Oct 17

My First Marathon: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


My First Marathon: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

It’s done, and I did it! It’s been a little more than a week since I completed running my first marathon. Portland, Oregon was the amazing backdrop for the event, and it truly was an experience to remember.

When I posted Marathon Training (The True Story), I was blown away by all of the supportive comments, and Twitter and Facebook wishes from all of you. Thank you. Your energy helped to carry me through those 26.2 miles.

Our trip to Portland kicked off with a fun trip to the Nike campus just outside of the city. Yes, I said “campus”.


It lives up to the term, with building after building, each named after a famous athlete, dotted amidst large green areas and a lake. Ryan Smith of the fantastic blog, Spinning Cook, works for Nike and generously offered us a trip to the employee store and a personal tour around the campus. Beyond impressive!


The weekend was about more than just the marathon. It was also a chance to get together with our families. Traveling from Victoria, B.C., southern California and Bend, Oregon, my parents and in-laws came together to cheer on my husband (S) and me, and to join in on the excitement of the weekend. Along with them and our two boys, we had an impressive cheering section!


Portland is an amazing city, one I could imagine myself living in. It has that laid-back, earthy Pacific Northwest feel, reminiscent of my hometown of Vancouver. And the food scene is something to behold. With more than 500 food trucks, there’s something to please every palate. Thai curries, Greek gyros, fish and chips, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches…the list goes on and on. I couldn’t be quite as adventurous I as would have liked because I didn’t want to eat anything that would upset my stomach for the marathon the next day. Another trip will definitely be on the agenda.

MMy First Marathon: The Good, The Bad & The UglyarathonCollage2

The day before the marathon, S and I hopped in the car and drove the race route. Are we ever glad we took that drive! I knew there was a hill from mile 2 to 3 ½ and another big one at mile 17. But I had no idea just how big those hills were. If I had come up to those hills without seeing them first, I would have freaked out! I tried to fathom how I was going to make it to the top without keeling over with exhaustion, crawling my way over every bump in the road. Was I really going to be able to make it? Had I trained well enough, or would my foot injury finally play its winning card?

My First Marathon: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

After dinner at Ristorante Roma (great, fresh pasta and homemade sauces), we packed a bag for the boys (M & T) and walked them to my parents’ room, where they would be spending the night. A sleepover at Grandad and Nonna’s is always cause for great excitement – even more so in a hotel, with a breakfast buffet promised for the next morning.

“Disaster” strikes
S and I headed back to our hotel room, with plans to lay out our clothes, pin on our race numbers and tuck ourselves into bed early. And then…disaster struck!

Any race magazine or book will tell you, “Don’t eat or drink anything unfamiliar, or wear anything new on the day of a race.” I’ve read this many times, and follow it pretty religiously. I laid out my running top, my socks, my shoes…HOLD ON. Where were my shorts?! My husband and I tore through every pocket in our suitcases and every drawer in the hotel. My shorts were nowhere to be found. What the heck was I going to do?!

It was 7:45pm and the marathon expo had closed 45 minutes before. My husband ran over there anyways as I continued to search the room for a few more minutes. I flew into the expo after him, panic building with every step. My husband, MY HERO, had an answer! He found employees of a local running store and they promised that they were going to open at 5:30 the next morning, just a few blocks away from the hotel. What they couldn’t promise, however, was how much merchandise they had left following the expo. There was nothing I could do but wait until 5:30 the next morning. Both my husband and Cindy (coach, friend and fellow food blogger) did a good job of talking me down off the ledge.

Marathon Day
The alarm went off at 4:45am, after a night fraught with dreams of missing shorts and underwear-only races (not pretty, not pretty at all). S ran off to grab his morning coffee while I set off for the running store, saying a silent prayer to the running gods. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that I found a running skirt and left the store on cloud nine. Thank you to the staff of Foot Traffic, particularly Wendy. Lifesavers, all of you.


Decked out in my sassy new purple running skirt, I walked with S to the starting line, saying our good-byes as we headed to our separate corrals (fast dudes over here in corral A, terrified newbies over there in corral D). I waited patiently in the usual massive bathroom line that forms about a half-hour before the starting pistol sounds, shed my extra clothes and adjusted my watch.

