I ran my third marathon this weekend. My goal was to finish in under 4 hours. Here are some random thoughts that occurred to me during my race.
4:10 AM – Stupid alarm. Stupid race. Stupid idea.
Standing at start line- My earbuds fell off my headphones! They are gone. My race starts in 2 minutes and the buds are gone. I jam the stubs that are left as deep into my ears as I can, realize the sound is going to suck, and just pray that they stay in. Wait! My phone will not synch to my headphones. 72 training runs and this has never been an issue. I desperately play with settings as the gun goes off and I approach the line. Thankfully, I get music literally seconds before my time starts. Hello Beasty Boys. It is a Sabotage.
Mile 3 – Spectator holding a sign that says, “Keep going. Today you finish a marathon.” I wonder if it is perhaps too early to think about the word “finish.”
Miles 5-6 – I have a history of pretty bad muscle cramps. I take the first of my electrolyte tabs and Gu to hopefully stave that off in about 15 miles. It has worked well in training.
Miles 7-8 – The Half-Marathon course hooks up with mine and I get to see the half-marathoners coming back on the other side of the road. So many thoughts. There are a lot of seriously in-shape people here and many are not wearing much. I decide that when my wife finally wises up and leaves me, this is where I will go to meet women. I then remember that I am a scrawny, 41-year-old unattractive bald, graying, insomniac father of two who works in public education with a job that offers 0% chance of upward mobility. Combine that with nerdy interests and a painful shyness masked by high levels of sarcasm and I realize that I should probably just focus my efforts into making sure my wife never realizes that she could do better. Problem solved. Those miles went fast. Where is the Porta Potty?
Mile 9 – There are two half-marathoners running it as a three-legged race! That’s nuts. Beyond the obvious, there is no way I ever wanted to spend 13 miles with my arm around anyone. That is going to get gross.
Mile 10 – Empty Porta Potty. I pull open the door and start to step in only to see a woman sitting there and screaming. I dash out, find the next one and wonder why she never locked the door. 40 seconds wasted. I run the next mile without my hat in hopes that if I run into her on the road, she may not recognize me.
Mile 13 – Half way and ahead of pace. I feel invincible and have little doubt that today is the day. It does not even bother me that some dude dressed as Captain America and carrying a shield is ahead of me.
Mile 14 – My phone continues to buzz with texts. This race offers online updates approximate every 5-6 miles to anyone who wants to track your progress online. I do not stop to read the texts, but I know that every buzz on my phone is a friend of mine somewhere checking my status and shooting me something encouraging. It makes me smile.
Mile 15 – I reach for my 3rd (out of a planned 4) electrolyte tab. With horror, I realize that they have all fallen out of my pocket at some point. I am 11 miles out, about 5 miles away from my traditional cramping distance and I have lost my tabs. The first moments of doubt creep in.
Mile 16 – I do not care if it costs time. I will go out of my way to high-five every little kid that is out there watching. If they are holding their hands out there, I will get to them. Just seems right.
Mile 17 – Still ahead of pace, but the first pre-cramp tingles are starting to shoot through my legs. I know I have about 4 miles left in me before I am in trouble. In hopes of preventing this, I start to walk the first 1/10th of each mile. Not sure if my tabs that are laying on the side of the road somewhere would have helped, but it is what it is. I take solace in the fact that maybe a raccoon out there will eat one of them and have a better day for it.
Mile 18 – I think it is cool that a lot of the residents have set up their own unofficial aid stations. Several of them have two tables set up. One table has Dixie cups filled with water. One table has Dixie cups filled with beer. It is amusing, but I am a little disturbed by the sight of 9-10 year old kids running to a keg to fill up those cups. I am equally disturbed that “Ice Ice Baby” apparently somehow got into my running playlist.
Mile 20 – Well ahead of pace. Should be good but I pretty much hate everything and everybody at this point. I especially hate the microscopic monkeys that have up residence in my legs are apparently playing my quad muscles like a harp. I smile at the “Don’t trust any fart after 20-miles” sign that a spectator is holding. The Ryan Gosling signs do nothing for me. My headphones die.
Mile 24 – Viscous cramps. I step off the road and try to stretch out my left leg. As soon as I do that everything from my calves, to hamstrings, to quads explode into cramps. I straighten up, step back onto my right leg which does the same thing. I start to stagger in a tiny little circle with each leg cramping uncontrollably every time I put weight on it. I look like a drunken line-dancer trying to grapevine. Finally, my left leg gives out and I fall. As I try to maintain some level of dignity while using a mailbox to pull myself up, I feel a little guilty about laughing at squirrels who try to climb bird-feeders. I get it now.
I also remember miles 7-8. “Hey girl. You with the smoking body, bun-huggers and sports bra. How about you come over here and help me try to shimmy up this mailbox? That’s right. I just brought sexy back.” I am a catch.
Mile 26 – 0.2 miles left. My wife is cheering for me at the end. I ask if I am going to break 4. She yells, “You gotta go!” and is frantically waving. I push it and round the final corner. The finish line clock reads 3 hours 46 minutes. I can not figure out how I got that time, figure my wife was messing with me, and am thrilled. All that work. All that time and I did it. I make sure to soak in the last 100 yards so I will not forget them.
Exit area – Spend 15 minutes rehydrating and laying on the ground. I can not believe I hit 3:46 and as my brain starts working again, I realize something is not adding up. My stomach drops as I realize that when I rounded the corner I saw the half-marathon clock and locked onto it. I never took my eyes off the wrong clock! I have no idea what time I finished in and as I try to get my watch back out I can not shake the feeling that I am one button push away from being devastated. I have enjoyed the last 15 minutes and have already texted my family and those were tracking me that I hit 3:46 and it was all a dehydrated mistake.
I hit the last button and my real time comes up. 3:59:11. Eighteen weeks of training. Five hundred training miles. Twenty six point two miles and I made it by 49 seconds. That is all I wanted to do.