I'm finally getting around to jotting down a few notes about my fifth marathon. This past Flying Pig Marathon was my fourth time running the race. It's starting to become a sign of spring for me. For what it's worth, I still think it's one of the best events in this city. Even as more and more runners start to participate, making the course incredibly crowded, the locals embrace the runners and make it an unforgettable event.
And for me, this was an unforgetable year.
The previous three years, it's rained on race day. I find it difficult to run well when my feet get wet. The past two years, I've had to change my socks halfway through the race; when you get water-logged, it's difficult to post a strong time. "If only I can get a dry day . . . " I would tell myself, " . . . you can post a great time."
Well, I got my wish. And a little something extra to boot.
The race day temperature was predicted to be in the upper 70's. While it sounds comfortable, it's rather warm when running long distances; I've heard that you can take the temperature and add fifteen degrees to the total if you want to know what it feels like for a distance runner. Knowing the heat was coming, I made a strategic decision: I'd give it all I had early on in the race and find a way to get home. I had been training really well, hoping to post my personal best, so I felt confident I'd do well regardless.
The morning cool was a benefit during the first part of the race. I was keeping, what I thought to be, a strong pace. But as I reached the halfway mark, I saw that my time was not impressive as all. I found the 3:45 pace group, thinking I'd settle in with them. That only lasted a couple of miles. When I reached Mariemont, I walked through a water stop and discovered I was starting to dehydrate. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd just have finish this race and not worry about my time.
For the last ten miles of the race, I'd walk through the water stops and then break out in a run. I really felt well physically but as you march down Riverside Drive (or Eastern Avenue or whatever they're calling it), it's impossible to find shade. I was grabbing four cups of water every mile. My walking breaks kept stretching longer and longer but, when I ran, I kept a great pace. I struggled harder than I ever had, but kept mentally focused on the finish line. And one thing pushed me harder than anything:
I wanted to run in with Kaelyn to the finish line.
You see, just the day before, Kaelyn participated in a kid's race for the Flying Pig. We started training weeks before and she was running really well—completing 1.2 miles without walking at all. Just 18 hours earlier, Kaelyn received a medal for finishing her race and she was excited about mine. Since she and Kelly meet me every year by the Purple People Bridge, I knew where'd they'd be. Even though I had no idea how I'd be able to lift Kaelyn over the barriers, I knew I wanted her to run the final stretch with me.
As I approached the last half-mile, I started scanning the crowd for my girls. Sure enough, there they were, and Kaelyn was waiting for me outside of the barriers. "Can she run in with you?" Kelly asked. We were thinking the same thing: Kelly received text updates of my time, knew I was behind, and figured I'd love to run with Kaelyn. We took off on the last half-mile together, passing the cheering crowds, running hand-in-hand. Since it was much slower than we had run the day before, Kaelyn asked, "can we run any faster?"
I heard people in the crowd laugh.
We crossed the finish line together. My time was 4:07. I was extremely satisfied with my finish because of the heat. It was a brutal day. But more than the heat, I'll always remember crossing the finish line with Kaelyn.
Sure enough, I was finally suckered into buying some of those race photos. It was so worth it.