On September 16th, 2007 everything fell into place. The weather was nearly perfect, I had trained well, I ate well, I slept well, and I was mentally ready for my second 26.2 mile run. The race was excellent and I far exceeded both my official and my unofficial goal times. My official goal was to break 4:15 thus beating my first marathon time by about 3 minutes. My unofficial goal, which I didn’t really tell people about, was to break 4 hours. I kept that (mostly) to myself because I knew there was a good chance that I would not achieve that. I did. By a large margin.
It’s been just over a week since the race and I still can’t get over how well everything went. By everything I mean more than just my performance. I had a lot of friends and family at the race and participating in the race. My brother-in-law ran his first half marathon as my sister-in-law sat jealously on the sidelines cheering us all on. She was sidelined due to an unexpected surgery. Of course Mary was there and Cassie was there too! Cassie was at my first marathon but she was “on the inside” then. My Mom was there although my Dad was away on business. My sister wasn’t physically there but I know she and my Dad were cheering me on miles away. John, of course, was there. We spent countless (ok, not countless because I actually counted the hours by way of a training log!) hours training together this summer. Mark was there running the half while training for a full marathon. John’s brother Dave was there and my new friend Matt was there. There were thousands of other people there too but I won’t name everyone. I would if I knew all of their names!
This year I took the shuttle to the start line. I was worried about having enough time to suit up. I like to put on my socks and sneakers before a run at the start point. I also needed to pin my bib and gels and get suited up in my disposable jacket and gloves. I did my best to stay warm as it was 44 degrees at race start time. Meeting up with John, Dave, and Matt before the race helped take my mind off of the cold although it really wasn’t that bad.
At about 7:35 the gun went off. When we crossed the start line we started our own watches and with a “See you in another life, brotha”, and a “Strength and honor” we were off. John for his very first marathon and me for my second.
I was pretty comfortable even though it was a bit cold. By about the third mile I discarded my sport shell to the calls of a few enthusiastic women. That, of course, made me smile. I laughed when the guy that the women were with yelled out too. I kept the gloves on for quite a while longer. I didn’t discard the gloves for another 3 miles (at least). I discarded them somewhere near St. John Fisher.
My target pace was 9 minutes per mile as I needed a 9:10 to break four hours. I was running at a very comfortable pace and yet I was putting in 8:30 miles. This worried me a little bit but I really was not pushing too hard and I knew that. One I warmed up I slowed down to a pretty solid 9 minute pace. The minutes I “banked” (I know that “banking” is a horrible technique and I didn’t plan to bank time it just happened that way. I didn’t push to bank time I was trying to run at a constant pace but went faster than expected) stayed steady for many miles.
Shortly after getting on the canal path in Fairport I stopped to pee. I stopped at the exact point where the path turns to gravel. I lost, at most, 30 seconds for the break. The extra comfort was well worth the break!
Then I ran. And ran. And ran some more. Schoen Place in Pittsford was packed with people. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes when people are out and cheering you on. It’s a huge mental boost that has a physical impact. A manager from my workplace was cheering people along on the canal path. He saw me and slapped me five. It was really cool to see someone I knew along the way.
Although I wasn’t thirsty I stopped at every official water stop. Most of the time I drank water but once or twice I took the sports drink. I was avoiding the sports drink because my stomach was upset. I wasn’t handling the gels very well so I tried to take in more water instead of more carbs. My stomach wasn’t horrible but it was noticeable. The straw technique worked extremely well. It was so easy to drink! I didn’t spill stuff on me and I was able to take in water very quickly with very little air. Tucking the straw in the air-band of my mp3 player worked flawlessly. I plan to use this technique on every race I run now even if I don’t have my mp3 player with me. I’ll just bring an empty arm-band for my straw.
I didn’t talk much while running but I did start chatting with a guy somewhere past Pittsford. It was his third marathon and his goal was also to break 4 hours. I confided in him that 4 hours was my goal too. He said that we were on our way to break that goal. When he said that I plugged my ears and yelled “nah nah nah nah.” I knew that we were ahead of a 4 hour finish but I didn’t want to let myself get too confident.
By about mile 16 I knew I was going to break 4 hours. The way I was calculating things I would finish in just under 4 hours if I ran at a 10 minute pace! I knew I could keep at least that pace up for a measly 10 miles even though my stomach wasn’t particularly happy and I was starting to feel the first signs of fatigue. At mile 20 I had run for about 2:55 or 2:57. I lost a bit of confidence at that point. Once I run past 20 miles things tend to get very difficult. Although I was still well on my way I wasn’t so sure I could keep up a 10 minute pace for the final 6.2 miles.
I think it was around mile 22 or 23 where I received two compliments on my sneakers! I had to laugh as it was the very unexpected. I believe it was the HFL (Honeoye Falls Lima) water stop. A couple girls liked the bright yellow color of my sneakers. They also had a box setup that said “3 points.” I was able to get my cup in the 3 point bucket, yay for me! That was a nice distraction as things were getting rather difficult by that point.
It was around the HFL stop that the Rockey IV soundtrack started playing! It was perfect timing. I think you’d have to be dead to not get motivated when listening to Rocky music.
Finally I came to the Ford Street Bridge which left about 2 miles to go. Somewhere in that mile I met up with the 4 hour-goal-guy that I spoke with many miles before. As we were getting towards the last half mile I said “We’re going to do it and we’re going to do it by a lot!” He said with a smile “Nah, we’re right on track to hit 4.” With about .3 miles to go he started to walk. I’m not sure what happened but I wasn’t about to look back that late in the race!
As I approached the last .2 miles of the race my eyes were on one thing — the finish line! I didn’t know for sure where it was but I had a general idea. I was searching and searching. I couldn’t hear the crowd. I couldn’t see the crowd. I could barely hear the music in my ears “there ain’t no easy way out, there’s no shortcut home.” I rounded the final corner and I saw the finish. I saw the finish and the yellow numbers that proved I was going to break 4 hours and I was going to break it by a lot! I took off. I ran as fast as I possibly could (which was surprisingly fast). I passed a few people on the way and blasted through the finish. I couldn’t slow down and I blew past the people handing out medals! They came to me and presented me with a medal and asked if I was OK. I was in rough shape after the final sprint!
I turns out that I really couldn’t hear or see anything because Mary was shouting right next to me and even ran with me lugging Cassie along. I never saw her…and there’s photographic evidence that she was there!
My chip time was 3:51:34, an 8:51 average pace! I broke a 9 minute pace for a full marathon! I knew it was possible that I could break 4 hours but I never expected to do as well as I did. Certainly the perfect weather and many other factors made this possible. I truly am not expecting to beat that time at my next marathon.
I enjoyed some of the post race refreshments and then saw Mark coming to congratulate me with a hug. I was beaming and he was very happy for me. Then I met up with Mary and the rest of the family. We went back to the finish line to cheer John through the finish. He ran a great race and finished with his brother. John, I know you’re going to read this — I’m really proud of you.
In late October I’m going to run the Niagara Falls Half Marathon. John will be running the half and Mark will be running the full! I’m looking forward to seeing him finish the most. I don’t really care about the run. I’m going to cheer, running is a side benefit. In November John is going to run his second marathon (he’s crazy!) in Philly. I’m going with him but I’m not brave enough to run another full this year. Maybe Marine Corps for next year?