I ran 3:05:58. I really can't complain. This time qualifies me for Boston. I was 17th overall. It's almost 9 minutes faster than my first marathon. And I had the best greeter at the finish line - see the photo.
However, I was miserable from mile 18 on.
Here are a couple of lessons and pointers of what could have gone better.
1. My right knee tendon attachments (of hip flexors) were super painful after mile 17.
I could feel my right knee with every step, and the pain shortened my stride.
When the hip flexors fatigue, they stop working well, they contract, and stay contracted. This tension transfers down the leg to the knee where they attach. Even though the tension and pain are felt at the knee, the issue is with the hip flexors up at the hip.
Why does it happen? Because some of those muscles are too weak for the job. In my case, they fatigued at mile 17 and contracted.
How to prevent it? Strengthen the heck out of your hip flexors. When strong, the muscles can handle any workload, including running marathons.
2. I went out way too fast. The first 5 miles I ran with the guy who finished 5th. I crossed the halfway (half marathon) point in 1:26. If I kept that pace, my time would have been 2:52. Instead it was 3:06.
No matter how good it feels to run faster in the beginning, runners pay for it later on. I definitely 'hit the wall' around mile 18. My energy to keep the pace, the stride, and the breathing was zapped.
3. On the positive side, none of the usual culprits acted out: IT band, or the high Hamstring tendons.
Typically runners complain of their IT bands, especially at the knee, and of the Hamstring pain high up at the sitz-bone attachments.
Both ITB and Hamstring tension are part of the compensation pattern that happens due to weak Glute Medius. When Glute Medius stops stabilizing the hip (which it does with every step), other structures and muscles like the ITB and the Hamstrings will take over the job of stabilization. They are not very good at it, so they get hurt very quickly.
The fix: Strong Glute Medius.
I've been doing a ton of Glute Medius strengthening, and it paid off.
There is certainly a lot more to say about everyone's marathon experience. I am sure if you ran one yourself, you have your own lessons and takeaways. Feel free to email me with your own suggestions and share your experience. I might even write about it!
Will I run another one? Absolutely.