Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Day After – John

As I sit here with my finisher’s medal still on, I reflect on yesterday. I had quite a rough day. It was warmer than expected and I certainly felt the effects of the early aborted training. For me, it was the most challenging marathon experience of my nine marathons. I can still say I have finished every race I started.

I did get to see many folks on the course who either I knew or knew of me. I saw two of my fellow Newton-Wellesley runners early on who provided me with encouragement. My fellow blogger, Dr. Angle, passed by me at about the five-mile split with some words of encouragement. I ran a mile or so with Rick (congrats to Rick on Boston #20), who eloquently told me last month that the “roads would always be there for me”. On the way, I saw a few folks from my running club, the Greater Lowell Road Runners. I also saw Jayne in Framingham. Jayne is the sister of a co-worker who followed this blog (congrats Jayne on your first marathon). I got a word of encouragement from a co-worker, Steve who runs for Dana Farber at about the two-mile mark. Jimmy and I got to say hello in Needham Center to Dave, who is the MC for the Good Times running series. I did have fortune to run about eight miles of the race with my friend and running partner Jimmy (congrats to Jimmy on Boston #24). I also got a cheer from both semi-amateur photographers Jim Rhodes (who takes pictures at many road races – here is one from yesterday with Jimmy http://jimrhoades.com/08/boston/30k/image4636.html at the 30K point) and Ritchie. Ritchie put his camera down and encouraged me on. At Newton-Wellesley Hospital, I was cheered on and escorted by my wife and children for about a half mile.

I started the race off fast and strong. My friend Mike told me after the race, he passed me at about 4.5 and was surprised on how far ahead I was and felt I went out too fast (he was correct as I went out at my fully trained marathon pace). Right after the 5K mark, I started to examine my strategy. Due to the lack of training, I started to think I would never finish at this rate. I settled into a 20/10 run/walk and kept this up for about the next 14 miles. However, I felt my legs starting to weaken at about the halfway mark.

I had to say goodbye to Jimmy about 19.5 miles into the race. For Jimmy, this is the first time he was able to pass me in a race longer than 10 miles, and I was happy for him. My quadriceps started to go into spasm and stayed in spasm for the rest of the distance. This turned the last 10K into a freakish pain fest for me, unlike anything I had done before. I continued on run/walking as well as I could. I was determined to give my best effort to finish what I started. At Heartbreak Hill I met a very nice runner named Lee from a church group. She was not a marathoner, but her group was jogging up the hill with folks who looked like they needed help. She was very encouraging and I was sad to see her go. It was a great way to get up the hill. I continued on in the last 10K with the pain and spasms growing. I started to doubt my ability to finish. I am now “paying” for that willpower right now, as I can barely climb a step.

I was able to make all the timing mats prior to their dismantlement, but unfortunately due to the injury it looks like I did not get an official time. The BAA stops the clock at about 6:00, which until now was longer than my longest time. Jimmy, who was about nine minutes ahead of me, did get an official time. However, I still wear my finisher’s medal today with pride in my achievement. Lack of an official time means no finisher’s certificate or listing in the record book or newspaper. My running club’s open male team did not have enough finishers with official time to rank. However, I believe my comment on not being able to finish was ‘So What’. Since I did finish, I’ll take that statement and apply it to the official time. In pretty much any other marathon in the world, I would have been able to get an official time, however Boston is one of the only marathons in the world with such time constraints and qualifying times (The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are the only other marathons requiring a qualifying time). I consider myself fortunate for just finishing.

I would like to thank a great many people. I’d like to thank all the folks at Newton-Wellesley for again making this possible for me. I’d like to thank the fans and the folks I saw along the way for their cheers. My thanks also to the folks from Greater Lowell Road Runners for again providing the pre- and post-race amenities that the club offers. Most of all, I would like to thank my family and friends for their support over the last six weeks. Right now, I’m saying, “Never another Marathon. Nine is enough”. However, I’ll probably be saying, “see you next year” in a few weeks.

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