My first foray into endurance sports was a marathon that I ran with very little preparation in October 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand. I ran that first marathon mostly to prove I could and to enjoy the experience. I was born with a congenital defect in both of my knees which made running very painful in my teens and therefore something I never did. I had surgeries to fix my knees when I was 20 and 21, but I never tried running until I moved to New Zealand. I was 26 when I made the move and at that point the longest I would run was 5k on a treadmill. I had registered for the 10k race at the Auckland Marathon, but when I broke up with the guy I had moved to New Zealand with, I decided that I should go big and run the marathon. I only had two months before the marathon and this would be my first running race. Again, go big and/or I wasn’t thinking clearly!
Let’s Go Big Again
After that marathon, I realized that I wasn’t impressed with my performance. I am very competitive with myself and I wanted to run the distance faster. I figured I should try again and try to actually train for a marathon. Instead, I decided to swim across the Auckland Harbour. Most people will tell you that they plan out a race calendar and have reasons for doing races. I don’t and still cannot provide a really good reason for why that swim seemed like the right thing to do. I had not swum since high school (~10 years before the harbour swim) and my training involved trying on a wetsuit that I rented for the race. As I said earlier: GO BIG.
After that swim, I raced two marathons (with much more training) and found my way to triathlon. I moved to Rotura and was introduced to triathlon by some triathletes who insisted that since I could swim (I was a competitive swimmer growing up), and I could run marathons, I just needed to buy a bike and I’d be a great triathlete. I bought the bike, but my first triathlon didn’t give me much confidence in a future with the sport.The swim was great – I was wearing an old racing swimsuit from high school (15 years old!) and came out of the water with the fastest swimmers in their fancy wetsuits. I got into transition, pulled some running shorts and a tank top over my swimsuit, combed out my hair and put it in a ponytail, put on my cycling shoes, spent several minutes at the edge of the road attempting to get on the bike, and finally started riding. The bike course was 16km, 4 laps of a 4km loop… I got lapped by most of the other triathletes at least two or three times and I was dead last getting off the bike. I managed to pass a woman in her 70s on the run to finish 2nd last.
My favourite part of the story of my first race is that I stopped to comb out my hair after the swim….and that I didn’t give up. I did a half ironman about 6 months later, even though I was still incredibly slow on the bike. 12 years after that first triathlon, I’m still not fast on the bike, but I’ve finished 7 full ironman races, and I’ve lost count of how many half ironman races. I’ve also run a marathon on all 7 continents and concluded that I’m definitely an endurance athlete for life.
Take It From Me: Enjoy The Experience
Have fun and enjoy the experience(s). Every time I did something really big, first marathon and first Ironman, I went into it assuming that I’d never do it again. I didn’t worry about racing (time or finish spot) as much as I did about enjoying and soaking in the experience. Keep in mind that as daunting as something as a marathon or Ironman may seem, believe in yourself and your ability to do anything you set your mind to.
If you want to, you can go from struggling to finish a marathon to qualifying for Boston (I did), or not knowing how to ride a road bike to finishing an Ironman in 11:04 (I did that too.)