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Pure guts – the marathon results

October 19, 2009

Well my marathon went well. I didn’t run as fast as I’d hoped to, but I did run it all and I finished in 3:58:01. Here are the results.

I felt so good and strong through about 16 or 17 miles and then I started to lose it and by mile 21 or so, I was really falling off my pace. The last five miles or so were something I’ve never experienced before on an emotional or physical level. Really there was nothing physical about it, I was running as fast as my legs would move, but really all the work was mental and emotional. I was on a painful auto-pilot.

The emotions of running a marathon are what have surprised me the most. At least three times during the race after seeing my family out there cheering I got choked up while running, but I didn’t really know why.  I was fighting back tears and trying to catch my breath all at once.

By the end, that last mile was so hard – I was on fumes. After an uphill at 24, then a long straight finish where it sort of looks like you can see the end but it never seems to get any closer. It was hard. Finally from out of nowhere, I don’t even know what side of the street she was on, I heard  my big sister shouting something like “Come on Patrick, way to go Patrick, your kids are right there at the end and they are so proud of you!” and she sounded so loud and strong to me and although everything was kind of blurry and I couldn’t even see her, I could hear her and I knew I’d made it. Her cheering almost killed me right then (emotionally) but it carried me across the line. When I did finish, I know a bunch of people were there waiting for me, excited to see me,  but I had to just keep walking, I felt like I was about to literally pop with emotion and I knew if I saw anyone I knew, I would have lost it.  Again, not sure why, just the pure emotion of pulling yourself through those final miles on nothing but raw emotion anyway, I think. It’s all so close to the surface. I spent about 10 minutes just pacing behind the school at the finish, literally ready to break into tears at any moment and it wasn’t because I was in pain (I was) or because I was so happy to finish (I was) or sad I didn’t run as fast as I wanted to (I was)…it was just emotion overflowing. I don’t remember ever being at that point in 35 years. My wife said she’s never seen me like that, sort of lost and not really sure what I wanted to do or even could do. The more I think about it the more I realize the marathon (at my level) is started and run for the most part with fitness but finished on pure emotion.

I did have some dark moments during the mid-late miles, around 18/19. I just remember looking a little bit in front of my feet and trying to will them to keep up the pace I had and it was all falling apart, and it really felt like looking down a dark tunnel for a few minutes. Like things actually looked dark, but it was a clear, crisp, sunny, fall day on Lake Champlain. Oh the mind tricks… My buddy Jamie who also ran the race said: “I think what you felt is exactly why people come back to run these things…it’s unexplainable to others (for the most part) but the emotion (regardless of positive, negative, happy, dark) is so overwhelming that it is kind of like a drug…”. That’s it.

Steve Prefontaine has a quote I’ve heard before – something like “Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.” At the end I couldn’t remember it exactly, but I found myself just saying over and over “pure guts, pure guts.” It was all I could remember of the line. It didn’t speed me up as I’d hoped it might, but at a minimum, it kept me moving . It was all I had left.

Looking back, the main issue was I ran the first half too fast. Too confident. A rookie mistake. I think in a while I’ll decide to run another one and run it smarter, not necessarily faster. Either way, it was one hell of an experience!

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