I had to run the 2008 Marathon to keep the steak alive. But this year I also decided to run the Akron marathon, for the first time. These two are sometimes back to back, sometimes one week apart, and this year, for the first time, two weeks apart.
Two weeks apart? So, I have plenty of time to recover, right? Well, wrong! I ran the Akron marathon hard and my old (going 50) body needed more time to recover. Plus, on Friday, I moved some heavy boxes and ended up hurting my back (I have had back problems - herniated disc - in 2002). So, with my back hurting (when I stand up, my body is tilting to the left), and my legs being insufficiently recovered from Akron, I had serious doubts about my performance today, or even running the darn thing!
I set as a goal (best possible scenario) to beat my 2006 course record of 3:36. Have in mind that this is a naturally "slow" course because the running surface is soft and does not give you the bounce that streets do. But, it is flat (thank goodness!)
At 8 am start time it was 50F (chilly!) but the forecast called for sun and high temperatures in the 80s. While I was standing at the start line, freezing with just a T-shirt at the top, I was thinking of my body as an old car, ready to turn the ignition on. Will it start??? I seriously did not know.
"On your marks, get set, go!" And, to my amazement, my legs are moving and I am running! The first 8 miles are OK: 8:14, 7:58, 7:49, 7:55, 7:50, 7:56, 7:57, 7:56.
But already by mile 8 my legs felt tired, and my hips tight. This usually does not happen until after mile 15 and it is happening already at mile 8. Not good! For some reason mile 9 is slow (there are no hills to explain this and I did not stop for a break). Runners are passing me but I manage to recover, and go back to a good steady pace: 8:23, 8:14, 8:08, 8:01, 7:56, 7:58, 8:00 (mile 15)
My wife is waiting for me right after mile 15. I stop, change shirt, and drink Gatorade and orange juice that she brought. I also grab an energy bar "for the road". This stop has added maybe 1/2 minute to my mile 16 time, but things are not going well, as you can clearly see from these times: 8:56, 8:20, 8:42, 8:51 (mile 19)
History repeats itself: I am clearly falling apart, just like last year. Last year I was walking by mile 19 and mostly walked to the finish line. This year, I am slowing down at the same distance. I am telling myself: “Never again! Never attempt two marathons, only 2 weeks apart!"
But something different happened this year. As we turn at the Northern turnaround point at mile 19.5, I got passed by 3 young (20+) girls. I had passed these girls around mile 2, so now they are back, passing me. Maybe it is the "old man's pride" here, but this motivated me to speed up again. I pass the girls and move forward: 8:40, 8:33, 8:21, 8:05 (mile 23).
I am amazed at myself being able to run fast again... My legs are now beyond pain. They are numb. I now pass all these people who passed me from miles 16-19. Some of them recognize me and whisper "nice comeback", "looking strong", etc. I am wondering if I can keep this pace all the way to the finish, but it is difficult: 8:23, 8:44 (mile 25).
At this point, after the water stop at Highland road, Mel (from Vertical Runner) passes me. She is trying to get 3:40 to qualify for Boston, and she is surrounded by a bunch of guys, offering her plenty of encouragement. One guy hands her a cup of water that he had taken from the last aid station, just for her. "What, no water for me?" I ask. He looks surprised but comes back with "You are a big guy, you can take care of yourself". I speed past them. Mile 26: 8:12.
My Garmin 205 is running slow, as always. It shows I still have 0.45 miles to the finish. I am now running with another girl, Janet, a local runner/blogger. I try to strike a conversation, telling her that I read her blog and identifying myself as “DrT”, but, apparently, she is in no mood for conversation, understandably, in mile 26 of a marathon. So I speed up past her. Now I am running really fast. I pass a couple more runners and enter the finish area looking strong. My Garmin recorded a record pace of 7:16 for this last half mile.
My watch at the finish reads 3:37:29. Even though I did not beat the course record from 2006, I am darn proud of my performance, under the circumstances. Especially the reversal of the decline after mile 20.
<- This little girl's sign summarizes the race nicely "Great Job Everyone!"
After getting a couple of snacks (food was a notch down from last year, no roastbeef or scrambled eggs), and socializing for a while, I am heading home. Too tired to even get into the car, my wife drives me home. I took an ice bath, and then a nap (with my wife, she got tired watching me run :)). When I woke up, an hour later, I literally could not get off the bed. I ask for two extra strength Tylenols and only when they start to work, I am able to get out of bed. And then, I am walking like a 98 year old. Why do we, runners, do this to ourselves??? :)
Overall, it was a nice experience. Beautiful weather, nice scenery, great day for running, plus it was nice seeing fellow runners out there... I have gone from running one marathon a year, to running 3 marathons and 2 50Ks this year. I still have 3 more races: Run for the homeless, Fall Classic 1/2M, and New Year’s 5K. I would also like to find a fast course to attempt a sub 20 minutes 5K. Should I sign up for the Winter 50K? I cannot make up my mind and time is running out!