You Never Forget Your First Marathon

05/09/2017 - 17:06

By Rae Ann Darling Reed

I was recently asked a series of questions about my interest in marathons which got me thinking about my first. Like many firsts in our lives, I believe the first marathon is one that will never be forgotten.

Can you tell me a bit about your first ever marathon? When was it, which race, and race time? My first marathon was the Jacksonville Marathon in December 1995 in Jacksonville, Florida, about six months after I graduated from Brown University. I had to wait until after college to run my first marathon since I was on the cross country and track teams.

My dad was towards the end of his running career but trained and ran the race with me. My first marathon was his last. I cherish that memory. I finished in 3:48. I remember the time exactly because I had missed qualifying for Boston by 8 minutes. There’s a little more to the story in that around mile 18 my quads completely locked up and I was forced to stop and stretch numerous times.

Yes, I hit the wall, badly. It was such terrible pain that I waited until 1997 to run my next marathon. But, missing that 3:40 Boston qualifying time made my goal to BQ at my next marathon stronger than ever. I did qualify for my first Boston at the 1997 Disney Marathon in January and ran my first Boston just three months later.

What made you want to run a marathon in the first place? Growing up in Massachusetts watching the Boston Marathon on television every Patriot's Day, I dreamed of running it someday. I grew up watching my dad run and win many local road races and marathons. I started running at age eleven, joined the cross country team in middle school, and then ran cross country and track in high school and college. I enjoyed long runs and longer races like 10Ks. The Boston Marathon was something I always knew I would do someday.

What marathon has been your favorite so far? The Boston Marathon for sure. No other race has as much excitement, nostalgia, and history. I live in Florida now so every time we go to Boston it is like going home. That feeling, plus the fact that Boston is the world’s most famous foot race, make it my favorite.

As your seventh time racing Boston, what are you most looking forward to? I trained a little differently for this one and I am really excited to compare my fitness level this year to last year. This year I opted for Hansons coaching with a Boston specific, higher mileage plan. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I can remember years ago when I hit 50 miles for the week for the first time and thought it was such a high number. Over the past three years I have used the Hansons Marathon Method Advanced Plan which has some 50 and 60 mile weeks so I have been used to that.

But for Boston 2017 I decided to go big and chose the Hansons Boston 75 mile per week plan. I had a few peak weeks over 70 miles which blew my mind at first, then left me feeling quite exhausted. To be totally honest, the fatique would not have been so bad if I hadn’t raced too much in February and March while I was hitting this peak weekly mileage, so that’s my mistake not the training plan. I did have to back off the last two weeks of the plan prior to the taper week but as I enter taper week, I am feeling much better than I did two weeks ago. By the time this issue goes to press, I will have run the Boston Marathon and cannot wait to share that result with you!

What tips would you give other runners who want to qualify for Boston? Be consistent with your training, put in the miles, strength train, work on flexibility, and find a good coach or training plan that fits your life. If you hire a coach, which I highly recommend, listen to him or her. I didn’t do the best job of that this time around, but we live and learn. Remember that every body is different and responds differently to training, so what works for a friend may not work for you.

Whether it’s your first marathon, first Boston, or first 5K, enjoy the journey and don’t focus so much on the result because good or bad, you will always remember your first.

(This column appears in the May issue of Running Journal. To subscribe:

Rae Ann Darling Reed runs, coaches, and writes in Florida. She is an RRCA and USATF Level 2 certified running coach, Glukos Energy Ambassador, and has been in the Brooks Inspire Daily program since 2010. Rae Ann is a Fit Expert at Fleet Feet Sports Sarasota and coaches cross country and track at Manatee High School. Follow the RunnerGirl’s adventures on twitter @runnergirl or

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