From Starter to Finisher: Lessons Learned from Running My First Marathon + Resources for Yours

At five years old, I was diagnosed with asthma. When I was in middle school, I couldn’t participate in P.E. because my asthma was too severe – it would act up at the slightest physical activity. So, as a teenager, I had never been a “runner.” In high school, I’d often admire the more physically fit girls on the track team and cheerleading squad, but I was both too shy and too lacking in physical ability to attempt joining groups like that. Instead, I gravitated more toward unhealthy activities, drinking, and partying. Feeling more comfortable with myself when I forgot who I was, leaving social anxiety at the bottom of red solo cups and empty shot glasses. It took me a long time, six years to be exact, before I worked up the confidence to enter a gym on my own, to hold a dumbbell, or run outside. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I didn’t want to be embarrassed or judged. But the thing is, what was holding me back, was waiting for myself to “find” some sort of confidence. But in reality, the first step couldn’t just be “found” – I had to create it. I had to build my confidence; I wasn’t just going to stumble upon it one day.

I went from being a person who was too afraid to run outside, fearful of what others would see when they saw me running. A person unable to catch her breath after a few jogging steps to crossing the finish line of my first marathon.

The Tough Two

There are two aspects to a marathon run that pose a challenge. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is the run itself. It is a daunting 26.2 miles from start to finish.

There were plenty of moments when running you’ll realize giving up would be a whole hell-of-a-lot easier on your body. This is where you need your spirit because it is your spirit that won’t want to give it. The thing that will carry you when your legs turn to jello. This is when determination and your want-to-factor kick in. Running a marathon has to be something you want. Period. Otherwise, what is the purpose?

So, before running a marathon, determine the following:

What is your purpose? Is this something YOU want to do or just something you think others would like you to do? Because if you don’t want to run, there is absolutely zero fun. And that goes for everything in life, particularly with strenuous physical activity, because, well, it’s hard. 

Having a few mantras or words of encouragement can keep you motivated. I used a mantra on the PCT, and I used on during my run. When times get tough, it’s all about how you talk to yourself. What is your mind telling you? Can you do this?

The second challenge is in training. Again, it takes a great deal of self-discipline and commitment, which I didn’t fully grasp until midway through (no matter how many people told me).

Commitment to training means a commitment to running even when you don’t feel like it – trust me, there will be days you don’t feel like it. But luckily, running (even when I begin with a negative attitude) always leaves me feeling incredibly rewarded and fulfilled after my run is complete.

Marathon Playlist: Top 10 Songs

I am a rap girl at art. There is truly nothing like a solid Eminem playlist to get me in the mood to sweat it all out, but for the sake of reaching others, I wanted to share my Top 10 Songs (with only 1 Eminem listed, in no particular order).

Also, Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love I want Power album, the entire album, is perfect for a long run.

  1. Tick Tick Boom – Sage the Gemini
  2. Leviathan – G-Eazy
  3. The Lighthouse – Halsey
  4. WHATS POPPIN – Jack Harlow
  5. Take You Dancing – Jason Derulo
  6. Hip to Be Scared – Ice Nine Kills
  7. Glitter & Gold – Barns Courtney
  8. Unholy – Our Last Night
  9. Higher – Eminem
  10. Straightjacket – Quinn XCII

Race Day Checklist

  1. Shoes
  2. Socks
  3. Sports bra
  4. Running top
  5. Running shorts
  6. Watch (if running with one)
  7. Headphones
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Hat
  10. Hair tie + 1 extra
  11. Waist belt (if running with one)
  12. Water
  13. Energy gels
  14. Chapstick
  15. Sunscreen (apply before run)
  16. Pain reliever
  17. KT tape (I taped my knees, ahmazing)
  18. Bandaids (incase of blisters)

Favorite Yoga Videos

It took me a long time before I took stretching before a run or workout seriously; I’m paying the price in tight, sore hamstrings and back muscles now. So, stretch, stretch, stretch!

