Thought for the Day

Saturday, October 1, 2005

St. George Marathon 2005

Got a minute? Or half a minute?
Look at your watch.
I love the Saint George Marathon. I have never run a better organized race. To give you some idea of the organization of this race, (I know you're not going to believe me when I say this, but it's true.) there were more than enough porta-johns at the start of the race.
There were also more than enough cheerful, helpful volunteers at every water stop along the way, and at the finish.
Look at your watch again. How much later is it now than when you looked before?
Time. There it goes. tick...tick...tick...
St. George is famous for the bonfires to keep the runners warm out in the desolate desert before the sun comes up. It does help a lot to create a warm atmosphere in more ways than one.
I started with two friends I trained with who were going to run a similar pace, Jen and Clint. It was Clint's first marathon, and somewhere before the third mile he decided we were going faster than he wanted to. I'm surprised because he was always pushing the pace in training runs. I expected him to finish ahead of me.
On this course, there are lots of downhills, but also uphills. You lose 2600 feet in elevation over the course, but you lose elevation, gain elevation, lose more, gain less, lose a little more...
There's no place to get bored or stuck in a rut. The course is surrounded by magnificent volcanoes, canyons and cliffs, and the terrain is constantly varying. It is one road for 99% of the distance, but it is curving back and forth and rising and falling the whole time.
We stayed pretty close to the pace we needed over the hills in the first half, but after we went over the "last" hill at mile 21. The downhill stretches always ended with a curve and a slight uphill, so we weren't just letting gravity finish the race for us.
Coming up on the water station at mile 23, I could see that I was going to have to push to finish in my goal time of 3:30, so I told Jen I was going to run to the finish, no more water stops. She got water and I didn't see her again until after the finish.
With about a mile and a half to go, my calves started to twinge. It's a familiar feeling. They start to clench and a shiver of dread goes through me.
I tried to run on as hard as I could, without asking my calves to do anything except relax. I turned the last corner and took a last look at my watch, telling myself I would not look again. There was about half a mile to go, and I might just make it in time.
A few hundred more yards on I couldn't keep my calves from cramping without assuming a kind of straight-legged running form. I was limping in as fast as I could, but when I could read the big clock at the finish, it did not look like I was going to make it. I took a last look at my watch and knew it wasn't going to be.
I needed 3:30:59 or less to qualify for Boston, which I have been trying to do for two years. I ran it in 3:31:21

Missed it by 22 seconds.

I've thought of a dozen things that might have made a 22 second difference. One thing I know is that I stepped off the course to pee at about mile 16. If I could do it over again, I would wet my shorts while running. Anyone else think about doing this?
I guess the race is behind me now, and it's time to move on.
I've been telling everyone I'm 90% as happy as I could have been. I cut more than 11 minutes off of my PR. It's not really bad to be satisfied with that.

Thanks for your time.