Pilot’s Tucson Marathon Recap

Hi friends! Hope you’re enjoying a lovely 2014. Don’t forget to send in your inspiration boards! 🙂

Remember when I wrote this post about “what to do when your significant other isn’t into fitness?” Welp, the Pilot’s kind F-U was to turn around and run a marathon. I tip my hat to you, sir.

Check out his recap below!


(Pic from our first family 5k)

Hey, folks – Pilot here. I hope your Holidays have been good. Gina mentioned that a few commenters were interested in post about my marathon. Fortunately, there are plenty of commercials during the Rose Bowl, so here we go.

This marathon was interesting in that I hadn’t been on a consistent running routine prior to beginning the training plan. It’s amazing how life changes in the 10 years after college. Growing up, I competed in running sports from the beginning of junior high through high school (track, soccer, etc.).  I also ran fairly often while at Bama thanks to like-minded friends in AFROTC. In fact, I ran my first long-distance races in college. I was averaging 12-minutes on my 2- mile runs, but I wanted to push it up from there. We started doing mud run-type races, 5 and 10ks on campus, and finally, a few marathons.

One of the two that stood out was the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon. If you’re not familiar with the forced march by US prisoners of war under the Japanese during WWII, read up. You’ll take every bit of pride from any race you’ve run and trash it.  The starving POWs covered approximately 80 miles and along the way, there was a little more adversity than not having their favorite Gatorade at the water stations. Our five-man team ran (read: shuffled) in full military clothing (minus the outer which we could remove) with 35lbs packs (not including water).  We trained for months in locations all over central Alabama. While ensuring the five of us finished at the same time, we took just over 10 hours to complete the 26.2 miles. The most memorable part of the race was running the steep hill into the mountains near White Sands, NM. Actual survivors of the march from WWII were there to cheer us on. Other than to shake their hands, no participants dared to slow down while shuffling past the veterans.

bataanI saw a camera guy and this happened. I don’t know.

The other memorable marathon was much less dramatic, but it stands out because, like the one I just ran here in Tucson, I ran it with less than optimal training time. Actually, I only trained for it for three weeks. See, after Bataan, my running tapered off significantly. I still ran a couple times a week on average, but my focus was on graduating and keeping up with ROTC stuff as cadet wing commander. Well, during this time my “friends” coerced me into running the Blue Angel Marathon in Pensacola about a month prior to the race. God knows why I agreed, but I did and jumped in on their program. Again, I was in decent shape, so the race wasn’t actually that bad…until mile 22 anyway. I remember my legs hurting. I even jogged backwards for a little bit because that’s the only thing that relieved the pressure. However, after this minor hurdle, I pressed on to complete the race. I finished around 4:05.

Fast forward to now and the running’s tapered off a lot more. Now, I’m a “sure, let’s go for an 8-miler” or “oh, there’s a 5k this weekend” type of guy. Work and family stuff tends to fill most of my time. I won’t use the excuse that I’m older, because I’ve got some 40 year-old friends that kick my butt on runs. So, when one of those 40 year-olds and a couple other dudes in the squadron asked me (constantly) to do this last race, my ego didn’t let me back out. Are you seeing a trend?

I started the training program about a month late (jumping in when the rest of the crew was at about 10 miles). I was not ready. I convinced myself that I’d run with them and just sign up for the half if I wasn’t feeling it. So, I slugged it out through the plan and distance runs: 12, 14, 16, 18…20 (that one sucked…only made it to 18 before my legs cramped up forcing me to hobble to the finish), 20 again which went much better, and the taper down. There were a couple easy weeks in there, too. Anyway, I made it that far… I should just go for the 26.2, right? By the way, for the long training runs I: ate a banana on the drive to the start, ran with a camel back, ate a goo or block every 45 minutes, and ate a banana at the 13 mile point. I also popped a couple Advil for the 18 and longer milers (did the same for the race). 

