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Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon (Part Two)

April 15, 2012

This is a continuation of the previous post, Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon (Part One).

The comeback

Somewhere while walking that 19th mile in Anacostia Park, I caught up to a guy who was literally dragging his right leg behind him. He told me that he heard a pop in his hamstring two weeks prior to the race, but wanted to try it anyway. The injury caught up to him faster than he could make it to the finish line. Nevertheless, he was determined to try and walk it out to the end. We chatted for a while until he decided that he needed to check out of the race at the approaching medical tent. Further on I trudged for another few hundred yards.

All of a sudden, a big group converged around me. Not in any mood to listen to their cheerful banter, I kept my head down. My ears perked up though when I heard one of them mention they were part of a 3:30 pace group. Marathons are a funny thing. Running 26.2 miles can do some weird stuff to your head, and to your body. At that moment something clicked. Without any conscious decision, I just started running again. It was not fast. It was certainly not graceful. But I was bouncing forward. Having been so unsure of whether or not I would be able to start running again, this was a huge mental lift.

The GU

Unable to calculate simple math, it was quite difficult to know how far behind my goal pace I had fallen. Multiplying and adding seconds, minutes, and hours is tough enough sitting at a computer. It only gets worse when it is being estimated… in your head… while running… after having already run over two hours. I do not recommend this as a good time to file taxes or balance a check book. While numbers were knocking around my head like it was one of those lotto ball containers, my hand swooped down to grab some GU off of a support table somewhere between miles twenty and twenty-one.

Having passed up the first of the two GU stations on the course as part of my plan, the second one was a welcome sight. Water and Gatorade had helped a lot, but I knew at this point my body needed some extra energy. GU Energy Gel provides easily-digestible and quick-hitting energy in a form somewhere between liquid and solid. They come in different flavors to mask the fact that you are gulping down paste. In any case, I took three. The first one, Vanilla Bean, was gone in a matter of seconds, with plenty of water to chase it. I slowly downed the second one, Tri-Berry, and stored the third, another Vanilla Bean, in my back pocket for later. Off I went on my GU induced energy high.

Passing through miles 22, 23, and 24, a strange thing happened. My legs kept moving. One step at a time, I made my way towards the finish. Glancing at each mile clock, I realized that the good finish I had hoped for was entirely attainable. Even going up some smaller hills in the last few miles was not going to slow me down. As I had been given words of encouragement from passing runners earlier when I was walking, I gave shouts of “you got this” and “keep working” to my struggling peers. One guy yelled back that I was embarrassing him as he gave a laugh and a good luck. No matter, I was feeling good and knew the goal was in sight.

The finish line

There was one last band to pass on the course that was rocking out to something along the lines of either Journey or Bon Jovi, the perfect jam to propel me to the end. That turned out to be extremely helpful because literally not more than a quarter mile from the end, my right upper leg just started to lock up on me. It is funny how you go through months of training worrying about one thing, but during the race something completely different starts to hurt. Though I had felt a little twinge in the middle of the race, this new tightness would have been a much bigger issue earlier in the race. I looked down and literally laughed at my leg, asking it sarcastically, “are you kidding me?” My form may have deteriorated, my pace slowed, and my body ached. But I could see the finish line and knew I would soon cross it.

Arriving at the finish line was a great feeling. I had completed the 26.2 mile course on a brutal day. Down the final stretch I remembered the advice that no matter how much it hurts, always smile at the end of a marathon. And I did. There was a woman who turned the final corner with me amidst the throng of spectators. As we glanced at the big clock overhead a guy running with her turned and started yelling, “You got Boston! You got Boston!” Knowing full well the intensity of that moment for her I stayed a few steps back in hopes she would have a nice finish line moment (and picture) by herself to mark the accomplishment.

My medal!

It was great to see my parents and my wife after exiting the finishers’ area. Snacking on the most delicious apple I have ever had, I sheepishly admitted to not having seen them yelling for me down the last straightaway. I knew they were there and that was all that mattered. Not to mention that my wife was cheering me on after having rocked out a 2:01 half-marathon! The finish line festival concert with Switchfoot was great and, despite a course that was rough at times, the race was a definite success. Funny enough, I also bumped into my hamstring-injured buddy from earlier. Amazingly, he decided he did not want to pay for an ambulance, the only way to get back to the finish area, so he just ran through the pain and completed the race. The marathon truly does have the ability to reveal a runner’s true will and determination.

My final “chip time” was 3:36 and I am very proud of it. I can now say I am a 3:36 marathoner. Of course, I have friends who are plenty faster. They have my respect. Fortunately though, I finished my last marathon way back in 2005 in 4:09. I may be older, but I am a smarter runner and the improvement is marked. No idea yet when my next marathon will be, but you can bet I will be hard-charging once again for that 3:05. For now, I will display my medal with pride and just keep on running.

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5 comments

  1. Wow- you improved by almost 30 minutes from your last marathon! That’s a major accomplishment. Do you attribute that to experience or better training? Congrats to both you and your wife, great time on the half!


  2. Sounds like a tough race, especially when ambulances have a fee.
    Great improvement …our bodies can be fickle, all we can do is our best.


  3. I couldn’t wait to see if you finished, this past week was torture waiting for the second installment. I can’t believe that last marathon was almost seven years ago.


  4. Congrats!! Glad you were able to find what you need to get ‘er done!! That is a speedy marathon time in our eyes!


    • Thanks, it felt good for sure! Always about finding that extra boost to finish strong.



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