And on Sunday, Marathon Day, it rained. A lot. Not Monday. Not Tuesday. Not Wednesday or Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Not Monday, Part II, not... well, you know. I didn't want to go and didn't know if I could finish: my best projected time might keep me from being picked up for blocking traffic.
And yet it all worked out. I give myself an "A". Not an "A+", because my goal was to break five hours and it took me five hours and 58 seconds. But my other goal, after having run three minutes/walked one minute for the entirety of the Chuncheon Marathon a year ago, was to run pretty much the whole way. And I did that. And took 39-plus minutes off my PR. So I feel pretty damn good.
I did almost everything right during the race; I fueled well, BodyGlided liberally to prevent chafing of the Personals, carried water till it was obvious I wouldn't need it (and dropped my hydration belt off), had a devoted pit crew on the course, timed myself very carefully... I had my pace down exactly, and kept with it, to finish in 4:58. Except that that didn't account for the fact that a marathon course is measured by the shortest possible distance around curves, which one can't always run with 21,000 other people in the way. And then there were those trips behind the bushes... you've heard of answering the call of nature? Yeah, well, Nature doesn't call me; she stalks me. According to my GPS watch, I ran exactly a quarter-mile farther than the official distance.
I could have foregone the food bar I ate while walking, four miles from the end. I could have skipped that one last trip to the little boys' bush. Either one would have saved me a minute... ah, well.
It started to rain as soon as I left home before the race, and kept it up most of the morning, intensifying a half-hour or so into the run, and very soon I just couldn't get any wetter. And being wet, I was absolutely chilled by the cool, breezy day. For five hours. And even once it stopped raining, there was just no way to avoid stepping in cold puddles. When I finally got home, my toes looked like white raisins.
I owe a debt of thanks to my hashing friends LesBalls (thanks for the photos), Countess, and Choopa for coming into the city to cheer me at the finish, and an enormous debt to our school principal Ron and his wife Jill, for being there, both going out (in the rain) and coming back, with my ditty bag of shoes, socks, shirt, water, energy gels, and food bars. And to Mr. Park, our boss, who kept popping up during the route to take pictures and cheer me on. (And give me a warm, dry ride home afterward.) Practically the best take-away from the whole experience is the knowledge that all these people sacrificed a large chunk of their weekends because they care about me.
By the way, I've mentioned it before, but now I'm a total drink-the-Kool-Aid convert to barefoot shoes. Running in my conventional shoes, I got worse knee pain than I've ever had, but after taking a little time off and switching to the Merrell Trail Gloves (which are basically like going barefoot, but with a little protection for the feet), the pain completely disappeared. We evolved to run on the balls of our feet and let our bent legs absorb the shock. It makes all the difference in the world. (I owe more thanks to Debby, my ex, who long ago said that thick running shoes can't be good for people, and my friend Lauren, for introducing me to Born to Run, the bible of the barefoot crowd.)
When I got on the stadium track at the end, it was vastly inspirational-- Carl Lewis and FloJo ran on this track at the Olympics-- and a tremendous letdown, because when Lauren and I ran a 10K here, we came into the stadium 50 yards from the finish line, and I expected the same here, which would have let me break the five-hour mark. Instead, we came in almost a full lap, a quarter mile, from the finish. And all I would have to do to beat my goal was to match the world-record 1500-meter pace. Inexplicably, I did not do so.
If you aren't a slow person who's run a marathon, I can't describe to you the sheer incomprehensible length of the damn thing, I'd say roughly approximately 46,147 steps; the sheer creakiness and achiness of everything below the waist I can mention in public; and the deadly monotony of the training, especially the long, long Sunday runs. All the way through, I kept thinking, "There's no way I'm ever doing this again."
And then, when I crossed the finish line, the relief and the release and the pride... well, maybe there was brief, manly tear, and you know, it wasn't so bad, and... heck, I know I can cut 58 seconds off my time...