All of our training runs were in moderate Tucson winter temps: the average was about 55 degrees on the Sunday morning long runs. So, of course, race day was in the low 30’s with rain. My “toss-away” sweat shirt and running pants would be worn for the majority of the race. I was still pumped to do it, but let me tell you, it sucked – like, bad. I made it to 13 in around 2 hours, so I felt okay. Somewhere around 17-20 miles the weird emotional stuff hit me. Distance runners might know what I’m talking about. If there’s anything in your life that could get to you a little (family, something you’re going through, etc.), it could affect you during the race. For some reason, I just started thinking about Livi at the finish line as motivation, and I suddenly caught myself fighting back a few tears. Yeah, I don’t know. It was weird. That all faded as I entered the 20’s and so did any lingering feelings of fun. Somewhere in the late teens, I had started walking from the marathon mile-markers to the half-marathon markers (approximately .1 miles).Well,  right after the half-marathon marker on my mile 23, there was a hill that I was pretty sure I could jog up and press past. It turns out it wasn’t a hill; it was an IMMOVABLE WALL OF GOD and I hit it hard. The last three miles were sheer misery as I watched the pace for 4:15 finish (the goal) slip to 4:30 and even that slipped a little more. Whenever I tried to get running again, my legs just weren’t having it. It reminded me of the first 20 miler. I crossed the finish line in 4:48. I guess sometimes, you just have a sub-par run. Oh well. I finished and put another 26.2 in the books.

tucson marathon

I’m glad I did it, but I probably won’t jump in so late on a training plan again. I’m signed up to do the Phoenix Half in March as a nice break. Maybe I’ll see some of you AZ runners up there?

Anybody else have a rough experience hitting the wall and what did you do to convince yourself to press on? Anyone run their first distance run recently? Congrats in advance.

Until next time…

tucson marathon (2)


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  1. Katie on January 2, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Congratulations! Bad day or good day, any 26.2 is a huge accomplishment!

  2. April on January 2, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Oh dear. This post was not especially encouraging! 🙂 I just registered for my first full–the Honolulu Marathon–scheduled for December. That gives me plenty of time to train, of course, but I’ve only done two half marathons, both of which went fine, but after each, the rest of the day was spent in the bathroom, cramping up. I’m thinking I’ll start trying smaller snacks instead of the already small breakfast I was eating before long runs?
    I have an 8-week old at home, so I’m not going to start training for a few months, but my goal is to run a 30k and probably finish walking. Either way, the 26.2 distance has been on my bucket list for a while, so I’m excited, even though I know I’ll be cursing myself come December 🙂 Thanks for the post!

    • emma @ be mom strong on January 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Ok you are officially a rock star mom… an 8 week old AND already registered for your first full. Love it!

    • Crystal on January 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Wow Honolulu! Sounds like a beautiful place to run 26.2 miles 🙂

    • Sarahf on January 2, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      My friend has done Honolulu marathon every year for the last 15. He’s 73 (and awesome!) it sounds like such a fun race with loads of supporters. It’s on my marathon bucket list for sure!

  3. Britt on January 2, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I LOVE Pilot posts! I am trying to get into running. However I live in Boston and running takes a small hit once the weather catches up. I want to run my first 5K in May. We will see if that happens. I loved your story about the Bataan. One question. I know that you are an officer in the AF. If you didn’t have to keep up with running and fitness for military purposes, would you still work out as much as you do?

    • The Pilot on January 2, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Hey, Britt. It may sound counterintuitive, but if I wasn’t in the AF, I would probably be in better shape. 12-hours days that start at random times, depending on when I have to fly, crushes my routine. I’ll have a few good morning workouts, then I’ll have to be up at 4:00 A.M. a couple days in a row and be too tired by the time I get home at 5:00 P.M.. There are plenty of dudes that make it work, but I’d rather spend the free time w/ the fam.

      • Britt on January 2, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        This makes perfect sense. Thank you for responding!

  4. Erica { EricaDHouse.com } on January 2, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Congrats! Thankfully I did not hit the wall during my marathon, but I slammed into it on my 18 mile training run leading up to it. It wasn’t pretty, but I’m glad it happened then so I knew how to better prepare/avoid it on race day.

