Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Thon

What a day. Overcast. Cool. Drizzly. 15,000 of my closest strangers and 26.2 miles. Who could ask for more. My virtual running partner, Brian, met up with us before the start. He was rocking his awesome multi colored surf-inspired wind breaker circa 1983. It was a nice tension breaker. Maybe I wouldn't have a great race, but at least I wasn't wearing a garment that deserved its place in the cheesey clothing hall of fame.











Although, I did don a uniquely personalized jersey for my run. To commemorate my comeback...


It garnered a lot of comments on the course. Mostly from people passing me, but some from people I passed. The most memorable was the girl at the start line who said, "You had a heart attack? Cool....wait...that didn't come out right." I got what she meant. (She's the one in the orange shirt in the next picture)

I lined up with Ginny and Tonia. I found myself very thankful to have them there.
But as we approached the starting line, it occurred to me that I was supposed to have run #4 with Rachel. She has been my biggest fan since beginning rehab and down the long road of preparation for this race. As I moved closer to the start line, I looked off to the right for one last glance at her before I started running. Last year, I was disappointed I couldn't run with her. This year, I knew I couldn't have run without her.
We started off at an even pace. Tonia was determined to keep us from taking off too fast. For the first 7 miles we were having a great time. We joked, had a brief discussion on religion and faith and planned to run in a backwards V formation when we got on the Belvedere bridge.

We passed the first party zone and saw Rachel and the rest of our support crew. We were still smiling. Our friend Emily picked us up there and started running with us.









Around mile 9, I noticed that Tonia was starting to slow down. A few days ago, she had a spill at home and hurt her foot. She was running through the pain but it was evident it would slow her down.
Emily moved back to run with Tonia while Ginny and I made the decision to press ahead. We crossed the half way point and Ginny started to have some issues and she had to make a stop. Again, with the great angst of losing my last running partner, I continued on without her.

I began to feel the effects of the run around mile 14 but still felt strong. Until I reached the bridge. I totally cracked crossing the bridge. Wind in my face and nobody to work with. I tried to draft for a bit behind a runner taller than I. Unfortunately, his strides were as long as I was tall so I couldn't keep up long. I walked and ran and walked and ran my way across.

Making my way up Belevedere to Main was no picnic. I thought I could coast on Main for a while but things started to break down. Walking on the bridge did its damage. I knew now the rest of the race would involve a lot of walking.
I made it to Boulevard and crossed Monument. At mile 19, our friends (the Burdens and the Enderts) stood and cheered with Rachel. Rachel began running with me there and stayed with me until the end.

The last 7 miles were brutal. My hips, ankles and thighs scremed in pain. I would run as long as I could handle the pain, then walk for a few seconds up to about a minute, then run again. Though the miles wound down, I kept thinking how it felt like I would never get there. Just past the water station at mile 23, I heard a yell from behind. Ginny had just about caught up to us. Though she didn't get up to where we were, it was nice to know she made a strong comeback.
Rachel continued to cheer me on and kept me going. When finally I saw the finish line, I was relieved. But, before I crossed, I already started thinking about next year.



I finished in 4:52, only 7 minutes slower than my best marathon finished. With no goals other than finishing, I was pleased. But the greatest part of this run is I feel like I finally put closure on last year's medical event. Though I still endeavor to complete 800 total running miles before the end of the year, this was what counted.
I look forward to becoming a runner again, and not a guy who had a heart attack and managed to run a marathon. I want to get back to running because I enjoy it and not because I have something to prove.
I'm proud to say that Ginny ended up finshing just moments after I. And Tonia, in spite of the pain she must have endured from her injury, also crossed the finish line. Brian, as expected, beat us all and we couldn't have been more excited for him.
I look forward to next year's marathon...which may be in New York.

2 comments:

momof3 said...

Wow. I too started thinking about last year's marathon as soon as I finished. I'm going to run Richmond again, and I really hope, that if you run Richmond, you will allow me to tag along with you for as long as I can... after my "stop" at mile 13 I recovered and thought, I'm going to catch him, he's only a few minutes ahead of me.... well, needless to say, that didn't exactly happen. I saw you finish the bridge as I stepped onto it and thought, "Dang, I didn't catch him, NOW what am I supposed to do?" Same as you, I drafted someone else. Thanks for sharing your experience, because "you never know who you will inspire".

momof3 said...

I meant to write "next year's marathon"... that must have been Freudian...