I got 4 hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 3:15am. Ouch. I rode the bus to the starting line with the Dansie’s, Nielson’s, Shelley, and Darrel. That bus ride seemed to take FOREVER!
We arrived at the starting line amid the chaos of thousands of people, bright lights, and loud music. I was nervous and excited and cold. We took a few photos before heading to the bonfires.
It was a crazy feeling to be among a sea of thousands of runners. It was a little claustrophobic to not be able to speed up or move around. I was praying that I didn’t step on someone or have someone step on me.
Early in the race I glanced over to the left and my jaw dropped. I’m being totally serious – running right to the left of me was Abraham Lincoln! I ran the St. George Marathon with Lincoln. I felt too sheepish to pull out my camera and take a picture of him, but trust me, this guy looked exactly like Lincoln. If this happened at the end, I’d attribute it to a hallucination, but this happened at the beginning. When race pictures are posted, I’ll scour the photos to see if I can show him to you.
By mile 8 we were in the midst of the dreaded Veyo Hill. One of the best signs I saw was in the middle of the hill. It said “Don’t you wish you were a Transformer right now?” The wave of people heading for the hill made me need to stop again for a few more pictures.
It was his first marathon too and we both didn’t know what to expect. We were trusting the pace group leader to get us to the end. But somewhere in the craziness of a drink station we lost each other and I never saw him again.
My plan was to stay with the 4 hour pace group. The pace group leader was experienced and I trusted that he knew what he was doing way more than me. I paid for this decision later though. When he came to a drink station he would grab a drink and then sprint ahead. I didn’t want to lose sight of him so I’d speed up for the next few minutes to catch up to him. I was right next to him until each drink station when he would dart ahead.
At the mile 15 drink station I decided this wasn’t working for me, but I think by then it was too late. It was disheartening when I grabbed a drink, then looked ahead to see his balloons way down the road.
I committed the cardinal sin of running a race – going out too fast. Comparing the suggested pace chart to my actual miles makes this blatantly obvious. If I had stuck with this chart instead of the pacer I might have had more strength at the end. Notice the yellow area where my wheels completely fall off the cart:
A few miles later I saw my grandparents who were waiting at Winchester Hills. This gave me another boost. They were so excited. My grandpa who has the funniest sense of humor yelled “You’re In First Place! You’re In First Place!” That made me smile and laugh.
Around the same time, there was a little girl that was handing out Otter Pops to runners. I wanted to give her a big hug and tell her this was the most welcome gift I’d ever received. Instead I just took one and kept moving.
At one point in the race a guy ran up by me and said “Hi Cory!” I think I gave him the “Hmmm, am I supposed to know you?” look. He said “You have some amazing music! I have your songs on my iPod.” I felt sorry for him if he was actually trying to run while listening to my music. That stuff can put you to sleep. But I appreciated the boost he gave. I wanted to give him a big hug and tell him this was the most welcome gift I’d ever received. Instead I just kept moving.
At the drink stations there were people rubbing Bengay or Icy Hot on runners. I took advantage of this at 4 stops. But when someone touched my calves, it felt like they were rubbing my legs with curling irons. My legs were so cramped up that they were as hard as baseballs. This was my view as a volunteer whipped me around and started working on my legs. I was so thankful for his curling irons. I mean....hands.
Around mile 22 I became emotional again because of the pain I was in. The emotion wasn’t at all about the fact that this was the worst pain I’ve ever been in. The emotion was because of the fact that I was in such pain, but I was still moving forward. I was proud of myself. I knew that even though I had to slow down, there was nothing that would keep me from crossing the finish line.
By mile 20 I knew I was not going to beat 4 hours. But I truly didn’t care. I knew that I had given absolutely everything I had. I had obviously made tactical mistakes the first half of the race, but it wasn’t worth dwelling on. I knew I had worked hard over the last year and worked hard at the marathon so the finish time became unimportant.
The last three miles were indescribable. All the runners around me were suffering. I wanted to help them but had nothing to give. The crowds were cheering, but at some points my legs just refused to go fast. My friend Ben met me around the last mile of the marathon. He had finished in 3:01 (Crazy!!!) and was going back up the course to look for his brother. He walked/jogged with me for about a half mile as I got closer to the finish line. He reminded me of the ice cream waiting at the finish.
Finally I saw the balloons and finish line ahead. My legs slowly plodded ahead and carried me across the line. I had never, ever been so exhausted. I was feeling worse than I thought I would.
A volunteer put a medal around my neck, and another volunteer was handing out ice cream to the runners. I ate a huge ice cream sandwich. Then I ate another. I felt famished and dehydrated. My watch said that I burned 3005 calories. I felt honored to have that medal around me neck.
Eventually I met up with my family. They showed me more signs they had made. Mel had another surprise for me. She made a shirt for each of the kids that said MY DAD RAN 26.2.
Now I know what “The Wall” feels like when you run into it. I happened to hit that wall way too early in the race. I’ll know better next time. I heard that you get an adrenaline rush with the crowds cheering you on. That never happened once. I can identify with a runner from Spirit Of The Marathon who said “I’ve never had a ‘runner’s high’. The only ‘runner’s high’ I’ve ever felt was when I stopped running.”
The awesome thing about my first marathon is that I set a Personal Record. I also have some leeway so that I can cream that record the next time I run a marathon. 26.2 miles is an absolutely obscene distance to run. It was excruciating and painful. It was challenging mentally and physically. It was rewarding and exhilarating. It was a hard-earned triumph.
I can’t wait to do it again.
“The pride in finishing a marathon is much greater than all the pain endured during the marathon.” Hal Higdon
“The miracle isn’t that I finished; it’s that I had the courage to start.” John Bingham