It's marathon week and I thought I'd write up what I remember from my first marathon. The inspiration to run this marathon had actually come a year earlier, in 2004. I went to the marathon expo and was absolutely amazed at all the attention given to the event and the runners. Before, I thought the marathon was just about running 26.2 miles. But watching all the people at the expo, the vendors hawking stuff, the runners checking their registration, made me understand that this was an event for the everyman, the Super Bowl for the couch potato. So right then and there, I decided I'd run the 2005 White Rock Marathon.
In the summer of 2004, I went on the NYRR web site and copied the program for the basic marathoner. It called for three 20-milers and nine weeks of at least 40 miles. The total mileage for the 18-week program (which included the three-week taper) was 659 miles. Well, I didn't come close to doing any of that. I did two 20-milers. Hit 40 miles just once. And my total mileage for the program was 529 miles. I didn't do any speed work, or hill work, or interval training. But I did lose a lot of weight, going from 165 to as low as 149 pounds before going back up to 155 during the taper.
I was ignorant about what it would take to finish and toed the line on Dec. 11 2005 with tons of confidence.
Here is what I remember from the race...
*I was so pumped. I drove to the race listening to the Rocky soundtrack. "Gonna fly now...." I was getting the chills, visualizing myself run across the finish line just like Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was wearing my heart rate monitor and my heart rate soared to 140. 140! I was sitting in my car and my heart was working as though I was running. I had to stop playing Rocky and put in some Yanni (don't ask how that CD was in my car) so I could calm the hell down. *I got to the race with just a few minutes to use the bathroom at the American Airlines Center (The start was near where the Dallas Mavericks play). I ran to where I saw a big crowd of runners lining up. The gun goes off and we start running. Before I got to the official starting line, a woman points at my big and says, "This is the half-marathon start. The marathon start is over there." That's right. I was in the wrong race. I turned around, ran against the grain of thousands of runners and sprinted to the marathon start. Not good to start 26.2 out of breath. *At about mile 2 or 3, I heard someone call out my name. I turn and see its my high school algebra teacher, Mrs. Thomas. She asked how I was doing and it was in the same tone of voice she used to ask me about my homework assignments 20 years earlier. She was in her 60s now, running her first marathon and her goal was not to finish last and to finish under 7 hours. We ran for a few minutes together and parted ways. I looked her time up after the race and was happy to see that she easily surpassed her goals. *The first 6 or 7 miles seemed like this huge party. Bands were playing. People were cheering and I felt absolutely great. Running was effortless. The weather was absolutely perfect. Mid 30s, not a cloud in the sky. No wind. I wore a knit hat, gloves and a form fitting shirt and by mile 3, I had thrown away my hat. *Right before we hit the lake is where I made my first mistake. I had run all my long runs in the high 9s or 10s (minutes per mile). But I remember thinking that the running computers said a person with my 5K speed (21:38 at the time) could run a 3:30 marathon. And I was feeling so good, so I just let my legs carry me and wound up doing miles 7 to 14 in about a 9:00 mile pace...way too fast. I hit the halfway point in 2:10 and figured, at the very least, a 4:20 marathon was possible. *At about mile 15 or 16, just after this picture was taken by an ex-girlfriend who was following me on the course, I started getting tired. More out of breath than anything. I slowed down and completed miles 15, 16, and 17 in right at 30 minutes. I did Mile 18 in exactly 10 minutes, putting my total time at 2:55. *At about mile 19, we get off the lake and head back toward downtown Dallas, but first there were the Dolly Parton hills to climb. I got up the first one okay, but I felt a little twinge in my right quad going down one of the hills. I'd never felt that pain before during training and thought if I just kept pushing forward, it would go away. It didn't. And in fact, I started feeling the same pain in my left quad. Then both hamstrings started cramping. I'd been running in the mid to high 9s before my leg maladies, but the cramping was crippling. From Mile 19 to 22, I couldn't turn on the gas and stopped a lot to stretch. It was a struggle to run faster than a 12 minute mile. *Mile 22 is mostly downhill on Swiss Avenue and this was my last hurrah. And that is relatively speaking because it took me 11:43 to complete, and it would be the last time I'd run faster than a 13-minute mile the rest of the race. That's right. My pace had slowed by four minutes from mile 17 to mile 23. I was hurting real bad at this point. I remember people I had passed earlier in the race, at mile 9, 10, and 11, were passing me now. Some would run by me and say, "Hang in there rookie." Rookie? How did they know this was my first marathon? I figured out later that they gave first-time marathoners a blue bib. *By Mile 24 I was absolutely miserable and mad, mad that I couldn't run even though I was not out of breath. Mad that these cramps had never happened in training so I could know what to expect. But I was not going to quit. That never crossed my mind. I just limped along. It took me nearly 14 minutes to complete mile 24 and another 14 minutes to complete mile 25. *On the final turn, I could see the finish line and all the cheering spectators. I tried to run the final 2/10ths of a mile, but my quads were threatening to give way, so I walked. And I felt pretty embarrassed. My mom and dad were among the faces in the crowd and as I neared the finish, my dad runs out on the course with me. It was just like in the movies. "Come on now, I didn't raise somebody who was gonna walk to the finish line." Grimacing with each step and thinking that he doesn't know what he was talking about, I told him thanks for coming out and my legs hurt. He said, "OK, well, you are almost home." Then he rejoined my mom on the sidelines. About 50 yards from the finish, I decided I would run it on in, no matter what. And that's just what I did, passing my good friends Chuck and Allynson, who were watching from the stands. *At the end, I raised my hands in triumph and stopped as soon as I crossed the timing mat. My official time 4:41:34, a pace of 10:45 min/mile. 21 minutes slower than my goal. *A volunteer gave me the foil wrap to put around me and someone else gave me a medal. I took another step and both legs started cramping and gave way. "Medic! Somebody shouted, and the next thing I know, I'm in a wheelchair and they are rushing me to a cot to work on my cramps. It was pathetically pitiful. My then girlfriend at the time must have thought I was the sorriest looking thing she'd ever seen. They iced me down, gave me a Gatorade and in 10 minutes, I was well enough to get up and join my family. *My emotional state was more anger than jubilation that I had finished. When I got home, I thought, "I'm never doing that again."