Mike's 1st Marathon

by Michael Nolan
(Willow Grove, PA)

The Nolan Clan at the ODM finish

The Nolan Clan at the ODM finish

In order to fully appreciate my first marathon story, its helpful to understand the path to running it. Until recently, running was a regular part of my fitness routine and it involved running 2 - 3 miles, 3 times a week at the gym, filling those in between days when I wasn’t lifting weights. My idea of a distance run was a 5 mile vanity run on the treadmill once a year on my birthday. That all changed in December 2010 when an accident left me with a fractured wrist. Though I was in a brace and not a hard cast, all activities involving the left hand were restricted for at least 6 weeks. The sedentary alternative wasn’t acceptable as it had taken decades to get off the couch and the only activity open to me was running. I soon found that the 5 mile run was not so hard and a friend (who should be a Fitness Motivator) suggested I find a goal run to pursue.


That goal run became the Broad Street Run, a 10-miler here in Philadelphia. As the training distances increased and the weather improved, I found myself running outside. In no time at all, the treadmill became a dreaded alternative. Following the Galloway thinking of run/walk and training beyond the goal distance, I had increased my distance runs to 13 miles. As Broad Street approached, it was suggested that I consider a half marathon since I was already running the distance. I finished Broad Street and registered for the ING Philadelphia Half Marathon in September. By early August, my distance runs had reached the 16 miles point and my running partner suggested that if we could handle 16, we could handle 26 and register for the Philadelphia Marathon.

There is a two decade gap in our ages and I continued to run with him but dismissed Philadelphia as I didn’t think I could jump to 26 miles in the 8 weeks after the half marathon. However, I did commit to the marathon goal and registered for the Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May, NJ scheduled for March 2011. I registered in the Fall of 2010 and gave no thought at all to having to train through the winter. I found myself running in rain, snow and ice (and firmly believe that rain is the worst). In fact, I probably looked like a blithering idiot, but ran in the snow with a grim on my face enjoying every step.

Running a first marathon at age 54 was challenge enough and my goal for the ODM was simply to finish. I made myself crazy in the weeks leading to the race reading every weather forecast I could find, until I finally realized that I was running regardless of the weather and worrying about something beyond my control was a bad use of energy. As the race day approached, my nephew volunteered to join me around mile 16 and pace me to the finish. I had a large contingent of family mobilized at the finish line and all I had to do was get there. The morning of the race was overcast and when the buses delivered us to the starting line, snow started falling from the sky. While others moaned, I smiled and thought this is a good omen -- I trained in this weather. The race started on time and even though it was a shotgun start, my Garmin (yes, I’ve really gotten into this in short time) indicated that I crossed the starting line in under 90 seconds of the gun. Despite the pace of the pack, I was determined to stick to my training pace of 10 minute miles (knowing that I would slow down somewhere around mile 22). I walked and hydrated every 2 miles, I talked to the other runners (once you accept being the creepy older guy, it eliminates a lot of pressure) and most importantly, I smiled. At about mile 6 in Wildwood, the sky began to clear and the sun started coming out. This was the one thing I didn’t plan for and forgot sun block. The pack thinned out after mile 10 as the group running the 10-miler finished on the Boardwalk in Wildwood. Shortly after mile 16, my nephew and niece appeared from a side street and he joined me for the remainder of the race. We agreed that no whining was permitted as we both were on the street voluntarily. He is an architectural intern and offered a rolling commentary on the shore houses -- some good and some tacky. At about mile 20, nausea set in and I found myself drinking more water and the walking breaks every other mile were getting a bit longer. After mile 24, the race couldn’t end soon enough. In fact, the longest distance was the last 385 yards. After the 26 miles marker, the finish line still looked too far away and I observed (not whined mind you) that this race was already over according to my Garmin. Then to my left, I saw a friend (who might actually be a Fitness Motivator) and his entire family there cheering. That was a surprise and I’m glad that I remembered to smile. The next group I saw was my family; prominent among them was my wife Debbie, who stood the clapping and crying. My initial thought was that her legs must hurt, too. I passed through the finish line cattle shoot at 4:44:31.67 (Garmin time -- it doesn‘t lie). I may qualify for social security before Boston, but I still ran the distance standing and smiling. Then Debbie came running up to me, still crying. Suddenly my legs didn’t hurt at all. PS - I’ve already registered for the Philadelphia Marathon next fall.

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