Pic of the day: 1896 Olympic Marathon
It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.
Saturday: 3/4 of a mile into a training run I aggravated a pulled hamstring. The run was going to be 5.7 miles long. Stopping short with a sharp stabbing pain in my right hammy was about the last thing I wanted to have happen. I was training for a race that I had missed last year. The 4 mile memorial day race. And I missed it because of a strained hamstring, and I was DAMNED if I was going to miss 2 years in a row because of the same injury.
I shut it down. I walked home, hobbled somewhat by the hamstring. I couldn’t walk right but I didn’t mind that. It’s an injury, and I mind the injury, not how I walk because of it. Came home, stretched it as much as I safely could. I soaked it in warm water and epsom salts twice. I felt better after that. Not 100% obviously. I had to take pain killers and I iced it and wrapped it. Comes with the territory, I guess. I am thinking that I will cross the finish line, if I do, walking. I am not happy about it.
Sunday: Hung out, cooked food at a family barbecue at mom’s house, and frankly enjoyed the hell out of things. I paid the hammy no never mind and I didn’t have to, I didn’t notice it. I was initially going to run before the days festivities, but on Saturday when I shut the run down I told myself that my next run is the race on Monday. I am still thinking that I might end up having to walk to the finish line if I finish. I tell several people that, and they tell me I’ll be fine. I agree with them publicly. Privately, I’m not so sure. But I do tell myself that I should try for a 32:00 time, an 8 minute mile. That would be good.
Monday, pre-race: Wake up at 5:48 am after going to bed at 10:30 pm, and finally falling asleep an hour 15 or so later. I know that the hamstring is still not 100%, but I feel pretty damn good. No limp, no soreness, no nothing. Drink coffee, feed cats, do all the things that I do normally when I first get myself out of bed and ready to face the day. I pack up stuff for the race. Towel (You should always know where your towel is) extra clothes, water, race number. Drink water. Get out of the house…
My mother wanted to see what was happening, she had never been out to a race before. When speaking yesterday she simply said she was driving my wife and I to the race. My wife was surprised. I… not so much. So my wife and I get a ride and mom gets to see me race for the first time. It’s a bit surreal for me, but with me, surreal happens.
I walk with my wife and mother to where they are going to watch the race near the finish line. Drink a little water. Mom wishes me luck, kisses my cheek, and me and my wife walk down to race start, leaving mom hanging out on the boardwalk. My wife and I while walking smile at each other and wave to a few runners, wish them luck. I don’t know them, they don’t know me. Doesn’t matter. We’re all part of the running family, everyone is good people here. Last drink of water. My wife takes a few pictures of me. She kisses me, wishes me luck, steps back behind the guard rail and the race begins.
Monday, Race: ON YOUR MARK
I walk the first 20 seconds or so. I find it curious that some of the people ahead of me, while barely moving at a walking pace are nevertheless moving like they are running, bouncing up and down in an exaggerated running motion. They aren’t moving faster as a result. Makes no sense to me. I keep to just walking until the road opens up and I can run. From the beginning I am, if not hesitant, then at least, relaxed in pacing myself.
The crowd ahead of me is smaller than normal, but then again I am starting further up than the last few times I ran this race. I am not moving with a particularly fast gait, nor am I pushing that hard. I pass a number of people in the throng, a few pass me, and as the crowd begins to thin, it happens. Two minutes and 24 seconds in. I feel the right hamstring twinge. Feel the stabbing pain. I bark with displeasure, but I bite down on the pain and keep moving.
And I surprise myself by not breaking stride. I keep it to where I am barely letting it affect my gait. What it does is slow me down, but not even all that much. There are other people around, and I’ll be damned if I give up this early in the race. Hell, it hit and during the critical first moments when the pain hit me, I was passing people.
I was pretty happy about that.
Usually I have some kind of pace song in my head that pushes me faster, keeps the feet moving quick. Not this time. I am basically monitoring the hamstring in my head the entire time. But I am also keeping an eye out to see what my pace is early. Curious. No mile one marker. No one barking out times. Weird. So I keep moving.
And I keep passing people. Not like I did 2 years ago when I ran a 6:57, but I’m passing people with a pulled hammy. I have just passed the water station without getting water when I notice the pain getting worse. I adjust my stride, lean back a little more and the pain subsides somewhat. What I don’t do is slow down. I know I’m not running my fastest, but I don’t want to slow down too much and be tempted to stop. I’m not sure I’d be able to start back up once I did that. So I keep moving.
The sun hits hard after the shade near the end of the second mile. Up ahead I see the mile 2 marker. There’s a guy calling out time. “14:40. 14:42. 14:45. 14:50.” As I pass I hear “14:55.” I thank him, wave and keep moving. The pain is constant, but it’s been there long enough that I begin to ignore it, move past it.
I begin to think of moving faster. And as I think it I do it. My stride rate picks up, and I pass a few people. Not many, there are some people out and about, and while I am trying to move fast, I can’t get that breakaway speed that I could if I wasn’t sore as hell. I pass the second water station, and again refuse the water.
At the 2½ mile mark or so, there is a fountain that spits water a good 20 feet high and they have it on full steam so that the runners can run under it and cool down. I do. The shock of cold water is invigorating, and I gasp as the water hits me. There is a guy who I have been running with for the past few minutes, and it is here that I find the energy to begin to pass him. But as I open up my stride the hammy begins to hurt more. So I slow down a bit after about a minute, and the guy passes me.
I hit the 3 mile marker after a few minutes. “22:09. 22:10. 22:12.” “22:15.” is what I hear as I pass the guy. I wave and thank him and he yells back “Good luck.” The final mile I try my damnedest to open up my stride, but I am having only limited success. For every person I pass, for everything that feels good there is pain as well, and a need to back down, to slow down. The hamstring which has been sore but just background noise in my mind for much of the race, really begins to hurt.
I’m starting to limp while I run, but I keep moving. I do my best to hide it, and glide as much as possible, keep the pounding on my legs to an absolute minimum. But I am in a better place than I thought I’d be. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish without walking. But I’m running. and faster than I thought I would be able to.
After a short bout with a stitch, I get passed by some kid whose mom, jumps out from the crowd to shout encouragement. He sees his mom and speeds up. He passes her up, and as I pass her I yell out “Kid is the fastest runner out here.” She beams at this. Hell at that point in the race he may well be. All the faster runners have already finished, and he passed me like I was standing still.
I felt good for the kid. Two more people passed me as I made my way to the finish. First one I didn’t mind. The second one I did. No reason why. But it pissed me off, and I found a surge of energy, and nearly caught up to the guy before the finish. Nearly, but didn’t. Cursed the leg. But I crossed the finish line with a better time than I thought I was capable of just a day before.
29:18.13. A 7:19.53 m/m pace.
Not my fastest time, not by a long shot. But my best.
Upon stopping I immediately begin to limp rather badly. As I hear the race officials tell me I don’t need to hand in the bottom portion of my race number, I see my wife. She is beaming, happy. I said “29:18. Helluva race, hon.”
That’s it from here, America. Enjoy the day, and If you see any veterans today, thank’em for all they’ve done. God bless America.