5 (“This is really happening”)…4 (“I must be flippin’ crazy”)…3 (“I think I’m going to throw up”)…2 (“Calm down, Dara. You can do this”)…1 (“There’s no turning back now”)…BANG! We were off.

The first part of any race is always frenetic. Everyone takes off faster than they should, adrenaline pumping and legs high-stepping with the freshness of a good taper week. I kept reminding myself to settle down…slow and easy. As I started up the first hill, S was already heading back down on the other side of the road. Cruising.

The Portland Marathon course is flanked by entertainers every mile or so…bands, cheerleaders, mimes (seriously) and, my personal favorite, pirates. Their enthusiastic yo-ho-ho songs kept my mind off the pain around mile 10 and then again at mile 13 as we looped around.

Aside from the live music, the locals lined the course, holding up signs, serving beer (At mile 23? Uh, no thank you.) Some of my favorite signs:

“Go, random stranger. Go!”
“Because 26.3 would be crazy.”
“Motivational sign”

And then there was the hill at mile 17. I knew it was coming. I was trying to conserve my energy. I was trying not to freak out. And I was thinking that S would be crossing the finish line right then, if all had gone well.

And then I was there, at the bottom, looking to the top. And I didn’t stop looking to the top. I decided that hill wasn’t going to get the best of me. I stared it down, I pumped my legs and my arms and I killed it. We turned right at the top and continued our climb to the apex of the bridge. A group of us running together let out a collective whoop as we reached the top.

Mile 22 through mile 24 were beyond difficult. I just wanted to stop. Please…just let me stop and be done. But there was no way I was going to stop. I kept thinking of my family at the finish line, of all of the encouraging words Cindy gave me and the fact that the whole thing would be over soon…very soon.

And then there was the Mile 25 sign. Only 1.2 miles to the finish. I turned on the engines and picked up the pace. Of course, that meant that I was doing my best not to throw up. My body was rebelling.


Then there it was…the second to last turn, the street where my family would be. And there were their voices and their smiling faces, and M & T with their hand-drawn signs, cheering me on, willing me to the finish.

And I did. I finished. I crossed that line, my muscles giving me everything they had had left, and my foot holding me through 26.2 miles, not giving in to the pain. 4:13:33 was the final time. And I stopped, accepting my medal from the friendly volunteer, acutely aware that my muscles were seizing and I was starving and all I wanted was to hug my husband.

And there he was. And we embraced as my eyes started welling up with tears, my muscles and mind aware of everything they had given me over the past 4 hours.


And my husband? He finished 19th overall, out of a field of 9000 runners, in a time of 2:46:29. The second Masters runner to cross the finish line. We were all so proud of him!

I wouldn’t have done this without his encouragement.

Will I do it again? Yep. The crazy bug has burrowed its way into my mind and it’s there to stay.


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{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) October 17, 2012 at 6:56 am

Well done, Dara!


2 Vicki @ WITK October 17, 2012 at 7:06 am

Just over 4 hours, that’s an amazing time! Great job! I’m trying to convince the boyfriend to sign up for a half marathon in the spring because I want to run it too :) I’ll have to check out your training schedule, you’ve inspired me!


3 Rachel Cooks October 17, 2012 at 7:14 am

So impressive. SO impressive! Congrats! I hope to catch that “bug” some day…haha. We’ll see. 😉


4 Rachel @ Baked by Rachel October 17, 2012 at 7:20 am

Congrats Dara! Such an amazing accomplishment.


5 Carolyn October 17, 2012 at 7:39 am

Awesome. Pure awesomeness. What a great read, and I am so proud of you!


6 Sprigs of Rosemary October 17, 2012 at 7:40 am

Congratulations! A wonderful story. You’re inspiring in more ways than you know.


7 Amber L October 17, 2012 at 7:50 am

Great story! And thats an awesome pace too! Congrats on the finish!


8 Tracey October 17, 2012 at 8:05 am

Huge congrats Dara, what an accomplishment! My husband does marathons too so I know how much goes into training for one – it’s not an easy feat!


9 Sarah October 17, 2012 at 8:17 am

Wow, impressive! Way to go!


10 Maria October 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

Congrats Dara! We are all so proud of you!!! Thanks for sharing your story! You are an inspiration to all! And Congrats to Steve too! xoxo


11 Sarah October 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

Way to go Dara and hubby! You guys rocked it and motivate me to keep going!


