|Photo provided by Race Management of the Finish Line at 3:30am race morning.|
These days, I'm more of an ultra runner with a rare "official" marathon. I'm known to just run marathons or greater "for fun" but don't toe the line with a bib on too often. There was a day prior to trail running and ultra running where I did several per year. So in preparation for this event...well, I didn't really have any unless you call a 6-day taper prep. No speed work, no schedule, just a 100K and 50K over the past 6 or 7 weeks. But, I set a very wide target for today. I didn't want to just go on a joy run since I rarely run a marathon, I wanted to give it an earnest attempt and see what I had. So, I decided a finish between 3:30 and 3:45 would keep me honest. A 3:40 marathon is an 8:23 average pace...enough info in my head to tell me where I stood when I took splits with my Garmin. Early on in the race, I started to click off miles around 8:05 to 8:10. I "thought" I was trying to slow a bit but I didn't. They just kept on going and never slowing. The course was pleasant, traffic control was perfect, and water stops were very well staffed with plenty of smiling volunteers. Several miles in, I told a fellow Navy sailor who I began running with "Either I'm going to eventually blow up because of this pace OR I'm going to have the best race in a VERY long time." Because the miles kept clicking off and I felt good, I decided to go with it. Smart? Well, that's debatable depending on what marathoner you talk to. I was able to keep my form good, breathing in check, and it just felt "comfy." Who knows? Maybe I could carry it all the way.
At mile 12.4, just outside the Hall, the half marathoners headed on towards the finish and the marathoners hang a 90 degree left to head west into the neighborhoods. It went from lots of chatter and runners everywhere to very, very few runners around. The registered runners for the half marathon event far eclipsed that of the marathon. 593 runners ended up finishing the marathon amongst the average 3000 runners on the course. I will also mention that at the 10K, 20K, and 30K, they had timing mats to capture pace. My pace was dead on the same for ALL three of those. 8:10 solid all the way through. While I was bouncing around the upper 8min spectrum, it all averaged out exactly the same. As the loneliness set in during the 2nd half, I just focused on doing what I had been doing and NOT stopping for anything. I didn't want to lose the mojo I had going. Finally, around mile 19, I did jump in a port-a-pottie (which were plentiful all day long) to prevent a bladder explosion. Even with that stop, I clocked an 8:45 mile at the next marker. (winning!!!)
The next part totally made the hairs stand up on my neck. I had heard about the Flags of Freedom in Mile 21 but they were earlier than publicized. At mile 19.2, they began. 3' x 5' flags on silver poles along the left side of the road...just a few feet into the grass. One at a time, several feet apart, they waved in the breeze. I stopped watching the road and just looked at every flag. Every one. All the way to Mile 19.8 they stood. Just prior to the end, we weaved through the Perry High School parking lot (where the flags continued) and a mock "wall" was set up to simulate smashing through the 20 mile wall marathoners often hit around now. Crossing mile 20, it was 10K to go.
As I turned a corner, the marker for 35K stood...or mile 21.7. I walked. Wall found. I was holding strong but just ran out of gas. I didn't walk long..maybe a minute, but I did and the pace greatly slowed. Now, for the final 4.5 miles, it was going to be a slugfest. It wasn't going to be easy, pretty, or contain much joy but it was going to happen. I knew with my great pace thus far, I still could meet my goal and "maybe" go under 3:40. My legs felt like they were filled with cement but I just kept on going and took advantage of any downhill I was offered to open up. The course kept rolling. As I passed on by mile 24 and 25, my math told me there was no messing around if I wanted a sub 3:40. I had no idea where in 28 marathons that would land me but I wanted it...just because. Within the last mile, I received a gift...a long winding downhill. I opened it up and just pushed it in with all I had. As I made the last turn towards Fawcett Stadium and entered, I passed through a timing pad which notified the finish line announcer of incoming runners. I passed on by the end zone then turned upfield and heard my name and hometown. I kept on running with all I had then held my arms high as I crossed the finish line at the 50 yard line. You see...I've learned my lesson. Tendency is to stop my Garmin which makes me look down at the line. BUT, there are photographers on ladders to capture the finish and heck, the chip on my bib will capture my time for me so why not go for the million-dollar finish line photo?! Right?! So I did and finished in 3 hours, 39 minutes, 47 seconds....good enough for my 5th fastest ever. I got my sweet finisher medal, a lush finisher's fleece blanket, a bottle of water, a small Subway turkey sub, and a few bananas. DONE! Here are some photos and my final comments follow (official race photos not yet published):
|The medal really is awesome. When you hold it up to the light, the light shines through the green "glass" like a sun catcher. The texture on the football feels like a football!|
|Final stats with overall place, male place, age group, and master. (gulp! MASTER?! oh geez...)|