I realized that I haven't posted since last September and I've finally decided to get back into posting on a regular basis. A little update of what my running life has been like since last September is what I'll start with. Along with that I want to start posting more stories of struggle, inspiration and hope, some of my own personal experience and some that I just have found and have had from friends.
We'll begin today simply with an update.
Since September 2009, I have been running quite a bit and have competed in a number of races. I have run 2 marathons, 4 5Ks, a 10 miler and starting running races as an official pacer. I'll go in chronological order. In October I completed my 4 career Twin Cities Marathon in a course P.R. of 3:06:56, not as fast as I had hoped for but still had a great race and am still fighting my battle with Summit Avenue. After the marathon, I ran a series of 5K races: the Anoka Grey Ghost Run, the Turkey Day 5K in Minneapolis, and the Reindeer Run at Lake Harriet. All of them were sub-18:00, with a best of 17:37 at the Turkey Day 5K, and a 2nd place finish at the Reindeer Run. Right around the time that I was running these 5Ks I decided on my spring marathon, the Go! St. Louis Marathon in April 2010.
As the calendar turned to 2010, my training for St. Louis intensified. At the end of 2009, I spent 6 days in St. Louis at a missions conference and got an opportunity to see some of the race course and it got me going on getting ready for that run. While at the missions conference (Urbana 09) I also made a decision to run with a purpose other than just competing. I decided to run for a cause, the Hall Steps Foundation, an organization created by Ryan and Sara Hall. Go to their website to find out more. In preparing through a tough winter of training I hit my career high in mileage per week, just shy of 90 miles and had my highest mileage month ever (March - 319). In March, I ran a 10 mile race, the 100% Irish for a Day 10 Mile at Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. I placed 9th overall in a P.R. of 1:00:20. It was a great race and a big confidence booster.
My winter and early spring laid all the groundwork for the marathon in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, April 11, 2010, a race I felt truly ready for. The entire experience of the trip and the race was unforgettable. I flew to St. Louis on my own the day before and my fiancee and her mom joined me later that day in St. Louis. An exciting moment for me was getting my race number because I had qualified for the elite/competitive start field for this race and was assigned #10!! After the expo, we relaxed the rest of the day and I prepared for my race the next morning.
Race morning came and I was wide awake at 4am. I went through my usual race morning routine of a hot shower, dressing in my warm-up clothes and a breakfast of a bagel, yogurt, a banana and Gatorade. I left my hotel at 5:45am and walked to the start (only 4 blocks away). It was nerve racking walking to the start on my own, watching the St. Louis Fire Department raise a gigantic American flag over the starting area. It reminded me of the finish area at Twin Cities. I ran my warm-up run of about a mile around the starting line, waited in a couple long lines to go to the bathroom multiple times and finally stripped down to my uniform and stepped into our reserved starting area at the front. I was freaking out at this point on the inside, but managed to keep composed on the outside. Moments before the race, I knelt and said a prayer which helped me relax and focus on my reason for doing all of this. 2 minutes later, I crossed the starting line and my ninth career marathon was underway...
I went out slow as I had planned, or at least I thought it was slow. It turns out I ran my opening mile in 5:55, 40 seconds faster than I wanted to be, the adrenaline had gotten to me again. Two miles later, I had to go to the bathroom, something that has happened to me in every marathon I have run. Once out of the bathroom, I was more relaxed and began hitting my pace. Jen and her mom found me at mile 6 and they were a welcome site in a place where I felt a little bit alone. I was near the front of a marathon of over 2000 runners and the further along the course I went the fewer spectators and competitors there were.Unfortunate for me I was already feeling soreness in my legs by the halfway point. I went through 13.1 in 1:25:04, right where I had hoped to be, but my goal had been to run a negative split race, and that would be a great challenge. The course proved to be much hillier than I had anticipated and it took more out of me than I had planned on.
When I reached mile 17 I was all alone in the race and very few spectators were in sight. I was getting a bit down on myself. I began to pray and then to sing to God, and I continued to remind myself of what and who I was running for. About a mile later I was still singing, and almost instantly my legs began to loosen up and I was able to open up my stride again. This feeling stayed with me for about 3 more miles before general fatigue and minor leg cramping finally took over, but it gave me the knowledge that I was not alone in my race.
Over the final 5 miles I fought the notion of stopping to walk numerous times but I never did. This is only the third marathon I've done where I never walked. When I could finally see the American flag that had been at the start I knew I was almost done. Jen and her mom were just underneath the flag cheering me on like crazy! I was going to finally get a new P.R. and I pushed all the way to the finish line and crossed in 25th place in a new best time of 2:58:15. It hurt but the elation was like nothing else! Having a P.R. I had been trying to break for nearly 4 years was such a great confirmation that all of the hard work I had put in was worth it.
The biggest thing I took away from this race though, was that I know I can be a whole lot faster in the marathon than I have been to this point. It has awakened me to want to work significantly harder in my training than I have ever been before and I can't wait to get started in the next month!