitting their fatigue threshhold, especially during a huge race like the Honolulu Marathon. Unfortunately, I hit my wall during mile 18 and couldn't feel my right hand, which had swelled up early on. Once my knees locked and my left ankle began to throb, I knew that I had sadly "come undone" just 8 miles shy of the finish line. First thought: "Months of training for nothing. Sigh."
Mile 19: Walking on Broken Glass - Annie Lenox
I painstakingly inched towards Mile 19 as if I were "walking on broken glass". It actually felt like someone used razor blades to slice the soles of my feet repeatedly as I limp-walked the final 7 miles. Being surrounded by hundreds of other walkers made this latest trek bearable.
Mile 20: HOT HOT HOT - Buster Poindexter
I could have easily chosen, "It's Getting Hot in Here" by Nelly, but that song title wouldn't fully describe the heat exhaustion I felt once I finally reached mile 20 (5 hours after race start). Thank goodness for water hoses, hydration stations, ice cube packets, and water sponges throughout the course. When your body temperature reaches its boiling point, these life saving items definitely come in handy. I heard several ambulances throughout the morning so runners must have already keeled over. Hope they're okay.
Mile 21: Heal the Pain - George Michael
At this stage, I gave up my timing goals and fully committed to completing the race without further injury even if that meant crawling towards that finish line, which is exactly what I did. I'd rather "heal the pain" than exacerbate it. No question.
Mile 22: Save Me (Superman Theme) - Remi Zero
While Superman was nowhere to be found, there were several other super heroes (in full firemen gear) walking towards Mile 11 as I approached Mile 22. They must have been boiling inside those insulated suits, and they still had a long way to go. If these troopers weren't participating in the race as well, I would have definitely yelled, "Save me, please!"
Credits: Official Honolulu Marathon Photo, 2015
Mile 23: Barely Breathing - Duncan Shiek
Can't breathe. Therefore, I could barely think as I carefully placed one foot in front of the other. One painful step at a time. "Suck it up, Myra. You're almost there."
Mile 24: F**kin Perfect - Pink
Tourettes Syndrome finally kicked in. "Son of a B____!!" I don't curse very often, but my internal sailor mouth took over once Diamond Head reared its formidable head during the final 2 mile stretch. This was the dreaded mile marker my friends warned me about, but I was determined to conquer Diamond Head part 2. Potty mouth and all.
Mile 25: Waiting for the End - Linkin Park
Since I drank water at every single hydration stop without using the restroom for the last 15+ miles, my bladder was ready to burst by the time I reached mile 25. There was no portable restroom in sight, so I cranked up my favorite song from Linkin Park and prayed for a strong finish without any unsightly accidents.
Mile 26: Don't Stop Believing - Journey
The last 8 miles were completely demoralizing since my average pace skyrocketed once I hit my personal wall. As tough as it was to get through those final miles, I never lost hope. So it's only fitting that I chose this inspiring anthem (The San Francisco Giants theme song) for my last and final goal line push.
Only .2 miles to go, and I am beaming!
Finish Line: Whoomp! There It Is - Tag Team
I've reached Kapiolani Park, and the finish line is nowhere in sight even though I spotted post race refreshment tents and huge crowds at a distance. Once I rounded that final bend, Tag Team's "Whoomp chak a laka chack a laka chak a laka chak a" punctuated my final steps as I finally crossed the elusive finish line. "Whoomp! There It is." Can I collapse now?
Post Finish: Overjoyed- Stevie Wonder + Knocked Out - Paula Abdul
I never thought I would ever complete a full marathon in my lifetime. I only started running a year and a half ago, and I still remember freaking out about my first 5k run. Even though I annihilated my forecasted timing goal, I couldn't help but feel "overjoyed" after crossing a very difficult item off my personal bucketlist. I trained. I ran. I stumbled. But I persevered despite several limitations.
While I grappled with many mixed emotions throughout the race course, it was quite an exhilirating rush towards the end. The best part was seeing fellow marathoners, Fil and Daniel, after they had already completed the race several hours earlier. They were anxiously waiting to congratulate me with open arms once I collected my 2015 finisher shirt and medal.They definitely embodied the Aloha spirit that so many runners, volunteers, and supporters exuded throughout the day.
Now that I've conquered the first of many possible marathons, I couldn't wait to spend the next few days "knocked out" in my hotel room pondering a future 2016 race. Until then, I'll bask in my sweaty afterglow while toasting my accomplishments with a well deserved Mai Tai. Mahalo!