The Eugene Marathon is just around the corner, and this historic race will have thousands people lining up to run the full marathon, half marathon, 5k or kids Duck Dash. The course is certified to ensure all runners are completing the same distance, but when it comes to motivation, each runner has a path that is all their own. I recently sat down with my friend Nichole Castaneda to discuss our differing approaches to the same race. Eugene will be my seventh full marathon, after running casually since high school and seriously for the last ten years, and I’m hoping to shave 20 minutes of my PR to hit my dream time. Eugene will be Nichole’s first marathon after running for only one year, and her primary goal is to finish strong.
What inspired you to start running?
Nichole: Running the 2018 Shamrock Run really sparked my excitement. I headed down there intending to walk a 5k and ended up deciding to see if I could run it. Once I showed myself I could, there was no turning back.
Kate: I was a casual athlete when I was younger, participating in dance and tennis, and running was always a way to stay in shape for other activities. In college, a friend asked me to train for a half marathon together, and I said yes before fully processing how far 13.1 miles really is. Once I finished my first race, I was hooked!
Why did you decided to run a marathon?
Nichole: I don’t know that I ever really decided. When I first started running and I was training for Hood to Coast, I’d be out on, at the time, my long runs (around 7-8 miles) and when it got hard, I’d envision myself crossing the finish line of my first marathon to help me get through it. Something about even just seeing that vision in my head made me know I needed to at least try.
Kate: In 2008, I was living in Minneapolis and a friend asked me to come with him to cheer while his girlfriend ran the Twin Cities Marathon. The joy and positivity of the event completely swept me away, and I knew I had to run a marathon myself. I’ve been chasing that high ever since!
Why did you specifically choose Eugene?
Nichole: I liked that it was a spring marathon, close to home and flat. I also liked that it coincided closely with both my 45th birthday and my first anniversary of becoming a runner.
Kate: Everyone I know who has completed Eugene has raved about it. The race is known for being well organized, with excellent crowd support and a gorgeous course. The size of the race is also appealing. I ran the Chicago Marathon last October, and as incredible as that event is, I felt overwhelmed by the size. I wanted a race where I could have a little breathing room to focus on running instead of being shoulder-to-shoulder the entire race, and Eugene is the sweet spot where it’s a large enough event to have excitement and prestige, but not so big that I’ll feel lost in the crowd.
What did you expect before you started?
Nichole: You hear all these stories from people about how hard training is, how time consuming and exhaustive. I think I expected all of those things, but I really didn’t know what that meant. It’s one thing to see someone else going through it or hear their story but it’s a whole other thing to be in the thick of it yourself.
Kate: Coming right off Chicago, I already had a solid base, so I expected to be able to jump in at a higher level. To an extent, this was true and I picked right up at 10 miles for my long run, but there are no shortcuts in marathon training. The early mornings, the fatigue, the hours away from home – those will always be a challenge no matter how many marathons you’ve done.
What has surprised you the most?
Nichole: How mentally challenging this is. My body is tired. I knew it would be, but the constant dreams, thoughts, worries, and self-doubt have been more than I was prepared for.
Kate: How hard it still is. This is my seventh marathon, and it never gets easier. The high mileage weeks are still draining, the long runs are still a challenge, and the grind of it all never lessens. Fortunately, experience has taught me that these feelings are temporary, and it will all be worth it on race day!
How have you planned your training?
Nichole: I started out using a plan from RunKeeper, and then after doing a ton of reading and research decided to combine that plan with the Hal Higdon Novice 1 plan to get a few longer distance runs in there. I didn’t like the idea of just going to 18 miles, so I felt like I needed to get at least one 20 miler under my belt to be ready.
Kate: I patched together a running and cross-training plan based on what has worked (and failed) in the past. In a typical week, I run 3-4 days with yoga, swimming, and hiking mixed in. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that life doesn’t care if you’re training. Sickness, emergencies, or a streak of bad weather can derail a training plan, so now I build in a few buffer weeks for when life inevitably gets in the way.
What has been a high so far?
Nichole: The day I finished my first ever 18 mile run. I was so tired, emotional, there were tears but they were pride-filled and even though I felt physically exhausted I felt mentally so much stronger.
Kate: I have always been a solo runner, but this year it has been a joy to connect with other women (like you, Nichole!) who are also training for Eugene. Finding this community and working with other women toward a common goal has been so positive and fulfilling.
What has been a low?
Nichole: Just seeing how my body is responding. I’m asking it to do things it has never done before, and it hasn’t always liked it. My calves, shins and Achilles are suffering from the increase in mileage and just feeling like I’m having setbacks with my training because my running doctor wants me to rest more. That’s played a lot of games with my head and just fed into that already lingering self-doubt.
Kate: I always block the stage of training 4-6 weeks before the race, when you’ve been training at an intense level for a long time, but the race is still so far away. I had a mini meltdown last weekend. Every muscle in my body was sore, I felt physically and mentally exhausted, my boiling point for non-running stressors was significantly lower, and questioned why I keep signing up for marathons. Fortunately, this low phase passed, and with the support of friends in the running community, I’ve come out of the funk and am more excited than ever to run Eugene.
How has training affected the other parts of your life?
