A very cool day for our city . . . and also for me.

Here's my play-by-play if you're needing something to put you to sleep:

I woke up at 5am hearing rain outside. At the time, it didn't phase me because I was feeling good. I slept well the past couple of nights and was almost giddy about the race. I kissed Kelly good-bye and headed downtown. Found a parking place on 4th Street near Central Avenue where I played Solitaire on my iPod Touch. I [purposely] locked my keys in the car and headed to the starting line about fifteen minutes before the race. As a result, I knew I'd be back in the pack, but thought that might help with spacing.

It didn't.

It was packed down; I think I heard there was about 14,000 people running this morning. It took me eleven minutes to get to the starting line . . . and then I got frustrated. For the first six miles, there was no room to move; twice during the first three miles I practically came to a complete stop. My 9-minute mile goal was suffering, so I tried to make some moves to make up time. I expended a lot of energy doing so [something I knew I shouldn't do] but I was feeling good and did so anyway. By the time I saw Kel and Kaelyn at the entrance to Eden Park (Paul, Carol, and Emily were there too) I got my pace back to 9-minutes.

I owned the Gilbert Avenue/Eden Park hill [as I should have in my own backyard] and made up some serious time out of East Walnut Hills through Hyde Park. I handled the trek through Fairfax and Mariemont well, meeting Kelly and Kaelyn there. Leaving back through Fairfax, passing the Frisch's Mainliner off Wooster Pike was my mini-wall. But the sight of people walking on the side [despite the fact that they had earlier passed me up] kept my going. My pace slowed a bit in the East End through Columbia-Tusculum, but when I hit the final five miles coming down Eastern Avenue [now gentrified Riverside Drive] I was feeling very good.

Until the very last mile.

I couldn't believe it, but I had nothing left in the tank at all. I'll be very interested to see, but I'm pretty sure it was the slowest mile I ran all day. All morning I had been doing math, making sure I was at a pace to do the four-hour run. I knew in that last mile I was getting close, but I briefly thought "hey, just over four-hours wouldn't be TOO bad." But as I saw Kaelyn and Kelly [with half-marathoners Dan and Angie] about two-tenths of a mile from the finish, I just pushed out everything that I had.

I finished my 26.2 miles in 3:58— just two minutes shy of four-hours. I wrote a few days ago that such a finish would make me "happy." I'd like to upgrade that to "very happy."

It was a great day, one I'll never forget. Let me give you some random observations:

  • I love my family. Kelly and Kaelyn spent a lot of time in the car today just to see me for a few seconds at a time. Their patience and support during this training was critical to me being able to do this. I cannot say enough about how cool they are.
  • I love this city. I know there were a lot of organizations that man different stations that use this as a fundraiser, but everyone is so great. And the many people throughout the course that aren't actually part of the race that hand out gummy bears and orange slices. It is very, very cool.
  • In addition to the crowd at the start, I think the early rain might have played a part in going a little slower. My socks were wet early on and my feet aren't looking great right now. No excuses, though. I'm not sure I could've shaved off any more than ten additional minutes off my time.
  • Never say never [even though I frequently do] but I'm not sure if I'll run a marathon for a long time. Shaving off minutes isn't a huge motivation for me. Doing the half-marathon next year is a definite possibility.
  • Perhaps this is too much information, but I felt like I had to use the bathroom at mile 4. I never went the entire race. Felt like I needed to go when I crossed the finish line, but I didn't go for another hour after the race.
  • I just saw a local TV personality up at the UDF in Mount Adams. He's a very good runner and he said the course felt slower out there today [he picked up 15 minutes on his finish from last year], so maybe there's something to it after all.
  • I'm so thankful for all the encouragement people have given me in the past few months throughout today. From emails to phone calls, people have been very good to me. I love my life.
  • This whole experience makes me respect people who have run marathons even more. And the advice that they have given me was truly valuable. Thanks Audrey and Alex and everyone else.
  • And thanks for tolerating a week full of posts about this. I'm glad I'll have all this to reflect on later. And maybe now that I've done it, you might understand that anyone can do this.

By the way, Kelly took some pics from today that you can check out on her blog. She also shares how she and Kaelyn chased me down all morning.