Of course, I didn’t sleep well during the night. I went to bed early, but tossed and turned all night. Were the 5 months of training enough? Did I do everything I could to prepare for running 26.2 miles?
Despite a fitful night of sleep, I got up early (as planned) and had some breakfast with some coffee. I triple-checked to make sure I had everything I would need for running farther than I had ever run before. Linda and I left very early for what should’ve been a 10-minute drive. However, the highway was backed up with 2 lanes of stand-still traffic for more than a mile from the exit – on a Saturday morning at 6:00 AM. We did our best to not worry and keep a smile on.
Fortunately, I noticed on Facebook that a very good friend was announcing for the race and I texted him to let him know that a lot of us were stuck out on the highway. The start time was pushed back from 06:45 AM until 7:10 AM. However, even with that change, I barely made it. When we got as close as we could, I jumped out of the car at 07:08 and ran to the start line.
As soon as the National Anthem was sung, we were off. I was at the back of the pack and was nowhere near the pacer that I intended to follow. My goal was to finish in under 5 hours, so I wanted to be with them and stay just ahead. I found the 5:30 pacer and stuck with them and slowly moved my way forward.
Linda parked the car a couple miles up the road and found me running. It was amazingly awesome to have her standing on the side of the road, cheering me on. I can’t even put into words how much it meant to me to have her there – ringing her cowbell and all!
In fact, Linda leap-frogged the race several times to find me on 4 different occasions – all within the first 8 miles. She had to be in Topeka later in the morning for a job judging a piano competition. Thus, it meant that much more to me that she was sticking around to find me every few miles.
At one point, I ran past the house of some very good friends – the Khemraj’s – and they were all out there to give me high-fives and cheer me one. Their daughter had even made a sign to cheer me on – it was fantastic.I found Linda for the last time at mile 8 – and a friend of ours was waiting with her for me to show up. Ron is the husband of one of our very good biking friends and he was running the half-marathon. He waited for me to show up and jumped back in to run with me.
Ron and I ran together until mile 12, stopping quickly for a quick selfie in front of the 10-mile marker. It was fabulous running along with him. Having run a number of marathons, he was able to pass along a lot of advice while we were running.
As soon as Ron and I parted ways, I was essentially by myself for the rest of the race. There was a huge crowd of runners – until most of them turned at the 12.5-mile mark and the few of us turned the opposite way for the marathon.
The second half was definitely tougher than the first half. I maintained my planned pace until about mile 20 or 21. I started to institute some walking (which I had not been doing in any of my training), as I began to become more and more sore. The left knee was really starting to get sore, but was hanging in there.
My overall goal was to complete the race – but my secondary goal was to finish in under 5 hours. It seem kind of arbitrary, but was still a goal, nonetheless. Knowing that I was walking a number of instances, I kept a close eye on my watch to keep myself within reach of the 5-hour mark.
My Apple Watch kept perfect time, however, by the end of the race it was 1.5 miles ahead. So, I was getting feedback from friends that were following me via my running app, congratulating me for finishing, but I wasn’t even at the 25-mile mark yet.
The final 0.75 miles was uphill and most of it into a 15mph headwind. It was really a horrible way to end such a long run, but I looked up and found Emily there waiting for me at the 26-mile mark. With 0.2 miles left, she joined alongside me and encouraged me to finish strong.
Emily ran along and Anna was waiting there at the finish line. It was so very cool to have both of my daughters there to see me at the end. I can’t say there weren’t a few tears exchanged as we embraced.
After a hot shower (which felt AMAZING) and some stretching and foam-rolling, we went out for lunch and I enjoyed a full pizza and a couple more beers. Like a doofus, I wore my medal out because it seemed like the thing to do. Finally, after a long day of hanging around and trying to nap, I got to hang out with Sally and just rest the legs.
What a wonderful day!