At first, it was dark. The marathon started at 6:10 am (10 minute delay) so the sun wasn’t up. No big deal for runners, but for jogglers, it was tough. My joggling skills were stretched to the limit avoiding other runners, parked cars, and street puddles from an overnight rain. The only light was generated by the dim street lamps peppered along the course. The darkness was directly responsible for my first drop at just around the 3-mile mark.
This race, I decided to try a new strategy. I lined up close to the 3:10 pace group and tried to stay with them as long as possible. It wasn’t too long (about the first 4 miles), but it felt good to see that sign and imagine that I could be fast enough to qualify for Boston (3:15). A nice part about this early race phase was that my younger brother Paul, who was running the half marathon, ran with me. We parted ways around mile 5 and he went on to post a 1:31! An excellent job.
Mile 8 brought the sun. As I passed the mile marker the time read about 58 minutes. One of the most challenging things you’ll find about joggling marathons is that you never get to see exactly how fast you are going. You can’t stop your watch at miles splits so you’re left to remember the clocks you pass.
Between mile 8 & 9 I saw the elites running back to the city. There were numerous times when we passed racers going the other way.Â It felt good to only be 3 miles back of the leaders.
At mile 11, I heard the 3:20 pace group on my heals. If they passed me this early, a PR would be out of the question. I kept focused and joggled strong. The half-way timer showed 1:37. Boston was still possible, but it would take my greatest second half of a marathon. I wasn’t sure if I had this in me.
At mile 17 the 3:20 group caught me. Boston was slipping but not my chances for a PR. I refocused and ran with them as long as possible. This was about 2 miles. At 19, they started to pull away. I wanted so bad to stay with them but a strong headwind blew and I was beginning to tire. I was also trying desperately not to drop any bean bags.
By mile 21, the pace group was out of site. So too, were most of the other runners. Tampa is a much smaller marathon than Chicago and it was most evident in these later miles. As I crossed the 22nd mile marker the clock showed 2:48. I could still set a PR by averaging just under an 8-minute mile the rest of the way. But the wind started blowing even harder. My focus was good, my legs felt ok, but I just couldn’t cut through the gusts.
At mile 24, 3:05 had clicked off. At 25, 3:14. I’d have to do 1.2 miles in 8 minutes to beat my best.
Then a quarter mile into that last mile, one of my Gballz brushed off the fingers of my left hand and tumbled to the ground. The second and final drop of the marathon. Three spectators yelled out in unison “Awww!!!” I bent over to pick it up and felt excruciating soreness throughout my legs. Don’t let anyone kid you, joggling marathons is painful!
I restarted the juggling pattern and made a mad dash for the finish. I saw the red banners and heard the roar of the crowd.Â I kept going faster and faster smiling and joggling the whole way. 10 feet from the finish they announced my name with a flattering quip about the concentration required to juggle and run.
The finish clock displayed 3:23:49 and my own watch showed 8 seconds faster. I’d just posted my second fastest marathon ever.
As I walked through the finishing area, picked up my aluminum foil wrap, my medal and dropped off my chip, I felt happy. Sure, I didn’t qualify for Boston. And I didn’t set a PR. But I ran a great race.Â I did the best I could.Â Considering the weather conditions, my training conditions and the smallness of the marathon, I was pleased.
Setting PRs, qualifying for Boston and setting World Records is tough. You’ve got to focus on the good things about your marathon and that’s what I’m choosing to do.
Now, it’s time to go get a big ol’ cheeseburger and a pitcher of beer. I’ll try to put up a race review tomorrow.