Mile 26.2: I cross the finish line with the clock saying something like 4:07. I can’t remember when I was this relieved to be done running. It’s by far my slowest marathon ever. I don’t care. I only wanted to stop moving forward. Now that I have, I never want to think about running ever again. There is the usual amount of talking with friends and other runners, and I almost always enjoy this war-stories aspect of racing. But I have to get over to the store, and I’m also in a hurry to get out of the relentless sun. And I’m just about dead anyway. That sun had been as bad as I can remember from any race – even last year’s Another Dam 50K where it was in the mid to upper nineties. I stumble out of the Browns Stadium area as best I can.
It’s an awfully long uphill walk back to the car. I can still hear them: the announcers are saying that there is a heat advisory for runners and that everyone should be careful. I’m thinking, ‘why the heck (except heck wasn’t quite the word) are they saying this here at the finish line?’ I’m also quite annoyed by their poor attempts at humor (“I can’t even drive 26.2 miles!”) Perhaps I was just in a bad mood.
Mile 25.8: Ladd Clifford jumps out of the crowd to jog a hundred meters or so with me. Somehow, in the space of about 15 seconds, we are able to catch each other up on what happened in the entire race: how we each did, how our friends did, the current temperature, etc., etc.
This is a down-hill section on East 9th Street where I ought to be running real fast. But it’s all I can do to hobble and keep from falling forward and doing a face plant. My mile pace is probably on the order of 15 minutes per mile.
Mile 25: I now realize that I’m not going to make it under four hours. I would need to increase my speed to better than ten minutes a mile, and that’s simply not going to happen. Not when each mile has continuously gotten slower with nothing to reverse the trend. Why was a four hour time important, anyway?
Mile 24: Somewhere around here, I hear from behind, “Had enough yet?” It’s Michelle Wolff, who goes cruising by at her usual steady pace. I can see that she will easily break four hours. And all I need to do is stay with her to do the same. I manage to do so… but only for a while. She gradually fades away into the future. The heat is nearly unbearable. I’m going out of my way to stay in the shady areas, sometimes I’m even running on the sidewalk.
Mile 21: At this point we move away from the lake. From past experience, I know that these next five miles will be the nastiest of all. We’ll be zigging and zagging up and down city streets through industrial and office parts of the city. It’s ugly, but not so bad when you’re running fast. Today I’m most definitely not. But all I need to do is to continue these ten minute miles in order to still finish under four hours. Shouldn’t be a problem.
Mile 20: Almost there! Well, not quite. The clock says 2:55, and I think, ‘things could be worse – all I have to do is nine, or even ten minute miles to finish in 3:50 or so.’ Terry Hawk passes me and says, “To think I used to do marathons that fast!” I reply “me too,” but he’s gone already. We’re out of Rockefeller Park and are now running along the lakeshore. The park was pretty, and this is too in a different way. I had hoped for some sort of breeze from the lake, but there’s none to be had. The water is as calm as it gets. And now I’m out in the sun again.
Mile 17: Moving from University Circle into Rockefeller Park on Martin Luther King Junior Drive, I’m in big-time pain. Every step hurts. This is arguably the prettiest part of the course, and I’m not enjoying it in the least. There’s construction on MLK Drive featuring orange barrels on each side. I run inside them in order to cut the tangents as much as possible. A few friends pass by. I think they can tell that I’m in pain. The only good thing for me here is that it’s shady.
Mile 15: Only about eleven to go. It’s getting tremendously hot, and we’re baking as we run into the sun on Chester. I just ran my first ten minute mile, but that’s only because I stopped to dig a gel packet out of my pocket at the aid station. I’ll get back down to nine-minute miles with no problem.
Mile 13: Hey, I’m half-way! And my time of 1:47 really isn’t that awful. All I need to do is run even or slightly negative splits, and I can still do something close to 3:30. That’s not so bad. The fact that each mile has been progressively slower than those prior doesn’t phase me; I’ll get through this. The half marathoners had split off a bit over a mile ago. It’s now a lot lonelier out here. I smile and wave as I see Chris Ganz and Larry Orwin on the side of the road cheering me on. The only little fly in the ointment is that everything hurts. Or put it this way: there’s nothing that doesn’t hurt.
Mile 10: The enthusiastic 7:59 per mile pace group passes by with hoopla galore. It makes me want to puke. It’s not my first such experience for the day, and I somehow feel that it won’t be the last. A mile or so ago we went up an extremely steep hill that almost killed me. Where did that come from? It wasn’t there last year. That hill caused me to run an 8:41 mile, the slowest of the day so far. Why does every part of my body hurt so much? Gee, I hope there isn’t an association with this pain and my slower pace.
Mile 8: I’ve run the last couple miles with Beth Bugner and Ladd Clifford. Ladd’s back has been bothering him, and he was thinking of dropping down to the half. I almost convince him to just run easy and finish the marathon with me. Almost, but not quite. Peer pressure doesn’t always work with Ladd. Beth on the other hand seems to be surging. Both Ladd and I are having a tough time keeping up with her. Eventually she moves on ahead, with Ladd in tow. I have to ask myself whether Beth is really surging or not. If not, that means that I’m slowing down. I decide not to think about it.
Mile 6: Debbie Scheel passes by and we run a little bit together. She had started back further than I, and had gone out easy. I tell her that she was smart. In my case, I don’t think I’d really gone out too fast. Most of my miles are in the 7:50 range, and I think that this will be sustainable.
Mile 3.5: The early miles have been a whole lot of fun. It seems like all my friends are out here with me, and I’m talking with all of them. The Veterans Memorial Bridge had been as spectacular as always. Edgewater park and neighborhood are great as well. So what if I’m not quite as fast as last year; I’m having fun.
Mile 0: It’s warm already. I’m in the up-front corral along with the 3:10 and 3:00 pace groups. I know I’m not supposed to be here, but I snuck into a barrier opening. I talk with Jeannine Nicholson, and we finally find Ladd Clifford and a few other friends. These starts are always exciting and fun. I can’t wait to get going!
Prior to the Start: The group photo, and even the restroom line in Browns Stadium were fun. Good to see everyone. Can’t wait to get in line and run.
Had enough yet?