The Anatomy of My First Marathon

5 am wake up time met me with a steady rain and light wind. The rain got heavier as we neared the shuttle parking lot. The forecast called for heavy rain, strong wind and possible flooding in the Folsom area… we were not disappointed.

Boarding the bus for the start line we were a little concerned about time. We still had to check our sweat bags (and hit the porta-potty one last time) before the start and the bus dropped us off at 6:58. Fortunately the race uses chip timing so my personal clock didn’t start until I crossed the start line.

I didn’t even see the start line until I crossed it. I was looking down, trying to break the wind and rain with the brim of my cap. The first one and one half miles were into heavy, horizontal, rain being driven by 40 – 60 mph head winds. Then came a right turn onto a gradual up hill, but blocked by the trees lining the street. By this time I realized I would not be getting any wetter and the rain ceased to matter.

Due to some great advice from Jason Harper, I was wearing the right gear for the weather. Some might pile on the layers in a feeble attempt to keep dry, but that just ends up trapping water in at the end of the race. At first I avoided the flooded parts of the course, but soon realized it just didn’t make any difference and went through any water that was not above my ankles. Two short sleeve tech shirts, arm warmers, cotton gloves were enough to keep me warm. I shed the gloves and the extra shirt and hung the arm warmers in my belt before the race was over… but I get ahead of myself.

I felt comfortable with my pace and continued trying to be consistent, but the rain and darkness (and lack of reading glasses) made it impossible to read my watch and I had not seen any pacers. I passed my training partner at 3.5 miles. We had gotten separated at the start when I had need of the temporary facilities and he was in a similar situation when I went by. Certain he would catch up to me soon, I tried to build some distance. When I came out of another porta-potty at mile 11, I was surprised to see the 4:25 pacer go by. Excited with being ahead of my goal and still feeling good, I ran with them until the half-way point.

At the half-marathon mark, I started feeling some leg pain and decided maybe my pace was a little ambitious. Dave caught me at mile 15 and we ran together for about 2 miles before he started pulling away. By now the leg pain was getting fairly intense. I was now running just behind the 4:40 pacer and beginning to do calculations in my head to keep me distracted and determine what finish time I could hope for.

Mile 22 brought renewed energy and determination. I went over the last up hill on the course as I crossed a bridge and there saw my family waiting to cheer me on. I also realized that I only had 4 miles to go and I could make this. My time goal, however, was another issue. I couldn’t see the 4:40 pacer anymore and the pain in my legs was forcing me to walk and stretch periodically, in decreasing intervals. I kept checking my watch and knew I could hit my 5 hour goal if I could keep up a reasonable pace. I was also aware that my pace would probably slow as the race went on.

By now, the sun was out and I was actually running with my remaining shirt over the back of my head on my shoulders (pulling it back on for pictures). The streets were lined with encouraging on-lookers and the coaches from my Be Change group were there when I most needed them. I could tell it would be close to not achieving my goal, the 4:55 pacer had passed me and was slipping away, so I forced myself push through the last half mile at a pace that I thought was long gone from my aching legs.

I crossed the finish at 4:59:48… 12 seconds to spare. My split times are below for those interested.

Honestly, I was in more physical pain than I imagined possible. The euphoria and sense of accomplishment would have to wait because, for the moment, I just wanted everyone in the world to leave me alone.

Two days after, I am a little disappointed that I did not run a better race. I reached my time goal, but I was hoping to do better than that. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe I started a little too fast.

I am more disappointed, however, that I was not able to raise more money for the kids at Oak Ridge Elementary school. My pain is almost gone, but they continue to live in desperate poverty. They lack food, school clothes, shoes, health care… and the list goes on. I was hoping to raise $3000 to support 3 children for a year. I could have been more aggressive in my marketing. I could have reached out to more people. Still, I hope that what I have done will inspire more to give.

Lastly, I need to acknowledge some people, without whom I would never have been able to do this. My wife and children whose tolerance of my training schedule and constant encouragement were invaluable. My training partner, David Bry, who pushed me to go further and faster than I thought I even wanted to. My new friends at the Folsom Trail Runners and Be Change who provided me with training opportunities, race options and countless pieces of advice, in particular, Jason Harper, who put the whole Be Change program together. My friend and former business partner, Tatiana Moriarty, who taught me to start taking chances and challenging myself. Finally, my other friends who encouraged me and supported me along the way.

In the grand scheme of things, a 5 hour marathon is not that big of a deal, but it’s not too late for you to help me make it a big deal for some underprivileged kids in Oak Park. You can still donate to my cause at Be Change. I hope you will.

Split Time Avg Pace

1 9:32.0 9:32
2 9:09.8 9:10
3 8:47.4 8:47
4 9:06.7 9:07
5 9:21.7 9:22
6 9:34.6 9:35
7 9:26.4 9:26
8 9:27.7 9:28
9 9:42.7 9:43
10 9:36.8 9:37
11 13:48.6 13:49
12 9:35.4 9:35
13 10:07.8 10:08
14 11:33.7 11:34
15 11:13.9 11:14
16 11:19.7 11:20
17 12:12.9 12:13
18 12:38.8 12:39
19 13:51.3 13:51
20 12:32.0 12:32
21 14:36.7 14:37
22 13:21.2 13:21
23 13:17.4 13:17
24 13:59.4 13:59
25 14:23.0 14:23
26 14:17.2 14:17
26.22 2:22.8 10:54

Summary

4:58:57.6 11:24

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