I spent this past Sunday morning running the inaugural Louisiana Marathon. Close to two thousand marathoners and half-marathoners lined up at the start line on Sunday morning. It was cold but not unbearable. The sun was just beginning to make its way above the trees surrounding the state capitol as we got ready to begin.
I met a guy who had recently been transferred from Okinawa to San Antonio. He was hoping to finish in under five hours but really just wanted to finish. He hadn’t been able to train in over a month. I thought I might keep pace with him but after the race started, I lost sight of him.
At 7am sharp the starter’s pistol went off and we were underway. As with any large race, the group surges forward and then everyone realizes there is no where to go unto the people ahead get moving. There was a pacesetter for a five hour run which is 11:27/mile. On some of my long runs I had been averaging between 11:10 to 11:40. I set that as an unofficial goal but decided I would start out slow and make a decision at mile 20 on whether to go for a sub-five hour time.
We made our way through downtown and then headed toward LSU’s campus. After a few miles, everyone began to spread out. I would pass a few people who were running and a few others who were walking. Then a minute or so later, those walkers would run back by me. As we made our way onto campus there was one woman that was keeping the same pace as I was. So I made sure I kept her in my sights. As we got near mile 13 or 14, she fell back and I was on my own. The field was thinning out more and more.
We headed back the way we came and then made this long loop out through several neighborhoods. Some stretches I might go for five minutes without seeing another person. I was making good time, but as I neared mile 17 I knew I was getting close to the wall. I also felt I was running out of energy. Then I came across a water station and picked up an energy gel. I got a boost out of it but not from the sugars. I wasn’t expecting mocha flavor, and it put a smile on my face.
As I reached mile 20, I knew the next six miles would be tough. I refused to stop and walk. I had made a mental goal that I would run the entire marathon. About mile 22 I knew I wasn’t going to make a sub-5 hour time. I set my focus on finishing well. The temperatures had warmed up and I was sweating but I got chills a few times. I couldn’t tell if I was dehydrating or had just used up all the energy my body had in reserves.
We finally made our way out of that long loop and ran back toward downtown. I had forgotten we crossed an overpass earlier in the morning and would have to go back over. The mile 25 marker was at the bottom of the overpass. At this point it became all mental. I had to keep willing my feet to keep moving. I was counting down the minutes left in my head. I passed runners who had finished and spectators. They kept telling me the finish line was just up ahead but I couldn’t see it. I made the second to last turn and the finish line came into view. I decided to be corny and throw my hands up in the air as I crossed the finish line. I finished in 5:08:09.
In spite of the temporary pain, I am glad I ran this marathon. I really did enjoy the run. Three years ago, my diet was horrible and I got winded walking up a flight of stairs. If you’d had told me that in less than three years I would be running a marathon I would have laughed at you. If you had told me that I would have enjoyed it, I would have called a psychiatrist.
I wrestle with thoughts of whether I can stick with something and whether I give up too easily. This will help settle those thoughts. I trained for close to five months. Whether I felt like getting out of bed or not. Whether it was raining, cold, windy, or all of the above. Mile after mile. Something kept pushing me. I wanted to know if I could do it. Could the un-coordinated fat kid in high school become a marathon runner? I did. Now it’s time to start thinking about the next adventure.