After months of training, the time had finally come for me to run my first marathon. Although I did all but one of my scheduled training runs, my preparation was not ideal. This was mainly due to the fact I have been living in the college environment which tends to lead to more partying than I am used to, different (and less healthy) foods and differing schedules from week to week. I also got sick here and there which knocked me out for a few days each time and have had annoying injuries which continued all the way through until the marathon.
My roommates Courtney and Brittany made the trip with me so we left Friday night and drove the three hours or so to the Mt Hood area. The car ride turned into an impromptu dance party for most of it and we ended up missing a turn off and getting too far into Portland. Whoops! When we eventually got back on track and arrived at our accommodation, it was 11pm. The lodge we stayed at was in the middle of nowhere, without any other buildings in sight. It was actually really creepy driving through the forest with no other lights except ours and we were all expecting a bear or murderer to jump out in front of the car and attack us; it was the perfect horror movie setting. Fortunately we arrived at the lodge safely. Unfortunately, the owners of the lodge had already gone to bed and the only people up were three middle-aged men who smelt like they'd had a bath in beer. One of them showed us where we could sleep, which ended up being in a dorm room with two men who snored the whole night. We also didn't know we had to bring our own bedding so between the three of us, we had to use a stack of fitted sheets for our pillows, sheets and blanket. It was freaking freezing, noisy for the snoring and not one bit comfortable. So when we got up at 6am, we had no more than 3 hours sleep. Not ideal for marathon running. We left the lodge early to get to the start of the marathon and thank goodness we did. We were driving along as per the directions I'd printed out and had navigation on my phone too. All was going well until the road we were meant to turn down seemed to be blocked from fallen trees. So, we kept driving, thinking we'd hit another turn off. Nothing. Kept driving. My phone went flat. We didn't pass any cars, there were no signs around and we seemed to be getting deeper into the forest. Then the fuel light came on, so Courtney and I started to get very worried. I had accepted that I was going to miss my run and started thinking about what we will do once the car stops. Thankfully, after driving around what we now know was the wrong way around the lake, we go to the start line in enough time.
The marathon course was two laps of Lake Timothy through the forest, over rocks, tree roots, up and down hills, through patches of mud, over logs and past some incredible scenery. While on the trail near the lake, Mt Hood could be seen in the background which often distracted me from the task at hand. There were lots of people along the way who were camping, fishing, kayaking, cycling and hiking, all who were very encouraging and got pretty excited as us marathon runners run past. All went well for most of the run. It was very challenging and there were some uphill parts which were just disgustingly rude, but all in all I felt good the whole way. With about 5 miles to go, my knees and quads started to feel strained but I tried to put it out of my mind. The last mile and a half was the toughest as it was uphill for most of it and on very uneven terrain. So the body had to work hard but the mind had to stay sharp to prevent any trips on the obstacles presented. Finishing was a great feeling and seeing Courtney and Brittany there at the end to cheer me through was awesome. The experience was wonderful however I certainly wouldn't recommend a trail marathon for a first timer. I'd suggest running a regular road marathon which isn't as physically and mentally demanding, just to get the idea of the distance in your mind and then move onto the trail. For me though, I am glad I took up the challenge and feel really proud I completed it even when the planning and preparation didn't go perfectly. Running is definitely a part of who I am and completing my first marathon has only reinforced my passion.