12 Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray October 17, 2012 at 8:31 am

You are AMAZING. And so is this post. Congratulations!! And well done to your husband, too–what an accomplishment for both of you. :)


13 Stephanie @ LiveCookLove October 17, 2012 at 8:39 am

You are awesome!!!!! And congrats to your hubby too :)


14 beth g October 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

i am in awe! congratulations!!! :)


15 DawnK October 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

Wow! Congratulations!


16 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar October 17, 2012 at 9:17 am

4:13?! You’re a rockstar!! What an awesome first marathon (or any marathon) time! The first one is always so memorable – you’ve been training so hard, and deserve a HUGE congrats. I know how crazy the training can be sometimes, but once race day comes it’s all worth it!


17 Bev @ Bev Cooks October 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

I’m crying! It’s ridiculous! I’m seriously so proud of you, Dara!


18 Kirsty October 17, 2012 at 9:30 am

You are amazing and such an inspiration! :)


19 Spinning Cook October 17, 2012 at 9:44 am

26.3 *would* be crazy. Dara it was a real honor to have you and your family visit the campus, and great fun. What a great supporting cast you have! Congratulations to Mr. 19! And to you for overcoming so much and finishing with flying colors, and also for finding a sassy last-minute skirt. I hope you will celebrate with something indulgent like my Brown Butter Apple Crisp – I would make it for you if you were still here! Keep inspiring us, you rock!



20 KarlaJ October 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

You’ve brought tears to my eyes, Dara! We all knew you could do it! Congratulations to you and your hubby. (LOVE the skirt!)


21 Lori @ RecipeGirl October 17, 2012 at 9:57 am

Geez, now you have me crying too!! So happy for you, Dara!!!!!


22 Amy October 17, 2012 at 9:58 am

I’m so proud to know you girlfriend! It’s been so encouraging watching you set your goals and go for them, not letting anything stand in your way! YAY!!!


23 Sarah October 17, 2012 at 10:04 am

Congrats! Your blog helped give me the courage to run my first 5k this last weekend. Well done on the finish!


24 Janet October 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

Now this just made me cry!!! You are incredible!!!


25 Judy October 17, 2012 at 10:40 am

Wow! What an amazing read! Many, many congratulations to you both., Here’s to the next one!


26 Annalise October 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

You’re amazing!!! Seriously, so proud of you!


27 KalynsKitchen October 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

Wow! I have tears in my eyes reading this. So proud of you and impressed! And way to go Steve!


28 Elise October 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

That’s amazing Dara, well done! You are an inspiration to us all.


29 Rhonda October 17, 2012 at 11:01 am

Congratulations – both physically and mentally what an achievement/attainment 😉


30 Kathy - Panini Happy October 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

Wow, way to go, Dara!! I continue to be impressed and inspired by all of your dedication to running. What an incredible accomplishment. :-)


31 Holly October 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

Congratulations! I have to admit I am teary reading your story now and think it’s odd to be proud of a complete stranger…but I am. What an accomplishment and inspiration!! Well done to your husband as well!


32 Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen October 17, 2012 at 11:15 am

Congratulations! It looks like quite the experience. I actually welled up a little knowing what those finish lines can be like. I haven’t done a full marathon, yet. Just 2 halves. I really want to get there, but I have a hard time making running time a priority.


33 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) October 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

You are simply amazing. Way to go!


34 Lana @ Never Enough Thyme October 17, 2012 at 11:30 am

Super crazy impressed! You are such an inspiration.


35 Roz@weightingfor50 October 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

HUGE congratulations Dara!!!!!! Yay you!!!!


36 Lindsay {life and kitchen} October 17, 2012 at 11:50 am

Congrats on not running in underwear and on finishing!


37 Laura O October 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm

WELL DONE! Congratulations!


38 deb October 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm



39 Stephanie October 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I had tears in my eyes reading this. Congratulations!


40 Kelsey October 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Add me to the list of people tearing up reading this. You are an inspiration!


41 Barbara @ Barbara Bakes October 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Congratulations Dara! You’re an inspiration.


42 Emily @ She Makes and Bakes October 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

That’s absolutely incredible and inspiring!! Congratulations to you and your husband! Awesome job!!!!


