Race morning was a tad bid on the cold side. I woke up to find my car windshield frosted over. As I made my way from the parking garage on Nationwide Blvd. to the start of the race on Broad St., the sun started to come up and it immediately started to warm up. At about 7:45, having decided that my planned race attire would suffice, I peeled my sweats and jacket and headed to the front of the start area close to where the wheelchairs were about to take off. I did a lot of bouncing around while scanning the crowd for Lou. I finally spotted him with about 5 minutes until the start. He looked so relaxed and it had a calming effect on me. The mood was already that of pure excitement and the flyover of a C-130 practically made me burst with pride and accomplishment. I've welled up with tears plenty of times at the start of a marathon. After all, simply to have put yourself in a position to be amongst the mass of runners is a huge accomplishment in itself.
The gun fired prompty at 8:00. Lou and I paced off each other for the first 3 miles and established a very smooth rhythm. I knew from my race here last year that it was important not to go out too fast (it's so easy to do!). Just before making our first turn on the course I fell in behind a small group who were all looking to run under 3-hours (3 men and 1 woman). The woman, Kristin Price, ultimately went on to win! That's Kristin with an "i". One of the guys asked her because his wife's name was Kristen (with an "e"). Anyway, another of the guys was wearing an Ironman hat so we chatted briefly about IM Lake Placid and IM France. He was an awesome looking guy, broad shoulders, ripped legs, etc. (I bet he shreds the water when swimming!). We would meet up again later in the race. For now, I was in cruise control. Went through the 5 mile mark in 33:08, 1/2-Marathon in 1:27:57 (2:55:54 projected finish time). One of the hardest parts of the course for me last year was passing through the 1/2-way point surrounded by cheering crowds and then finding myself alone running north on High St. It took the wind out of my sails a year ago but this year I was better prepared mentally. There were a handful of runners ahead of me so I just focused on them and how strong they looked. I just kept thinking to myself that maybe someone was behind me using little ol' me as a motivating force to keep pushing.
My splits started to fall off a little around mile 19 but this was the "hilly" section of the course and I found myself slowing down through the water stops more than I had earlier in the race. Passed through the 20 mile marker in 2:15:17. A downhill stretch on Lane Ave. during mile 22 was key and allowed me to run a 6:39 mile. It also helped to stretch my legs out a little and build confidence for the final 3 miles. At this point, my mind was racing trying to determine how fast I needed to run the final 3.2 miles and still finish under 3-hours. It seemed do-able, but my legs were starting to feel like lead, my arms were getting tingly and my mind was starting to question the importance of achieving such a time. I was asking a lot of my body at this point and my body was asking a lot of my mind. I didn't much feel like myself anymore. I think this is the point where all marathoners begin asking themselves, why am I doing this? It just doesn't make sense at that point. Then, at mile 25, a familiar face showed up along side me on my left. it was the Ironman guy from earlier in the race. He looked strong and I said to myself, and out loud to him, that I was going with him. He seemed to sense the urgency of that final mile more than I did, which was exactly what I needed. Running 1 mile with legs on fire, numb arms and heavy breath can seem like a marathon in itself. The 26 mile marker was just before the final right turn on to Nationwide Blvd. Finally, the finish line was in sight and I knew from my watch, and the official finish line clock, that my sub-3 was a lock. I spotted a few of my friends in the crowd coming down the homestretch and managed to crack a smile just before crossing the finish line.
Some very nice volunteers removed my timing chip and placed a medal around my neck. I then made a b-line to the fenceline to meet my friends Keith, his girlfriend Lexi and my buddy Jeremy, who had just finished the 1/2-marathon. My poor body was tingling all over. I tried giving hugs but I was pretty weak. I found Lou and gave him a big celebratory hug. He shattered his previous best time at Columbus by 27 minutes!! Plus, he qualified for Boston, which is something a man like him truly deserves and will appreciate fully. After about 15 minutes, I hooked up with my friend Bridget who was searching for me because she had all my clothes that I shed before the race. We walked over to just before the 26 mile marker to cheer on the Team in Training runners with Steve, who was a Mentor for the fall season. I think the elite runners are awesome to watch but not nearly as exciting as those who finish in the 4-5 hour range. I devoured a double quarter pounder with cheese from McDonalds on my way home. I won't need to eat McDonalds for another 6 months now (nor will I want to!). I'm going to rest for a week and a half or so before I start to run again. My muscles still ache and my right knee feels a little funny. I'm sure it will get better soon!