I Am A Paris Marathon Finisher (Video)

It has been exactly 41 days and 5 hours since I finished the Paris Marathon and I have spent exactly 41 days and 4 hours trying desperately to describe the experience in writing. I can’t. It was such a surreal journey—one of the top three highlights of my life thus far.

Since Dario and I signed up in November, my life consisted of long hours of running, constant sacrifices to train, non-stop pain from my ankle injury in January, and a nagging fear that I would not make it to race day. But every mile, every moment of pain and doubt and sacrifice was worth its weight in gold as my body delivered me across the finish line. The moment I knew I would make it, I burst into tears from a mixture of relief, pride and most of all, unequivocal happiness.

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The Paris Marathon was my first marathon and it was the perfect choice. The city has a unique electric energy that was augmented ten-fold by the hordes of by-standers cheering us animatedly for most of the course. Given my limited ability to train after my injury, I didn’t expect to finish but my audience kept calling my name and I couldn’t let them down so I pushed one foot in front of the other, past the Eiffel Tower and to the Arc de Triomphe where I claimed my new title as marathoner.

I keep trying to tell my Paris Marathon story because it is too unforgettable not to share. But words don’t do it justice—or, perhaps I just haven’t found the right ones. While I continue trying to capture my memories on paper, I am hoping this video conveys an infinitesimal part of what it feels like to be a Paris Marathon finisher. It is the least I can do to thank you for coming with me and supporting me on the road to Paris.

Running Is My Therapy

Running is my therapy. Some people meditate, some people paint, some people seek counseling. I run. It burns off stress, helps me work through problems, and clears my head like nothing else can. I need it to be a happy, healthy and functioning member of society. Yes, I do it for me but also for you so you don’t have to deal with me in a miserable state.

This week I needed running more than ever. Work had a number of stressful deadlines. My schedule was so packed that I averaged 4 hours of sleep per night. Then, yesterday as things were finally calming down I got a call from my landlord that my apartment had water damage from a unidentified leak. I couldn’t catch a break.

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By the time that 4:30 p.m. rolled around yesterday, I was desperate to get some miles in so I put on my running shoes and headed to the Venetian. I didn’t have a lot of time to run but I made every mile count, running faster than normal. I completed four miles at an 8:49 min/mi average with perfect negative splits. Although I probably had enough adrenaline to run a whole marathon, those four miles vastly improved my mood and my mindset.

Today I am waking up a completely different woman, the woes of the week mere memories pounded into the pavement. Any lingering bad ju-ju will be burned this morning on a run with Dario, our first together since we signed up for the Paris Marathon. Per usual a debrief will follow. In the interim, I leave you with the details of yesterday’s therapy session.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watchBeats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Guadalajara Half Marathon” playlist on Spotify (I recently added new songs, including “Alive (Radio Edit)” by Dirty South and “Sunlight” by The Magician, which I repeated back and forth for most of this run.)

An Ode to Sidewalks

Sidewalks can make or break a city in the eyes of a runner. I realized that this morning after a botched run through Charleston that began west of the Ashley River and ended 40 minutes, 1.6-miles later with my friend Jamison and I calling a rescue Uber from the middle of a random residential neighborhood. The struggle? That the sidewalk network in Albemarle Point has no rhyme or reason and you most certainly shouldn’t expect it to take you safely into downtown.

I travel a lot and have had my fair share of struggles when running in a new city. There have been cities where it’s hard to find nearby running routes, or those routes are far away, or they cut through sketchy areas. But there are always sidewalks offering a safe haven from cars where I can log some miles even if its not through the most scenic of routes. Not in Charleston. The sidewalks here come and go indiscriminately, disappearing with little to no notice and giving me a newfound appreciation for their presence. That is, when they’re present.

Downtown Charleston posed less of a challenge. The rescue Uber took Jamison and I to the picturesque coastline of Battery, an area whose availability of sidewalks renewed my appreciation for this city. Okay, so the sidewalks weren’t in the best shape—some leaned at an angle, some were cracked, most were extremely narrow—but at least they were there. We hugged the waterfront, running past historic mansions and the breezy marshes to Black Tap Coffee Shop, where we ended after two short miles. (We wasted a lot of energy in the sidewalk fiasco and didn’t have patience to run any longer.)

I wish we had started our run in downtown because its bountiful sidewalks would have made for a fantastic run. Alas, the sidewalk fiasco occurred and not only made this one of my least favorite fun runs I have recently taken, but it also started my relationship with Charleston on the wrong foot. Don’t take your sidewalks for granted, folks.

Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watchBeats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: “This Town – Gucci Mane Edit” Radio on Spotify

Running At Noon Is The Worst

Weekend days are a godsend to a runner because unlike packed week days, they offer ample time to fit in a long run. (For perspective, I was due for 15 miles today which takes me approximately 2.5 hours to finish. Ain’t nobody got time for that during the week.) The challenge with weekend days is that they are also prime time to go out with friends and sleep in, two activities that usually don’t jive with running because it is easier to run before the sun is in full force.

The most committed runners are diligent about going to bed early and waking up early when they’re training. They know like I do that running, especially long runs like the ones I’m currently scheduled for, are more painful at peak heat. But, let’s get real—I have gotten pretty lackadaisical about my Paris Marathon training in the last few weeks so it comes as no surprise that I didn’t wake up at 7 a.m. this morning. Instead, I rolled out of bed to make coffee circa 10:30 a.m.

Snoozing my alarm at 7 a.m. felt fantastic. Waking up at 10:30 a.m. to realize I would have to train in 80-degrees, not so much. I spent a good hour stewing over my options until Betsy saved me with a pitch to join her and our friend Thais for a short run on the beach. Her proposal was exactly what I needed to avoid the trap I have been falling into since I started training: the all-or-nothing conundrum. There is no way I would have survived 15 miles at noon so absent Betsy’s offer, I probably wouldn’t have run at all. Something is better than nothing.

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At 11:30 a.m., Thais, Betsy and I drove up to North Beach. We took off running northbound on the beachwalk from Allison Park with the goal of completing 4 miles nice and easy. We took off at a 10:24 min/mi pace. Thanks to my ankle situation I limped the entire first mile, eliciting concerned looks from both Betsy and Thais who asked, “Are you sure you should be running?”

Running at noon is the worst. We ran the second mile one minute slower as the reality of the unbearable heat finally caught up with us and we started to desiccate. (It was so hot that Thais touched her brown hair around mile 2 and burned her hand.) Speaking of things that are the worst, we also slowed down because our fearless leader Betsy made us run through the soft sands of North Shore Open Space Park once we reached the northern end of the beachwalk and it took all of my energy to not be swallowed by the ground. Luckily, we took advantage of the shaded sidewalks inside the park on the way back so we closed out the run at a sub-11 min/mi average.

Despite the harrowing conditions, I had a lot of fun running with Betsy and Thais. And, while I’m not proud that I didn’t have the discipline to wake up and train like I was supposed to, I consider it a small win that I ran any miles at mid-day. Here’s to hoping I learned my lesson and wake up early next weekend.

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Gear: ASICS Women’s Gel Nimbus 18 running shoesGarmin Forerunner 920XT watchBose Wireless Sports Headphones

Playlist: My “Guadalajara Half Marathon” playlist on Spotify

Paris Marathon Training Log: Tempo Run, February 23 2018

Friday sunset runs are my absolute favorite. I can usually get out of work early enough to catch Miami’s majestic sunset and the adrenaline of the weekend pulses in my veins, propelling me forward at a faster than normal pace. It puts me in an incredible mood. So, if you are lucky enough to spot me, you’ll get to experience the Margarita run-sing-dance. It’s my signature move, as the usual suspects on the Venetian Causeway have come to learn over the last two years.

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Needless to say, today’s Friday sunset run was an overwhelming success—I finished at an 8:45 min/mi average. It wasn’t a perfect predator run because I caught the wind on the way back and admittedly, I took off way too fast in the first two miles. That said, I’m impressed with my body’s ability to sustain a sub-9 min/mi pace for the last five consecutive miles. I’m also happy I was able to push an extra 0.2 miles for a full 10K. Given that I ran this 2 minutes faster than my goal pace for Paris, this was an excellent litmus test for the South Beach Triathlon which I will be running the weekend I get back from the marathon.

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Guess who was super vain today and ran without a water belt because it would ruin the outfit? This girl. Luckily my run took me to Margaret Pace Park where I made a quick water/restroom break at the halfway point.

Beyond the Friday evening high, this incredible run can be attributed to two things. One was the fact that I’ve been taking an analgesic for my ankle, prescribed by the orthopedic specialist I saw in Mexico, that has been working miracles. I didn’t feel the tendonitis flare up until mile 5 and it should be back to normal once I finish icing. The second was the playlist. I recycled the Guadalajara Half-Marathon playlist today, shuffling between the techno songs and the rap songs. The MVPs during the mile 5 reckoning were “Hey Mama” and “She Can Get It,” both of which set the perfect left foot, right foot pace to push when I wanted to slow down.

