I started running a year ago. Four months ago I decided to run a marathon with the hopes of qualifying for Boston. I was training to run Bay State in Lowell, MA with the hopes of running a 3:20:59 or better to BQ. Injury interrupted my training over the last 6 weeks and I was forced to stop running for four weeks, pass up Bay State and run the more challenging Manchester Marathon instead two weeks later. My last long run (19 miles) was 6 weeks before Manchester and I started running again 12 day before the race, never running more than 7 miles in those last days.
The hills were killer…felt like they went for miles at times…though they didn’t really start getting to me until about 15. The thing I think what really killed me though was that I didn’t hydrate enough (both before and during) and the pacer I was following went out at a blistering 6:30 pace…he was the 3:25:00 pacer…I’m thinking I’ll follow this guy for 18 miles and then crush it at the end…instead he raced out and mentally I was screwed.
“Dude, you think 6:30 might be a little fast?”
“Huh…yeah, I guess I better slow down.” Ya think? I tried slowing down, but I kept worrying about slowing down too much. Lesson? Don’t follow the pacer…you know what’s too fast or too slow. You’ve been training for weeks. If you can keep your adrenaline in check, you’ll know. ***and just in case I can’t, I’m bringing my iPhone with Runkeeper running to tell me my pace every 1/4 mile!!!***
All that said though, by mile 3 my head was back in it and I was cruising, feeling great. I wasn’t thinking about my depleted stores of glycerin, nor was I thinking about sticking to my original game plan. The pacer had taken me out fast and dammit, I was gonna try and keep a decent pace!
Hydrating was tough. I kept getting water up my nose…I learned three days too late the art of the crushed cup. When I hit the half at 1:35, I was pumped, but going over the bridge to the western part of town I hit a huge, HUGE headwind and hill. Knocked my pace down 70 seconds or so. Got back on track on the next mile, but I think the damage had been done…I started thinking about the fact that I was doing this all over again…it didn’t help that at 13.1, most of the people I had been running with peeled off to finish their half marathon…we went from a group of 8-12 to 3…that was disheartening…suddenly it was lonely…which is weird because I run alone usually. I’ll very happily run 14 -18 miles alone early on a Sunday morning, either enjoying the peace and quiet or plugged into some pounding music. Truth is, after 13.1 miles with complete strangers, battling the same hills, a bond is formed. I wanted my unit to run with me…instead I was very quickly a unit of one. …14 was a killer and then 16 hit me like a ton of bricks…I trudged along to 20 at a miserable 9:00 pace not realizing that the wall that hit me at 16 was nothing compared to the pain that was waiting for me at 20.
I kept thinking, “just make it to 20 and then drop the hammer. It’s only a 10K at that point. Shoot! It’s only 2 5K’s. What’s 3 miles? Nothing! I can do 3 miles hungover! I still have an outside shot at 3:20:00. Just make it to 20 and then drop the hammer. Put the foot on the gas!”. I continued to push myself along in this manner. I knew the minutes were ticking away and that my chances of qualifying for Boston were slipping away, but dammit if I wasn’t going to make it close!!!
Almost to the marker, my quads, both of them, froze. I came to a dead stop and couldn’t move for about 2 minutes. Tick! Tick! Tick! Time was slipping away. Boston was disappearing into thin air. My thoughts of a 3:10:00 first marathon were long gone at 16. Now 3:20:59 was crumbling. I wondered if I could finish. My legs wouldn’t bend…at all!!! I thought about quitting. I thought about my family waiting at 24.5. I was suddenly overcome with a sense of peace regarding Boston. All that training…all of the hard work would now have to be summoned up to finish this race. I slowly started walking like Frankenstein’s monster. After about 100 yards I could bend my knees just a little…another 200 yards and I broke into a very poor excuse of a jog…from that point on it was will power and nothing else that was moving me. Off and on the legs would freeze and I’d have to stop. It took me 20 minutes to get from 20 to 21. At 24.5 I saw the family, dug deep, put on a smile and broke into a jog. I went around the corner knowing I had about 1.2 to go…I’m screaming at my legs to bend, but I’m struggling. As I turned the final corner I saw the clock…I had found peace in the fact that I wasn’t going to qualify but I saw the clock…it said 3:54:14…at that moment I found one last gear…I wasn’t coming in over 3:55…I actually ran the last 50 yards or so…clock said 3:54:46…net time ended up being 3:54:04…next time I’m eating more bananas to keep the potassium levels up…2 days later I wanted another shot at it…trying to convince the family to head to Disney for the Disney Marathon!