Running a marathon was something that was on my never-to-do bucket list… then I gained 30 pounds.
Before we moved to Turkey, I only dabbled in running. The summer we moved overseas, I was near 210 pounds at 5′ 9″… and by near I mean greater than or equal to.
After we moved to Turkey, I started losing weight primarily from the change in diet (smaller restaurant portions/less preservatives/fresher produce). To complement this, I decided to start running again. I soon realized that when I stopped running, so did my metabolism. Before last year, running was never something I loved and it is still difficult to motivate myself. It is a small price to pay to keep healthy.
I am goal and statistics oriented. I think that is why the Nike+ app was such a motivator for me. I loved tracking my average pace and how I compared to others my age. I also loved logging personal records. As my running strength and endurance grew, I became interested in long distance. In the spring, I experimented with several long runs to see my pace, including several ten milers and a half marathon. Sometime around then I decided to participate in the İstanbul Marathon. I thought it would be a good challenge to encourage me to run.
After a couple of minor injuries last spring, I spent a lot of the summer biking and trying to keep my metabolism going without the high impact on my legs. However, the marathon was always in the back of my mind. When we came back to Ankara in August, I started running again.
It took me a while to register for the marathon. I actually started training for it before I registered. I don’t know why I held back. I think I secretly hoped I wouldn’t have to run it. I finally registered and made travel reservations, so I was committed.
Training was difficult and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I was running 40+ miles some weeks. At times, I despised running. It cut into my schedule and school become more stressful, not to mention I was helping coach men’s volleyball through several weeks of training. I found myself trying to come up with excuses not to run the marathon, but they were ruled invalid each time.
There were two key people that encouraged me throughout my training. A dad of one of my students has run multiple marathons and Iron Man competitions. He gave me a lot of encouragement and taught me exercises to help prevent injury when I had some weak spots in my legs. I credit a lot of my race technique and injury prevention to him. The second person that encouraged me throughout training was Leah. I knew that she wouldn’t let me give up. Three weeks before the race, I had my longest training run and was super nervous. I had burned out on my long run the week previous and I had resorted to walking. Leah’s encouragement helped me work through this tough time in training when I was about to give up.
Fast forward three weeks and I was in Istanbul with Leah and friends. We stopped by the marathon expo where I picked up my number, shoe chip, and race bag. There were several vendors and booths. I even ran into the dad previously mentioned and he helped talk me out of some pre-race jitters.
There were two of us running the marathon and two that ran the 15k:
Leah and three of our friends registered for the fun run. As you can see, they were really enthused about getting their numbers:
The morning of the race was crazy. We lined up in Sultanahmet Square to get on buses that shuttled us to the start of the race. I feel like I had a higher risk of injury getting on the bus than the actual marathon. People climbed and clawed onto the bus like rabid cattle.
Finally at the starting line, we made last minute preparations and paused for a few pics.
We met up with one of our Turkish friends and spent some time getting pumped up together:
The place was hustling and bustling. There were vendors selling çay (Turkish tea) and coffee:
Other vendors sold simit (Turkish bagel):
Leah decided to support our home state by wearing her Michigan Awesome shirt during the fun run:
The Istanbul Marathon is the only trans-continental marathon. We all crossed over the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia to Europe.
Here’s Leah with the Welcome to Europe sign:
While I spent the next four and half hours running in the marathon, Leah and our friends enjoyed the beautiful sights of the fun run and the trek to the marathon finish line. They even stopped for milkshakes and coffee.
My goal was to finish the race. I relaxed and didn’t push too hard my first 15 miles, then tried to pick up the pace for the last half. At about 30 kilometers, I was pushing about all I could. I am quite pleased to say I did not walk as much as I thought I would, probably less than a quarter mile (I know I keep switching between metric and standard – such is international life). I knew that I had given almost everything when I thought about the finish line and almost started bawling. As I drew nearer to the finish, the cheering crowd grew thicker and I pushed harder.
I ended up finishing on a dead sprint, passing several people in the last three hundred meters. I think I finally realized how close I was and the adrenaline gave me an incredible rush. I heard Leah and my friends calling my name and took off:
The relieving beep of the chip being detected and my name being announced over the loudspeakers was almost more than I could bear. I had done it. I finished my first marathon. I was excited, covered with salt (see above), and exhausted.
I had a lot of fun at the marathon and enjoyed the challenge. There were times where I felt like giving up. I remember praying throughout the race that I would have the strength to finish.
I can honestly say that I plan to keep on running. I may not always enjoy the training, but the end result is definitely worth it. I think this race will encourage me in future situations, both athletic and not.
You can search my name on the Istanbul Marathon results page to see my time splits and stats!