The Rowe Marathon was born from my desire to respect the marathon distance and the determination of my love, Amber, to make it special for me. When I last ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 I had a difficult race. I told Amber afterwards that I thought it would be smart if I ran two marathons, instead of one, annually. One would be a goal race. The other race would be to humble myself; to remember how difficult the marathon distance is. I thought more about this, as well as our complicated family budget, and kept coming back to the idea of running a “race” on my own at home. What I had in mind was to run the distance, alone, at home. Amber had a slightly different idea.
I intended and expected to learn lessons. I always learn something when running a marathon. I’ve learned the important of race day nutrition; of training for the distance; of taking things seriously; and many more. All I really thought I would experience was a reminder of how difficult the distance is; that you must train for long distances and put in numerous easy miles interspersed with speed work. The primary lesson of this race was nothing of the sort.
This was not to be a goal race. This gave me greater freedom to experiment. I used it as an opportunity to attempt true carb loading. True carb loading involves a depletion phase prior to the loading phase. The body is supposed to hyper compensate and overload your muscles with glycogen. The depleting phase was challenging. I found myself angry, very angry. This was due to the carb depletion and the stress of dealing with unfair and frustrating family situations. Going into the event I planned to harness that anger. I wanted to hurt. I wanted the physical and mental pain of the marathon to overshadow the mental anguish of the week. That never happened.
How could I be angry when a a friend came out in the early morning and pouring rain to rain an unofficial race, primarily for me? When my friends chose to spend their Sunday morning in the rain for 6 runners? When a man brought his entire family, including children, to support the event? His family cheered while we all ran. Oh, and he had to work later that afternoon. What about the man whom I’d met for only a few hours at Boston 2013 who drove 10 hours to participate in a full (yet unofficial) marathon? How about the woman I’d barely met prior that biked along the entire course and put herself in the way of traffic on the wrong side of the road to ensure that I could cross a bridge safely and unimpeded? Or my father who drove around posting signs and balloons with Amber and then say in a lawn chair at a busy intersection in the wind and pouring rain? Or the time Amber spent organizing everything and setting up markers so people would not get lost? She even had medals made! There were even people that I’d never met that ran the half marathon distance!
Five miles into the race whatever anger I had left dispersed when I turned the corner and realized that Amber had arranged for my nieces and nephews to be there to cheer! I paused my music as I approached because I didn’t want to miss a second of them. Then, only slightly farther down the road, was my 6 year old daughter! She screamed for her Daddy and held her arms out for a hug. There was no anger left. Instead I was left in awe at what people had done. They owed me and Amber nothing and yet they were all there.
Like a fool I set my goal at 3:15. Almost immediately I doubted myself and chided myself for being that aggressive. I’ve run faster marathons before but I was in better shape and this wouldn’t be the same atmosphere as a normal race. I would be very tempted to slow down. The only good thing about selecting an aggressive goal was that my playlist didn’t need to be as long! I found it incredibly difficult to find so much music! In the end I bought a handful of songs including Volbeat’s “Magic Zone.” The hook in the song is:
I’m down on my tail; but I’m up and I can feel it again
Angel wings unfold; and the devil sitting moaning alone
I’ve been down but I’m back in the magic zone
This theme reflected the anger I held prior to the race. It also reflected the cycles I endured during the race. When mile 20 approached and I caught back up with Isaac (the man who drove 10 hours) I said “I have to go ahead, I want to hurt.” What I found was that I did hurt but my legs had speed. My legs didn’t seem to tire like I had expected. I credit the carb depletion and loading for this. Normally runners slow at this point; I surged. I was singing that hook and singing it loudly. My apologies to Beth, the cyclist who put herself in traffic for me, as she likely heard me “singing.”
With just over one mile to go I saw the sign that my sister, from Florida, had made for the second time. It made me feel like she was there even though it was just the thoughtfulness of Amber to ask her for something to put on a sign. Amber had special signs made for all of us. Isaac even printed custom personalized bibs with special photos and even a QR code linking to this website! When I rounded the last corner I saw almost everyone and gave all that I had left. When the Garmin said 26.3 I stopped. 3:13:46!
This race was about learning. I learned that carb depletion followed by loading helps keep my legs solid in later stages of a race. I learned that the race atmosphere is important but not absolutely critical. I learned that rain won’t ruin a race day. I learned that friends and family can make even the worst anger and sadness disappear. For every marathon I run I select a song about the location as the first song in my playlist. This race was held at home. I chose a song that is very special to Amber and I because she is my home. I am truly grateful for all of the people and all that they did on November 17th, 2013 at the inaugural Rowe Marathon and Half Marathon.
I’ve posted photos here.
16 7:47 (second pee break)