My first marathon

On April 15, 2013 I watched 30,000 “normal” people run by me at the half marathon point in Wellesley. I said to myself, if they can do it, why can’t I? The events that occurred later that day only furthered my goal of crossing that finish line too. The next day, I went out and ran 13.1 miles on the course, relatively untrained. I decided that if I could run a half with no training, I could certainly do a full if I took it seriously.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had started running with November Project (shout out to Andrew Ference and One Run For Boston for this) and taking this running thing a little more seriously. I quickly learned runners are anything but “normal,” as I had previously thought while watching them pass me in Wellesley.

Fast forward again, and it’s 4:30am on Sunday. I was up and ready to go. I got to the race around 7:15, drank my UCAN and had a serving of ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits about a half hour prior to the race.

The start line was off in the woods, up a steep incline. There was a quarry right nearby, so we all joked that the first obstacle was to navigate out of the quarry. Anything for a laugh before you’re about to run 26.2 (or 27) miles apparently.

The first 10 miles were relatively uneventful. It was a beautiful 2.5 lap (flat) loop around a reservoir. I was pushing the pace a little bit, and averaged sub 7:30 for the first 10 miles. I went out too fast in my half marathon as well (over a minute faster than planned) but was able to get away with it for the “shorter” distance. I couldn’t get myself to slow down, again though.


I had my second serving of bits and next swig of UCAN as I was exiting the reservoir at 10 miles (bits every 10 miles and UCAN at 10 and 17 was my plan, with PocketFuel as needed)

At mile 11 I had my first electrolyte packet, which was in a white packet. I bit off the top, and as I was running through a water stop, they said it looked like I was lighting up a cigarette from the distance. That little bit of laughter didn’t last long, unfortunately. Almost immediately after passing mile 11, my right hip decided it didn’t want to keep moving.

I normally run on the sidewalk or the right side of the road (oops) and this race was mostly on the left side, with a huge camber in the street. My hip was not too pleased as a result, and every step for the next 5 miles caused extreme pain. I took in a few extra bits, hoping they’d help the inflammation, and by mile 16 or 17 the pain had gone away.

Mile 19

Mile 19… Hills for breakfast.

I saw my dad for the first time at mile 19, and it was just the boost I needed. I had been running at a pretty quick pace, because I honestly thought I was in the group of the top 4 runners. I was cruising along between 7:05 and 7:45 between 18-21, which felt like my best miles of the whole race. I had just had a combo of bits and UCAN (I was late with the bits due to water) and was feeling strong.

I was neck in neck with what I thought were the #1 and #2 runners, as I passed #4 (of my group) around mile 20. I trailed #2 for a bit, then passed her while motoring along and let #1 set the pace for a while. Rookie mistakes all over, especially for my first race. I was this far in, and still had plenty of energy left so I figured I’d push a little harder than planned.

Well, the combination of an average pace of 7:39 through 20 miles plus what was coming ahead caused me to slow down quite a bit. I went from feeling strong and in control, to running straight into a headwind, uphill. For the remaining 2.5 miles.


As I got closer to mile 25, I had to slow down. It was still almost entirely uphill, and I was forced to do a bit of run/walking. I would run for a minute and then walk for 5 seconds or so, and then pick it up again. Remember the “run for those that can’t” advice from Mark? That’s what helped me pick it up when I wanted to keep walking. Just keep moving.

I made my final turn onto the home stretch, and I saw my friend Lauren. She could not have been in a better place. I was ready to walk that last hill (for my November Project friends, think second half of the front side of the hill) but Lauren motivated me to keep pushing, as I called out “shit, this marathon thing is hard” to her. With her encouragement, I set off for the final .8 miles of climbing to the finish. I hit the 26.2 mark at the bottom of the hill at 3:26, and it took me nearly 10 minutes to cross the finish line, which was .8 miles ahead.

photo 2

Anything more and I’m an ultrarunner… riiight?

I’ll always remember that last stretch. It was only a half mile or so after I made the turn, but it felt like forever. There were people cheering me on, and that gave me the strength to push on. When I got to the finish line, I threw my arms up in the air and smiled. Then a volunteer told me I wasn’t there yet – I had to run another 10 feet to cross the official line. My dad and grandparents were waiting there for me, but I don’t remember a single thing they said. I was overwhelmed with what I had just accomplished, plus a throbbing pain in my thigh that seemed to vanish as quickly as it appeared.

Jonathan just short of Holyoke Finish

… almost there.

Time to eat... and tweet.










As soon as I finished, I found out that the woman I thought was the #1 runner, was actually the #1 runner… of the second group. I think she finished #11 overall, which put me somewhere around 15th. Looking back on it, I’m glad I thought I was in the top 4 – it was motivation to keep a solid pace.

Big shout out to Steven Stam my running coach for helping me cross that finish line. Those 400m x 12 repeats gave me the mental strength when I needed it most. Hit @stamgator on Twitter if you’re looking to kick ass in your next race. I cut 22 minutes off my half time, and got down to a 19:12 5k (down from 23 minutes) while working with Steven.

Without November Project, I wouldn’t have felt nearly as strong on the hills and more importantly, the desire to #raceeverything.

The #PoweredByBits and running community on Twitter overall was incredibly supportive and I was blown away by the support.

After the race, which finished near my college, I went to my favorite burrito place and got a giant grilled shrimp burrito bowl. Extra guac, of course.

The marathon was humbling. I crushed it, and it kicked my ass, all at the same time.


Bueno Y Sano deliciousness

Bueno Y Sano deliciousness


Fueling plan:

ENERGYbits and UCAN 30 minutes prior.

ENERGYbits every 5 miles (ended up with 5, 11, 17, 20, 23)

VegaSport electrolyte mix at 12.

UCAN at mile 10 and 17 (ended up with 10 and 17)


No dips in energy, didn’t bonk/crash at all. Not hungry during race, and not ravenous (rungry) afterwards either. Only issue was that I didn’t take in enough electrolytes and had salt streaks as a result. I’m writing this over 24 hours later, and still don’t have much muscle soreness at all in my legs. Hips are a different story – will definitely incorporate more strength training into next training cycle.

Would go with same combination in the future, but add more electrolytes.

Tweet me (or email) for more information about trying either product. I work for ENERGYbits, but have no affiliation with UCAN besides being a customer.

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9 thoughts on “My first marathon

  1. What a great write up – loved hearing about your experience! Sounds like you had a great race! I need to start doing speed work again… 🙂

  2. Rockstar! Sounds like an amazing experience! Every time I read someone else’s recap of a race, it give me more motivation to keep going! One day, I WILL run a Full Marathon… until that day, I’m filling my calendar with Half’s!

    Awesome work!

  3. I had asked you previously a question on energy bits and recovery bits. When to take them and how much to take? I am also curious about UCAN. I AM WORKING ON A 10k training program but hope to be up to a half marathon training this fall. Also what do you take after a race?


    1. Great question! I’d recommend a serving of ENERGYbits prior to your run as well as another serving after 45-60 minutes or so, as long as you’re under 2 hours. If the 10k is taking you less than 65/70 minutes, a single serving prior to your run would be sufficient, although another serving certainly won’t hurt. I have a serving every 5-6 miles or so. I have another serving of both ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits after anything longer than 2 hours or so to help with recovery. If it’s less than that, I’ll just have a serving of the ENERGYbits. I only use UCAN when going longer than 2 hours for the additional calories.

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