Marathon morning was pretty typical. I didn’t sleep much, waking up about once an hour to check the time. I guess I worry about missing the race. I got out of bed 10 minutes before the alarm buzzed. I put on my previously laid out clothes and made a pot of tea for a caffiene jolt. I poured the tea into an empty water bottle and sipped it on the trip to the marathon start line. It was a short 10 minute walk from the hotel.
The weather was beautiful for running. Slightly overcast with a cool, light breeze. The lines were short at the port-a-potties so I took a quick pre-race leak. My next thought was finding the gear check. This was tougher than I had hoped, and I didn’t get rid of my stuff until 15 minutes before the gun sounded. This was one of my only complaints about the whole marathon. Gear check was too hard to find.
A big crowd was already lined up and I had to slip through like cheese thru a stack of crisp nachos. After a couple minutes I made it to the front and found Michal, the future world record holder. We exchanged a few pleasantries and amused the runners around us with stories of joggling and a few pre-race tricks. Michal does a pretty good Mills Mess.
We agreed to start out together and we did. The gun sounded, we were off. Michal stayed behind me for the first mile. We did it in about 6:35. I knew this was a bit quick and decided to slow down to a 7 min/mile pace. My world record hopes started to fade. As I watched Michal extend his lead, I mentally wished him well and focused on my own race. Maybe someday I will get a world record, but it wasn’t going to be that day.
Near mile 3 or 4 there was a small hill. It was actually a welcome change from the flat course we’d been trekking. My pace was steady, but when I passed the 10K mark in 45 minutes, I knew I’d slowed too much. It was a bit difficult to judge my pace because there weren’t timers at every mile marker. In fact, there were only 4 timers that I remembered, the 10K, half, 20 mile, and 25 mile marks. Since I can’t look at my watch, I really need timers to know how fast I’m going. Michal was smart, he had a biker riding alongside him barking out his times.
The crowds were small but steadily spaced throughout the race. They were great and really responded kindly to the joggling. Random crowd comments…”Hey that guys juggling!” “Look, a juggler!” “There’s ANOTHER juggler” “That’s cool” “You’re really talented” My favorite moments were seeing my wife at the first, 16th and 26th miles. Having a friendly face in the crowd makes for a much happier marathon.
At mile 9, I saw Ed Whitlock. He was about 4 minutes ahead of me. 75 years old and he’s faster than me. I was happy for him though. He provides a great example for which to strive. At mile 10 we turned back east and the sun was right in my eyes. Joggling into the sun is extremely challenging. You’ve got to look at the ground and keep the juggling pattern low. I was fortunate to make every catch. At mile 11 my number fell off. Fortunately, one of the runners behind me got my attention and gave it back to me. I thanked him, stuffed it into my running shorts and kept going.
At the half way point I was on pace to qualify for Boston. 1:37! But there was a whole half marathon to go. To qualify, I’ll really need to be closer to 1:30 at the half.
The second half was much tougher. Yes, I was more tired. But there was a pretty strong head-wind for most of the miles. I hadn’t counted on wind. It made the joggling much more challenging. There were times when I’d just throw a ball straight up and the wind would blow it into my other hand. Ah the challenges of a marathon joggler.
At mile 18 we ran through a picturesque area along the lake front. I saw a man stoop to pick up a garter snake coiled up on the road in the runner’s path. I wished someone would pick me up and move me along a few miles in the race. At this point I saw Michal again. He looked strong, like a real runner. As he passed, he gave a few words of encouragement. I threw one of my bean bags high, gave him a smile and a wave. I pondered cutting off a few miles to catch up but of course I’d never do that. I want to run every step of my marathons no matter how long it takes me.
At mile 19 it happened, I had my first and only drop. I wasn’t trying to show off or anything. I just made a bad throw and missed it. 2:35 into my run and I had a drop. Damn. I felt like a major league pitcher who has a no hitter spoiled in the 8th inning.
My hopes for a personal best faded at about mile 23 when the 3:20 pace group passed me by. I tried hard to keep up with them but I just couldn’t do it. Why couldn’t I do it? Sigh. At mile 25 I threw a bean bag high to look at my watch. 3:17. If I could run really hard I might match my second best time ever. But I wasn’t motivated enough. I ran as hard as I could but it was a measly 8 minute mile pace.
The last quarter mile featured a dark tunnel that made for the most precarious juggling on the whole path. I looked through my pattern and got thru without a drop. This section of the race cost Michal a couple of minutes because he momentarily lost his juggling bags. As I came out of the tunnel and saw the finish line, I was happy. I picked a few runners to catch up to and I did. Another runner came up along side me and passed me in the last 100 meters. But I’d have none of that. I started sprinting and edged passed him in the last 10 meters, 3:28:53. 231st place, instead of 232nd. Not bad out of 1842 finishers. Michal was 51st and set the new joggling world record at 2:57:52. Damn, I’ve really got to get faster.
Overall, it was a satisfying marathon. My joggling was well received and I even got to give a talk with Michal at the expo. That was great fun. Sure, I didn’t set a PR but if it were easy, every race would be a PR. I’ll do better in Chicago. And if not Chicago, maybe Arizona, or Las Vegas, or San Fransisco, or…somewhere