I originally I wrote this post for fitted magazine, and later adapted and delivered it for a recent Toastmaster’s speech. In light of my third marathon coming up in a little over a week, I re-adapted the recounting of my first marathon experience for this post below.
I’m not a huge fan of bananas. I mean, I like them well enough, I suppose. They are convenient, portable, healthy…yellow… At the store, they cost around $0.20 each. But let me tell you about the time I paid $150 for one and found a whole new appreciation for them.
After a lifelong hatred for running, I ran my first marathon last year. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I wanted to finish the 26.2 miles, keep all ten of my toenails intact, and live long enough to enjoy the banana that they hand out at the finish line of every organized race.
You may be thinking, meh, it’s just a piece of fruit, but let me tell you, after running those 26 miles, I’ll never look at another banana quite the same way again. To fully appreciate this tropical fruit, you don’t need to run a full marathon, but trust me when I say that it tastes way better when your body is shutting down in total agony brought on by your own volition.
In a nutshell, if you ever wanted to know what running a marathon is like, well, it feels like you’re dying a long, slow, painful, torturous, never-ending death. But let me recount it for you step by step, so if you’re ever crazy enough to sign up for a marathon, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Marathons start at the butt crack of dawn and everyone is full of nervous energy. All around, people are stretching, drinking dubious pink concoctions and lining up for the porta potties. This is a good time to take a bunch of selfies and post them on your social media accounts so when all your friends wake up, they are reminded that you’re the “healthy” friend who is dumb enough to wake up in the middle of the night and pay people to run a ridiculous distance.
Crowds are cheering, people are holding signs, you feel like a rockstar because all the little kids want to high five you. There are cheerleaders cheering and bands playing and police cordoning off the streets, just for you.
Alright, alright. This IS very cool…and I get a banana at the end? I can see why people pay money to do this now.
Wait, what? Mile 6 already? Shoot, I could run another 50 miles. I feel great! Some guy is offering us donuts on the side of the road…I LOVE DONUTS. But I don’t want to eat anything that might make me puke later on, so I pass.
It’s not yet 8:00 and the temperature is about 85 degrees already. I’m eyeing the half marathoners who’ve just split off with envy. They only have 2 miles to go…I still have another 2 miles and another half marathon to run. But I’m not worried, I still feel good, my pace is on point, and I’m making good time.
At this point, the sun has risen and it’s getting really hot – around 90 degrees according to my watch. I’m getting a wee bit tired.
Another person offers me a donut. Another a pizza. And are those cookies??! No, no…focus. No puking. Plus I have a banana waiting for me in a little over 10 miles.
I decide to walk a bit. I switch my music to something faster, and since I’m on my phone, I update my Facebook status (because it may be my last post should I not survive this.) I’m more tired than I’d admit at this point.
I’m starting to feel a bit low and like all my races, I’m feeling emotional. I blink back tears and trudge on.
Every marathon runner I know says they hit “the wall” somewhere between miles 18-20. I refuse to believe it and I keep telling myself over the pounding EDM music in my ears that I will not hit the wall and that people only hit the wall because everyone is telling them that they will hit the wall. I.WILL.NOT.HIT.THE.WALL.
I hit the wall.
I dramatically tell my running buddy to go on without me. The sun is burning my back. It’s 95 degrees at this point. The sunblock has long since worn off, I’m walking more than I’m running, and all I want is that banana. My stupid watch keeps informing me that my pace is slowing. Every song that comes on is like fingernails on a chalkboard, and I’m hungry. And grumpy.
I could use that donut right about now…but there is no one around. I’m never running another marathon again.
I want to quit and call an uber to take me home. All the runners are walking now, and we all look exhausted. Just two more miles to go…
This is the longest mile ever.
How am I still running mile 24?
Where the heck is the mile 25 marker?! Did I miss the mile 25 marker?!
Okay, there it is; I see it. Just one more mile, I tell myself. I am starving at this point, and I have no energy left. There are two energy gels in my pocket, but I don’t want them. I want my banana. I should run, but I can’t make my legs do what I’m telling them to do, so I continue to trudge on. My legs are on fire and my calves are burning. I hate this song. I hate EDM music. I hate running. I hate my life.
I feel bipolar. Part of my brain is telling me: You’ve got this, girl! You’re awesome!
The other part is just shouting expletives at me.
Only 0.2 miles to go. I should be able to see the finish line, but I don’t. I started to worry that it was all some cruel joke and that there was no end to the race. I’m a little delirious at this point. I start running because I want to just be done. Some lady says she’s impressed, but I have no energy to even force a half smile in her direction. I just want some cold water and that banana. And to not run again. Ever.
As I cross the finish line, I try to smile, knowing that photographers are capturing every moment.I look like a drowned rat with a dazed grimace plastered on my face.
Where’s my banana?
I look everywhere for the pile of bananas I know are there as people are handing me medals and bags and drinks. I just want the banana, and finally, I see them, stacked in big beautiful boxes. I practically yank the banana out of the hands of the volunteer with a crazed look of excitement on my face. I stop right in my tracks, put everything down in front of me, oblivious to the people behind me. I’ve earned this moment and every bite of that banana.
I was happy to see that all toenails were still where they were supposed to be and I hobbled around like Oswald Cobblepot for the next week after the race. I hung my medal up on my board with the others and begin planning my next marathon because that’s what we runners do. My second marathon was the Marine Corp Marathon one year after this event. It was much better, I shaved 23 minutes off my marathon time and I earned TWO bananas at that race!
In less than 10 days, I’ll be aiming for a sub-4:00 hour time at the hometown Surf City Marathon. Let’s do this!