Week 4 of training concluded this weekend with a couple of chilly 6-milers. Already, the doubts are creeping in: doubts that I can follow this program to the letter, doubts that my second marathon will end better than my first. Even when two kids on bikes came toward me on Route 5 this afternoon, and the second kid while passing me said, “Keep up the good work, Sir!” and high-fived me, I could barely crack a smile.
Maybe this time I have bitten off more than I can chew.
So tonight, I am sitting on my couch resting up, sitting in the same place where the road to my first marathon, the road to the Toronto Waterfront, began exactly a year ago. I am trying to remind myself that I do have the strength and the resiliency to do this. I am trying to shake off the negative thoughts that creep in from time to time. Going back over last year’s races is at least restoring some faith.
The decision to run Toronto came down to 1 simple thing: I wanted my first marathon to be memorable. After considering the merits of several October marathons, I eliminated the Empire State (too close to home and too similar to the previous year’s half marathon), the Marine Corp (too intimidating) and Rochester (very tempting, but still not quite what I wanted) and settled on Toronto simply because of the destination. I wanted to make my first marathon a real event to be savored in the months and years that followed, and in the end I was not disappointed.
By the time I began the 16-week Marathon Rookie program the second week in June, I was already averaging over 20 miles a week, so I was good and ready for the 2012 Boilermaker. I was shooting for 90 minutes, and ended up just 12 seconds shy–12 seconds that have stayed with me since then and that I will use to motivate me this year. But even though I had run another PR, I really didn’t feel like celebrating, as the race ended in real drama.
My son had undergone ACL surgery the previous fall, and had only just begun to run with a brace by the time of the race. He had severely undertrained, so I suggested he run with me at my pace, which he agreed to do. We stuck together well during the chaotic first mile, and hit a good stride for most of the race. But as the heat began to rise, he stubbornly refused to hydrate despite my urging: “Stopping for water is just going to slow me down, Dad,” he kept saying, with all the brash confidence of an indestructible 18-year-old.
As we got to the bottom of the Champlin Avenue hill, he turned to me and told me he wanted to take off and try for a sub-90-minute time. I told him to be careful, and he took off. I continued on down Whitesboro St., pushing my own pace to try and meet my own goal and trying to leave every last drop of energy on the course. So it was with a great deal of surprise that, as I approached the finish line, I saw my son just a few yards ahead of me. Had I just run the race of my life? Had he faded at the end? As 2 stewards converged on him and escorted him off the course, I had my answer.
I followed him into the emergency tent. There, the incredible volunteer staff sprang into action. He was dehydrated, of course, and was completely unaware of his surroundings or what had happened. Later, he told me that he had become so disoriented in that last mile that he had stopped at every stop sign on Whitesboro thinking he had crossed the line only to realize he still had a way to go. Forty minutes and 2 bags of IV solution later, he was thankfully almost back to his former self, and we were able to claim our pins and head to the courtyard.
Somehow, the beer didn’t taste quite so good that afternoon.
TO BE CONTINUED
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