Review for the Fox Cities Marathon (part 2/2 - Last Ten Miles of the Marathon)
Posted Sep 26 2011 6:01pm
As soon as the family was out of sight at mile 16 my friend Greg passed me. He was a blur as he rounded the corner and with him I think some of the wind came out of my sails. It was nothing that Greg did but my mind changed from a positive tool to a negative one. Even as I tried to only think about getting to mile 17, my mind said you have never gone beyond 17 before. Once in the Army I had done a full gear march of over 17 miles. So as soon as I passed that marker I would be in totally new territory. Yes I know that the long training runs would have addressed this. But for whatever reasons those did not occur. So I knew both mentally an physically I would be fighting and trying to push through these last 10 miles. I could feel myself slowing down. Twice in that mile two different runners stopped and asked if I was alright. I physically was OK but mentally was shutting down. I guess I was slumped over and looking at the ground as I walked. Near mile 17 I looked up and thought I saw my family again. It was! We had another reunion for 5 minutes full of hugs, best wishes and playing catch.
This was the cycle for the next few miles. Unknown to me the family would drive ahead to the next mile marker and wait for me. Each time I would have less energy and be less positive about finishing. I think my mom could see it in my eyes that I was mentally giving up. I kept moving ahead making each mile marker a new PR as I got there. But my mind was saying that if I could only get to mile 20 that would be enough. That with so little training that 20 miles would be an acceptable accomplishment. I guess I had that “I am going to quit” look in my eyes at mile 19. So much so that the family decided to drive to mile marker 20 and try and boost my spirits. While they were driving mile 19 I was shutting down. I hate to admit this but I had some pains in places that normally would stop anyone and seek medical attention. I thought about checking with the medical staff driving around but I thought I would simply go to mile 20 and call it a day and use the pain as an excuse. I was nearing mile 20, reaching for my phone and trying to figure out how to describe the location to my wife to come and get me. As I was getting the location I looked up and there was the family. I remember telling them that I was pretty much done. Their response was that it would be a shame at mile 20 to stop, that for all of the effort, training and mileage today that to be so close. My heart and body agreed with them and moved on down the road. All the time my mind kicking and screaming as I headed towards mile 21.
It’s funny how life is at times. Here I am doing one of the hardest things I will most likely ever do and pretty much mentally beat down. When out of the blue comes my friend Jay along sides me. I thought that here we go, I’ll have a couple of minutes with him chatting about the race an then he would be off. But as the fates would have it he became a God send to get me through the rest of the race. Somewhere during the race Jay (from how I understand it) began to have an off day. Maybe it was doing too much cycling and running in recent weeks but he was off his game. When he came along side of me he said he was not really able to run, that his legs where hurting. I honestly at first thought it was a story to help support me. But as we headed on down the course I realized he was very serious. So all of a sudden we were each other’s support systems to ensure that we would make it across the finish. We began to talk about anything and everything to pass the time. Our bodies kept the pace as our minds became more engaged with conversation. At least for me my doubts began to slowly lift as I was now chatting with someone. I did not have just myself to push along but Jay as well.
For the next five miles Jay and I moved ever closer to the finish. My family continued to surprise me by popping up at the next mile markers for the rest of the race, even when they would say it would be their last one. My wife says after joining up with Jay the next mile maker she saw us at was totally different than before. I was back to having the energy and a positive spirit about me. I guess at one mile marker I didn’t even stop for the family and just waved at them as Jay and I walked on. Over the next five miles I still questioned if I would truly make it. I wanted to believe that I would but I could see even Jay was struggling at times. But it would be such a letdown if either one of us would stop so very close to the finish. I look back now and wonder if like miles 18-21 was my wall. You know, THE WALL. I guess it was in a mental way and in a small way physically. People who told me or books I have read said a marathon is really mental was absolutely right. I found myself starting to talk to the volunteers again and some of the walkers/runners I had passed earlier in the day. The runner (me) that started the race slowly came back to life at around mile 23. I made the volunteers and Jay laugh at mile 23 when I asked the water station if there were anyone if front of us race wise. I was joking of course but it was good to see all of us laughing after such a long day.
