TITLE: Because 26.3 Miles Would Be Crazy AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 20, 2010 12:33 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I awoke Sunday to a beautiful, sunny, crisp October morning, not sure of what to expect. My training for the Des Moines Marathon had begun back in July, and it had been full of ups and downs. My mileage had been reasonably steady, after one down week at the end of July, but I'd never developed much "long speed". Long runs were slow when they went well and tough when they didn't. I had a goal in my mind -- 8:36 miles -- but had no concrete evidence that I was ready to achieve it. I arrived downtown later than I had been planning. This could have been a bad thing, an opportunity to start worrying about all that was going to go wrong. Instead, I chose to do something I'd never done at a race before: make a conscious effort to think positively. Don't worry about Mile 23, or my 10K split, or whether my pace at the halfway point is fast enough for me to PR. The best way to run the race was to just keep running. It is a cliché, I know, but I decided to take the race one mile at a time. This year, Des Moines drew over 1600 marathoners, along with many, many more half-marathoners. For us runners, that meant a crowded start. When the gun sounded to begin the race, those of us back in the chute could only wait for an opportunity to start moving. When we did, moving was slow. It took a couple of minutes to reach the starting line (thank you for chip timing!) and several more minutes to break free enough to run full stride. While this put me behind my target pace from the outset, it also kept me calm and under control. Just before the 3-mile mark, the marathoners and half-marathoners split off onto different routes. A helpful spectator made sure we knew which way to go:
Ask yourself:This quote stayed in my mind. As the race wore on, I knew that it would come in handy. When I reached the Mile 24 marker, I asked myself, "Can I give more?" The answer was yes -- at least until we reached a steady incline leading up to a bridge. About that time, a fast runner passed us -- he must have been a pacer catcher up with his group -- and said, "You can do it. This is the last hill, and then it will be flat and downhill to the end." I thanked him for the good news and gave a little more. Then came the sign for Mile 25. Just another mile. I recalled a long run from a couple of months ago that had prepared me for exactly this moment. "Can I give more?" Well, I can keep on pushing. The Mile 26 marker seemed to take forever to arrive. When it did, I had more to give, so I gave what was left. I did not run especially fast over the last 1.2 miles, but I ran hard, strong, and at a pace I was proud of. I crossed the line as strong as I have ever finished a marathon, with the crowd cheering me and with a smile on my face. I looked at my watch: 3:45:55. By all rights, I could have been disheartened... My marathon PR is 3:45:15, set in Des Moines six years ago. To work so hard, run so smart, and finish a mere forty-one seconds off of a new personal best! What about the slow first mile because I started too far back in the pack? Or the restroom break of over a minutes in the fifteenth mile? But there are no "what if?"s. After the last four years of off-and-on-again illness, with so many interruptions to my running, I was quite happy to finish strong, to feel good, to produce a race and a time that I can remember proudly. One other sign along the course made me laugh:
Can I give more?
The answer is usually yes.
Because 26.3 miles would be crazyThat about says it all. -----