  5. Jess on January 2, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I always love when the Pilot makes a guest appearance! He is always so inspirational and real. Congrats on the marathon accomplishment! I don’t think it sounds like a “sub-par” run at all! You’re one lucky girl Gina! Wishing you all health and happiness in the new year <3

  6. Erin (Running Tall) on January 2, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Congrats on your finish! Loved the tone and writing of this post too. I can totally relate to the emotional stuff runners experience…I tend to tear up at random people’s encouraging signs. But I also tear up at the Sarah McLachlan dog commericals too so….

  7. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on January 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Marathons can bring out a lot of emotion! I remember the last 6 miles of my first marathon were just thinking about seeing my husband at that finish line!

    Great job!!!! You did awesome!

  8. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on January 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    What a great post! It’s funny, I said something similar to my husband about getting moving and then he proceeded to not only start running but fall in love with it and get really good at it. I think wives can have a positive effect. 😀

  9. Jackie on January 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Great job, either way you finished a marathon which is awesome!!!

  10. Maria on January 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    great job on your finish! I’ve always wanted to do the Bataan Memorial Death March. It’s a race that my husband I want to do together.

  11. Sado Training on January 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Great post! I am not a huge fan of running and could never image running a marathon. I am a huge fan of mud races. I competed in a Spartan race and I am now doing a Warrior Race in a few week. They are a blast!

  12. Allison k on January 2, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    My grandfather was a Bataan survivor. My cousins and I want to train for and run that race.

  13. Missy on January 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for the post, Pilot! It’s fun to hear from you. Congrats on the race… in the end, you finished 26.2 miles, which many people cannot accomplish. I’m hoping to train for my first full marathon within the next two years. Trying to get my half marathon time down! 🙂 Happy New Year!

  14. RavieNomNoms on January 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    What an accomplishment! Congrats!

  15. elizabeth@ourcrazysweetlife on January 2, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    You guys are such a cute, fun family! Congrats on your many health & fitness accomplishments.

  16. Jess on January 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Well done on making it through! The Bataan Memorial run sounds amazing. So cool you could participate and show your respect for those who went through it.

  17. Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves on January 2, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Awesome post, Pilot! Your fight for the finish both marathons is inspirational in and of itself. Congratulations! And thank you for reminding us all of the daily fight of the troops.

  18. Crystal on January 2, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I’m pretty sure I could barely walk 26.2 miles right now so this sounds pretty impressive to me lol.

  19. Cassy on January 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Love Pilot posts!

  20. Diane on January 2, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Really loved this post!! Thanks for sharing some of your running stories. It was also great to hear your perspective. Most of the blogs I read are written by women, so it’s fun to see a different point of view.

    Sorry you hit the wall this time. No better advice than to keep going, and (as you did) find something – anything! – to keep you motivated. Good luck in March!

  21. purelytwins on January 2, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Congrats Tom!! We know how hard running a marathon is…you should be so proud 😉

  22. Sarahf on January 2, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Congratulations! I’ve completed one marathon, but had to drop out of 2 because I am really slow! They’re super strict here about roads reopening on time, so I’ll have to work on speed next time. Good luck in March!

  23. Laura L on January 2, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Great post! I’m actually doing my first half at the Phoenix Half Marathon!

    • Jessa on January 5, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Me too! I’m doing a half. So exciting!!

  24. Laura B @ FitMamaLove on January 3, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Congrats on completing the marathon even if it wasn’t your best! I’m with Gina in that I will never ever do a marathon. Ever. Probably not even a half for me!

  25. Olena @ candies&crunches on January 3, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Congratulations! Regardless of your experience, it’s a HUGE achievement. I’m only hoping that I’ll bring myself to do it at least once in my lifetime!

  26. InSalutis | 1/3: Friday Faves on January 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    […] Friday! Thank you so much for your awesome comments on the Pilot’s marathon recap and my fitness predictions for 2014. I’m excited to write back to them during naptime today […]

  27. Jessa on January 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    What are you running at the Phx Marathon? I’m doing a half. What other runnings do you know in the pHx area? I would love to meet up with more runners

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