It all started with an innocent text message prodding a friend about running the Marathon and before you know it I found myself one and half weeks out from taking on the race myself. You have to be careful what you wish for, for I found myself smack in the middle of my high miles training for my 50-mile race at the end of the month. After a quick look at my training schedule I noticed it called for a 31 mile trail run than a 24 the following week, though challenging I thought all I will need to do is to slip the Marathon into the 24 miles slot and I’ll be good to go.
Looking at this race merely as a training run might have been my strongest asset for I didn’t get that worked up about it, lost very little sleep and was almost giddy to have the opportunity. Though I did experience some negative thoughts during some runs the week before which I attributed to my heavy legs from the 31-mile training run the week before.
Race morning came early at 3:30 Sunday and I was anxious to get going. After a shower, stretching, food and FB post I was fortunate enough to get a ride with some friends in my neighborhood. I arrived early and was happy to find two friends I run with often waiting at our normal spot. Rod, Shelley and I sat and talk about our plans for the race and generally took care of pre-race things (bathrooms, clothing and nutrition). It was very relaxed as other familiar faces showed up and race time came closer. We worked out way out to the start after dropping off our drop bags and before you know it we were off.
Shelley, another friend Laura and myself opted to run together for the first little bit to let the crowd thin out and to get our legs underneath us. We made our way to the Walker, the Lake of Isles and to Calhoun with little effort. It all felt very good and comfortable but I knew that I was running out of my league with these two but I figured I would take it as it comes. As we moved in to Calhoun and Harriet I some how inched ahead of these two and before I knew it I was on my own running ahead of the 3:40 group. Let’s be clear that running at 8′s or sub 8′s for an extended period is not my normal speed but something about the day, the crowd and fresh legs carried me for the next 10-15 miles. I had illusions of keeping this pace up and running a sub 3:40 and felt confident I could do during this time, but as any experienced Marathon knows that reality can creep in at anytime.
An interesting decision came a little after mile 20 as I neared the hills that take you to Summit Ave., do I fall back to my plan and walk these hills or do I push thorough them as my ego want to and risk a collapse on miles 21-26? I opted to fall back to my trail running experience, which told me if you couldn’t see the top – walk. Sticking to the plan I walked the steep parts and ran the flats with success feeling I didn’t give up much to the runners around me. With only 4.5 miles to go I knew I could run a sub 4 hour Marathon but feeling good and energized I opted for something a bit more – a PR.
Earlier in the race I noticed how the crowds responded if you raise your arms to get them to cheer. It seems all these people are bored silly waiting for their runner and are looking for a reason to cheer. As I made my way threw each intersection I decided not to be blend in like every other runner but to be catalyst for the crowd and give them something to cheer for. Pumping my arms up and down I could literally feel the energy of the crowd as I passed by. Feeling the eyes of the crowd and the chills going down my spine moved me to keep on running. I also knew that just beyond mile 24 my girls would be waiting to see me and I didn’t want to be that walking guy as I approached.
The stream of runners moved to right of the road in an attempt to grab some shade but I moved to the left to be sure my girls would see their crazy Dad “blazing” down the road. I was greeted by my family with some short hugs and smiles and a bunch of cheers from strangers my Mom recruited. Only 2 miles to go, I run this in my sleep I told myself, buckle down and push it out.
Before I knew I was being engulfed by the 3:50 group and was determined to stick with them. Well I gave it a good old college try but the legs didn’t want to support that kind of kick at that moment. But soon after I was lucky enough to get a tap on the shoulder by Shelley, seeing a familiar face prompted to get a move on or at least a target to aim for. As I made my way from the Basilica down to the finish line I must have looked like a bird that had forgotten how to fly. Remembering the trick that provided a lift in the spirits earlier I awoke the crowd into what seemed like, at least to me, a roaring wave of applause, cheers and cowbells.
I crossed the finish line at 3:52 and some change to see Shelley just ahead of me receiving her medal. We exchanged congratulations and gathered up some food and our shirts and bid each farewell till next time. It wasn’t till than I realized that I had PRed at easily my favorite Marathon. To say the least I was surprised with my time for in a race that was going to be a “training run” it turned out to be so much more.
What did I learn?
- My fueling seemed pretty close to on with gel shot every half hour.
- I’m faster than I think as long when I don’t let the Garmin do the thinking for me.
- Knowing people are along the course waiting to see you makes a world of difference.
- Use the crowd to your advantage.
All and all it was one of my best Marathon experiences I’ve had and I’m still glowing from the days events. But the moment I will always remember was when I asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to wear the medal she replied “No thanks Dad I want to earn my own.”