43 Heather Clisby October 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm

So inspirational! I’ve got a long way to go to train for my first marathon but reading your account gives me inspiration. Way to go, Random Stranger!


44 Sarah @ Will Run for Pasta October 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

This totally made me cry! So crazy proud of you, our fearless Red Faced Runner leader!


45 Laura (Tutti Dolci) October 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Congrats, Dara! Such a great accomplishment!


46 Jaime October 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I am so happy for you. What an accomplishment!


47 Kristen October 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

This brought me to tears, Dara… I am so flippin’ proud of you. SO proud!!


48 Aggie October 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I just teared up too! Glad I’m not the only one! lol


49 Denise October 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Dara, this is amazing!!! I am shedding a tear of happiness for you as well. Congrats on a huge and not easy accomplishment!!!


50 katrina October 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm

WOW! Congratulations, Dara!


51 Kristen October 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

So proud of you! You did everything right and have a great story to tell. So glad the skirt came to the rescue, I can only imagine how terrified I would have been.

We were driving up to Logan for Top Of Utah when I suddenly was certain I had forgotten my shoes. I had to pull over and make sure they were there because could you imagine…


52 addie | culicurious October 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Congrats! You did great! Way to overcome the adversity :)


53 Jen of My Tiny Oven October 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm

AWESOME!! Wow, you are amamzing!! Great job!


54 Natalie October 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Congrats Dara!! What an inspiring story :)


55 Taylor October 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm

What an awesome story!! You are inspiring :)


56 Lauren @ Part Time House Wife October 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I have big old proud runner tears in my eyes for you! Congrats!


57 Heather October 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I loved reading your recap. Congratulations, you did such an awesome job!! I can’t wait to read about all of your running events in the future! :)


58 Linda October 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

F antastic!! Job well done! Keep training and enjoying the high that comes with running! When you stop and take a look back, look how Far you’ve come in so many ways!


59 Winnie October 17, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Incredible! I am so impressed Dara. Plus you look fantastic..happy and healthy :)


60 Brian @ A Thought For Food October 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Woah! You guys are champs! As I said, I have no desire to run a marathon but I still appreciate all that goes into running one. I don’t even think I can imagine what it’s like. I can barely run 4 miles outside, so 20+ is unbelievable. You go girl!


61 Liren October 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Woo hoo! My eyes are misty now and I am so proud of you! What a feat, congratulations to both you and your hubby! I’ve never run a race of any sort, I’ve always wanted to, but fear has held me back. I’m so inspired, Dara :) Hope you are resting up, it’s well deserved.


62 E October 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm

You rock, purple skirt and all!


63 Lisa | With Style and Grace October 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm

I’m so proud of you, Dara and you look INCREDIBLE!! What a huge accomplishment and to be able to do that with your husband is awesome. Next time you’re in Portland let me know, we just moved here in June.


64 AnnaG October 18, 2012 at 3:49 am

LOVE this post — well done! My favorite parts — the sassy running skirt and the fact that you ‘killed that hill.’ That’s winning!


65 Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen October 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

Congrats Dara!! Such an amazing accomplishment and so inspiring!!


66 Deborah October 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

I may blame this on pregnancy hormones, but I seriously just teared up reading this. You are truly inspirational!!


67 Rachelle @MommyImHungry October 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

Congratulations!! You did it!! :)


68 kellypea October 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Hearty congrats to you for such an accomplishment! Your telling had me right there with you (and glad my muscles weren’t the ones in agony). You look great — awesome photos of you in the race.


69 Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen October 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

You are a hero!! I just love you and am so darn proud of you, Dara! xo-K


70 Aggie October 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Ok, I have chills from reading this. CHILLS. I feel like I was there. The signs are awesome. The crowd, I’m sure amazing. The scenery…hello. The feeling when you finished, totally priceless. What an amazing journey my friend, I’ve told you so many times how proud of you I am, but man, I am SO proud of you. You continue to inspire me.

And your husband finishing 19 (after his heroic finding some shorts move) leaves me just speechless. You both rock.


71 Jen @ Savory Simple October 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I’ve been running now several times and you are my inspiration! I can’t tell you how amazing this is to read. GO YOU!


72 Liz @ The Lemon Bowl October 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm

What a great story – from missing shorts to a celebratory smooch at the finish line! So impressive- thank you for taking us all along for the journey!!


