After the first mile the course was still packed with runners. A water stop was coming up at mile 2 and I wasn’t really thirsty yet, so I decided to skip it to see if things would thin out a bit. I worked. It was like a parting of the red sea of runners. From 2 miles on there was plenty of room to breath and run at varying paces if need be. I also made up some time in the last mile and was sitting at 15:30 minutes (7:15 pace). Now this was back when I could kick off a 5:15 mile so making up the time wasn’t the problem. Being overly aggressive in a 26.2 mile race can backfire on you pretty easily. We will see how this turns out.
Now running in October of 2001 in a big city marathon was a little scary. I remember looking up at the Sears Tower at one point and visualizing a plane flying into it. 911 was fresh in everyone’s mind and weeks before the race we weren’t sure if it would be cancelled due to the terrorist threat. So much to think about when running involves so much more than the task at feet. Part of what makes running great is the chance to resolve personal issues in your mind while running. In a marathon it is no different. I was in a less than happy marriage at the time. I may have not have found peace without running. I was able to find a clearer picture of my life and eventually make decisions which would make for a better round two on the marriage front. Now back to the marathon.
With the crowd continuing to push my pace, I was able to maintain the 3:10 goal pace of 7:15 per. I remember hitting the half marathon point and thinking this is no problem. I have got this. I was right on pace through 20 miles. After 20 miles I thought “Where is the wall?” Everybody talks about the wall at 20, where is that bad boy? 21 miles came…no wall. 22 miles came….no wall. 23 miles came and…..the hit me like a wall should like a ton of frickin’ bricks. My plan had been to run the entire distance and I say I did that, but just lifting my feet off the ground on each recoil was the hardest thing I have ever done. Getting smacked around a Rugby Pitch for 80 minutes didn’t compare to this. The body was telling me, “I hate you for doing this to me, now I am going to make you suffer!”
The last 3.2 miles I couldn’t think and I couldn’t keep track of my pace. All I knew was that I was bleeding pace like the Grand Canyon bleeds the Colorado River. Hoover Dam it all! My goal was leaving me. The dream was dying here. I finished in 3:21:24. 11:24 off of my goal. and 6:24 off of my fall back goal (3:15, Boston Q time for a 36 year-old male).
I got my finisher’s medal, a banana and a water and I limped to the meeting spot by the Al Bundy fountain. On the way I tried to throw the banana peel away and missed the trash can, just short. As I am trying to bend down (with no success) an 80 year-old lady often to and pickup the banana peel for me and threw it away. True story! I was so cramped up, I made the elderly look spry.
While waiting for Doug to bring my sweats, I told myself I was never bad word, bad word, bad word doing this bad word thing again. After Doug and Dave arrived and I was in my sweats and beginning to warm up, I started to plan for the 2002 Chicago Marathon. The disappointment of not qualifying drove me that next year.
(to be continued with Chicago 2002)