Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I did it!
I registered on Saturday morning. There were tons of exhibitors and running products, none of which are available in my general neighborhood, and almost all of which were on tremendous sale - it was kind of disappointing because I had to get back quickly so I could watch the kids and Tara could leave for a gig, so I didn't even get a chance to browse.
Sunday morning came early enough and cold enough. It was 34 degrees when I got out of the car. I brought plenty of warm enough clothing for the start, but what I didn't realize was that the crowds would make it virtually impossible to find my friends' family to give them my stuff (which included my new jacket, my snappy pants, my baby powder, my vaseline (if you have to ask...), and my car keys. Yikes! So right before the start, I went in search of somewhere to hide my bag. I found an example of the state flower of Ohio -- otherwise known as an orange barrel, and I hid my goods underneath.
The start was wild. I think the last time I was in a crowd this big might have been when the Bulls returned to Grant Park in 1991 after winning the NBA championship. A really big airplane did a cool fly-over, and we were "off." Well, we were heading toward the start line anyway. We actually started about a half-block from the starting line, halfway between High and Front Streets (on Broad).
Several minutes later (I think it was about 4), we crossed the start line. That was one of the most exhilarating moments in the whole race. Understandably, the pace was extremely slow to start with. To do it again, I would have just been comfortable with it and gone along with it, but I sped up along the second mile. Somthing really interesting to me was this: along the race course (and especially along the first few miles), there were cast-off pieces of clothing everywhere. Gloves, hats, headbands, sweatshirts, sweatpants littered the street. Many people, I found out, dug out their oldest clothes (or bought cheap jersey gloves) just to throw them away. I wonder what happens to them.
Anyway, the race went smoothly for a long time. The attitude was jovial (at one water/Gatorade stop there was a guy calling, stadium-style, "Get your ice cold Budweiser!"). I had managed to get out in front of my friends (the same ones I ran with in the Hocking Hills Indian Run), but somewhere in Bexley (maybe near the 4 mile mark) I had to make a bathroom stop. Suffice it to say there were lines at all the "renta-johns." After the stop, I caught back up to the guys, and we ran together for a long time.
I saw the Governor Taft (and had a conversation about him with some fellow runners - not a popular guy right now) and Mayor Coleman - both of them were on the street watching the runners and shouting encouragement. That was a cool thing about the race. For most of the course, there were people lining the street, yelling encouragement, either to people they knew or to perfect strangers. Many had signs (most hand-made, but some were even professional). Most signs had sentiments like "Run, ____, run!" or "Go, Daddy!" or "You can do it!" but there were some interesting ones, like "Go INSERT NAME, go!" and "Jim, I hope you remembered your nipple cream"
By the halfway point, I had warmed up to the point that I wanted to get rid of my long-sleeve shirt. Easy, right? I'd just take it off and throw it on the ground, right? Nope. I'm not throwing away my best yellow technical running shirt! But I also needed another bathroom break, and I knew that there were tons of renta-johns at Broad street, so I waited until then. And where should we be, but near that particular state flower where I had stashed my stuff. So I went over there and stashed my shirt and my headband. There was a young girl and her mom nearby, and the girl (probably 8 years old) said, "Is that your stash?"
Here was probably my big mistake of the race. I had dropped back from the guys considerably by this time, but instead of keeping the pace and just writing off the time I lost, I tried to catch up to them. I was able to catch back up to them in less than three miles, somewhere about the 16 mile mark). Which, if you consider I lost probably five minutes in my stop, meant that I increased my pace too much. By the time I caught them, my right ankle was hurting. I had to stop and adjust my shoe laces, which I had tied too tight. And in a marathon, by the time something hurts, it's too late to really do anything about it.
I ran with Rob and Mike (Matt was behind a bit by this time) for the next three miles or so into Upper Arlington. We were discussing if we should wait for Matt and try to finish together or if we should just each run our own race. I thought we had decided on finishing together, but then the other two kept chugging along at a pace I couldn't do. So I dropped back.
Then (about the 20 mile mark), I met a college student named Gary. He was about to quit. I talked him out of quitting (though I was hurting, quitting wasn't an option), but we did stop and walk a little while. We ended up walking through each of the water/Gatorade stations (and once or twice more), but we'd set a spot and say, "At the crosswalk, we'll start running again." He made some noises about quitting, but I told him, "Let's do this together. I'll carry you if you'll carry me." That worked pretty well.
As we came back toward the Ohio State campus, I kept reminding him (and myself) that we only had so many miles left -- six miles, a normal day's training run; five miles, not so bad, four miles, an easy day's training, three miles...
By the 23 mile mark we were back on campus, and I knew how close we were getting. I decided that we could run three miles without walking. In fact, I knew I could do it. So I told Gary, "No more walking!" He made it without walking for quite a while, but somewhere along the way, he just had to take a break.
I had myself so convinced that I could do it that I started picking my pace up, and by the 24 mile mark I was actually running again. Not the marathon shuffle where you can't get your feet up high enough to even step on a discarded water cup, but a real running pace. I had to think about every step, but I was running pretty well. I just kept feeling stronger and stronger as I headed toward the finish.
All along the last several miles, the streets were crowded with excited, cheering spectators. That's probably why I never saw Tara and Jonathan, who waited and looked for me for some three hours. Whoops! Anyway, we turned right, down the brick pavement of Nationwide Boulevard, and there was the finish line. I admit I was more emotional about hitting the finish at the Indian Run than this (no tears this time), but there was something else going on. I was running top speed (well, as "top speed" as I could get) and had been for over a mile. The crowds were cheering. And I crossed the finish line!
After the finish (which I accomplished in 4:26:46), they gave us mylar "blankets" to keep us warm (it was amazing how cold it was, or how cold the low 50s felt right there). The bright silver blankets were everywhere, and they really did their job. They gave out medals and they had "Columbus Marathon Finisher" photo ops and fruit and water and bagels.
Then I was ready to collapse, but after I sat on the ground, huddled in my mylar, I felt a lot better. Still, I was glad that my friends were willing to drive me back to my stash and to my car.