Everyone has a bad race now and then. I had been pretty fortunate that it hadn’t happened to me going in to the NYC marathon this past weekend, but I was definitely due for one. It seems like all of my runner buddies had stories of that one horrible race where everything went wrong. Sadly, I got to experience my wife Karen’s nightmare race first hand, two years ago at this very NYC marathon, when she pulled a groin muscle and we walked it in together the last 8 miles. Interestingly enough, I had an amazing experience that day taking in all the cheers and praise as we walked and actually being able to absorb it while it was happening because we weren’t running for time, but just trying to finish. I also wasn’t in pain like Karen, so was able to enjoy it more than her. She was dealing with the disappointment of an injury after a year of training.
Nevertheless, I wanted to do it again and sort of run my own race. I used the 9+1 program from the New York Road Runners to run 9 races and volunteer in one to qualify for the following years marathon. I spent much of 2014 taking trips in to the city to run around central park for different races. It was fun. Often Karen would come in and cheer me on or we’d stay over and do something fun in the city. It was a fun journey.
I ran a trail marathon this past spring because I didn’t want to cut more time off of my PR, planniing to PR at New York. Little did I know, that was not to be.
This all starts like a sob story, but it really isn’t. I actually had a wonderful experience for the most part. I did not finish the marathon, but I did get to experience the journey leading up to it and all the love and support from family and friends, both on the way and through training, and definitely after I decided to stop the run on 70th St. and First Avenue, nearly 17 miles in to the race. In fact, I think everyone thought I would be more upset than I was.
I had had about 12 miles to come to terms with it. I also knew that I had finished the race before, with Karen, on a day where I actually felt good. I have finished other marathons with times I was happy with. It just wasn’t meant to be on this day. I have always had a little trouble taking in food such as energy gels, bars, chews, etc. when I run. I adjusted this by creating a liquid formula that I use because I should at least be able to drink. Recently I was having trouble even drinking my formula and would often choke or gag when trying to get it down. I decided a few weeks before the race to carry the solution, but also some chews, as an emergency. None of this worked that day. Even worse, I couldn’t even drink water.
My body completely revolted and wouldn’t take anything in. I told myself that I had to drink each time my watch hit a new mile, but I just kept not doing it. The first few miles I tried and gagged and couldn’t get it in. After that I even tried just water and it just wasn’t happening. At that point I knew it was going to end badly. At mile four I knew I wasn’t going to be able to drink, though I tried after that and would just run until I couldn’t any more. My goal even at that early mile was to make it to Karen and family and friends waiting on First Avenue. If I could keep going great, but at least I had to make it there, or the day would become a big mess.
I want to step back to my tremendous support to say that I couldn’t have been more happy and thankful for everybody from PA, MI, NY and NJ all wishing me well and support. I ran training miles with groups all over the place. That is part of the journey and the fun of training for marathons. Long talks with the girls or Gary Ferguson as we chugged along, knocking off the miles. My extremely cute nephew Benjamin, who calls me “Bubba” even made me a sign to show his support. I’m sure my sister Pam had a big part in it, but those scribbles are distinctively Benjamin’s. I loved all of the support and encouragement and couldn’t thank everyone enough for all they put up while I trained, and those going out of their way to come in to the city to watch me collapse. Even those that took a few extra minutes out of their day that they didn’t have to to track me online and send positive thoughts of encouragement. I’m disappointed I didn’t finish or get my time, but I’m not sorry. I don’t know that I could have done much differently.
It seemed like a fitting end. I struggled in pain for about my last 8 miles. I knew it was going that way. I convinced myself to run through the pain and hold my goal race pace for at least the first half, and I was able to do that. Then the pain seemed too much and I had to stop and run/walk the rest of the way. As I struggled over the 59th St. bridge, switching back and forth between running because I knew I was almost there, and walking because it hurt too much to run, my legs just froze on me in to one giant dehydrated cramp. My entire lower body was a cramp. However, as I worked my way up to my finish line, I got to see her in the attached picture.
Karen mentioned she had some signs but I couldn’t have even begun to guess that they would be these. Though over 50,000 people crossed the finish line at the NYC marathon that day, I finished in the perfect spot. With Karen on the side of the street in Manhattan. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end it.
Thanks again to everyone for your support and I highly recommend the NY 17. Doesn’t have the same medals or fun of the full marathon, but you get to end with the woman you love. It also is much more convenient to meet up with family and friends as they were all right there. I got to give everyone hugs, once I stood back up again and could move. Then we headed back to our hotel and I even caught the end of the football game. Steelers lost, but what are you going to do.
On to the next race, and now I can share my story on those long runs of my day where everything seemed to go wrong, but maybe it went right.