Honolulu Marathon | Sunday, December 11, 2022

As it’s probably been hammered into your head by now, running a marathon is no small feat, but the seed of conquering this challenge was planted in my head. There was no turning back. I was determined to challenge myself. To push for something I’d never thought possible.

During one of my trips home, I heard about the Honolulu marathon. There was no designated running time, so I could go as fast or slow as needed. There was no pressure; it was solely about being able to cross the finish line, not how quickly you could get there. I knew this was the perfect opportunity. I registered. This was February 2022. My PCT hike began in May. So my training started when I returned home in August.

Before I knew it race day was here.

I was overwhelmed with excitement – I was finally running a marathon. This had been on my bucket list for the past eight years. I had a hard time sleeping.

I woke at 2 am. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to drink water (and coffee), have a light breakfast (toast and banana), and get in a good stretch. My stepdad drove me to the race; what a trooper, waking at 3:45 am and hanging out in town all morning while I ran.

There were fireworks at the start of the race. The air was cool and heavy. The sun had not yet awoken. The moon was in full effect, made for a nightly morning, by all accounts, a setting more attune for sleep, but here I was – at the start of something that had been building for nearly a decade.

The sun began to rise just as I reached the cliffside, looking out to the Pacific. This was no accident. I reviewed my course map the night before and knew this lookout was coming. I purposely paced myself so I could be there at that moment when the sun slowly swept the night away. It was breathtaking. Bright, deep, turquoise ocean waves rolled into the shore. The sky was peach-pink, and white light rolled into the night sky, fading to daylight blue. I could feel the intensity of nature around me. A little shot of motivation, or as Matthew McConaughey would say, Greenlight.

When participating in high-endurance activities – whether running or not – it’s vital to anchor yourself in positivity. It’s why I don’t just love running; I love running in beautiful places. I don’t want to run a Spartan Race. I want to run a Spartan Race in the heart of Jurassic Park. Finding these moments of beauty amidst challenges creates an explosive combination of pure joy.

I felt as if I could keep running forever. But this was only mile marker 7, and I still had a long way to go. Long-distance running discombobulates time. As I ran, it felt like time was moving in a flash, and simultaneously, the miles slowed things into perspective. It was never about finishing time. It was always about finishing.

I have completed a few half marathons in the past. So, around mile marker 13 (the finish line for a half), my mind was flooded with thoughts of having to repeat the process for another 13 miles. If this was a half, I would be done already. The thought echoed in my mind. I had to remind myself that it was only a few steps at a time, a few miles at a time; take each second as it comes and think about crossing the finish line. Picture how that feeling will be worth all the effort along the way. So, I changed my mindset from another 13 miles to only another 13 miles. I’d done this once; I just have to do it once more.

Then at mile 15, everything seemed to change. I was both exhausted and exhilarated. Undoubtedly hitting my own personal brand of runners high. My pace slowed significantly since the start of the race, but my body felt capable of continuing for the first time since a few miles back. I realize now that I’d tapped into something more extensive than the physical challenge. I had to continuously shift my focus from breathing and keeping the pace (physical), to a state of knowing that I could do it (mental). The fact is, like many things, running a marathon for me was 70-80% physical and 30-40% mental. Those percentages may be different for you. When I first started out, my mental fortitude had to make up for the physical. It was 90% pushing myself to show up, pushing out of my comfort zone and fears. Whatever way you work out your percentages, find your 100.

It’s incredible how far you can go when you set your mind towards achieving something. Completing that first marathon was an exhilarating triumph – not only because I just ran over 26 miles! But because, Hawai’i is such an inspiring place for me. I didn’t grow up there in the traditional sense – I grew up there. I became me there. I faced challenges and became someone I liked there. I know me most, when I am home. Now, pushing past all those adolescent preconceived limitations, I completed something I once thought impossible. Full circle.

One last pro tip: make sure you have an idea of what you want to eat post race. If anything that will keep you motivated for the finish line. As you can see, mine was Thai food from only the best Thai food truck in the world – pure joy.

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