Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wilson Komen: Five Memories from My First Marathon

Though I have been fortunate to have had much success in the sport of competitive running, I always like to remind my trainees that I wasn’t always confident, and I didn’t always know everything that I was doing. The first marathon that I ran was the Detroit Free Press Marathon. It was a marathon of many firsts. It was also almost my last marathon.

Today, I am sharing with you five memories from that experience. I hope to encourage all of you, no matter what your experience levels are, to enjoy the training and the racing that you are doing for what it is. Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know everything that you need to know or that you aren’t adequately prepared. Enjoy the experience, and learn from your past performances. That is exactly what I have done throughout my running career.

Split photo with left image showing a Kenyan countryside and right image showing runners in the Detroit Free Press Marathon
Right Image, Detroit Free Press Marathon, Credit: Windsor Star
The Course

Image of the course map for the Detroit Free Press Marathon

Right out of the gate I have to say that the course itself is my best—and my worst memory—about the marathon. The route was fine; however, running on asphalt was not. Before this marathon, I had never run completely on asphalt. In Detroit, I felt like I was getting beat up with every step. I was used training on unpaved roads and hills in the countryside of my hometown. In Nairobi, national parks and the hills are easily accessible. There was no need to train on hard surfaces. What kept me going during the race, besides the hope of winning prize money, was that the course was well marked, the hydration stops were frequent and well-organized, there was music along the way, and there were lots of wonderful cheering spectators. Still, everything was new to me.

The Weather
The morning of the marathon was cold, a lot colder than I was used to. I am from the Rift Valley of Kenya, and I was used to running in temperatures that fluctuated between 50 and 75 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The weather is the one thing that can either make or destroy your marathon. You can only prepare so much for the weather, and you can’t control it. All you can do is make the appropriate adjustments, and run your best race. When you finish, you still have completed a marathon, which is an excellent accomplishment.

The Expo
It was my first time attending an expo. To me was like a huge Saturday outdoor marketplace, only that it was filled with sporting goods instead of vegetables or chickens. I really liked it because I could learn more about sports products.

The People I Met
I had to meet find new friends on my way finding the expo. The buildings and the street signs looked about the same to me. It was my first time in the United States, and I wasn’t familiar with how things were labeled. I had to stop some runners as they were walking across the street to my hotel to ask directions to the expo. They turned out to be two brothers from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The brothers were great people, and they offered to drive me to the expo and later to the pasta dinner.

The Pasta Dinner

Split image with right photo depicting Kenyan food and the right photo depicting pasta
Kenyan Food Left, Pasta Right
At the pasta dinner, it was great to see the entire elite athlete field I was going to compete with the next day. Dinner was another different experience for me. Obviously, I ate pasta, which at that time, I never eaten before a race. I didn’t know if it would sustain me for the marathon. It did, though. I survived my first marathon!

When I look back on that day, I just remember that it was a beautiful cold morning that filled me with excitement for the challenge ahead. My goal was to run anything under 2:25, which I achieved with no race strategy plan (remember, sometimes it is best just to enjoy the experience).

After the race, I asked myself if I should give up on marathons and concentrate on other distances. Fourteen years later, with countless races behind me, I am still running marathons. In fact, it’s now my favorite distance.

What do you remember about your first marathon? Share your story with us.

Run Steady,

Coach Wilson

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