Goal #1 was to finish. Done. Goal #2 was to finish under 4 hours. Done.
My 4 kids, my sister, and I arrived in Memphis Friday night just in time to visit the Expo and get the race packet. There were icicles hanging from the city fountains in front of the civic center. Icicles. Icicles and I don't get along...
There were so many eating options along Beale Street and Peabody Place and an electric atmosphere; but, we settled on the kid friendly chain across the street from our hotel. After 90 minutes of awful service from a friendly but overwhelmed server (I swear my 6 year old daughter was taller than this lady...), we got to sleep at a kid friendly 2230. Except of course I didn't sleep. Not then anyway...
Race morning finally arrived. I was so excited that I was out the door at 0530 to see if there was some miraculous overnight global warming sensation. No such luck...
I started in the 3rd wave, and everything went smoothly. I latched onto the 3:45 pace group and cruised through the 1st 2 miles. But I felt pedestrian at that pace, probably from the amazing atmosphere and bands and the cool weather (which I was starting to realize was actually my friend!)
So I picked up the pace, and I ran 7:45 pace for miles 3 through 7 or 8. I realized then that I needed to pay more respect to those unknown miles, 20-26, and slow it down.
So I backed down to around 8:30-8:40 pace. I still felt great! And I had my big goofy smile on frequently enough to get more than a few comments from the volunteers/supporters about smiling through the pain.
Oh yea, the pain. Hmm, what pain? Its funny... Every run over the last 4-6 weeks my right knee had pained me for miles 2 or 3 until 7 or 8, then been ok after that. It had been getting a little worse, and the cold weather seemed to exacerbate it. In fact, when I was going to the Expo the night before, it hurt just walking. Ditto on race morning.
But now I had gone for 7 or 8 miles and my knee was great! A couple of hints of the pain, but basically nada... I was stoked...
Now I had needed to pee since I was at the starting line. Note to self: just go pee; don't worry about losing "your spot" at the front of your corrall. And I tried at mile 15, but both porta-johns were occupied. Mile 16 brought me relief, but brought on the aches.
When I made the pit stop, it was the first time I had stopped running since the start. And as soon as I sprinted out of the aid station to catch the group with whom I had been running, I knew I'd made a mistake by stopping.
Suddenly my hip flexors ached, and then my feet ached. And then I could feel the blister over my 1st MTP on my right foot. And when the physical aches begin, the mental aches follow close behind.
My pace dropped. At mile 20, I did what I was hoping not to do: I walked. I walked for about 3 or 4 minutes. And when I started running again, everything - EVERYthing - was stiffer and more sore. I made a vow to not walk for that long again.
For mile markers 21 and 22 I walked the aid station, then started running after each. And then marker 23 came, and I knew, I knew I was going to make it. I had more than 30 minutes to go 3.2 miles and still finish under 4 hours.
And then something funny happened at mile 24. Completely unexpected... I ran through the aid station, and I knew I was so close. And I broke down.
Oh, physically I was fine. But something happened emotionally. I kept running, but I was crying. And not even crying really, but maybe even bawling. Face contorted, eyes blurry, tears flowing... Crying.
My dad... I wanted my dad there with me. To run with me. To see me running, finishing, flourishing... It was strange; I was crying just like the day 10 years ago when we buried him.
I passed the 26 mile marker, and turned right into the AAA baseball stadium for the finish. Never have I been so happy to get in a baseball stadium!
After sprinting through the finish, I stumbled over to the chip-takers. The girl reached down to cut my tie, only to find that at some point along the 26.2 miles my tie already had broken and my chip was lost. Heh...
So, technically I guess, according to the St. Jude Marathon, I didn't complete my goal #1 - to finish. I guess I won't be an official finisher, because my chip is somewhere on the streets of Memphis.
But I have the soreness, and I'll soon I'll have the photo - the photo of me running, nay sprinting, under the FINISH sign in 3:55.45.