I knew going into this race that sub 3:05 is a special time and it would take a special day to achieve it. My training, my diet, my lack of injuries, and mental preparation had all been spot on. There was not an inkling in my body that hinted that the day ahead would be nothing less than spectacular. As I woke up on race my morning I was pumped and ready to get the starting line. I ate my bagel and yogurt which followed my plan and made my way to the starting line. With a 6:45 am start, it still felt like night when I arrived at Howard Wood Field. Seeing the parking lot and track full of runners, the butterflies settled in my stomach. There was over 500 runners looking to accomplish the same goal as me…to finish the Sioux Falls marathon.
I found the 3:05 pacer as my plan was to run with him as long as I could and hopefully leave him in the dust once we hit mile 20 or so. There was quite a few guys (who were similarly aged) who had the same idea. With the smaller field for the marathon and 3:05 being a fast pace I was one of the first few guys to toe the starting line. BOOM! Went the gun and we were off.One of the biggest mistakes a marathoner can make is going out too fast. When the gun went off I told myself repeatedly, “You are running faster than you think, you are running faster than you think,” and told myself to stick with the pacer and he said his goal was to run consistent 7:03 miles from mile one through twenty six.
Mile 1 worked on just getting us out of town which felt like a ghost town as not many residents were moving yet. As I hit the mile 1 mark, my watched showed 7:13. I told myself I was just getting settled in and my next mile would be on pace and to just stay relaxed. Mile 2 featured what seemed to be the hilliest part of the race. This race has been called one of the flattest so I hope you don’t think I mean I ran up the Rockies or anything when I say it was hilly. I reach the Mile 2 marker and the watch read 6:47. I was now 8 secs ahead of the pace and my body felt like it was settling in well.
Shortly after mile 3 I saw my wife and daughter for the first time on the course. It’s always nice to see people along the race course but seeing your family is always a sweet moment. Miles three through seven seemed to fly by as I knew I’d see Carliie and Madie again around mile 8. My splits starting at mile three were: 6:57, 6:53, 7:18, 7:13, 7:32. As I came out of the Harley Davidson dealership I saw my wife’s vehicle and knew they were just up ahead. I yelled ahead to my wife to have my water ready and as I approached I unwrapped one of my energy blocks. As soon as I swallowed half of the energy block my stomach clenched. It felt like a calf muscle cramping up, except in my stomach. I was brought to a halt and knew this needed to work itself out or Boston was not going to happen.
When my stomach relaxed 10-15 secs later I took one last sip of water and took off again. Mile 8 was clocked at 8:05 and by mile 9 I was back down to a 7:35. I knew being about 90seconds behind was too much too early. I was really hoping I would see people over the next few miles to keep my spirits up, however this was thetime to put 3+ miles in on a bike path, near the airport, far from fans. By the time I reached the half-marathon mark I was pleased with a new unofficial PR for a half-marathon, however I knew I was 6 minutes behind my marathon pace. When I saw Carlie and Madie at mile 14, my spirits were at the lowest they have been in quite awhile.
I had wanted to accomplish this goal so bad and it set in that it wasn’t going to happen on this day. From miles 14 to 21, I just put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t want to try and discect why I had stomach cramping earlier or complain about the warm, humid air or place blame on something or someone. My mile splits weren’t great and I walked through the aid stations but I was accomplishing another marathon, something that .1% of society does. When I saw Carlie and Madie for the last time on the course at Mile 21, my attitude was the complete opposite of when I saw them before. Seeing them was exactly what I needed and although there was only five miles left to go, it would be the five toughest miles yet.
The last miles seemed to crawl by like I remember them doing in Minneapolis in 2007 at my first marathon, but a runner’s kindness that the running community knows so well was in full force. If you saw someone that was walking for awhile you encouraged them to come with you as you passed. Everyone told each other they were doing great and that they were almost there. I’m always amazed that you rarely know too many people at the starting line, but you feel like good friends by the time you reach the finish line. As we turned onto Oxbox Ave the finish line was in sight.
There were quite a few volunteers helping direct the parcticipants into the appropriate chutes as both the marathon and half-marathon had the same last seven mile course. I had told my wife that unless I was really close to the BQ time, either slow or fast, I wanted to get Madie from her 20-30 yards from the finish and carry her across with me. I will write a follow up post discussing why this was important to me, however as I grabbed her from Carlie my calves wanted to cramp with each step. I held her tightly and hobbled/ran across the finish line. I had done it. I had completed my second marathon.
A few THANKS I want to give out:
-The man and woman at mile 8 and 20 that were handing out bags of ice. With the warm humid weather these were a very much appreciated surprise.
-All the volunteers that worked the aid stations. They would shout out if they had water or powerade so you knew what you were getting 15-20 ft before you got to them.
-To my wife Carlie for lugging Madie around and seeing me at four different spots on the course. It always great to see spectators but seeing your fans make you want to run faster and make them proud.