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

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

The Hard Lesson I Learned at the 2018 Miami Half-Marathon

Today I ran the Miami half-marathon in 2 hours and 4 minutes. Good right? Except I was vying to PR by breaking 2 hours. It’s what I’ve been training for since before the Key West half-marathon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. There were a couple of different factors I can blame—the excessive wind, the fact that I ate dinner too early, an ankle injury from last Thursday’s run—but the hard lesson I learned yesterday is that no matter what you do, sometimes you have good races, sometimes you have bad races.

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My gear, prepped and ready to go the night before the Miami half-marathon.

Last January’s Key West half-marathon was a good race. I finished it in 2 hours and 3 minutes and could have easily broken 2 hours if a much-needed pit stop and other amateur mistakes hadn’t cost me those precious 3 minutes. I felt strong from the start line to the finish line and could have easily kept running a few more miles afterward. This race was what inspired me signing up for my first marathon. I just felt so good.

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My sister Carla and I running the Key West Half-Marathon in January 2017.

Yesterday was a bad race. I started out strong for the first seven miles, averaging a 9:15 min/mi pace. I started to mentally fade when we had to loop around Washington Avenue. Not only was it a boring part of the course, but it also seemed infinite. (I forgot it loops south to come back north and I wasn’t mentally prepared for it.) I started to physically fade as we approached the Venetian Causeway, at which point I seriously considered running to my nearby home. My pace dropped to 9:50 min/mi for the rest of the race.

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Me, looking like I’m being tortured as I crossed the finish line yesterday.

I won’t lie—I’m super bummed I didn’t PR. From miles 7 through 13, I even started to question my ability to run a full marathon. But, I managed to tough it out to the finish line and for that I couldn’t be more proud. Once my right ankle recovers, I’m excited to get back to training and to experience the Paris Marathon, good or bad.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Bose Wireless Sports Headphones

Playlist: My “Miami Half Marathon” playlist on Spotify

Is Running In A Group Better Than Running Alone?

Tonight I made my triumphant return to the South Beach Run Club. Can you believe it’s been five years since the days we met up outside Mr. R’s? Even more shocking, it’s been nearly seven years since Morgan and I frequented the Gables Run Club.

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Morgan and I, crouched at center, after a Gables Run Club run in September 2011.

Since my last run club stint, I’ve been more of a solo or partner runner, running in larger groups only when races absolutely demand it. I made an exception today because I was scheduled for an easy, short run and my friend Naveed asked nicely. The runs are usually around 3 to 4 miles so my plan was to run them at comfortable pace. Naveed had a different plan.

One of the benefits of running en masse, particularly in a run club, are pace groups. Naveed and our friend Diego recommended I join theirs so I wouldn’t have to navigate around slower runners until everyone was sufficiently scattered. It was a solid strategy, except for the part where I’m substantially slower than them. (Naveed and Diego run sub-8 min/mi, while I averaged an 8:21 min/mi in my 5K PR.)

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The super fast, serious runners of the sub-8 min/mi pace group. Intimidating, right?

Another benefit of group runs is that there’s plenty of incentive to run faster. Not surprisingly, I started out at the end of the pack, pushing a 7:45 min/mi pace and still falling a few steps behind the last pacer. I wasn’t sure of the course so I made sure to keep her in my sight. When we caught up to the slower groups, I was finally able to slow down a notch but the runners (er, prey) in front of me and the vigorous beat of Glass House by Kaleo kept me at an aggressive pace.

Thanks to both perks—or, the peer pressure from Naveed and Diego—I finished tonight’s run at an 8:34 min/mi pace, despite a 9:49 min/mi warm-up that dragged down my average. I was extremely proud of myself. Back in the day, I would take off with the 10 min/mi pace group and fall toward the back of the group. Today I finished among the fastest of the pack. Miami half-marathon, come at me bro!

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

Playlist: My “Charging Down The Mountain” playlist on Spotify