Back in 2003 I cycled quite a bit with my friend Mark. We consistently hammered out 4 solid rides a week: A criterium race on Tuesdays. A 25-mile group ride on Wednesdays. 50 to 75 mile rides on Saturdays and Sundays. On the other days of the week I’d swim a few times and run once or twice. I directed all this training towards completing a few triathlons. Mark directed his training on making me suffer and towing me around the state. (Mark is a former Florida state cycling champ.) The biggest and coolest race I completed that summer was the 2003 Timberman Half Ironman in New Hampshire. I was in pretty good shape that year, so I figured I’d give a marathon shot. I signed up for the 2003 Marine Corp Marathon. As a training run, 3 weeks prior to the MCM I did the Hartford Half Marathon. I felt great and completed it in 1:35:28 (7:17 Pace.)
On October 26th, 2003, I confidently lined up with 16,000 other runners in Washington, DC and set out on my first marathon. I saw my family at the 2-mile mark, smiled, waved and let out a “hoorah!” At that point I thought the race was going to be a blast. But I don’t remember having anymore more fun after that point. By the time I got to the halfway point I was running out of gas and was knocking on the door of severe pain. I heard about hitting some “wall” thing, supposedly at around mile 20. I believed there must’ve been some kind of mistake because the wall seemed to be placed in front of me a bit too early. Wtf? I realized at that point I had no business trying to run a marathon. Doubling the furthest distance I had run to that point was a lot tougher than I thought. I saw my family again at about the 14-mile point and was extremely hungry. I had not paid attention to the food stations and didn’t know where they were ahead of me because I didn’t anticipate I’d need them. I figured I was just going to “suck it up” for a few hours. How hard could 4 hours of running be? I had battled through 6 hours of a half-ironman triathlon. I figured a marathon couldn’t be harder than that. Wrong answer!! I can’t believe how stupid I was. So I desperately asked my family to get me some food. The course looped around the National Mall, so I saw my family again a few miles later where they had a snickers bar and a bottle of Gatorade. I downed the food/drink and walked a bit to catch my wind. The next 6 miles were walking and shuffling, walking and shuffling, a miserable death march. It was terrible. When I crossed over the bridge back to Crystal City, there were Jersey barriers that I couldn’t resist stopping and sitting on. I really did not feel like continuing. I never felt so exhausted or experienced that much pain while running. I was completely depleted of energy. When I crossed the bridge I was very close to the hotel where we were staying. I thought to myself “The hotel is only a half mile away and the finish line is 3 miles. Thoughts of lying on my bed were difficult to get out of my mind. My family was waiting for me at the end so I figured I needed to finish. I dragged myself through the rest of the course and finished in just under 5 hours (Officially 4:58:22 (11:22 Pace).) The only consolation I had was that my time was pretty competitive in the Female over 65 age group. I would’ve placed third.
After the humbling MCM I wasn’t that eager to run 26.2 again. Actually, my wife and I had two kids and the focus turned away from athletic endeavors for a few years.
In 2006, I started back into working out and also talked my cycling partner Mark into giving the marathon a try. I wanted someone else to join in my suffering. After actually completing some long runs in my training and being a little more prepared with a race plan, I finished the 2006 Hartford Marathon in 3:36:22 (8:16 Pace). I had much better results in my second marathon attempt but it was still painful and very much a struggle. Mark displayed his incredible tolerance for pain and gutted out a 3:19:47 first marathon. Incredible! With a much better performance than at the 2003 MCM I was now hooked on the distance and looked forward to more races.
Me and Mark after the 2006 HM.
Through the winter of 2006 into 2007 I stepped up my training and was focused on improving my time and giving a shot at qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I was in great shape and the weather was as good as you can expect for February in the northeast as I toed the line for the 2007 Hyannis marathon. I was very confident that my goal would be achieved. In the first half I was joking with other runners and having a good time and hit 13.1 miles in 1:33:25 (7:07 Pace.) And then, as I’ve experienced before, a freight train blindsided me and I struggled to keep pace. At the 20-mile mark, a steamroller came by and finished me off. I struggled my way in and finished in 3:40:22 (8:24 Pace) I was disappointed that not only did I not come close to a BQ but also that I couldn’t improve on my 3:36 at the 2006 HM. After yet another humbling experience, a 3:15 marathon seemed (and still does) like it was going to be a monumental challenge. Mark ran this race as well and was able to keep pace after I faded. Impressively he pushed through and finished in 3:15:02. I admired his endurance, focus, toughness and ability to just simply get it done.
50 yards from the Hyannis finish.
In between the Vermont 50 and the Stone Cat 50 I completed the 2007 Hartford Marathon. I was nursing a groin injury so I had no expectations. The plan was to just run based on how I felt. Based on how much effort I was expending during the first few miles of the race, I knew that I wasn’t going to PR. I did however end up in the same range as the previous two marathons with a 3:36:58 (8:17 Pace.) I was happy to do well and get another 26.2 under my belt. And Mark again finished consistent with his previous marathons and knocked out a 3:15:52. Amazing for a guy who has a body more like Rocky Balboa than Ryan Hall! :)
So here I am getting ready for my 5th marathon. It’ll be an epic battle for sure…