Monday, May 16, 2011

Blast From The Past: My first marathon

The 2010 Fargo marathon was my first marathon.  I had signed up with the training group again and had been primarily running with Rick like the previous year.  This year training went more smoothly because of the previous year's experience and the flood didn't impact my training as much.  Heading into the marathon I felt well prepared.  The 20 mile runs had been very hard, but I had gotten through them and I was confident I had earned my place at the starting line.  My goal was to finish in 5 hours and I didn't have a backup time goal. If I missed 5 hours then my only goal would be to finish.

The special guest at the 2010 Marathon was Dean Karnazes.  He was scheduled to speak at the pasta feed the night before the marathon and also run in the event.  A couple of days before, Rick casually asked if I'd ever considered running an ultra marathon and I told him I was interested in doing one eventually.  I asked why he was curious and he told me that he was trying to get some of the local ultra marathoners a chance to meet with Dean the morning before the race.  He said I should try to make it if I could as a "future ultra marathoner." I arranged to get some time off of work and met up with a group of runners in the lobby of the dome.  We chatted as we waited for Dean, but eventually realized that he was running a bit late.  A few minutes turned into a few hours and most of our group had to leave to get back to work.  I thought I should probably head back as well, but figured since I'd waited this long I should stick it out.  Eventually Dean turned up and Rick, Rachel, Ben and I got to chat with him before a press conference.  Dean was shorter then what I thought he would be, but I was amazed by how toned he looked.  I was even more amazed by the interest he showed in us.  Ben talked about how he started running and about running the 100 miler at Leanhorse.  Dean seemed as motivated by what he heard as we were by getting to meet him.  After chatting with him for a bit I got a picture and headed back to work with a big smile.
Dean Karnazes and I before my first marathon
The morning of the race, Erin and I headed up to the dome leaving about the same time we left the previous year.  I didn't anticipate the increased crowds and found traffic more problematic then last year.  Eventually, we made it to the dome and I met up with Rick again in his camper.  Some of Rick's family joined us including his sister, Jodi. Jodi was hoping to qualify for Boston and Rick was going to pace her during the marathon.  We chilled out in the camper and I was much more relaxed then the previous year until it started to rain.  I was a little concerned about having to run in the rain, but I figured I'd deal with it. Heather, another runner friend of ours joined us just before the start of the marathon.  She was hoping to tag along with Rick and Jodi and also qualify for Boston. Eventually Erin headed out to get to the first location on the route where I would see her. With the start time getting closer and closer we started to all exit the camper and head in the direction of the starting line.  Rick as usual had some last second thing to take care of and was the last out of the camper.  By the time he was out, Jodi and Heather were lost in the crowd.  Rick showed a little frustration about losing them, but with this many people packed around the starting line there wasn't really much we could do.  We headed towards the back of the mass of people and awaited the start.

Shortly after crossing the starting line, Rick and I parted ways.  He was going to have to run much faster then I should be if he was going to catch his sister.  The rain didn't last much past the first mile and then gave way to some clouds and a lot of humidity. As I neared downtown, I saw Erin for the first time.  Things were going well at this point and I was just a little ahead of schedule.  The route cut over to Broadway for a bit and then turned east towards Moorhead where I saw Erin one more time.  Once in Moorhead I made my way over to the pacer for the 5 hour group and chatted with him for a bit.  I found myself needing to pee and started to pick up the pace a little to get a head of the 5 hour group.  At the 5 mile mark I found a port a potty without a line and stopped.  I felt disappointed that I was stopping during a race, but I know how uncomfortable it can be when you have to go to the bathroom while you run.  Around mile 6 is the first relay exchange; after going by that I found myself being passed by all of the people with fresh legs.  Crossing the bridge into Fargo I looked for Erin again and soon found her.  We had enough time as we passed for her to tell me that Rick had gone by a little while earlier still looking for Jodi and Heather.  From there the route continued south along Lindenwood Park.  As I neared the park I found my family who had come to cheer me on.  

A bit further south from my family was a short out and back right next to the river.  I had told Erin about this spot on the course because she would be able to see me 3 times without moving.  I was still doing well after seeing her the second time as I headed into the southern most loop on the course.  Rick and I passed head-on  as he was leaving that loop and I saw that he had found Jodi but Heather was no where to be seen.  We didn't have much time to talk as we passed so I was left to wonder what happened. I found out later that Heather had some issues and wound up throwing up around the halfway point and was not able to run the rest of the race with the same level of intensity. However, Jodi was able to keep her pace the rest of the way and did meet her goal of qualifying for Boston.  The river drive area is a much newer development compared to the neighborhoods we had previously been running in.  Instead of the towering trees we had been running under, the road was lined with young trees that didn't give any shade.  It was here where the sun came out and the temperature started to climb.  I remember early on seeing someone with a sprinkler near the road and thinking of how nice that will feel on the way back.  I thought it couldn't be more then a few blocks and I'd be running through it on my way back to the dome.  It turned out the loop was a lot longer then what I thought it was and I was pretty well cooked when I left the river drive area.  I saw Erin again before heading to the 7th, 8th, 9th street portion of the course.

Around the 16 mile mark I was struggling badly.  I stuck to my decision to keep my pace as long as I could hold out and fought through another mile.  At mile 17 I passed my family again.  I switched from the hydration pack to my fuel belt and took off again.  I was able to make it a few blocks before deciding that this was it, my 5 hour goal was gone and I started walking.  I've described this section of the course as 4 miles of going nowhere.  You run North on 7th, then go over a block and run south on 8th before doing a small loop and going back North on 9th.  It's a nice neighborhood, but this back and forth really sucks.  Fortunately it gives spectators a good place to see runners multiple times and my family had a great opportunity to see just how much I was struggling.  My sister, her boyfriend and Erin all took turns "running" with me as I plodded along as best I could.  Around mile 21 Erin asked if I wanted her to keep going with me and I said no, so she headed back to the car to meet me at the finish.  Shortly after she left I was feeling really down about how things were going.  The thought of quitting had crossed my mind, but I knew it would be easier to deal with the temporary pain then to live with quitting. After pushing through the discomfort a little while longer, I caught up with someone I had been going back and forth with for a while.  She had gone over to a course official because she wasn't feeling well. After I had gone a couple of blocks I could hear an ambulance coming to get her.  I felt fortunate to still be going even though I was in a lot of pain.

After making it back though the downtown area I ran across someone in a pink tutu.  I heard a "Hi Jon" and looked up to see that it was Rachel.  I was really glad to see her. Injury had kept her out of the race, but she had come to see some friends of hers.  Seeing how miserable I was, she kept me company as we headed north towards the dome.  Every now and then I was able to get a little running in, but for the most part I was walking.  Eventually I made it to the dome and it was time to leave Rachel.  I thanked her for keeping me company and did my best to run to the finish.  Crossing the finish line was very emotional.  I thought back through the 26 miles I had just traveled, and then through all of the training I had done to get to this point.  It had taken a year longer then what I first planned but I had finally finished a marathon.

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