First of all, I think we overuse the word “marathon.” I’ve been on marathon dates (high school dances), on marathon rides (the white rim trail), and to marathon meetings (sigma chi meetings). None of them even come close in the amount of pain/joy/fun/exhaustion/emotion/accomplishment of training for and running an actual marathon.
The goal was to finish in 3:30:00 or faster.
The starting line was extremely crowded because it consisted of all the participants from the marathon and the half-marathon. I’m not sure how many people ran the half (a little over a thousand ran the full), but it seemed like twice as many at least. I started towards the back so I could spend the first several miles passing people instead of getting passed. This was sort of a good idea, I think, although I’m not sure that the psychological benefits outweighed the hassle of weaving through all the slowpokes. The first three miles were full of chatter; there was energy and it was fun. Somewhere around sugarhouse park the noise stopped and the only sounds were people breathing and feet on the pavement. It kind of felt like being in a stampede. Coming out of the park I was a little behind my pace, so I sped up to catch my goal. At this point I was running around 7:45 miles, which was a little faster than I had trained for.
At this pace I was passing most people around me pretty quickly. I went to pass some dude with a blue long-sleeved shirt tied around his waste when he sped up to stay with me. I sized him up—a little smaller than me, running with headphones, using a Garmin, looked like a BYU guy—I had to beat him. Or at least not let him get ahead of me. My pace increased to closer to 7:30 (I was measuring my time by the mile markers and my watch). This stranger that I wanted to punch in the face kept with me all the way until mile 13 at which point he turned on the afterburners and left me behind. Five miles earlier this would have made me crazy, but at this point I was happy to let him take a 7:15 pace on his own. Just after mile 13 came the ugliest part of the race (as far a scenery goes)—Van Winkle for a couple of miles. Somewhere after that dude sped up I slowed my pace back down to between 7:45 and 8:00—set to finish just under my goal.
A few miles later I was surprised to see the BYU kid. As I passed him he gave me the runner’s nod. Boom. It was about this same time that I saw a spectator sporting a shirt that said “BYU, d-unit.” I was laughing for a couple of miles about that. I wanted to ask him what “d” usually stands for in his neck of the woods but decided to just keep running.
When I reached mile 20 I was tired of 500 East (the race goes along 500 East from 4500 South to 1300 South—the second ugliest part of the course). At this point I realized in my head that I was running farther than I had ever gone before. I don’t know if this psyched me out or what, but somewhere between mile 21 and 22, things changed. Maybe I hadn’t drunk enough water or maybe the cold I had all week was finally catching up to me, but I hit the metaphorical wall. My legs cramped up and everything started to hurt. My pace slowed down drastically. My goal changed from finish under 3:30:00 to finish.
When I came into Liberty park, Grace and my parents were there waiting for me. As soon as Gracie saw me she starting shouting and cheering. Now, I’m not a very emotional person. I don’t remember when the last time was I cried (I think it was when I got home from my mission five years ago), but at this point I came as close to bursting into tears as I have in a long time. It was weird. Gracie said, “dude, I’m running with you for the last three miles.” More emotion. A couple of tears. All I can do to keep from sobbing. So bizarre. Fortunately, nobody saw. Unfortunately, I’m writing about it on my blog so everyone will know anyway.
The worst part of the whole race was in the last mile. From Liberty Park the course goes down to State Street and heads up to South Temple. I never noticed how steep State is from 2nd South to South Temple. It was really nice of the race planners to include it in mile 26. Anyway, I crossed the finish line at The Gateway with a final time of 3:42:49. Then, emotional but not crying, I swore to myself I would never do another one of these things again. Not because I was short of my goal, but because of the insane amount of pain I had undergone in just the last four miles.
Endorphins are crazy things. Now, one week later, I am already looking into which I can sign up for, the Logan or Utah Valley Marathon. Mainly because I keep thinking about how it would be if I had finished as fast as I started. I want to make that 3:30:00 goal so bad, I might just do it. We’ll see.