Phil blogs for the Publix Georgia Marathon as he recovers from injury and (yikes!) surgery. Wish him luck!

Video 1: The elites during mile 1. If you look closely, you can see Ryan and I had a little moment.

Pete’s “Race Report” and Pictures.

Yeah so, I didn’t race. I couldn’t race. It was all my energy to walk around and see the other “boys” race. But whatever. That’s all I need to say about that.

My race report. It. Was. Hot. Unhealthy, dangerous, they should have red-flagged the race hot. I went to Mile 1 and the 5K mark to see Phil, Dave, and Alan. Then I wanted to go to the end and see if we saw any records. I knew the course record would fall, expected an American Record, and thought possibly, just maybe, we’d see a second world record in just under a month.

So I walk to Columbus Ave. around 8:45. It’s probably around 60-62 degrees. When I get in the stands at the finish around 9:10, it’s already 70. It got hot fast. The course record and American record were on pace to be broken by at least a minute each at mile 18. By the end of the race, the course record was only broken by 5 seconds, and Ryan Hall missed the AR by nearly 3 minutes. Everybody cracked.

Here are some pics.

The day before race day. The weather was perfect in the city-except for a marathon.

Dave, Phil, Alan 1 hour before the race. 

Starting line 30 min before start.

Some people running. I don’t know them. Or maybe one of our guys is in there.

The final turn at the finish. See that sun? 

I’ll post some video I took next.

The Finish Line

It was an emotional weekend. Marathons, ultimately, are intensely personal things. I don’t think even I realized all I had invested in Chicago. October 9, 2011 is a day I will not soon forget.

The Short Version

The short version is, I broke. I broke early and utterly. At mile 10, I knew I had to let my pace group go. And I knew so much more. I knew even then that I would not break 4 hours, which means I wouldn’t even get a PR out of the race I’d been training for and anticipating for so long. For whatever reason, I wan’t strong enough. Having set an aggressive (but, I felt, reasonable) goal, I will not pretend that my performance was anything other than a bitter disappointment. But there’s so much more to the story.

Some of More

Around mile 7, I started feeling the side stitches, once common in my running career, but long-since banished - or so I thought. The pace didn’t feel too fast aerobically, and my legs felt fine, but the pain didn’t subside. I suffered through the next 3 miles, praying the Gatorade would help. But it was no use. There was only one solution: slow down. So I did. And even that didn’t help much. I made it to the half in about 1:51. But from that point, it was either run/walk or DNF.

Believe me, the last thing I wanted my “race report” post to become was an enumeration of the reasons I didn’t quit. But miles 13-15 were a real mental battle. When I saw the aid station at mile 15, I came very close to dropping out. But I didn’t, for several reasons.

  • Self-respect certainly played a role. Having logged so many miles and fought through my back problems, I needed to finish.
  • I was not going to let Dave, Alan and Peter down.
  • I was not going to let the great people (and kids) of Chicago Run down. They treated us incredibly well all weekend. (Side note: it’s not too late to make a donation, here.)
  • This may sound strange, but I felt I owed it to the sport of running to keep going. I believe in the integrity of competition, and dropping out when I could have kept going would have just felt…wrong. You don’t quit just because you’re having a bad day; you finish what you started.

More of More

Something else went through my mind as well. I made a commitment to God (which I wrote about on Friday) that I wanted my race to honor him. Knowing that I wasn’t actually injured - that I could finish without damaging my body, even if it took a lot longer than planned, even if it meant walking 10% of the course - I simply couldn’t quit. That may sound cheesy or hyper-spiritual. That’s OK. All I can say is, I felt the desire to “run the race with perseverance.

It is difficult to explain how I felt at the starting line. When the announcer said “One minute to go!” I bowed my head and said the Lord’s Prayer. A feeling came over me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment. I was welling up at the moment. At the time, I thought it meant that I was ready for something great, in the sense of a great time.

At mile 15, with all hope of a “respectable” finish gone, I felt the same feeling. I knew the last 11 miles would be painful, and they were. But I also knew that I was supposed to be there, suffering through it. I hope to take from that the metaphorical lesson - sometimes what you’re supposed to do is painful.

The Rest of More

When I ran my first marathon 18 months ago in 3:59, I was proud. True, I had fallen short of my goal of 3:50, but I had fought through the pain in the last 5K to break 4 hours, running the last 1.2 miles in 11 minutes to do so. I would be lying if I said I was proud of anything about yesterday’s race. I yearn for redemption. When I finished yesterday in 4:22, I walked through the finish area, collapsed on the grass and wept. When I saw the small but merry band of our supporters who made the trip, I wept again (really, sobbed is more like it). When I left my hotel room and got on the train this morning, I felt an odd but very real sense of heartbreak.

And so, the primary emotion that I will associate with the 2011 Chicago Marathon is…gratitude. (You weren’t expecting that, were you?) I am tremendously grateful for the ability and opportunity to run 26.2 miles. As late as 2 weeks ago, that was an iffy proposition. But, other than the requisite soreness, I am healthy. Running a marathon is a gift. When I was on the course, I saw the following:

  • A girl with a shirt on that read “And they said I would never run again!”
  • An amputee and war veteran running on a prosthetic leg.
  • A man in front of me, staggering, mere feet from the finish, who was supported by two fellow competitors as he limped across.

Marathons are intensely personal things. I wouldn’t trade my experience. It’s what I was supposed to do.