The day of the race was very exciting. My brother had even decided to fly out and run with us, and of course, even though he hadn’t trained at all, he made the whole thing seem like a walk in the park. This is why I don’t like to run with other runners, but for the race, it was fun to have his company.
The race start was pretty amazing, the feeling I felt that morning still sticks with me. Just to be a part of something so huge, one of thousands of people all there to accomplish such a huge goal, the sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and excitement was truly palpable. And the first few miles were smooth sailing, just being part of the mob, taking in the sights and warming up.
Things continued to go pretty well until about mile 15 or so when the aid stations started running out of water. By the time we hit the random stand near mile 18 where someone was actually passing out Beer the conversation went a little something like this:
Us: “water” (imagine us saying this like a person might if they had been stranded in the desert for a few days…)
Beer Booth Guys: “BEER!!!!” (they were apparently very excited about the beer, and I normally would have been excited too. Wish I was enjoying one right now as a matter of fact.)
Beer Booth Guys: “You don’t want beer?” (they were then almost rendered speechless, and deeply saddened by us)… “um, I think we have some orange juice…”
Us: “WE’LL TAKE IT!!!!” (like they were offering us a million dollars)
Bolstered by the brief sugar rush from the OJ we kept limping along until about mile 20 when a very funny thing happened. Around mile 20 we ran into Karla’s boyfriend (from here on out to be ever known as our hero) who had decided to pick us up some White Castle hamburgers. We attacked those hamburgers like we hadn’t eaten in years, and to this day I can remember how delicious they tasted in that moment.
The funny part about it was Karla is a vegetarian. So you can get a pretty good idea of how badly we needed sustenance at that point that a vegetarian would scarf down some White Castle hamburgers like there was no tomorrow. From there our journey continued. Although we experienced a slight energy boost from the OJ and the White Castles, we were still not exactly setting a blistering pace.
Or rather, we were setting a blistering pace, but after running for over four hours, our literally blistering pace was about 4mph.
By the time we reached mile 21 we could see the race chase bus and it was gaining on us. This was the point where I honestly started to think we were going to fail.
Now, for those of you who may not be aware, the point of the chase bus (or, as it was fondly known to us: “the Granny Wagon”) is to close out the race and gather up any stragglers who are not able to keep apace with the discontinuance of the marathon’s road closures. So basically, if you get caught by the chase bus your options are either to get on, ride to the finish line and not officially finish the race (unthinkable) or keep going, but following normal traffic rules and running on the sidewalk, and also, you still won’t officially finish the race.
Both terrible options. So elected to go with option 3, try to run faster.
Well, option 3 didn’t go all that well, but we did manage to stay ahead of the Granny Wagon and the next thing I knew, we were passing the sign for Mile 25.
It would be impossible to try and explain the feeling of complete euphoria that came over me in that moment. At that point I could honestly have sprinted the last mile to the finish because I knew then that I was going to make it. I was going to finish a marathon.
Poor Karla was not feeling so hot though. She told me later that by that point, ever step she took with her right leg felt like someone was hitting her in the leg with a bat. But like me, there was no way that she was going to come that close, and not finish. So between my brother and I, we managed to half-carry Karla to an official finish time of 6:00:58.
As I began training for the Marathon people kept telling me not to shoot for any specific time goal, that just finishing is accomplishment enough. They were right. If I had set a time goal for that race, I would have failed and that failure, no matter how small, would have diminished the hugeness of our victory that day.
Although I was an official victor (even have the medal to prove it), I did end up failing myself when I didn’t keep up my running after the Marathon. Instead, I let another decade go by, and here I am again trying to get back into running.
But this time, I know I’m going to stick with it.
If you have a similar story, especially if it has a happy ending, I would love to hear it. Please comment on my blog or contact me on twitter.