In her 13 years of running, Megan Zavorka had never run a full marathon.
She ran a half marathon one time. She ran 20 miles a few other times … but 26.2 miles was new territory before Sunday.
Zavorka, from Omaha, was the first-place female in the Prairie Fire Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 59 minutes, 22 seconds, which was 9:21 ahead of second place and 4:34 faster than last year’s first-place female Sarah Williams.
“I had looked at the past years’ results, and I thought if I could break three (hours) I had a shot,” Zavorka said. “I didn’t know I was in the lead until someone said something about mile eight, and then I knew I was in the lead. I saw some girls not too far behind me at about six miles so I thought, ‘OK keep going, don’t die, don’t die.’”
But a lead at mile eight is not the same as a lead at mile 26. With
18 miles ahead of her, Zavorka couldn’t afford to focus on that pressure.
“I was thinking ‘I don’t want to lose now.’ (The pressure) helped a little bit, and I picked up the pace but I think that hurt me by mile 20,” Zavorka said. “I did really well through 20 miles and then I hit the wall, and that last 10k was like a slow death.”
Being her first marathon, and only her second long official race, Zavorka made a number of beginner mistakes. Her quicker pace in her first miles hurt her at the end, especially in her last 6.2 miles.
“I was trying to stay relaxed, but it just didn’t happen. It’s your first one, you’re excited, and you just get going, definitely rookie mistakes. I think that cost me about four minutes,” Zavorka said.
Zavorka and her fiancé, York Thomas, specifically chose the Prairie Fire marathon as their first marathon because of its size, competition level, and short travel distance from Omaha. Thomas finished about 12 minutes ahead of Zavorka.
“I did really well in the half, so I wanted to see how I’d do in a marathon, and move up in distance and start training for a marathon,” Zavorka said. “My fiancé and I were looking for a flat, fast, full marathon that had some competition, but not too many people for our very first marathon.”
Thomas waited for Zavorka at the finish line — the first to congratulate his fiancé.
“This is our passion, we have it in common so it’s great to be able to go out and run together. I think it does bring us together,” Zavorka said.