My first marathon was Chicago 2001 and immediately after getting back home I wrote up a report about what I felt, having completed my first marathon. The next year I ran Chicago again and just kept putting off writing the report until I didn’t know what to write anymore. However, a few of my friends complained and I realized what a nice little memoir this ritual actually is. So this time around, I added a few more personal background stories about why I run and what my training means to me. I want to thank all my family and friends for their support and love. Your encouragement, be it running with me, wishing me luck, or just following me on your computer race day does mean a lot and does give me that extra little boost to keep going when my body tells me that I can’t. This is a quite long story so feel free to ignore it or just read parts. Writing it has served a purpose for me and I hope you enjoy the story.
Boston Marathon April 21st, 2003
It always amazes me to see what a similar species we runners actually are. No matter what the ability, the goals and thoughts seem to be so similar. There is always someone faster and there is always someone slower but the thoughts and goals behind the determination seem to be so similar. Like many others who have already told their Boston stories I will start mine by saying that the heat and hills were a surprise and though we had been warned about the hills probably since the first day we heard the word Boston nothing could have prepared my legs for the double whammy of temp and altitude changes. Though I will reflect what others have said I wanted to add “my” story to the other 41 who have trained with the V-board I also wanted to write a story to send to my friends and family so please don’t mind the personal touch. Those of you who cheered for me virtually deserve the chance to read what I felt and how knowing you and the people lining the course help the lonely long distance runner complete some of the hardest challenges of human effort…
I started running distance in the spring of ’95 because of a wonderful high school coach named Willy. She helped me realize that running 6 miles wasn’t a punishment but that it could be a challenge that would and has shaped every moment of my life since. Soon after that first six- miler, in fact 2 weeks later, she had me running 10 miles a distance once unimagined by at that time a Jr. in high school. Nevertheless, by mile 8 I knew I was going to finish and nearly “sprinted” the rest in. From that point on I was hooked on running but never could have imagined how it would have shaped my life. In so many ways running has become my religion. It is really the only time when I can truly appreciate the body and planet that God has provided for each and every one of us.
Six years later and three marathons wiser I now know that being a runner is like nothing else that I have accomplished. Even as a wrestler when I was in much better total body fitness the knowledge that I have gained from my running is unparalleled. The ability to find one’s own limits is not something that most people are courageous enough to do. But, this last Monday and a week ago at the St. Louis marathon I joined or watched thousands of people find out what it is about the human spirit that makes them tick and what limits that body can really be pushed to.
Briefly, to the people who ran the St. Louis marathon. I was at miles 10 and 22 to support Jesse run his first marathon. The determination in his eyes and of the other runners despite the rain and cold and wind was amazing. I remember thinking that boy I hope that the weather at Boston is not going to be like this because I don’t know if I could do it all soaked and miserable like so many of the runners were. Little was I to know that just a week or so later I was going to have the opposite problem and be faced with heat and wind and an over zealous nature of pouring water over my head which ended up causing more problems than it solved.
The weekend as a whole was excellent. I knew I had prepared well following Hal’s advice. I’m starting to break away a little but still return to his core principles to keep me injury free… Thanks Hal you have not failed me yet. My training was similar as for Chicago with a few changes. First stress levels were up. I had just proposed my pre-doctoral thesis on Tues and bought a house with my girlfriend on that Monday. So sleeping was short and restless. Nevertheless, the miles were in and like many other naïve Boston new comers I wanted to try for a PR.
The only real changes I made from Hal’s program were with the four key weekends. First, the final 9 p 19 mi combo turned into a very tough 10 mile with Tim and Tyler, two runners who have more ability in each leg than I have in both of mine. A 20 miler instead of 19 followed this run (because it was easier to turn around there). The following weekend I took the 10 miles much easier on my own 13 minutes slower on the same course but followed it with a harder version of the 20 mi run with more hills and a harder pace. (Thanks Dennis it’s tough enough running 20 miles but it never seems as long when you have someone great to talk to). The next key weekend (Scheduled 10 pace then 20), I ran about 13 easy with a very tough repeat of the 20 I had done two weeks before. This time however, Dennis and I decided that we should add on two more miles one of which was up hill. I thought great if I can do this heartbreak will be nothing… The final weekend of training (Scheduled 10 pace then 20), I ran a very tough 13 mile pace run. This time I had the help of Tyler again. Thanks Tyler you are a great running partner and our conversation made the 12 plus miles in 79 minutes fly by. My final run before Boston, I went it solo and did a comfortable 24 miles. Other than those four changes, I followed Hal’s program to a T.
