TITLE: That Marathon Feeling Again
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: October 26, 2009 3:23 PM
I made it. My sixth marathon is now in the books.
Yesterday I ran the
On the Road for Education marathon
in Mason City, Iowa. No two marathons have been
the same for me, and this one was unusual in many
ways, from how the race went to the venue itself.
The weather was dreary but almost perfect for a
race: in the low 40s, cloudy, with little wind.
After feeling good with an 8:30/mile pace in a half
six weeks ago,
I decided to try that pace for the full. After
nine miles, I was right on target, though by an
unusual path. The first three miles were downhill
and fast, the next three were uphill and slower,
and the next three were flatter and down in a steady
My time at the halfway mark was 1:51:51. After
fifteen miles, I was at 2:07:36 -- still on an
8:30/mile pace. It seemed too good. I need to look
up my times from previous races, but I think that
these may be my best times ever at those two points
in a marathon.
On top of it all, I felt good. At the Mile 15, I
thought to myself, "I can do this." And I could,
but not at that pace.
By mile 15, we had entered a 5-mile loop on soft
trail through the
Lime Creek Nature Center.
My pace slowed for at least three reason. The
course elevation map
says this part of the race is flat, but that must
be net rise. These miles were hilly. Add to that
the overnight rain which had softened them up even
more and created a little bit of mud for us.
Slippery footing on hills means a slower pace.
The third ingredient was a dose of reality. My legs
weren't quite ready to maintain the ambitious pace
for a full marathon. I did manage a couple of miles
at near-goal pace after leaving the nature center,
but in general I had slowed down. I took a second
restroom break at the 20-mile mark, which added more
than a minute to my time but gave my legs a brief
Then came miles 23, 24, and 25. My legs were dead,
and my pace slowed further. I had another short
reprieve when a half dozen of us experienced our own
Des Moines moment
in Mile 23. For a while in the last two miles, I
chanted to myself
just keep running.
For some reason I had the strongest of desires not to
walk even as my body had the strongest desire to stop.
Somehow I kept moving. I never reached what one of
my friend's calls "the dead man's shuffle", but my
pace had slowed dramatically.
The last 0.2 of a mile snuck up on me. I felt a
brief boost of energy as I crossed the Mile 26 marker
and managed to run through the finish line with a
smile on my face.
It was a tough finish. In retrospect should have gone
out with 8:45 miles for 10, 15, or 20 miles and then
taken stock of what I had left. That would have been
the conservative approach, the wise strategy. But the
siren call of 8:30 miles and a time near
was too much for my dreams, or my vanity. I had to
know. Now I do! Going into the arena has a way of
showing us reality.
This race was unusual for me in another respect. My
wife and daughters made the trip with me. This was
the first time I'd had family with me since my wife
accompanied me to
They met me along the route a half dozen times or so,
and seeing them boosted my spirits every time. It
was easy for them to do this, which is one of the
benefits of a race in a small town. I'll have more
to say about a small town race in a coming entry.
So, I survived. Even with the rest stops, I ended up
with my third-best time ever. After my experience the
last two years, with dicey health, on-again, off-again
training, and the mental doubts that came from those
two, I really could not be happier with my time.
Asking for more would be unrealistic and would devalue
what turned out to be a good performance.
I could feel better physically, though. A few days'
rest can give me that. Heck, I already feel like a