I really had no intention of actually running this race to finish it. I had no place at the starting line to begin with. The only reason I even toed the line?...I had registered months ago in hopes of my recovery and rehab going better than expected by the time December rolled around. All in all, rehab had gone quite well, but I continued (and continue) to have episodes of "worry". Worried that I'd reinjure my ankle without any notice or even a warning of anything being wrong, worried that I'd develop another blood clot and on and on. There was really no rhyme or reason to it, I just started to feel like this sometimes and as a result, I would back off my training. I would increase my mileage, never really pushing my pace just to be safe, but then I'd back off again on barely run at all.
So when marathon week arrived and my running had actually gone pretty well for a couple of weeks with increased mileage at a "safe" pace, I figured I'd just head downtown to see how far my feet would take me. I was hopeful that I could maybe complete 20 miles before the wheels would come off either due to pain or exhaustion. I hadn't run more than 15 miles at a time in the last 12 months and that only once, but I had been running and logging at least some miles. I figured finishing was out of the question, but maybe 20 miles would be realistic.
In order to accomplish my goal, I decided to be extremely conservative with my pace to increase my chances of completing 20 miles, but not too conservative because my wife and I had tickets for the Nutcracker that afternoon, so I really needed to be done in 5 hours to allow myself to limp home and take a shower before heading to the concert hall. 5 hours was the goal no matter what distance I would cover. Missing the Nutcracker with my wife really wasn't an option:-) I was very happy to read on FB the evening before the race that there was 4:55 pace group (thanks Suzanne and Carrie), so I figured I'd try to stay with them as long as possible (read: until the wheels came off).
As luck would have it, the skies also cleared somewhat just in time for the race start. After mingling with some familiar folks at the Holiday Inn (for the last time before it gets torn down), I headed outside and to the start line. The temps were perfect and the rain had mostly stopped. I was going to have a great 20 mile training run. With my cell phone in hand (to call my wife for pickup along the course), I started my fourth Rocket City Marathon.
For the first time, I was able to talk while running anything shorter than an ultra marathon. I usually push so hard from the start that I never really have the extra energy required to carry on conversations during the race. I always felt bad, because peeps must have thought I was just rude. Nope, I was just busy breathing:-) It was great to actually be able to carry on conversations while I was out there, presumably for 5 hours or less, hopefully reaching my goal of 20 miles. The conversations continued and the miles slowly clicked away.
I continued to check my splits every mile but other than that, I just kept going, enjoying a nice long run. An hour went by, then two, and I continued to feel great. No pain anywhere. I was starting to feel confident that 20 miles was very possible today. I kept a steady 11 minute pace and wasn't great. I wanted to pick it up, but I kept reminding myself that it's all about making it to 20 miles today, just like the days when I first started running and it was all about just completing the distance for me, never about pace.
The miles continued to pass and as I approached mile 20, I was still on track to actually finish the full distance in 5 hours. Not only that, I was still feeling great, even ready to pick up my pace. I also started to pass some people, which really has never happened to me before in a marathon. Why? Because I ALWAYS blow up. Not today. I decided to take it one mile at a time until I started to hurt or slow down. Neither happened and when I made the final turn to the finish and saw David Bier's confused look, it finally sunk in that I was actually going to finish my fourth Rocket City Marathon. I was just as confused as him and I have never had a bigger smile on my face when crossing the finish line than today. Yes, it was my slowest marathon ever, but I managed to finish it, just a year after my "little health scare" and just 10 months after reconstructive ankle surgery.
I'm looking forward to whatever is next!