Now that I have my training out of the way, I’ll finally try to get to Boston and my goals. I always set three goals for myself when I race. First, a show-up goal; this is the goal that if I’m going to bother lacing my shoes I better get. Next, my goal; this is the goal that I admit to everyone. Finally, my real goal; this is the goal I have inside that I really believe I can obtain (and usually tell everyone). For Boston, these three were 3:00, 2:50 and 2:45.
Before leaving, I checked my e-mail and was happy to see a good luck message from my mom. I knew it was going to be hard for her; she had been able to watch my previous two marathons and even be at multiple miles to cheer me on and give me GUs. However, this time the distance just wasn’t worth the travel but her prayers were with me and sure helped on the hills. Whenever, during a race, my breathing becomes erratic I just think of her and it helps me gain control and focus… Thanks Mom!
I had my goals I knew my training and it was time to leave. Sandra and I packed up and left for the airport. Sandra had been very patient with me over the last two months and that helped immensely. Between the running, the house hunting, and writing my thesis proposal, our only time together had been dinner on Friday nights. Despite this strain on the relationship, she supported me every step and was coming with to cheer me on.
We arrived in Boston at 8 pm (an hour late due to rain in Chicago) and were greeted by two of the nicest people on the planet, Judy and John. We were staying with parents of a friend and they met us at the airport took us into their home fed us and gave us a bed to sleep in. Not to mention a room with the most beautiful and relaxing view of a lake.
The next day was packet pickup and our fantastic hosts took us on a quick driving tour of Boston and dropped us off at the library. There I met up with Becky, a long lost friend from high school, whom I hadn’t seen in 3 years. Sandra, Becky and I picked up my bib and shirt and we headed on a three-hour walking tour of Boston (Harvard, graveyards and a great sushi restaurant). Oh yeah and a pint of ice cream each, my stomach still hurts. After catching up on old times, we separated for the night and headed home.
When Sandra and I got there, we were greeted by a wonderful smell. Judy had prepared a wonderful Cioppino and pasta. We finished off the meal with a nice glass of red wine and after a little more sitting around and talking it was off to bed. After a quick neck massage, compliments of Sandra I was fast asleep and the next thing I new it was morning. The night before, anticipating the cold start, Sandra decorated an O.R. scrub for me to wear to the start as a throw away. It was a lot hotter than we had expected but it made for a nice warm-up none-the-less. John and Judy drove me out to Hopkinton and it was a brief walk/warm-up to the start.
I covered myself in suntan lotion and Vaseline in all the critical areas and waited for the start. I was ecstatic to find out that I had made corral number one, right behind the elite runners! Nevertheless, not wanting to be too caught up in the excitement I made my way to the back of the area and as calmly as I could sat and waited for the start. The runners immediately around me mostly first-timers like myself all guessed of what would be ahead and shared our personal goals for the day that was soon to unfold.
National anthem, jets, and BANG!!! It was time to go. Now I knew that hills lay ahead and I also knew the first mile had a net drop of 200 feet so I tried my hardest to hold the pace. My target pace for the marathon was supposed to be 6:20 for my 2:45 so I’m like as long as I’m not under 6 I’ll be ok and I can slow down after that initial adrenaline boost and downhill.
Mile 1 6:20
Wow! Right on pace not as bad as I thought. But, wait there’s a kid with her hands out have to give her a high five and wait there’s another…
Mile 2 6:05
It’s amazing how much energy those kids have in their hands I didn’t even think that I had picked up the pace. Let’s slow down. Remember the plan, negative split!!! You still have those hills.
