Gettsyburg Marathon Training : A Failed Race

Well, that didn't go as planned!  This weekend was my big race, my first marathon in nearly 4 years.  I was excited and felt ready.  Then the race started and everything went downhill (except for the course, which went up and down and up and down....).  Here's a look at how my final week of taper went, as well as the race itself:


Rest Day!


3.1 miles / 9:28 miles 
I felt great, which made it hard to keep the pace slow!  I ran in the morning before work and kept my pace slow enough that I didn't lose my breath or break a sweat.


Nice and easy flow just to keep everything loose.


4 miles / 9:15 pace
The plan was to run 4 miles, with the middle two at marathon pace.  My "warmup" pace kept creeping up into that race pace territory, so I had to force myself to keep it slower.  I felt amazing and did this run with absolutely no issues, which made me super excited for the race!


More easy yoga, using a yoga for runners video.


Yoga and short jog
I like to keep things loosened up for race day, so I just stretched out and did some jogging.


14 miles / 2:11:50 / 9:25 pace
It was a beautiful day in Gettysburg, with a temperature of 50 at the start and not a cloud in the sky.  The race started right on time at 8:00, and we took off.  The first few miles followed a trail through the battlefields, lined with trees that helped shade the path.  There were water stops every 2ish miles, so I grabbed a cup of water at each and also took a Margarita Shot Block at mile 5.  (Miles 1-5 9:10, 9:09, 9:12, 9:17, 9:13) 

Once we were out on the roads, my race started to get away from me.  The roads were all open, which meant we had to stay on one side facing oncoming traffic.  The road was pretty sloped to the left, and I quickly started to feel pain in my shoulder (the one that was injured a month ago).  There were also no trees or anything to block the sun or wind, and I was definitely starting to hurt.  I tried to keep my pace up and told myself that Sokphal and her boyfriend James would be at mile 10, and I just had to get there. (Miles 6-10 9:24, 9:09, 9:09, 9:07, 9:26)

Sokphal was the best spectator ever and definitely raised my spirits a lot!  I was starting to really hurt, but I told myself I was already done with my second 5-mile chunk (I tried to focus on 5 miles at a time instead of thinking of the entire 26.2 miles I had to run).  Unfortunately, that didn't help at all and my right hip and calf also started to hurt as well.  (Miles 11-14 9:46, 9:24, 10:31, 9:24)

I'm used to always pushing through and finishing runs and races no matter what, but I knew the smart decision was to stop the race.  The course was a lot harder than I expected, and the fact that I was running alone made the physical pain seem even worse, since I couldn't rely on distractions.  I made the decision to stop pretty easily (mostly thanks to Dan, Sokphal and James being the most amazing support and were willing to drive around Gettysburg to pick me up whenever I needed it.) 

So, I'm officially a DNF runner.  This was my first time pulling out of a race, and while I'm not proud of it I keep telling myself it was the smart decision.  I could have kept going and I know I would have gotten a PR, but I wouldn't have met my goal of breaking 4 hours and could have damaged my shoulder to the point of needing surgeries or more physical therapy...and for what? 

After my race ended, we all went to lunch at Appalachian Brewing Company for some much-needed beer and food.  Then, we went on a walking tour of some more battlefields and enjoyed the beautiful day.  I ended up walking and running close to 26 miles for the day and had a fantastic time!  Even if I didn't get a medal for finishing, I felt like a winner for the day, mostly because of all the love and support I got from everyone before and after the race, through texts, calls, comments, and Instagram.  It was an easy decision for me to stop running, but I felt like I was letting everyone down since I talked up this race so much and so many people knew I was running it.

So, there you have it!  I'm taking some time off and I think I'm going to start focusing on shorter distances for a while.  I'm not ready to try another full marathon yet, but I want to get some more PR's...maybe in the 5k or half marathon this summer!

Have you ever quit a race?
Who else raced this weekend?  How did it go?
What's your favorite/least favorite distance to race?  I think my favorite is the half marathon!


  1. A PR isn't worth it if it wrecks you. Period. Any race where you make a smart decision like that is a victory! You should be proud of yourself for that very reason!

  2. It definitely sounds like dropping out was the right call. Aggravating an injury and risking needing surgery is just not worth it. I'm really impressed that you were able to look past the disappointment of having to stop mid-race and make the right call for your health. Enjoy your time off and remember that there will always be more races ahead of you.

    If you decide to focus on the 5k, let me know and I can point you to some great training resources! I think the 5k is my favorite distance to race, at the very least it is the distance I am best at racing.

    1. Thank you for sending me all of that info! I'm looking through it now to come up with a plan!

  3. Gretchen, I'm so sorry (again). But like Susie said above, even if you could have gotten that sub-4, it wouldn't have been worth it to do such damage to your body. There will always be other races. Proud of you for making the right decision and having such a positive attitude throughout all of this!

    I think focusing on shorter distances is a great idea, especially if it will help keep you injury free. You already have such a great fitness base built up from marathon training, so I'm sure once you get back at it you can start crushing PRs!

    My favorite distance to race is the marathon, hands down. But my favorite short distance to race is the 10K. I love the blend of speed and endurance it requires, and it's so nice going into a 10K race knowing that you're gonna push yourself hard but it's also going to be over in under an hour!

    1. Thank you Hanna! I'm excited to get back into speed training..I think my body's made for that more than super long distance.

  4. I love your positive attitude! You're setting such a good example of someone who has their priorities in order. Marathons come and go--shoulders do not.

  5. We'll talk more tonight - but this sucks. I'm already looking at races where I could redeem myself. And wondering if I can do it ASAP, or if I should enjoy life right now and wait until fall. And I really don't know the answer yet.

    1. I think you should enjoy your wedding and newlywed life for now!!

  6. I haven't had to DNF, but I did pull out of a race the day before when I injured my ankle climbing. I knew that if I ran on it, it would make it so much worse. I was sad to miss the race, but I knew it was the best decision. There are always more races to run. Good for you for making the best decision for you, too!

  7. Gretchen, I'm really sorry to hear! You did the right thing, marathons come and go, the health of your shoulder... that is one you need to take good care of! and you made the right call!

    I wouldn't call it a failed race, you went out there and gave it your all, and injury pulled you out and that just that!

    How is your shoulder feeling now? Will you have to see a doctor for further treatment? I hope it's all feeling better now!

    1. Thank you Ana! I'm already feeling better. I started doing my physical therapy again and am incorporating strength training more so that I don't get injured again.

  8. Wow, Gretchen. That is a lot of hurt in the first half alone! I think continuing would have exacerbated things and you could have seriously been injured. You should be proud that you made the right decision, especially because sometimes it's so hard to know what to do. It's good you had a support system there to reinforce that stopping was better. Good that you are taking time off & may try for shorter distances. I'm loving my 5k training!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! I'm already getting so excited looking through training :)

  9. I'm so sorry that you had to DNF, but it sounds like you made a good choice for your long term health. There will be other races, which I'm sure you will crush.

  10. I'm so happy you stopped. You know there will always be other races. You know you have a sub-4 in you. It will happen. I'm proud of you!

  11. Sorry you had to pull out of the race but it sounds like it was absolutely the best decision. No point in making things worse and this way, you'll be more likely to have a good race next time.


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