My friend Brian Peacock once wrote a piece call, The Long Walk. It's about the long, slow, painful walk back to the car after a marathon. Having parked in what I thought was the perfect getaway position, today's Long Walk was coming as a bit of a surprise. It's pouring rain, and this distance of about 3/4 mile seems to be taking forever. I can't fathom how only minutes earlier, I was running at full-tilt, whereas now I'm having trouble just walking in a straight line.
After this unexpectedly Long Walk, I finally stumble over to the car. What did that take me - thirty minutes? Seemed like hours. It takes a further inordinate amount of time to simply place towels on the front seat and change my shirt, all in preparation for the even longer ride home.
The arrival downtown had, it seemed, gone well. I didn't mind jogging a ways to the start, figuring that being so very close (or so I thought at the time) to the finish would more than make up for it. As I line up in Corral 'C', I strike up a conversation with Joe Jurczyk. It had been a while since we'd seen one another, so of course we talk, and talk, and talk some more, both here in the corral, and also for the first seven miles.
Talking takes energy, but it also helps take one's mind off the tedium of pounding the pavement. Now at mile 8, it's beginning to feel real. It's in the sixties, mostly cloudy, and a little humid. I would prefer cooler and drier weather, but things could be much worse. I had been running at what felt about like nine-minute per mile pace, or perhaps a little slower. I pick the pace up, but just a little. I eventually catch the 8:58 pace group, and also run with George Themelis on and off for a while.
I am enjoying the course, and the race in general. There are enthusiastic crowds along the way - more than I can remember. But then, it's been a couple years since I've run CLE. And of course they change the course just about every year. I'm guaranteed a course PR for the day.
I pass half-way in 1:59. Can I hold this pace for another half-marathon? Having not run a marathon, or much of anything for that matter in a while, I have no idea. But it's safe to say that I don't have an over-abundance of confidence yet. I'm taking this one mile at a time.
What bothers me most (it's always something), is the mileage markers. They appear about a quarter-mile later than my Garmin indicates. I know, I know.: they measure courses slightly longer than the stated distance to make sure there are no questions about certification. But lookyahere: this may end up costing me, big time. The first digit of my time may wind up being a four, rather than a three, all because of this extra quarter-mile I am running.
After a while, I settle myself down. It is what it is. Going in, I truly tried to fight off any tendency towards expectations of any kind. A steady pace would be nice, but I wasn't even going to let that concern bother me. I was just out here to have fun. I only need to keep telling myself that.
We arrive in the western suburbs a little before the 17.5 mile turnaround. I see Ron Ross on and off. Just before the turnaround, I spot Ladd Clifford, Rob Lisy and John Pavlik. I look for Theresa Wright, but can't find her. Ron pulls ahead, and I lose sight of him as it begins to rain.
The rain is a light drizzle, and it feels wonderful. Around mile 20 (right around three hours), I am somehow able to pick up the pace a bit. We are running through the Edgewater neighborhood, and there are nice views of the lake, and downtown. Those views don't last a long time, however, because the rain begins to come down harder. It still feels great, though.
At about mile 21, I see Ron up ahead once again, and I make an effort to catch up to him. He's running a steady pace, just like he always does. This means I must be accelerating. Well, that may be too strong a word, but I am running a little faster once again. It takes me until about mile 24.5 to catch up to Ron completely. We exchange more pleasantries, and then I take off for the final assault on the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
It's a tough climb, and I slow down considerably. But once at the top, I pick the pace up once again for the final 3/4 mile. It feels great to run fast at the end of a marathon. In fact, there's no feeling in the world like it.
It's a downpour as I cross the line. My time is 3:56:54. I am thrilled.
But now it's time for the Long Walk.
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