Monday, November 21, 2005

Mission Complete

Well, alas I have completed my first marathon. Put on your listening sweater, grab a snifter of your favorite liqueur (or just pop a Pabst Blue Ribbon) and prepare yourself to read about this experience that roughly 10 people in the world actually find interesting.

I awoke at 4:45 to make my way to Philadelphia in the able hands/wings of Southwest Airlines. We soon met up with Sean and Sara and headed for the Race Registration tent and expo, where we spent an hour or so getting checked in and wandering through the booths. We then spent a couple of hours of R&R in the hotel room before we met one of my best friend's Kyle (and his brother Brett) for our carb filled dinner. We turned in at about 10:00 and I slept surprisingly well given the anticipation I held for the next day.

Sunday Morning Pre-Race
Somewhere around 3 or 4 am I began to drift in and out of sleep, fearful that we would somehow not get up in time (subject of a hilarious Seinfeld episode by the way). Oddly enough, I woke up at 5:17 and realized neither our alarm or wake-up call had come. Sean and I headed down to breakfast where we loaded up on bagels, english muffins, and lots of water. The mood at breakfast was a combination of nerves and excitement. After we both thoroughly tested out the capabilities of the hotel bathroom (a few times), we grabbed our kicks and headed for the Start/Finish line of our first marathon. Upon our arrival we decided to tinkle one more time before our journey. We were greeted by 100 Port-o-Potties with lines 15-20 deep. 6,000 over-hydrated and nervous runners. Needless to say that’s a lot of pee and poop folks. The girls accompanied us to the start-line where we met our Cliff Bar 4 hr pace group and fearless leader “Star”. The first words I heard her utter where that this was her 11th or 12th marathon this year, and that she had run 60 marathons before she turned 30. I think that was a combination of intimidating and comforting. Star ran the entire race with 3 balloons on a 2-foot long wooden dowel. The balloons were our beacon, and our mission would be to keep them in site.

The Philadelphia Marathon
We said our final “goodbyes” to the family and shed our top layers about 5 minutes before the gun went off. As I recall the race pretty much started without us ever having too much time to even think. We pretty much just looked at each other with that “Well, I guess this is it” look.

The early miles
The race got off to a rather precarious start for the elder Roy. About 30 yards into the race, I lost my left glove. My initial reaction was to turn and grab it, but the 4000 people behind me almost made me the first casualty of the race. I was thus forced to run the race Michael Jackson style. I had to pee before the gun even went off, and that was the primary thought in my head for the first 9 miles of the race. We made it to the first water stop, although we were negged at the second one, when the volunteers couldn’t keep up with the demand part of the ole supply and demand equation. The beginning of the race wove us through downtown and along the waterfront. Our t-shirts (which read “Run Scott Run” and “Run Sean Run”) worked out really well. It was oddly comforting to hear total strangers screaming your name. We had some fun at this point, coming up with contests of who would slap fives with spectators, etc. We saw our friends cheering us on at mile 8, and we were able to gratefully acknowledge their support. To my great relief, mile 9 brought us into the Philadelphia Zoo area where I was finally able to attend to my “pee” issue. Sean kept towards the back of our pace group and I had to put in a pretty hard half-mile (up a hill) to catch back up to Sean and the balloons.

Miles 11-20
From a physical perspective everything really started to settle in after the 10th mile, but I found this to be the toughest section from a mental standpoint. We saw the girls on an overpass at about the halfway point, and based on the course layout, we knew we would not see them again until the finish. The stretch from 15-20 was the first part an absolutely brutal out-and-back along the Schuylkill River.

At about mile 17 Sean began to show signs of what would be big trouble. We stopped twice, for a few seconds each time, for Sean to stretch out his calves, which were beginning to cramp and eventually spasm. At this point, I felt like some sort of soldier on a battleground. Sean was urging me to go on without him, but my gut and heart wanted to walk it out. I did realize that I would have wanted Sean to run it out if the roles were reversed, so I began to consider this possibility. After we started up the second time Sean was a bit behind me, but I knew he was there because I could still hear “Run Sean Run.” Due to the crowds and really sore neck muscles, I was having trouble trying to turn around and spot him. I knew we were nearing the turnaround, and hoped I would be able to check in with him then (after you made the turn you could see the other runners on their way to it).

The fan support really dwindled until about mile 19, when we entered the town of Manayunk. In this town, I took the time to dance for a guy with an entire drum-kit set up, and found myself happy to have about 4 ounces of beer at a rogue “water” stop. Other than worrying about Sean, I was feeling pretty good. The turnaround was a god-send and I think at that point I knew that I had this thing in my pocket. I stuck on the right side on the way backup, watching closely for Sean. Despite my efforts, and the facts that Sean ran by close enough to touch me and was yelled my name, I unfortunately still didn’t see him. I think that was the one point in the race when I was just in a “zone” and forging towards the finish. I still don't believe that he actually touched me and yelled out my name.

Miles 21 – 25
I was extremely fortunate that I never hit “The Wall”. In fact, I ran some of my best miles in this stretch. At mile 20, I saw the clock (3:05.24), and realized that while I wasn’t going to make 4 hours, so I focused on beating 4:04.

Miles 25 – 26
Nearing the homestretch, the crowd support was almost overwhelming. I went into my kick with about 1.5 to go, and think I ran about 7.5 minute miles or better at this point. These miles were pretty emotional…I had some gas left in the tank and I was working hard to make sure I emptied every drop, yet now that I was 100% sure that I was going to finish, my mind shifted to Sean. I crossed the finish line running hard, not fully realizing my accomplishment or celebrating my finish.

A couple of minutes after I crossed the finish-line I saw the cheering squad. I stumbled over to the fence and shared a moment with them. They kindly informed me that I literally had foam coming out of my mouth and sent me for water. I was proud of myself, but I truly felt empty. My primary concern was finding Sean…finishing the marathon would mean nothing if Sean didn’t cross that line as well. I was partially delirious and couldn’t make sense of what had happened. I knew that Sean was in better shape than me, and without really realizing how bad his cramps and spasms were, I wasn’t sure if he had passed me somewhere, been forced out of the race by the pain or what. Word then came from Sara that Sean had finished and THAT was truthfully the best moment of my day. We then hit Dave and Buster's for some beer, and we both headed off to the airport (still rocking those medals) for the cramp-filled flights home!

One Final Round of Thanks
First and foremost, I thank Sean. I am incredibly proud of you. I don’t know how you fought through what you did during that race, and were still able to finish. That’s guts man. I never would have done this without you. Whether you know it or not, you ran with me every day and together we accomplished something that I will always be incredibly proud of.

Ronnie, Ian, and Joey - thanks for all of the help. My runs with you guys were infinitely more productive than my solo missions. You fellas had my back and were a huge inspiration.

My Family and Friends in General, thank for your patience, unwavering support and for taking in interest in this passion. I know I missed allot of dinners, commitments, and laughs during this training period. Thank you for never doubting me, even when I doubted myself.

Good news and bad news folks. The good news is I will be around and available for a few nights while I recover. The bad news is that as crazy as it seems....I want to do it again.


Chad Brooks said...

I read Sean's account first. Great job on your first marathon. It's a great sign that you were able to do the last six so well. Heard Star when the 4 hour pack passed me at mile 21 (I was beginning to fight cramping like Sean). Star sounded like a great motivator but I did wondered if I would want to hear all that enthusiasm for 26.2. Congratulations and keep running.

Sean said...

Scott, congratulations on an amazing achievement. You ran well and fought hard. I was dissapointed in not being able to witness you finish, but I was certainly thinking of you as I was walkin on home. Looking forward to the next challenge...Running related or not...