Monday, February 16, 2009

Marathon Don is Back! (Or at least coming back.)

It was the Last Chance for Boston Marathon--a 26 one-mile-loop course around an office park in Dublin, Ohio.  Some would call it boring.  That's only if you haven't run it.
The day was beautiful.  Around freezing, a little breezy, sunny at the start.  I was there to get in an inexpensive marathon for February to keep my marathon-a-month streak alive.  Chuck Engle was there--it's his hometown, and he couldn't find anything else to run that day, I guess.  I always love seeing this guy--he's fast, but not snobby about it.  Everyone likes him.  
The first loop is a little long--we make up the .2 miles at the beginning.  As I crossed the timing line for the first time, Chuck breezed by me, already two miles into the race.  I made it my goal to get at least half-way done before he finished.  
Halfway through mile 10, my best friend Paul met me and ran a mile with me.  He's working a big job in Ohio so he came over on Saturday night to hang out.  The three breweries we checked out the night before didn't seem to have any bad effect on my running, fortunately.  
After 11 miles I caught up with Lois Berkowicz.  She was running her 296th marathon that day.   I was a mile ahead of her at that point, and we ran together for the next 3 or 4 miles before she stopped for a bit.  We caught up with Larry Macon, the guy who set the world record last year for running 105 marathons in a year.  He was running with another guy named Gary.  Soon I had finished my 13th mile and was in the middle of mile 14 when Chuck flew by me for the final time, finishing in 2:35.  And I was past halfway!  Made it!
Soon, it was 16 miles.  I still didn't feel like I needed to walk.  A little more and I was in single digits.  Still feeling good.  My endurance is coming back!  
I caught up with Bernie Finn and his daughter Jennifer.  Bernie was doing the half, and Jenn was having a rough day, so she had stopped to walk with him.  Bernie has the distinction of finishing DFL in Grand Rapids last year, and was proudly wearing his Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon jacket.  After Bernie finished his half, I caught up with Jenn again, running back and forth with her for her last couple of miles.  When I finished mile 22 Jenn had just finished and I stopped to give her a hug and shake hands with Bernie.
At 2 1/2 miles to go I came upon a young guy who was struggling.  He was walking slowly, arms tucked inside his sweatshirt.  "I'm going to drop out," he told me.  He was only 3 miles behind me.  He wasn't trained for this.  "No, you're not!" I told him.  He ran with me for a little bit, and I told him how he'd be second guessing himself on Monday if he dropped out.  He dropped back, and I wondered if I had gotten through.  About a minute later, he came running by me.  "Thanks."  I caught him as he started his next mile, and told him that in an hour he could call his mom and tell her that he had just finished a marathon.  It seemed like I had just been through the line -- like the miles were getting shorter.  Nice.  My legs still felt OK, I had no desire to walk, no questioning my abilities like I've had for the last couple marathons.  I crossed the line for the 25th time and raised my arms.  The guys thought I was finishing.  "Nope.  I'm just practicing for my next time around."  Mile 26.  Party time!
I finished in 5:22.  Not a big deal, for sure, but it was my best post-knee-surgery time, and I was running strong all day.  Guess I need to do a little speed play and get myself back to 4:30 shape before too long.  Should be fun.
After my shower I went back to the course.  My young friend was nowhere to be found.  He was done!  I went into the post-race food area to congratulate him and hang out with the few people I had been running with who were still there.  Nice time.  
I have now run at least one marathon in each of the last 72 months.  Bragging a little, maybe, but I'm pretty proud of that.  I gave myself permission to end the streak at 100 months.  Just need to stay healthy between now and then.

and the adventure continues....