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Note from Editor: If you would like to participate in a marathon as a part of the Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion program like Ray did, visit their web site for more information.
Arthritis Foundation's Joints in Motion Web site »

Running Background:

I'm a beginner runner who primarily runs for fitness. I decided to run a marathon because in April, 2002, my father had surgery for arthritis. That same week, I noticed an article in a local paper about the Arthritis Foundation seeking participants in a marathon as a fundraiser. They provided a coach and teammates, which helped motivation. I also wanted to see how fit I could be at age 40. Plus, I raised funds for a great cause and training runs were at a park just a block from my house!

Training:

I trained for 5 months following a basic 20-week training program that our coach guided us through. Since everyone in the group was a beginner, we started at just 10 miles per week and went up to around 40 without being concerned about speed.

For people thinking about running a marathon I would tell them to be serious about stretching and hydration. Both of these were areas our coach stressed and probably would have been overlooked if I hadn't received guidance from a coach.

Some bad advice I received while training came from a running partner who insisted on doing trails and we ended up in a briar patch with scratched up legs!

Race Day:

The 2002 Dublin Marathon was better than expected.

It's 44 degrees, so I wear a jacket. The race starts and half a mile down the street, I hand off my hat. I ran most of the first 7 miles with Mark from Belfast and a guy from NYC who were also aiming for a 4 hour finish time. Our pace was a little faster than I had planned, but I hoped the cold weather would keep me strong. I was comfortable in my Joints in Motion jacket. We received great encouragement from onlookers all along the course. Applause and shouts of "You’re doing great!" and "Well done!" filled the air. Kids wanted high fives, and I obliged. At one point, the crowd was so close on both sides that runners had to run single file. Water stops were every 3 miles. My gloves were on and off, since the bottled water was spilling on my fingers. Around mile 9 it was time to chow down on a granola bar. I was feeling pretty good, drinking plenty, with no leg problems. The course wound through residential areas, with smiling spectators standing in their yards or in large groups at street corners. I was encouraged that my 13.1 mile split time of 1:48 was virtually the same as I had done in the Philly Half Marathon in September.

My form was good and the spectators definitely helped push us along. My only stop so far was to walk while drinking Lucozade from a cup. Handed jacket off at mile 18 and got a Power Bar and Gel. The vanilla gel was the first to be consumed, while I held a water bottle in my other hand. We entered Phoenix Park around mile 20 and immediately faced a long, steady uphill climb. It was like a death march. I started walking around one third of the way up to eat the chewy Power Bar and I kept walking (and chewing) a little longer than I would have liked. But I was a little nervous, since we were approaching mile 21, the longest distance I had run in training. Everything beyond that point was going to be a new experience. After passing a few trees I liked, I finally chose one to relieve my bladder.

I think instead of "hitting the wall", we hit "the park". It just kept going and going and going. Yes, there were spectators at various points, but the path kept winding through the same scenery. I thought about taking another walk break, but told myself to keep on trucking.

Leaving the park gave me an immediate lift. At around mile 23, a radio DJ was pumping out some good music, and there was a sizeable crowd. That's the point that I became emotional and had to fight back some tears because barring a major problem, my four hour goal was within reach. My nerves were tested since I could now feel soreness in my feet and a tingle in my legs every few strides or so. I prayed for God's mercy to finish the race and felt sad for guys I passed who were stopped or limping in the final miles due to injury. They were so close to the finish!

The crowds lining both sides of the street grew larger as we approached Trinity College. There were barricades up once I saw a sign for "800 Meters" to the finish. A man on a bike came alongside to encourage me. I could feel the energy from the crowd. Once I reached the final turn, there were just 100 yards to go and I started any vestige of a sprint that I still had in me. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t acknowledge the crowd. I could only run.

The clock showed 3 hours 50 minutes! As I crossed the line with my arms in the air, a voice announced "Ray Christensen from Wilmington, Delaware...I think it's Wilmington." I walked into the chute where my time chip was removed. A few feet further, someone draped a foil blanket over my shoulders and finally I was handed a bag containing my "finisher" T-shirt and plaque. I was filled with pride, but felt alone among thousands of people. A personal victory.

Recovery:

My recovery wasn't bad. I made sure to walk a little and stretch as much as possible. A warm shower felt great. Funniest thing was that the next morning, we flew back to the USA, so legs got very still and I was walking like a 95 year old man, laughing to myself! Didn't hurt much, just could not move.

Running Gear Recommendations:

New Balance Running Shoes
Proper type of shoes. I have flat feet and was advised to get Motion Control shoes: New Balance M1121MC Expensive, but important to prevent injury.
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Search on Amazon.com »

Synthetic Running Shorts
Synthetic shorts instead of cotton mean less weight to carry around. Mine had pockets to store tissues, ID, gels.
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Gloves
Gloves for the cold weather. My hands get cold even when my legs and arms don't.
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

To someone thinking about running a marathon I would say train with a group of people whenever possible. Get advice from experienced runners. Stretching and hydration can save lots of soreness and agony!

Plans to Run Another:

I plan to run another marathon because completing a marathon filled me with pride and self-confidence. I knew right way that I wanted to continue to have that feeling. Running in front of cheering spectators made me feel like a rock star! For my next marathon, I'll incorporate speed work into my training to try to improve my time.

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