I lined up at the start of the CIM Marathon in Sacramento, CA, clinging to an emergency blanket and marching in place to keep warm. The weather report the day before showed there would be a strong chance for heavy winds and rain, it did not prove false. Tiny drops drizzled and gusts of wind shook the banners hovering over the starting line. My mind ran through a gauntlet of thoughts. I was trying to find out what I was here for. Why was I running this marathon?
A month prior to this race I had wanted to set another PR. I had set a gusty time of 2hrs 45min. When I learned of the weather on race day, I did a reality check. I had accomplished two of the biggest goals for a marathoner, qualifying for both the Elite Boston Marathon and the Elite NYC Marathon, and I had done this within a single year. My new goal for this marathon would be to finish strong and in good health, ready for 2016. My new time goal would be a sub 3 hour marathon.
The gun went off and no sooner did the rain really begin to rain. My shoes quickly turned into sponges that squished with every footfall. I couldn't help but smile at the ordeal I had found myself in. In these situations, you get the opportunity to enhance your ability to adapt, and that's what I did. I shortened my stride and dialed my pace down a bit to avoid slipping. I stayed within a pack of runners to shield myself from the wind, moving out only if the pack was slowing down. Eventually I ran out of packs of runners and found myself spread out among a few runners treading the soaked streets, the wind finally getting its chance to howl at me. I felt cold the entire race, having no luck to dry up due to the continuous rain. All this was good mental training as far as I was concerned. The more discomfort and pain, the better. You don't ask life for the perfect hand, you play the hand you're dealt to your best, and become stronger and better as a result.
I did a systems check at mile 20 and it was clear that my legs were hurting and tired. I wouldn't be able to hold the 6:37 pace. The only thing left to do was to fade into a sub 3 time. It's amazing that when you have no other choice, you find out how strong you are. There was a lot of valuable lessons I learned this year. Among these lessons, was knowing when to push it, and knowing when to pull it. In the remaining miles I passed over a handful of marathoners who had passed me earlier in the race, now limping or pulled over to the side. They had pushed themselves too much, and now were unable to finish. I had never seen so many marathoners injured in a race before.
In the midst of the pain and fatigue, the desire to finish strong lingered in my veins. The final mile I gave one last push. Each runner ahead was motivation, they were goals to conquer, bringing me ever closer to the finish. As I came around a left turn, I saw two more runners ahead, and just beyond them, the finish. Whatever juice I had left went into my muscles. With one final kick I passed up one runner, beating him by 9 seconds, missing the second runner by a mere 2 seconds. Regardless, I had given my best and left everything out there. I had accomplished my goal, running a 02:56:24 marathon, closing 2015 on a high note.
"It's important to know
that at the end of the day
it's not the medals you remember.
What you remember is the process,
What you learn about yourself by
challenging yourself, the experiences
you share with other people, the honesty
the training demands -- those are things
nobody can take away from you whether
you finish twelfth or you're an Olympic Champion."
-Silken Laumann, Canadian Olympian
Be well and run on!