It's been three days since the Flying Pig Marathon. After my first one, I felt motivated to write about it immediately. Now that I'm a multiple marathoner, I guess I'm just a little more casual in reflecting about it, so here's the delayed, well-thought-out reaction. It was some of the most miserable running conditions I've ever experienced. I seriously believe that running in the snow (which I've done) would have been easier. I drove downtown with my friend Larry and a friend of his, and we picked up my friend Audrey on east side of downtown on the way there.* At 6:00 am, it was pouring. Thankfully, the weather was somewhat mild but the rain would not let up. This is problematic in running because there was no chance of keeping your feet dry. Knowing that this could happen, I made sure to have Kelly keep an extra pair of socks that I later could change while on the course. And in the mass of humanity at the start line (and because I wanted to stay in the car a little longer) I lost my running friends, so it would be 26.2 miles of me and the iPod Shuffle. Fortunately, the rains calmed down by the time I completed mile one, but I was pretty soaked.
Learning my lesson from last year, I decided not to try to force my way through the crowd in the opening miles. This strategy, combined with a course that is now overloaded with runners (they really need to do staggered start times at the Pig), meant that I had a leisurely jog until I hit the Gilbert Avenue hill. At the entrance of Eden Park I saw Kelly and Kaelyn and told her that I might need a full pit stop at our arranged meeting place in Mariemont. After the split from the half-marathoners, I picked up my pace a little through Hyde Park and was doing OK.
At mile nine a felt a pain in my foot. I assured myself it wasn't serious and that it would soon pass, and by mile eleven I had forgotten all about it. I met the girls at mile sixteen and changed my soaked socks. I realized that I needed to do this if I wanted to save my feet for later and, since I wasn't really gunning for a personal record, it was a very wise decision. The funny thing about this stop was Kaelyn. Apparently she started giving high-fives to the runners to inspire them and really wasn't interested in stopping her duty just to see me. I had to grab her to kiss her just so she would say "bye." Leaving Mariemont, inspired by the feeling of dry feet, I picked up my pace a lot. I was feeling very good, and kept this accelerated pace through mile twenty.
My injury during training motivated me to enjoy my run more than I would have otherwise. Since I knew I couldn't get a personal best, I decided I would just run a consistent race and smile a little more. Throughout the morning I was talking to other runners, volunteers, and observers. I was even joking with people whenever I could. My best example of this occurred in mile eighteen. As the rains started to commence yet again, I spotted a guy by the side of the road wearing a Chicago Cubs poncho. I ran over towards him and held up my hand to give him a high-five. As he started to reciprocate, I suddenly pulled my hand away and shouted, "I HATE THE CUBS." He was a little surprised and muttered, "have a good race, anyway." Not sure I would have pulled that kind of stunt last year when I was a little more serious.
As I hit the last five miles, I started to feel tired. This is natural, as humans aren't designed to run much more than twenty miles. I was still keeping a good pace and then looked ahead to see Dr. Johnny Pressley, dean of the Cincinnati Bible Seminary. This was his sixteenth marathon, and I have been using him as a comprehensive marathon resource. He's always been encouraging to me, so I knew I had to catch up to him to pace with him. As we started running together, we reached a solid pace which gradually increased as we neared the finish. The last mile was one of my fastest of the day. Ironically, while I thought Dr Pressley was pushing me, he later admitted that he thought I was pulling him. Regardless of who was pushing/pulling whom, I was grateful he was there at the finish.
Once I stopped running at the finish line, I immediately felt my foot. Overall, I wasn't feeling too bad. I had pre-treated the achilles tendinitis injury with ibuprofen and heat rub and I barely noticed it throughout the race. Still, the injury affected the stride of my right leg yielding a blister and, what I believe to be a slight stress factor, on my left foot. A few days later, I'm walking much better. I'm sure I'll be back to normal by the weekend.
As I reflect on this year's run, I've learned a lot. I learned to respect the marathon, and that I can't rush the training. I learned that I have to care for my body more than I used to; yep, I'm getting older. I learned that it can be enjoyable to help other people towards their marathon goals (and I'm hoping that some of you reading this might be inspired to pursue your own).
But, ultimately, I learned this year that I love running. I know it sounds stupid to have just figured this out after a half-marathon and two full-marathons, but I'm not sure I loved running until this year. Before, I was just fascinated by the race. Now, I'm looking forward to healing up so I can get back out there and run some more. I'm pretty sure I'm going to run the Pig again next year. It kept me in shape throughout the winter and I'm feeling pretty good about my health right now. Even though it was a brutal race, it was a great time. I'll remember it fondly.
Finally, congrats to my friends Larry, Laura, Joe, and Scott who all finished their first marathons on Sunday. Great work. *It should be noted that Audrey is my running idol. She's a multiple marathoner, including Boston and New York. I'm always thankful for the advice she offers. POSTSCRIPT: Nowhere here did I note my finishing time. It was 4 hours, 34 minutes.