Journal Entry 042910: Marathon diary

Sunday, April 25, 2010, 5:30 AM ...In the Bricktown Residence Inn for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon; we were suited up, had applied preemptive band-aids, and were psyched to run. Cyndi was doing the half-marathon out of deference to a newly sore knee; i was running the marathon because it had been so long since my last one.

6:30 AM … At the race start with thousands of runners. I wasn’t nervous aboutgoing the distance even though this was my first marathon attempt since 2003, but I was nervous about taking so long to finish that Cyndi would get tired of waiting for me. My longest training run was a 19-miler, 4 weeks prior. However, I woke up that morning with a fever called Comeback Trail. I was ready to get started. Like it says in Psalms 19:5, “a champion rejoicing to run his course.”

8:00 AM … It was nothing but head wind and uphill from mile 9 all the way to the turnaround at Lake Hefner, about mile 14. It was a huge relief to finally turn my back to the wind and start back toward town. Unfortunately, downhills and tailwinds never give back as much as uphills and headwinds take.

11:00 AM … I phoned Cyndi at mile 20 to tell her where I was and that I wouldn’t finish before the hotel check-out time. She knew that, already.

I was surprised that the marathon offered pretzels at every aid station. It was apparently important since they used 5 or 6 volunteers to do this at every opportunity. I passed on the pretzels. They didn’t look that appetizing to me. I also passed on the GU packets. I had been chewing on Gel Blocks, and GU would’ve been too much shock to my belly.

I drank one PowerAid mixed with one water at every aid station, and it turned out to be just right. I never felt dehydrated and never had to make a pit stop.

12:00 AM … I hit the wall at mile 24, but managed to keep my run/walk pattern for another mile. Then, at mile 25, I was done. It was all I could do to walk in from there.

I took a personal inventory. My knees didn’t hurt worse that they did at mile 5, my feet had blisters but they weren’t getting worse, my hips didn’t hurt at all and that is usually one of my biggest concerns. So my only reason to quit was mental fatigue, which was indefensible, and my general lack of energy. But I knew that the human brain lies to itself claiming to be exhausted when it actually has a lot left (an evolutionary thing, so there will be a reserve of energy available when a lion comes over the horizon), so I assumed the tiredness I felt was not an accurate picture. I just kept going.

About mile 26 I saw Cyndi patiently waiting for me (she had finished her race hours before). I also saw the finish line. There aren’t many things that look better than a finish line; unless it is my smiling wife standing alongside. I wanted to finish the day running instead of walking so I tried to start back up, only to stumble and almost fall to the pavement from deep cramps in both calves. That was weird and unpredictable. But after a few baby steps I managed to get both feet off the ground into a peg-legged run across the line.

12:38 AM … I finished in a painfully slow 6:08, definitely my slowest marathon, ever, by at least 40 minutes. But still, it was a great race. The volunteers and enthusiasm and aid stations and music were great. Many of the neighborhoods we ran through hosted yard parties and they hollered and cheered as we ran past. And downtown OKC was beautiful and fun.

1:00 PM … We left for home soon after I exited the finish chute. Since Cyndi had checked out of the hotel before I finished, I changed clothes in a gas station men's room on the way to the airport. I left my running socks on, though. I knew my feet had been massacred and I was afraid they would hurt worse if I looked at them. So I didn’t. I left my socks on until bedtime.

I had worked too hard not to strut a little, I so I decided to wear something marathony. The official race packet T-shirt was plain white cotton (I'll save it for our marathon quilt), but the finisher shirt was dark green and made of technical fabrics. Very nice. I wore it home, and it was fun to see other green finisher shirts scattered around the airport. Marathoners would nod their heads in approval and wave from 100' away, an instant camaraderie between us. It’s funny how you can have more in common with someone you've never met than someone you might work with for years, simply because they have a finisher shirt on,

Monday morning: next-day ... I felt surprisingly good.  While walking Lady around the park I realized that I was no more sore than if I'd hiked Guadalupe Peak over the weekend, and that was an acceptable level of discomfort. Of course, it could’ve been the four Advil I’d taken that morning. My toes were a mess, but a few Band-Aids and a few days off would take care of that.

I’d experienced no structural problems, by which I mean my knees still worked, my ankles and feet were fine (I got several significant blisters on my toes, but I think that was due mostly to the weird effects of aging, and I was certain I could prevent that in the future). My only limitations were mental toughness (always a risky thing to count on) and conditioning (something I can work on). Conclusions? I can and will, do this again.

I really enjoyed this marathon. It was a risky choice to run so late in the year. I think this is probably the last race of the season without going to Minnesota, but they scheduled this race to coincide with the bombing of April 1995. I was amazed how the citizens of OKC have turned that great tragedy into energy. I lost count how many times a race volunteer or course marshal said to me as I was passing by, “Thanks for coming; thanks for helping us remember.” It made me proud to be part of their memorial observance.

This was my 8th marathon finish, and while that’s a lot compared to the general population, it’s not so many among marathon runners. However, it wasn’t so long ago that I thought my marathon days were behind me due to a nagging left knee injury that left me limping most of the time. I was sad about that. Not sad that I was injured, but sad that I hadn’t run more when I had the chance. Now I hope to take advantage of this second opportunity.

To be honest, I don’t believe everyone has to run marathons, or run at all, for that matter. If you do, it will add value to your life … physical value, fitness value, health value, mental value, and spiritual value. Finishing a marathon is transformational. It changes you.

However, if not running marathons, all of us should do something that adds energy to our lives, something that makes our heart come alive. Peter Drucker once said, “Nothing good happens by chance; left on its own, most things unravel.” If we aren’t intentional about feeding our spirit and watching over our heart, we will unravel. This marathon was another intentional effort on my part to feed my heart. I wish I had run faster, but comeback trails are long and slow. But they are satisfying and full of hope.



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119