After crossing the finish line at the Chicago Marathon I’ve been reflecting on my journey and trying to organize a roller coaster of emotions/thoughts. This post is not a traditional race recap, but more of a glimpse into my thoughts and emotions. I wish I could say it captures everything…but I’m sure I left a lot out. Regardless here’s the post:
I started my running career in 2010 and have been asked a simple question: Why do you run? Until Sunday afternoon I have struggled to find a proper answer. There are many reasons, health benefits, freedom, time to de stress but none of these truly answered the question..until the final stretch of Chicago Marathon.
The journey to the finish line took 10 months and 13 days and during that time I trained like a beast. I have pushed myself to go Further, Faster and Forever. I have dealt with major let downs which impacted my spirit and made me question why the hell I’m doing this. I have enjoyed the highs and finding out that I have so much potential. I have learned to relax and enjoy the ride. This latter point wasn’t something that I easily found, but man when I did…it made things a lot easier.
On Sunday morning I awoke with a sense of urgency. For a moment I wasn’t myself I felt like I was floating. When I arrived at Grant Park I was ready for battle. I quickly dropped off my gear and began my pre-race ritual (wait in line for the bathroom while doing dynamic stretches, scope the crowd and a light warm up run). I was probably one of the first runners who entered Corral B. When I entered I had the swagger of Apollo Creed, but the hunger of Rocky. I kept staring down the road in front of me….this race was about me vs me.
All year my goal was to run a 3 hour and 15 minute marathon (The BQ time for my age group). In reality if I really wanted to run Boston in 2015 I needed to run faster than 3:15 to have a realistic shot. So as I toed the line the plan was set I was going to run at a 3 hour and 10 minute marathon pace. All year I have flirted with 3:10 the only question that was unanswered did I have the heart and mental strength to do it. As soon as the horn went off I positioned myself behind the Nike 3:10 pacers. I felt we were going slow…but this had more to do with the fact that I like to run really fast in the first couple of miles. Holding it back and running even splits is something I am not good at. LOL. But as the race unfolded I was right there running a solid 3:10. At the half way mark I had achieved a personal best; I ran a 1:34:35 half. The crazy thing, I didn’t feel I was running as fast. But man was I flying. I felt comfy and I kept telling myself “Wow dude you belong..you can do this.”
Somewhere between mile 16 and 17 there was an aide station. The aide stations are pretty crowded and my pace group had no intention on stopping or slowing down. We flew in and out. But with the traffic and slippery road..I tweaked my left ankle. I felt ok for the next couple of miles but by the time I got to mile 20 I was hurting. My ankle was screaming and my form was breaking. I started doing the math and knew I would be close to my goal time. But I didn’t think I could hold the 3:10 pace. So I made the decision to stay as close as possible. If I was close..I would chase the pacers and they would help me get to the finish. By mile 22 the wheels began to fall off. My hip flexors were on fire. My ankle was killing me and I was having difficulty getting power off my left foot as I took a step. As my form broke and the pain intensified I started to think “Oh No..not again. Dude you have come so far…” Then somewhere around mile 23 I saw Lorna (Lorna is a local Chicago runner who is simply amazing. She ran Boston this year and has been such a great support during my journey). As I made a right turn I was ready to quit. I had nothing left and the body was done. But Lorna somehow found me and when we made eye contact..she simply gave me a smile and a nod. The gesture is something I’ve seen before during our fun runs. On this day it said…IT’S OK..GO FOR IT!
Now the race was no longer about 26.2 miles, but a quick 3.2 mile run. My plan was to make it to Michigan and go for it. It was really balls to the wall…just get to the finish line strategy. Man was 3.2 miles the longest and most painful thing I’ve done all year. My arms were pumping, my mind was screaming my mantra’s and I tried with all my will to propel forward. The pain was overwhelming. I really wanted to quit…but I knew I had 2.2 miles to go. Along the way I heard a couple of cheers..people actually screamed my full name. That was so cool!!! Plus it gave me a huge boost of confidence. As I got to the final 1.2 miles I could see Roosevelt. I knew I had nothing left. Yet I wasn’t freaked out. I started to ask myself what would Emz do…she ran 108.88 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill. Dude you are 800 meters away. Emz would tell you get moving. So as I made a right turn onto Roosevelt I let it all go. I used whatever gas, energy, and effort I had left on that damn bridge. I felt like a turtle and by the time I made my last turn..I knew what I had just accomplished. I ran as hard as I could towards the finish line. For the first time in my life I actually threw my hands up and flashed three fingers. I went Further, Faster and I will forever know the answer to my question.
My goal was to qualify for Boston. I finished in 3 hours, 15 minutes and 48 seconds. I missed my BQ by :48 seconds. Yes I was disappointed. But, as I made my last turn and sprinted for the finish line I said I knew what I had just accomplished. In 3 hours, 15 minutes and 48 seconds I ran to be Extraordinary.
This post is not intended to brag about my time nor to ask for pity. This post is for all you Average Joe Athletes asking yourself a similar question(s). Whatever your sport and/or dream you have to dedicate yourself to the journey. For in the journey is where you will find your answers and have the opportunity to learn who you really are.
A special shout out to my family for allowing me to chase my dreams for the last four years.
A humble THANK YOU to my Further Faster Forever teammates who have been so supportive during this journey. You made me feel like an Elite and words can not express how grateful I am for your support.
Emz, Shannon, Shawn, Heather, Daniela, Lorna and David G. Thank You for the wise words, your positive spirit and support during some tough moments.
What’s next? :48 seconds…………