Distance is going to be my biggest challenge in the next five weeks so wish me luck on Sunday morning’s 15-mile run. I am starting to get nervous about this whole 26-mile commitment I made…

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watchBeats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Guadalajara Half Marathon” playlist on Spotify

Impromptu Guadalajara Half-Marathon? Why Not!

This Sunday I ran the 21K GDL Electrolit 2018 in Mexico. If you’re thinking, “But Margarita, I don’t remember you training to run a half-marathon in Guadalajara…” You’re right. I didn’t even know Guadalajara throws an annual half-marathon—a damn good one, it turns out!—until this past Thursday when my family and I traveled to Guadalajara for the long weekend.

I packed to train while on vacation. My training called for 15 miles this weekend and with almost one month to go, I was serious about getting them in around our travel itinerary. The only thing I was worried about was running by myself. Many parts of Mexico are dangerous, particularly for a young, blonde female, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to run with 15,000 other runners as soon as my aunt mentioned her best friend Monyca would be participating in the local half-marathon.

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I still can’t believe the stars aligned to get me across that finish line. It definitely wasn’t easy. For starters, it was an odyssey to register so close to the race—it had to be done in person and within limited hours—but Monyca moved mountains to make it happen. (Gracias, gracias, gracias, Mony!) Also, I was at a physical disadvantage for three reasons:

  1. Guadalajara is 1,600 meters above sea level and exercising at altitude is harder than in Miami.
  2. My training has been on flat courses and 90% of the Guadalajara Half-Marathon course is at an incline or on a bridge, particularly the second half.
  3. The day before my family and I went on the Jose Cuervo Express, a nearly 12 hour adventure that was exhausting, required a lot of standing/walking, and involved a lot of tequila.

Despite the setbacks and the challenging course, it turned out to be a good race for me! I felt great for most of the race and finished in 2 hours and 6 minutes, compared to the Miami half where I felt miserable and finished only 2 minutes faster. It helped that this time I focused on managing my energy so I had an ample reserve for the back-to-back climbs during the second half of the race. And, that I smiled through the tough moments rather than wallowed in them like I did in January. (Did you know a genuine smile could improve physical performance?)

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I head back to Miami tomorrow to make my last five weeks of training count. (No more impromptu races, I promise!) It should get easier now that I know my ankle situation is tendonitis and I’m following a treatment plan. Alas, I see the City of Lights at the end of the tunnel and I’m going to ride the good juju from this race from the Champs Elysée to the Port Dauphine.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Beats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Guadalajara Half Marathon” playlist on Spotify

Paris Marathon Training Log: Tempo Run, February 13 2018

It’s becoming apparent that making it to and finishing the Paris Marathon is going to be a challenge. My right ankle, which seemed to have been getting better, has reached a recovery plateau (i.e., it still hurts). Ergo, I’m running slower and training less than I should be, especially considering that we are seven weeks away from race day.  My previous race goal was to finish. My current race goal is to make it to race day. Womp, womp.

That said, I’m up for the challenge. I just have to temper my expectations about the speed of my recovery, how much more progress I will be able to make in training, and what I will be able to accomplish on race day. My plan for the next few weeks is to manage my injury. I’m going to focus on keeping good form during runs, pushing myself but not too hard, and religiously icing after every workout. I’m also going back to the acupuncturist as soon as I am back in town. (I’m headed to Mexico for a few days to visit family.)

As far as training, it’s taking more motivation to get moving because running hurts. On this particular run, the fear of running 26 miles in a few weeks was enough to get me out the door. The actual running wasn’t any easier. The first four miles I averaged a 10+ min/mi pace because I physically could not move faster without limping. When my ankle warmed up, I was able to comfortably increase to a 9:30 min/mi pace and enjoy myself, ultimately bringing my pace to a 9:58 min/mi average. It’s not the best I can do, but it is a respectable pace and in the neighborhood of my goal tempo for the marathon so I consider it a win.

I’m taking each day in stride, aiming first and foremost to get back to my routine of one tempo run, one sprint workout, and one long run. We’ll see what happens on those runs. I’m particularly interested to see how my body responds this weekend when I go out for my first long run since the Miami half-marathon. Stay tuned and send positive healing vibes. Please and thank you.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Beats Studio 2 wireless headphones, 16GB Apple iPod Nano

Playlist: My “Road to Paris” playlist on Spotify