20 February 2011

The First and Only Marathon I Will Ever Run

How was it? Here's the short version: I am so looking forward to getting back to triathlons.

Now for the long version.

The night before the race, I came to the conclusion that my difficulty mentally preparing for it was because it amounted to running the easiest half marathon of my life, followed immediately by the hardest half marathon of my life. If only. In fact, it turned out to be the hardest half marathon of my life followed immediately by another half marathon that would blow the difficulty of the first one out of the water.

We've known for a week or longer that it was going to be a freakishly warm day. (The race booklet said that the average low temperature over the last five years is 35 and the average high is 61. Today's low was 62. I don't care to know the high, but it was about 65 by the time I finished.) The only upside to the weather is that it was overcast, with the sun only peeking out a couple of times.

The race starts (and ends) at the Capitol, which made for some nice pictures. Because it was pretty dark at the start, none of the pictures of me with my running buddies turned out too well, but this one is quite nice:



There were runners everywhere. Although the start was seeded by pace, runners didn't necessarily put themselves in the right spot, so the first few miles were really congested. My training buddies, Kelli and Christina, and I agreed that we would start together but each plan to run our own race, hoping that our "own races" would happen at the same pace and next to each other but aware that we might get split up at the beginning due to congestion on the course. The first mile in particular was way over our goal pace, but we managed to stick together -- or find each other quickly after getting caught behind someone slower or having to take the long way around someone. In this picture, around mile 2, Christina and I were together (just behind the guy in the maroon shirt), and Kelli was temporarily ahead or behind:



Everything went pretty smoothly for the first 8 miles or so. There were uphill miles and downhill miles, but overall we maintained our goal pace and managed to stay together. Then there was another uphill mile that put us close to a minute over pace for that mile. The next mile was even worse for me. I've run half marathons at faster paces with similar hills and in similar weather, so I don't know why it got so hard so soon, but I quickly fell behind Christina and Kelli. Here they are at mile 12, looking great:



And then me at the same spot, looking like I felt:



Which was exhausted. Nothing hurt, but I pretty much hit "the wall" around mile 10 and was soon running 1-2 minutes/mile slower than my goal pace. (I was prepared to hit the wall somewhere between miles 15 and 20 and intended to push through to try to maintain my pace, but with 16 miles to go, it would have been foolish to try to keep it up, so I had no choice but to go with it.) Getting to the 18th mile, where I knew family, neighbors, and friends would be, felt like a death march, but when I got there, I was happy to find my brother, Kevin, holding the "Hello Devon" sign that my dear friend Ursula made for me when she came with me to a triathlon in Alabama:



Standing next to Kevin is our friend Joc, who lives nearby and agreed to run a couple of miles with me, starting there. But as we approached Joc's street, where he was going to peel off and go home, he could tell how beaten down I was and offered to run the rest of the way with me (another 6 miles or so) -- making him my favorite person of the day. Here I am running alone, still looking how I felt, as Joc had run ahead to let Steve, my dad, and my other fans know what was up:



Have I mentioned what a godsend it was that he was willing to run with me? I was much slower than expected, but having him there to take my mind off of my misery over those eight miles or so probably saved me five minutes and definitely made those miles feel less awful.

At the end Joc left my side so I could run through the finishers' chute alone. I tried to speed up more in the last mile or so, but there was a big uphill -- plus, have I mentioned that I had run 25 miles at that point? -- so it wasn't until the last few hundred yards that I was really able to pick up the pace:



I even managed a smile at Steve as I passed by:



All in all, I averaged almost a minute per mile slower than my goal pace and still have no idea why anyone would ever run a marathon. (My reason is far too personal to share here, but just know that it had nothing to do with a passion for running or wanting to accomplish a longtime -- or shorttime -- goal.) The best part of the whole crazy experience was that Kelli came in a couple of minutes under our shared goal time -- a huge feat given the heat and humidity of the day and the difficulty of the course.

2 comments:

  1. The only thing crazier than choosing to enter a marathon is finishing it! Congrats - I'm sure you're glad you don't have to do it again. Thanks for updating quickly - I was really wondering how it went - horrid about the weather. I wish I could have been there but am happy the sign could be there in my place.
    Congrats on finishing your first (and only, if you're sane) marathon!

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  2. Congrats! Surrounded by all those other runners, it might be easy to forget what a rare feat it is to get your feet (and the rest of you!) through so many miles. Whatever it was that got you into it, good for you in seeing it through.

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