a blog about running fast with style
And So It Begins+
It was somewhere around mile 21 that I was ready to quit. I didn’t want to quit because I didn’t think I could make it. No I was just tired of being out on the course, hadn’t I run long enough? That first step on the other side of the 20 mile maker was the longest I had ever run and every step after that the longest. I don’t think anyone saw this coming, even my dad who had run 18 marathons of his own was a bit surprised, but as usual, I am getting ahead of myself.
I don’t remember when it started exactly, I don’t even remember if it was a phone call, or an email, though I doubt it was a text message (I have just recently started text messaging). It must have been spring of 2007 and I’d been running 30-35 miles a week since my last cross country workout at Oregon in 1999 (ok I did take 3 months off right after college but couldn’t stay away for long). I was an 800 meter runner and a reluctant cross country runner. Since those days I really hadn’t done much more than easy runs and occasionally and 8 mile long run.
Heather was the only person that could have talked me into running a marathon. I thought maybe I’d run one after I had a baby to get back in shape and that maybe I could talk my dad into running one with me (good thing we didn’t wait on that one, still no babies here). But somehow Heather convinced me. To be honest she didn’t have to try too hard to convince me. I had just turned 30 and was looking for a challenge so I found myself register for the Portland Marathon in October of 2007. I was living in Seattle and Heather was in Bend, we figured Portland would be meeting in the middle and we’d just run it for fun.
I figured I was going to need some help so I started to search for running groups in Seattle and I stumbled upon the Eastside Runners (http://www.eastsiderunners.com/). I email John to get the details. I was really nervous about joining a group but he was cool and calm. He suggested coming to the Wednesday night track group. The workouts were low key, just show up warmed-up ready to by 6:00PM. So I showed up. I don’t remember what the workout was, maybe 800’s and 400’s. I didn’t run the whole thing but it felt great to be back on a track; it felt like home.
I showed up the following week and was able to do the workout pretty comfortably, it all felt so familiar. I also quickly made friends Alicia. She was a few years younger than me and had been running with the group for the past year or so. She’d also completed a few marathons (Boston was one of them) and was a former college runner as well. She was running Twin Cities the same weekend I was running Portland and we quickly hatched a running plan. I truly would have been lost without her help. She was there with me for my first 18 miler and 20 miler. It was nice having a friend who’d already run a few marathons and could offer words of wisdom as we built our miles.
So I trained through the summer and even entered my first race since my college years. It was the Hood to Coast Relay and was an amazing experience. I ran on my dad’s team and it was one of my most cherished and favorite racing memories, but that’s for another blog post, back to the marathon. HTC gave me the confidence for Portland, as race day approached I was pretty confident I could cover the distance.
So there I was at mile 21 wondering how I was going to mentally make it through and other 5.2. The race had been pretty amazing up until this point. I remember starting in the rising morning sun among the tall downtown Portland buildings. They made me feel so small and started this grand adventure. I was running with my NikePlus in those days and had some good tunes and tried to settle in. The energy of the first few miles of a marathon is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. All the nervousness and excitement, all the hours of training for this moment, not to mention you’re still running pretty slow at this point. I managed to hold back for the first few miles but was feeling pretty good on the out and back and pushed the pace just a bit. I was trying to get a Boston qualifier but really wanted to get under 3:30.
Everyone had warned me about the out and back but I was feeling pretty good, still I was a bit nervous about what was to come so I settled down around the halfway mark. One of my Hood to Coast teammates (who’s run a sub 3 hour marathon) met me at the halfway mark and ran me to the bridge. It was nice to have her company and we managed to chat a little. We parted ways at the hill leading to the bridge. At that point I was really surprised to be passing people. At first I was concerned that I had sped up too quickly but a quick check of my watch showed I was right on pace.
I crossed the bridge and was greeted by a hill that no one had warned me about; clearly it was my slowest mile. I weaved my way through neighborhoods until I reached mile 21 and that’s where it got hard. It wasn’t as physically painful as I expected but I was just ready to be done. We were right by the University of Portland and I really should have been thankful for all the students that came out to cheer, but they just left me frustrated. Surely they had just rolled out o the comfort of their beds on a Sunday morning and here I was 3 hours into this crazy race. What was I thinking?
I somehow managed to push through 21 and 22 and figure I could handle the final 4. I think those 4 were my favorite, maybe because it was downhill but I think it was because I knew I was so close. Suddenly 26.2 didn’t seem so impossible, it was within my reach. I would later learn that there’s a thrill in the last 3 or 4 miles where you walk this fine line between pain and passing out. You have this ability to digger deeper than you realize but it’s a balancing act to not pushing too much. It reminds me of and 800m race this crazy all out controlled sprint, that’s what the last 3 or 4 miles of a marathon feel like to me and that’s why I love them so much.
And then the moment happens, you see the finish line. Ok so not so true with Portland, luckily my friend warned me, you see all these balloons and you think it’s the finish but really you still turn another corner and then you see the finish, and there it was. I’d been running hard the final 4 miles, I knew I was going to qualify for Boston but it was going to be close for getting under 3:30. When I finally pushed stop I saw the number I wanted to see, 3:29.20. I was ecstatic. I just wanted to hang-out in the finish area for the whole day, but something was missing; I was alone.
Heather didn’t make it to the start line, she’d been sick and had missed training because she’d been planning her wedding, but that’s not who was missing. I needed to see my dad. Ever since high school he was the first person I wanted to see after a race, he understood me and I wanted him to know that I finally understood him. I was so excited to see him and he was so proud of me. As we walked to the car I will never forget the moment. I turned to my dad and I said “I think I can run faster”. And so a marathoner was born. I had never wanted to be someone who ran a marathon for the sake of running one, but hadn’t really thought about my plans after Portland. But in that moment I knew my dad had passed the torch to me and I was happy to carry it. I don’t know if I will ever match his number. He’s run 18, and I don’t know if I will ever run as fast as he did, sub 3 hour. But what I do know is that I have many more miles ahead of me to run and I really have my dad to thank for it.