The Fox Cities course is laid out where you can hear the finish from around mile 24. Once I heard that announcer my energy picked up. I think our pace actually picked up as well. It’s kind of strange as you have to cross a fairly steep and long bridge to get back across the river and head towards the finish line. Once you make the bridge you have like a mile and a half to go. You can actually see the finish line but you have to walk around a very beautify grouping of homes along a lake to turn towards the finish. As you head towards the lake you have all of these recent finishers cheering you on and giving support. At about mile 25 we saw Greg and his family standing there waiting for us. It was good to see that Greg had finished his first full marathon. Jay and I joked about this long indirect way to the finish as we walked. Slowly we made it around to the last corner and finally saw the finish ahead of us! I asked Jay what he wanted to do and he said try to run it in from there. I didn’t think I had the energy so I had him go on and finish ahead of me. I think I finally had the nerve to try and run in right at the 26 mile marker.
Once I started running towards the finish it was like the world was lifted off my shoulders. My strides were good and strong, people were cheering me on and I heard Jay’s name being announced as he crossed the finish line. I ran on and a huge smile broke out on my face as I neared the timing mat and I saw the family to my right. I think I made a funny face at the kids like in Home Alone in disbelief as I crossed the finish. I had done it. I had completed my first full marathon. My kids ran to me and hugged me while the finisher’s medal was being placed around my neck. I think I had it on for like ten seconds before I took it off and gave it to my daughter for her 6th birthday. She had shared her special day with me so I wanted to do the same for her. But my wife stated what I should have as I gave it to her, that please don’t break it and yes you will have to give it back. She would only wear it as a special badge of honor for today.
The rest of that time is kind of a blur. I remember the food tent and grabbing a lot of stuff that I ended up not eating. My body just didn’t want anything then. I think the kids ate most of it. Jay’s family and mine chatted for a while, took some pictures and then parted ways. Patti from the day before surprised me my coming to see me finish as I had done for her 5k. At the last second I had forgotten that Beth was still somewhere behind me needing to finish. As I stumbled to the finish line I saw her finish along with some of her family. So it was like a big ole family reunion for me with friends, family and co-workers all around there at the finish line celebrating our victories.
We had little time to hang around as we needed to get home and have a little birthday party for my daughter an then a two hour church class that evening. Yes, this is my busy life even on race day. It was like a mile back to my wife’s car and I thought the walk was going to kill me. But I made it and then back to the start line to get my car. Physically I was stiff the rest of the day but overall felt really good. Mentally I was tired but just so happy to be done.
So how did I do? Keeping in true back of the pack form I came in at 7:30:53. Overall I came in 834 out of 840 marathon runners. I feel a little like I could have done better with fewer stops an time at those stops. I think I wasted something like 20 minutes on one bathroom break, 8 sock stops and 11-12 family stops. But what fun would have been without all of these? But as many of my family and friends have said it I finish and that is all that matters. I was asked by my wife and Patti if I will ever do another one. I immediately said yes I would but would actually training for it next time. So maybe in a couple of years I will try it again.
To the readers of this blog I want to say thank you for your support during this journey. Thank you for being a part of it and hanging in there with me as I trained for this race and for all of the others along the way to the marathon. I am very happy and proud that I pushed through and did not quit. I don’t know how I would have dealt with it if I had stopped. I have written in great detail my marathon experience over the last few blogs to truly express what happened and how I felt both mentally and physically. To some it may have been too much detail while others will appreciate the raw aspect of it. I hope that it will inspire others to train for and complete a marathon or any race for that matter in the future. Having said that, please do not do what I did. I feel in hindsight that I was very lucky to have been able to complete such a long endurance race with so little training. Even while on the course I told Jay that I felt disappointed in myself for blogging about how someone should train and then not following my own advice. I still in a sense feel a bit of a taint to the race due to my lack of training. So my friends please, please training appropriately for such a race. Respect the race and the mileage and don’t put yourself at risk by not training. All ended well for me with no injuries, health issues and completing my first marathon. But I was lucky and please heed my warning.
Finally and on a personal note I must thank my family and friends for making all of this possible. For the last year I have done little else but talk about, blog about and train for this race. Without their love, friendship, support, sacrifices and encouragement I would not have finished. I am so very lucky to have such wonderful people in my life who understands the importance of running to me and for me to try and obtain this goal. I only hope that I can return the favor to you all in the future. I love you all and thank you for making it happen and for making it such a wonderful journey over the last year.