Well, the Twin Cities Marathon has come and gone for 2013, and my 14th career marathon is complete. The legs are mostly recovered, but the body is still physically tired. Sunday was certainly a memorable day. As with any marathon, it wasn't easy, I was challenged physically, mentally, spiritually, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to step onto that 26.2 mile course and test my limits.
The day began as every Twin Cities does for me with a ride to the Dome with my parents and my wife. I met up with my friend Justin and his wife, Kristen, who was also running, and their entire family support crew. They accompanied us to the start, which was great to have those familiar faces around. Once the race got going, a thought that kept finding its way into my head was that this truly feels like home. It seemed like every mile I encountered someone I knew cheering on the sidelines. From Eric and 2 and 7, Jason at 3, 7 and 17, my family crew and friends at 7, 11, 17 and 21.5, Anders at 4, Mark at 18...you get the idea.
My true physical test came around mile 12 when I was making my way around Lake Nokomis. I had gone out a little quicker than originally planned but I was still very much under control and felt good. However, at 12, I began to feel some rubbing on my right foot at the top of my arch. I stopped to adjust my shoe to see if that would fix the problem. It did not. By mile 17 I knew I had a full blown blister on the arch of my foot and it was going to be a painful struggle to get through the remaining miles. I also developed a blister on the other foot in almost the same spot. These proved to be my downfall on this day. Prior to mile 18 I had been maintaining a solid pace averaging between 6:40 and 6:50 per mile. After 18, I couldn't muster anything faster than 7:00 from there on out.
One of the most pivotal moments of the race came as I was climbing the St. Thomas hill at 21. I was struggling physically and mentally at this point, doubting myself and feeling the pain of 21 miles and a couple nasty blisters. I knew waiting at the top of the hill would be my wife, my parents, and many more of my friends. I was glad to see my mother-in-law (who had run the 10 mile earlier) and my brother-in-law. To get myself up that hill, I began chanting to myself, "Gracie Strong." As I approached the top of the hill I had planned to come over to my family to have them start chanting the same thing, but I never had to...they were already chanting it for me! It was very emotional at that point, but it was incredibly uplifting when I truly needed it. No doubt, God was in that moment and Gracie was with me helping me fight through those tough miles.
Unfortunately, it did not get any easier. Summit was brutal on my body as it always seems to be. I looked forward to getting to mile 24 where I would be met with a crazy crowd of spectators led by TC Running Company. There would be a lot of Wayzata supporters there, and with me decked out in Wayzata gear, I knew I'd get a jolt of energy! And I was right! The crowd went nuts! I got a loud shoutout from the TCRC store owner on his sound system and I was filled with a new level of adrenaline.
I finally reached the last mile and came upon a friend of mine from church who had been on our summer Nicaragua missions trip with me. She ran with me for a block or two and just kept me positive. It came at just the right moment again. In that final mile, I passed 3 college teammates all cheering for me and then the Capitol came into view. The final half mile, I just kept saying to myself, "Gracie Strong. Gracie Strong. Gracie Strong." It kept my legs moving and driving to the finish. I crossed the line in a time of 3:09:55. It was not my fastest day, but it was without a doubt one of the most memorable marathons I've ever had for so many reasons other than my final time. I laid it on the line, pushed myself, hit moments where I doubted I could get there, but I fought through and made it.
In the days since the marathon, I have been tired and sore most of the time. I've been treating my blisters and getting back to full health to eventually start running again. I intend to take the remainder of this week off just for the sake of giving my body a break and then gradually resume regular running. In the fall after a marathon, I typically will run a few 5Ks for fun, to see how fast I can go. I don't yet know how many I'll do, but I know of at least 2: The 5K at the Nike Heartland Regional Cross Country Championships in Sioux Falls, SD and the Turkey Day 5K in downtown Minneapolis on Thanksgiving. These have become staples in the fall for me (with the exception to an injury year last fall).
And I've already made my decision on marathon #15. Most marathons can attest to the addiction that this kind of race puts on you. I have committed to returning to St. Louis in April 2014 to run the St. Louis Marathon for the second time. I am going to be training with one of my college teammates for this one throughout the winter and we both intend to go after P.R.'s on the streets of St. Louis in the spring! Until that training begins in December, I'm going to simply enjoy running and the fact that I have the opportunity to do it to enjoy the beautiful running we are spoiled with here in Minnesota each fall.