Monday, September 13, 2010

Skagit Flats Marathon (my first marathon)

Well it's a little cloudy now, even though it's only been a day.
There were a few late runners.
I was tired.
I didn't get much sleep. I had been worrying all night. I've only been running since February. Can I do this? Did I train well enough? What if I shit my shorts? All plausible questions a first time marathoner should ask.
I was in the front of the pack of 196 marathoners listening to some awful version of the Canadian anthem (I still took my hat off for Canada) and then another awful version of the star spangled banner.
I have to say this was the first time in my life I felt truly patriotic. Maybe it was the anticipation of the race, I don't know, but I felt a strong since of pride and honor while looking at that flag.
1...2...3... ... GO!
I was off to a good start. I took a look at my watch and I was running a 6:40 pace, but I felt good, even though my GP was 6:50, so I kept it up...for a while.
At mile 9 I was side by side with another fella my age running his first marathon at the same GP, with the same overall goal in mind, to qualify for Boston. I thought that was cool.
Around mile 12 I started to pull away from him, but by then I was running a 6:55 pace(damn, I should have held back at the start).
Some parts of this race were strange and lonely. I was behind the top 5 finishers but ahead of the other 190 runners. I was on my own. There were 2 mile stretches where I was alone. No other runners, no aid stations, nothing. Just me, the rain, the wind, and stretches of farmlands. I felt like I was in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road".
At mile 19, I'm pretty sure I hit "the wall". I started wondering if I could finish  and what the hell I was doing out here in the pouring rain. I felt the back of my legs aching and my stomach cramping from the GU that for some reason was upsetting it, despite trial runs where it digested fine. The wind was blowing head on. I was tired, wet, and upset. I thought to myself: I don't think I'll do this again.
At that time my girlfriend pulled up alongside me (the roads were not closed for the race).
She was just the comfort and encouragement I needed, it felt like perfect timing. I took my hydration belt and beanie and handed it to her through the window. I told her how bad it hurt and how hard it was. She told me how great I was doing and we chit chatted while I was at a light jog for a minute or so. I told her I'd see her at mile 24 and she drove off.
The next 5 miles were the biggest challenge of the race.
I'd stop at every mile marker walk for 10 - 30 seconds and when I was running, it was at a 7:20-7:30 pace. I knew I had blown breaking 3 hrs, but I knew I could still qualify for Boston. I'd run for a mile and walk. And run and walk. I saw Dani again at mile 24 where she was waiting for me. I gave her a kiss and told her I'd see her at the finish.
I ran at a 7:00 pace until I got to the mile 25 aid station and had my last drink of water.  My watch said 03:02. I was going to qualify for Boston in my first marathon!
The last mile of the race I was back at my GP of 6:50.
I rounded the corner onto the high school track and saw the finish line. They announced my name and the clock read 03:09. I've never been so happy.
I just did something I've never done. And I did it well.
I finished 6th overall and 1st in the 20-29 age division.
Like I mentioned, today is the first day after the race. I'm sore, but no more sore than after my first half marathon in may, so I'll start training for the Seattle Marathon next week.
I'll break 3 hrs in that race.
And one day I'll be an elite.

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