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Katie’s Journey to Her First Marathon

Training for first marathon: Katie's journey to Gettysburg Blue-Grey Marathon

This week, we continue talking to Katie O who is training for her first marathon. She is an accomplished runner who has finished 3 half marathons with a PR of 1:48.

She struggled with an eating disorder throughout college and post-college. It caused her extended periods of injuries, including stress fractures. It wasn’t until her late 20s, she decided she really enjoyed working out. Running has been  a key contributor to her becoming healthy! 

I’m Katie And This Is My Journey And Training For My First Marathon

Name: Katie O’Dell

Age: 38 

Location: Lancaster, PA

Training For: Gettysburg Blue-Grey Marathon

When we talked earlier, you thought you might need to join a gym to use a treadmill during the winter months:

I have not had to join a gym: knock on wood and cross all your fingers and toes. This week, it will hit 60 degrees. I know; now we’re going to get two feet of snow. Since it’s already mid-February, I am remaining optimistic that I can avoid a gym membership. I have nothing against gyms but I do prefer to walk out my front door and run! I have a variety of surfaces to run, so if I want to switch things up from road running, I can easily do that without a treadmill.

How has the last month of training gone? 

I quit a part-time job where I worked every Saturday for the last 2.5 years in addition to my regular job as a Public Relations Director with a local school district. This allows me more flexibility on the weekends—now, I don’t HAVE to do my long runs on Sundays.

What has been your longest long run? 

My longest run has been 8 miles, and I have not minded training alone. I listen to podcasts that help. As I get into longer runs, I anticipate recruiting my husband and stepdaughters to meet me somewhere to help break things up by maybe bringing me a bottle of Gatorade, fuel, etc.

I also include stops at the house for quick bathroom breaks during my plans for long runs. I’m okay with carrying fuel, but stopping will mentally help break things up on the longer runs when I haven’t talked to anyone in a few hours! I’m not training to break any speed records, so stopping for 5 minutes during a few long runs to use the bathroom and say hi to my family is a-ok by me. In fact, for the first time, I plan to incorporate 30-second and 1-minute walk breaks during my long runs.

It’s essential to be on my feet for the time I anticipate being on the course. If walking gives my body a break while giving me ample time on my feet, then great.

What struggles have you had? 

I had terrible migraines in December and was hospitalized for two days. I’ve never had a migraine, and I suddenly had one that wouldn’t go away or would come back after I tapered off steroids. I spent 3 weeks in and out of the ER before they finally admitted me for 2 days.

I am fine now, though. The doctors chalked it up to hormones and recommended new birth control — the headaches have slowly eased up since then.

I am trying to enjoy the training process as much as possible because, in December, I was in so much pain. Being the pessimistic person I am, I was convinced I’d never feel well again. So, I tell myself that I am fortunate I get to run.

I am only running 4 days a week and I tell myself each morning when I run that I can manage that. My plan is conservative, but a plan nonetheless; if I don’t follow it, I can’t get upset at anyone but myself. I don’t want regrets.

My husband 100% supports me. He knows running helps me mentally, and while I can reap the mental benefits of running without training for a marathon, he also knows I want to push myself and do this race. I could not ask for anyone to be more supportive. 

None of my friends here are runners, so, it’s just me! However, I have always preferred running solo. Granted, 20 solo miles are a whole different ball of wax, but it’s not like I’m someone who has to run with a group. I am an introvert to the max.

How has fueling been going? 

My eating disorder used to play a role in my fueling. I ran faster when I was 25 pounds lighter, but I also had a stress fracture and was so tired I could barely function. Now, I am so focused on my goal that restricting calories doesn’t even cross my mind. I know I need them.

Just like I can’t finish without a plan, I can’t follow that plan without fueling. My long run was 8 miles, so I was OK to just fuel before with toast and coffee. I hit 10 miles this weekend and that’s when I’ll start playing around with energy.

I have ordered Maurten gels and I’ve used UCan drink mix in the past before a run but never during runs. I’ve usually just relied on fruit snacks and packets of syrup — I wanted to go as “clean” as possible with fuels because of my stomach issues, and syrup sat better than gels. My stomach is the opposite of an iron stomach when it comes to runs, it will be trial and error. I’ll see how Maurten gels go. If they cause me issues, I’ll go back to the syrup packets!

Has your goal for the marathon changed? 

My goal is still to finish. My hips are the most significant question mark, so if I can get through training with minimal hip issues, I might have a different goal when I get to the start line. I plan to see a chiropractor as regularly as possible, especially because I have slight scoliosis, which doesn’t favor my hips. Plus, I sit all day.

I found one I loved right before the pandemic, so I’m looking to get back for regular appointments.

What has surprised you with training for your first marathon? 

What surprised me is how fast this is going! I feel like I just started training and I am already up to 10 miles. Plus, I realize I have to do 16.2 miles more on race day!

My training plan is laid out — I’ll hit a 20-22 mile long run before race day. I trust the process, but it’s overwhelming. Sixteen weeks (January, February, March, and April) seemed like so much time to train, given that I have been running for years, including two half-marathons. Still, it seems like there is not enough time!


Read Part I of Katie’s training for her first marathon HERE.


Hollie is a runner, hiker, swimmer, residing in California. She has worked in run specialty for nearly 8 years and has fit hundreds of people for shoes. Outside of the running world, she enjoys the general aviation world, her two cats, and spending time with her spouse.