Mile 3 6:07
Right direction but still way too fast. Try for 2:25
Mile 4 6:06
Oops, more kids and their dangerous power of energy transfer to your legs.
Mile 5 6:16
That’s more like it now stay around here.
Mile 6 6:07
That’s the problem when you don’t listen to yourself your legs run away from you. Was that the 10K? No way that had to be wrong 6:11 pace I was shooting for 6:20. Oh well it’s not too bad if Dennis can run a 31:12 last week for a 10K then I can run 6:11 pace for the whole thing. But wait, man is it hot out here. Maybe if I pour lots of water on my head that will help. Yes I’m cooler but wait now my feet are wet.
Mile 7 6:13
Mile 8 6:23
Mile 9 6:17
Ouch what’s that on the bottom of my foot. Oh, right a blister. That’s why you do not dump excessive amounts of water on your head.
Mile 10 6:21
Ok, there’s the blister but I’m still way under pace and have plenty of room to play with here. Let’s try to make it to mile 15 without going over 6:30 pace.
Mile 11 6:23
Still feels good. Didn’t someone say something about Wellesley girls at mile 10? I must have missed them…
Mile 12 6:22
What’s that loud noise I hear? The guy next to me informs me that that’s Wellesley and it’s still about half a mile away.
Mile 13 6:27
What I can’t hear you??? There’s all this noise ; ‘ )
Mile 14 6:35
Almost made it but not quite. So no sub-6:30 to mile 15 what should I shoot for next? Ok lets try and slow it down to around 7:00 flat to gear up for the hills. After heartbreak I can pick it back up to 6:30 and still make my goal.
Mile 15 6:44
Mile 16 6:28
Mile 17 7:08
So that’s a hill. Wait I thought it was heartbreak hill not death by mountains from mile 17 on…
Mile 18 7:11
Mile 19 7:03
Mile 20 7:26 Ouch ouch ouch
Mile 21 7:45 Yes I didn’t break 8. I was convinced that it was at least 8:30.
Now for some running. It was amazing but I actually felt a second wind as soon as I crested.
Mile 22 7:01
Good but oh crap look at that time I really have to kick my butt into gear to even break 3!!!
What is with all these people? This is great! From mile 19 on it felt like mile 26 on in Chicago. AND thanks to the fans that had the water bottles they really helped with the GU consumption at miles 5, 10, 15, and 21!!!
Mile 23 7:13
Still slowing but I feel fine or is that the voices in my head telling me that I feel fine who knows lets just finish. Did that clock say 2:26. Isn’t that the time that Tyler ran his whole marathon? Yes, wow does that put his ability into perspective I still have 3+ miles to go! Tyler that’s amazing.
Mile 24 7:16
Must break three lets try and get my first Chicago time 2:52. Ok so if I drop a minute per mile I can do it. Or I can sprout wings and fly away. Sorry that must be the heat talking again… So 2:52 is probably out of reach lets at least get 2:55.
Mile 25 7:23 Ouch ouch ouch almost there… Just hold out a little longer…
Mile .2 1:34
Somewhere between 25 and 26 but I wanted to know my last split. Wait did I say last split is there only one more mile to go?
Final mile 7:17
Yeah there is Sandra, Judy and John I saw them before the finish and somehow managed to hear them!!! Final watch time 2:55.30 not quit under 2:55 but still under 3 and a very fun entertaining experience.
What I learned? First, water is good for your head but NOT your feet. Blister pain does go away. But, only after your feet go numb. Heat is fun but not during a race. Boston is great and the fans are fantastic. Will I do it again? Yes Next year? No Too many other races to try. This race taught me that every marathon is different and though it may be great to say I ran 13 Boston marathons someday. I think it will be better to learn the personality of a few more of these beasts. Thanks for taking the time to read to the end of this. For me it’s a great way to get my thoughts out and to really try and understand why I do this running, for you it may be a million different things but thanks for sharing in this experience with me in your own way.
To my family and friends know you are greatly appreciated…THANK YOU~!!!