Nichole: This was one of those areas where people can tell you how tough it is, but until you’re in it you really don’t know how it will affect you. My husband has had a really hard time with how much I’m gone, and how much of this I have to do on my own. My social life has pretty much disappeared. Thank God for running friends or I’d literally have zero interaction with other people. If I’m not at the chiropractor, or foam rolling/stretching/strength training, I’m running or sleeping or eating. It has completely consumed my whole life and become the primary focus of my energy and time.
Kate: One advantage of doing this multiple times is that I’ve found a routine that fits the demands of training. My job has a decent amount of flexibility so midweek runs aren’t a problem, and my friends and family have learned not to take it personally if I decline weekend invitations (or start getting sleepy if plans ever go later than 9:00pm)!
How has training affected your relationships?
Nichole: I’m so lucky to have such a strong support system, people who are genuinely cheering me on as I do this. But for sure it’s taken it’s toll on all of them. I’m prioritizing this marathon and everything that it takes to be ready for it ahead of everything else right now; so happy hours or fun dinners out or even Saturday day dates are out the door for right now. It’s been hard on everyone for sure.
Kate: In some ways running is solitary, and in others it takes a village. No one else can run those miles for you, but it’s impossible to do it alone. I’m grateful to have supportive and patient loved ones who understand that my Friday nights and Saturday mornings are booked, and I appreciate everyone who has humored me by asking how training is going (and then politely listen as I ramble stats about hill repeats and negative splits).
What do you wish you would have known before you started?
Nichole: Just how taxing this would be on me, and those around me. When the marathon finally gets here, it will have been close to 5months of training that’s gone into it. That’s 5months of prioritizing this above everything else. Again, you hear people say how time consuming it is, etc. but until you’re really in it it’s hard to conceptualize what that will look or feel like. I wish I’d had a way to better understand what that would mean for me and my family.
Kate: It will never get easier, and all the struggles and pain I went through on my previous marathons would be back yet again. But I’m hoping that since I’ve stared down all the same demons, then the victory at the finish line will be just as sweet!
What has been your favorite part of training?
Nichole: The relationships I’m building with other women within the running community. It makes me really emotional to think about all of the women friends I’ve made who have said “you’re doing 18 this weekend, tell me where to be and I’ll do 10 of them with you”. I feel so accepted and cared for and supported and embraced in a way that I can’t really explain. For people to take time out of their lives to help me reach a goal I’ve set for myself is really humbling. I can’t wait to return that favor one day.
Kate: I completely agree! Connecting with other women who are training for Eugene has been such a gift. I am so grateful for the encouragement and support of these women, and I am excited to get to race with them in a few weeks!
What will you carry with you after the race?
Nichole: That I did this. That I set this huge, massively intimidating goal for myself and even when it got so hard and scary, I didn’t stop. That I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for.
Kate: I will likely take an extended break from running as I rest and recover, but I will carry with me the pride of dreaming big, setting a goal, and staying focused for months as I work toward it.
What advice would you give people considering running a marathon?
Nichole: Talk to your family first, your spouse or significant other; children if you have them. Explain to them that you’re going to be gone, a lot. For five months, your focus needs to shift and that it will require you to sacrifice time with them. Get their buy-in, and then find ways to include them, even if it’s just asking them to make you a post run hydration drink. Include them so they feel like they are a part of this too, because they do. You may be the one out there running, but they’re impacted by the decision and the more on board they are, the better the entire experience will be for all of you.
Kate: Build in more time than you think you need, both in terms of the number of weeks you train and also the amount of hours each week you can commit. Marathon training is a LONG process, and especially once you get into the weeks with higher mileage, it takes a lot more of your time than expected. You need more sleep. You need more recovery time. Everything just takes longer, so budget that in from the beginning.
What do you hope to gain from your Eugene marathon experience?
Nichole: A sense of pride, and accomplishment in something that is so much bigger than I ever dreamed I could achieve. I feel like I may need to just wear that medal around my neck for a few days after the race, just to remind myself that it’s real. And that I did it.
Kate: I am gunning for a big PR, and Eugene is the perfect place to do it. I love that the course is flat and close to home, so I will feel comfortable, strong, and ready to run my best!
Thank you, Nichole, for sharing your time and your story. We’ve had separate paths leading us to the Eugene Marathon, but as we get ready for the race on April 28th, we couldn’t be happier to have been on this journey together.
What: Eugene Marathon
Distance: Marathon, half marathon, 5k, Kids 1k Duck Dash
Where: Starts/Ends on University of Oregon campus
When: Sunday, April 28
- Friday, April 26: 1:00pm – 6:00pm (all races)
- Saturday, April 27: 9:00am – 6:00 pm (marathon and half marathon only)
- Sunday, April 28: 7:00am – 8:00am (5k and Duck Dash at no cost, or marathon and half marathon for additional $15)
- Marathon – 7:00am
- Half Marathon – 7:00am
- 5k – 8:30am
- Duck Dash – 8:00am
Cost: Prices noted for registration at the Expo. Discounts are given for early registration.
- Marathon – $150
- Half Marathon – $130
- 5k – $40
- Kids 1k Duck Dash – $20
- Charity Fundraising – free admission to race for fundraising $175 for half or full marathon, or $75 for 5k.