Jesse's breathing was labored and I knew he had been dealing with a small injury. I thought to myself: This race is yours.
Any time Jesse made a move. I pushed. Any time his local fans would cheer him on I would cheer back, throw up the hang loose sign and surge. This was my race. I'd been picturing all of this for weeks.
At every hill I thought: You know this hill. This is easy. At every down hill he would push and I would push back until we were side by side again. At mile 12 I could hear people cheering for him, so I pushed ahead to show them this was my race. A few people looked confused and concerned and who the fuck is this? And I loved it.
My splits were almost exactly what I had planned meticulously in a journal weeks prior. I ate a gel every 35 minutes at every aid station I had written on my fore arm in sharpie. I drank at every single water station, a skill my wife had helped me perfect in the parking lot the night before the race. Everything was perfect.
At mile 16, after the large hill at Woodard Bay, I went to make my move, but my legs didn't have the energy in them that I thought they would have. I looked down at my watch which read 5:55 for the lap pace and thought: DO NOT give up. If you can't push the pace to 05:43 then just hold. This. Pace. 10 more miles and it's yours. The people you care about are there. Do not let them down. DO NOT let them down.
I couldn't hear Jesse's shoes slapping the asphalt anymore. I couldn't hear him clearing his nose.
Just keep moving.
As I approached the mile 18 aid station I went to pull a gel out of my shorts, but my arm felt unusually heavy. I didn't want to eat the gel and thought I would vomit if I did. I grabbed some electrolyte drink from the volunteers. I spat that out all over myself. Keep moving, Korey.
On 36th I was finally passing the half marathoners which I thought would give me a boost, but it didn't. I watched the pace car inch along wishing I could give up and get in it. Every group that cheered for me could be heard less than a minute later cheering even louder as Jesse was getting closer.
On Friendly Grove, right before mile 20, the cheers got louder and he passed me. I couldn't push at all.
Nice work, Jesse. I mumbled, as every bit of motivation that was once a raging torrent left my body in a trickling stream of defeat.
I stopped at mile 20 to try and drink some water, but I spit it out and almost fell over.
I bent over to puke but nothing came out.
Everything was a bit blurry and I started jogging in zig zags. In and out of the line of runners.
I don't remember it very clearly, but I do remember thinking that I had to get to Alicia so that I could stop running.
And that's what I did.
I kissed her, like I did the year prior. Except this time laid on the grass and said that I couldn't run anymore.
We can go home or you can walk the last 4 with me.
She smiled and said: Yea! I'll walk with you! Let's go! And she jumped up.
I changed my clothes and proceeded to have the most enjoyable, peaceful and calming final 4 miles of a race I had ever experienced. This woman changed my day, the way she's changed every aspect of my life.
We smelled the flowers blooming in yards. We talked about how beautiful the world was. We took deep breathes and commented on the smell of spring and the sounds of the birds and how they made everything seem even more beautiful than it already was. We joked with the volunteers. We held hands and laughed and talked about the future for 4 miles. I felt complete, even in the midst of failure and defeat.
I finished in 03:46 in 64th place. The farthest back I have finished since I started running in 2010.
We are our own worse critics and I am especially hard on myself. That will not change. It's what makes me want to be great. It's what makes me want to be the best dad, the best husband and the best runner. It's what makes me want to be a better person. And while I know my goal was too lofty for many reasons, I can't help but feel that I lack something that defines real champions. I can only hope to grow into that one day.
I could not be happier for Jesse. He is such a kind and genuine person. To take your 10th win with an injury? How impressive is that? He's a local hero. He deserved that win. This is not my town. It's his.
I want to thank the good people at Clif and Pearl Izumi for believing in me and standing behind even when I feel I've let them down.
Especially George at Clif and Emelie and Shannon at Pearl. Thank you.
You are the most amazing and beautiful person I've met in my entire life.
Thank you for loving me the way you do.
In the marathon world 2:30 is not very fast at all.
I will break it. But for now I'm headed back to the trails.
I hope to see you all out there.
Photos provided courtesy of South Sound Running
Pearl Izumi RN1v2
Pearl Izumi Ultra Split Shorts
Raspberry and Vanilla Clif shots