J. Gordon Duncan

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The Long and Winding Road – Thunder Road Marathon Musings Part 2

The half way point of the marathon was exhilarating for me. I was feeling strong, and my time was outstanding. I wondered if I could keep it up, but I remembered several folks telling me that you run much faster than you train, so I wasn’t worried.

Having seen Amy and the girls between mile 13 and 14, I was ready to go the distance.

We smartly let up a bit as our second half progressed, and I was feeling so good that I began to wonder if the 20 mile wall existed. Well, I discovered that it does. At 18, my legs started to tighten. My wind was still great, but the weight of the race was crashing in on me. 8 miles to go seemed like a million.

My running buddy was starting to pull away from me a bit, and every time I worked to catch up with him, I discovered that my legs were getting progressively worse. We passed the 20 mile mark amid family and friend cheers, but I figured I would not be able to keep within eye distance of my buddy for much longer.

At 22 miles, there was wall with a door built into it in the middle of the road. A sign on it read, “Don’t hit the wall. Slap it!” Metaphorically, the idea was not to succumb to the dreaded marathon wall but take action against it. I was happy to make it through the wall at all as my right hamstring felt like there was a baseball sized knot in it.

Twice I told my buddy to run on ahead, but he wouldn’t do it. Finally, I told him, “Don’t worry, there is nothing that is going to keep me from finishing but you need to run your race.” Ultimately, he did, and I’m glad for him. He finished 10 minutes ahead of me.

The last 4 miles were going to be solo.

At 23 miles, the course came to a ridiculous ascent. It didn’t end with a plateau but with a hard right turn and a smaller but no less arduous climb. That was the last time on the race that I passed any one. Folks were stopping left and right, and most of them were stopping to massage out muscles aches. My run was slow but still a run nonetheless.

I kept praying, “God, please help me finish this. Please be merciful to me.”

Along mile 24, we ran beside Panther stadium which took us under a bridge. There was a thunderously loud marching band playing underneath. Their joy was encouraging but the deafening sound was the most motivating. It was so loud under that bridge I had to keep running.

Finally, I hit mile 25, and I knew I was going to finish. I picked up my pace a bit and started scanning for the finish line. I seemingly had forgotten the .2 part of 26.2. That .2 was a final run into a chute that was ridiculously up hill. I crossed with a smile on my face joyfully as I saw Amy and the girls cheer me on.

The volunteers give you a blanket, a medal, and a Gatorade (which I drank in a millisecond). Then I was incredibly aware of the vomit smell as so many before me had been hurling all around the finish line. I hadn’t wanted to throw up until that smell, and fortunately, I was able to hold it down.

As I hugged my family, it felt like the temperature dropped 20 degrees. After so long on the road, you just don’t notice the temperature any more, but I definitely did once I stopped running. I was freezing.

As I walked in circles trying to figure out what to do, I realized I just wanted to go get a shower and rest for a minute. The problem was that our car was at least a one mile walk away which was as painful for me as the last couple miles on the course.

I’ll probably run another marathon, but next time, I’ll be the one in control my pace. But until then, the experience is still a wonderful paradox for me: full of absolutely joy and terrifying misery at the same time.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner. Read it there and help me earn a penny.

December 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments