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September 29, 2017

Growing up I watched my Dad train for marathons and saw the time, sweat, and dedication it took accomplish the 26.2 mile feat. I always knew I would run one someday, but never felt an urgency to become a marathoner myself. Until one Saturday morning last winter, I was running with a group of distance runners, watching them light up when they talked up their upcoming races and watched as they easily put 15 miles in when I turned around long before. I felt a little envious that I wasn't able to share my stories, feel that excitement, or really relate. That was a turning point for me. 

As I joined this group on more and more, longSaturday runs, my distance increased and the feeling of accomplishment with that felt like nothing I had felt before. For a few weeks I found myself thinking about running a marathon all the time. The first time I heard myself tell someone I was considering it, a feeling of excitement and disbelief came over me.

With much consideration, I decided to sign up to run my first marathon in October 2017. With so much time until the race, I would be able to fully prepare, get a few more races under my belt, and figure out just how I would accomplish my goal. I chose the Portland Marathon to be my first full marathon for a few reasons, but mostly because it is in my city, I knew I would have the support on race day from family and friends, and I would be able to train in the area that I would one day run the race.

Since deciding to sign up for the marathon, I've completed 4 more half marathons, a couple 15ks and 10ks and joined a marathon training group. Diving in head first, I now am a part of a race team through the running store that I ran long Saturday runs with and a women’s running group that I join for runs weekly. I have made so many incredible friends through running and since training takes up so much time, I have found that running with friends, is the best way to go.

My weekly regimen of training typically included a variety of distances, speeds, and tempos, with a long run on the weekend. Many weeks I chose to run 6 or even 7 days a week, but really took it easy on that last run of the week, if I decided not to take a rest day. The only reason I ran that much was because I honestly love to run and it was a nice way to stretch my legs if I was sore. Following a training plan helped me immensely. I have a friend who is an elite runner and he wrote me a plan that was tailored to my needs. The marathon training group I joined had a training plan that I followed loosely, but always joined them for weekly long runs. It made such a powerful impact on my mental game when running the 14, 16, or 20 mile runs with others who were there to make me laugh and commiserate when I was tired or hurting.

A few times in the summer, when it was really hot, I snuck away to the coast where my family lives and got to put in miles by the ocean where it was cooler. One of my favorite long runs was at the coast when I had to run 21 miles. My boyfriend rode his bike 16 miles with me and then my Mom and Dad joined running and bike riding for the last 5 miles. It was so special to have their support and love on such a momentous run.

The whole time I’ve been training, I have felt like this is a big experiment since I haven’t experienced it before. I have learned that training takes a lot of time, dedication, and passion. Figuring out what kind of shoes I like best, what kind of fuel my body tolerates while running, and how to navigate all the clean bathrooms in the city are part of the deal. I have found that rotating through a few different pairs of shoes for the different distances and paces of my runs makes a big difference. Running with a variety of water sources; hand-held bottle, backpack, and waist pack were helpful in deciding what would be best for race day.

As I approach 2 weeks until my marathon, I am filled with excitement, gratitude and pride.

Training for a marathon has absolutely changed my life. I even get a little emotional writing this, as I reflect back on the challenging, fun, trying, and joyful miles I have put in. I am extremely thankful to be able to run this race, to have put in all of the running in preparation, and to find joy through the process. Support from family, friends, and fellow runners has made things go smoothly and have made this process so meaningful to me. I remember the first time I ran a distance longer than 13.1 miles, it was the farthest I had ever run and I felt on cloud nine. The day I ran 20 miles, I truly believed in myself and knew I could finish a marathon.

I look forward to race day with excitement, anticipation, gratitude, and confidence.

Follow me on Instagram: @katie.dougherty

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