73 Joanne @ Inspired Taste October 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Wow! What an amazing accomplishment! Well done :)


74 Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen October 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

What a tremendous accomplishment Dara, congratulations!


75 Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen October 18, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I am so impressed and inspired! You are amazing and so THIN!


76 Julie October 18, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Way to go, Dara! You are such an inspiration, and I happen to love your sassy purple skirt :) My husband just ran the St. George marathon on Oct. 6 while I watched on the sidelines. Between that and your post, I am more than motivated!!


77 Terri A. October 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Congratulations! I had tears in my eyes just reading this! You’re an inspiration (and you have runner’s legs!)


78 LadyAceKitchen October 19, 2012 at 3:21 am

Congratulations! Isn’t it the best feeling in the world to know what you are capable of? Wear that medal proudly!


79 Cindy @ Once Upon a Loaf October 19, 2012 at 6:41 am

Best “RR” (race report) and supporting images, ever. And just LOOK at you. You could inspire a rock to get off the couch and change its life. Thank you for being the amazing woman you are, and for coming into my life. HUGS, WW!!!! xoxo


80 Donalyn October 19, 2012 at 8:21 am

You’re amazing!


81 Laura October 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Way to go! Congratulations!


82 thyme (Sarah) October 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm

As a newbie runner myself, I can’t tell you how inspirational this post was for me to read. You look terrific and I am so proud of you (and I don’t even know you!) I can imagine Portland to be a fantastic venue for a marathon…I love that city. Enjoy your success!


83 Dana October 20, 2012 at 10:04 am

This is such a great telling of an exciting event. Good for you! Very motivational.


84 Traci October 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Dara, I’m only training for my first half. You are so far ahead of me! I’ve been plagued by problems (stress fx, etc). Thanks for the motivation to keep on going! Keep up the great work!


85 Spokngirl October 21, 2012 at 10:32 am

Great post; congratulations! Thanks for sharing; add me to the list of perfect strangers you’ve inspired; I’m running my first 5K in December :)


86 Kim Bee October 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Congrats Dara. You look fabulous out there. Great job.


87 shelly (cookies and cups) October 22, 2012 at 7:30 am

HOnestly I am in awe of anyone who completes a marathon…
Congrats Dara!!


88 Janelle October 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I just discovered your blog, and came across this post. I am so inspired by you. I signed up for my first 1/2 marathon recently and am nervous in anticipation. Congrats on finishing, I hope I can kick as much ass as you did :)


89 Lora @cakeduchess October 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You look completely ecstatic in that last photo-complete inspiration! I love this post and love you did it:)xo


90 Sarah October 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm



91 Christina (sistersrunningthekitchen) October 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm

congrats!!!! you look GREAT


92 Becky at Vintage Mixer October 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I just had the chance to read through this post!!! So proud of you Dara! What a HUGE accomplishment. And I’m sure Portland was the perfect city to run 26.3 miles in!!! I had to laugh at the missing shorts dilemma because we’ve all had those dreams. But you made it through and with a cute purple running skirt none-the-less!


93 Robyn January 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

ok – I just read this, and cried. Awesome you did that! I’m new to your site, stumbled on to it this morning. It is now added to my “favorites”. I’m a fairly new runner. Done several 5K’s, but not much beyond that. Maybe this will be my year to push a little harder. You have certainly motivated me. Thank you!


94 Amy Cozart March 3, 2013 at 5:28 am

I just did my first marathon last month! Your recap sounded familiar! Love the part about the crazy bug burrowing telling you to do it again…I have it too!


95 Cristina A. -The Batchmaker April 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

I just stumbled upon your blog! Such a motivational story. I just ran my first half last month, after 6 months of training and I couldnt even run .30 of a mile on day one. The day of my half was the worst regarding weather, it had hail, A LOT OF RAIN and freezing temps. I did it anyways, my time was 2:20. How long did it take you to train for the full? DO you have any websites or plans that are helpful? I am not sure if I can run the full one, I am doubting myself so I would appreciate if you have any info! Thanks so much and CONGRATS!


96 mom chamilia charm September 23, 2014 at 5:35 am

Great info. Lucky me I recently found your website by accident (stumbleupon).
I have book marked it for later!


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