Can I still call this a "blog" in 2024?

Blog, General, Running

I trained for a road marathon by running trails. Here’s what happened.

I first ran the Big Sur Marathon back in 2015. I was living in LA at the time, and this felt like a bucket list race. It was an incredible experience, and to this day it’s the most stunning race route I’ve experienced.

Fast forward to 2024. I live in Santa Cruz now, and Big Sur is in my backyard. I had just completed a 40 mile run for my 40th birthday and was feeling fit, so I registered for the marathon and got in.

I’ve been focused almost exclusively on trail runs the last few years, and I didn’t want to switch to road running to train for Big Sur. Frankly, ever since I’ve gotten into trail running, road running has felt a lot less appealing. I’d estimate that 90% of my training runs for the 2024 Big Sur Marathon were on trails, with the only real exceptions being West LA beach runs while traveling for work.

Yesterday was my return to the Big Sur Marathon. I had a rough goal of finishing in 4 hours, despite not really training for such a thing.

I woke up at 4am for 6:15 start time, and before I knew it, I was running down the PCH with 4,000 new friends.

For the first 2 hours of the race, I was totally blissed out. The weather was perfect and I was floating along without a care in the world. I made some new friends and had some great conversations.

Around mile 14, my legs started to bother me.

They were sore all over, and I was getting sharp pain in my hip with each step. I was prepared to deal with discomfort, but this was an unfamiliar pain, so it caught me by surprise. My blissed out vibes faded as I found myself overly focused on this growing pain.

With each passing minute the discomfort grew more intense. I decided I’d stop and see a medic at the next aid station. They had some muscle rub, which helped a bit. I focused on the cooling sensation which kept me distracted for a bit, but eventually the pain became more prominent.

Hills are one thing that trail running prepared me well for, but these hills felt particularly cruel while my legs were screaming at me. But I ran the hills anyway. I did not want to stop and lose my momentum.

I did my best to focus on two things: not walking, and not letting the 4 hour pacer pass me.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the beautiful views around every turn, so that helped a bit too.

The 4 hour pacer slowly passed me a few times, so I’d push on the gas a little bit to keep up with her. We leapfrogged each other probably 10 times before the end of the race, when I pulled ahead in the final half mile or so.

Despite keeping a lead on the pacer, I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 31 seconds. I am chalking this up as a win, especially considering how hard I was struggling.

In retrospect, I think this is some of the worst pain I’ve experienced during a race. I’ve trained on the road for each previous road marathon I’ve run, so in some ways this is the least prepared I’ve ever been for a 26.2 miles. My recent 40 mile run was certainly a challenge, but at no point did I feel as bad as I did yesterday. It was a true test of mental fortitude.

In conclusion, specificity of training is clearly more important than I realized. I didn’t prepare my body for the demands of 4 hours of pounding pavement, and the consequences were not subtle. I am not surprised by this, but I’ll certainly be more intentional with my training in the future.

Overall it was an awesome experience and a great event, and I can’t wait to do it again someday with the classic route.

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