In order to truly do my first marathon story justice, my first half marathon needs to be told as well. I had been running on and off for a few years leading up to my first half marathon. Mostly off, as I considered canceling leading up to that race, due to lack of training time, you know all the excuses: work, school, etc. When I tried to tell my uncle I was considering not going, he gave me a good pep talk, as only he can, saying if you can run 6 miles (my longest run at that point) you can run a half marathon. To be honest I just felt too guilty to tell him I wasn't going to be there, so I decided I would go, not expecting to do to well.
Well race day arrived sooner than I hoped it would. We got a great day, cool and overcast. I found my uncle and his friend at the starting line and off we went. We were just hoping to run 9:00 miles, or just under 2 hours; the pace did not concern me but the distance sure did. I was amazed at how great I felt that day: mile 7 no prob, 8,9 no problems, then it caught up with me at mile ten. If I didn't know any better I would have thought someone came up behind me and tied cinder blocks to both of my feet. As much as I tried to fight through it and keep up with my uncle and his friend I couldn't. I waved them on and said see you at the finish. Well the next couple of miles were a combination of gimpy running and walking. Then if things weren't bad enough they threw a hill at me at mile 12; that was it for me. I had decided this race was going to be walked in. At the top of the hill and after grabbing some water I saw my uncle waiting on the side of the road for me. I figured he would have been done by now, but apparently he had come back for me to make sure I finished. He encouraged me to run it in and somehow I was able to with his support, finishing in a painful 2 hours and 6 min.
Despite how painful my first half marathon was for me, it spurred me on to challenge myself and commit to running a full marathon with proper training. Being from Minnesota we have our choice of a couple of quality marathons, Grandma's and The Twin Cities. I knew quite a few people who had run Grandma's and they had all enjoyed the experience so I went that route. The Date was set June 18th, 2005. All I needed was a training partner. I knew there were going to be some long lonely runs if I couldn't find someone. I had some success earlier that year talking my younger brother Nick into running some 5k races, so I thought I would start with him. Sure enough, it surprised me a little, but he was excited and ready to take on the marathon with me.
Our training began in February. I will never forget our first "long run" together. We were hoping to do six miles; between the chaffing and how badly out of shape we were I think we might have got 4 miles in if we were lucky. We worked hard to stick to our program; we may have taken an extra day off here or there but we made sure we stuck to running our long runs together every weekend. We were even able to talk a few of our uncles into joining us now and then as we tried desperately to gather any info we could from someone who had run a marathon. We only ran one 20+ miler in training; it was three or four weeks prior to the marathon. We also ran the same half marathon I did the prior year. We thought we would run 9 min miles until the ten mile mark then kick it down the last three. We were able to; it was pretty exhilarating to be passing so many near the end of the race. This year we finished in 1 hour 54 min, shaving about 12 min off my last years time. I think it must have been about that point we started to get a little over confident and started talking about a 4 hour marathon.
Well the day had finally come and we were extremely excited and nervous, not really knowing what to expect. We had said in the previous few weeks that we wanted to start off with a pace that would put us in under 4 hours. If we weren't able to keep it no biggie, we would be just happy to finish. We had also decided we would finish together, whatever time that might be. As Nick and I waited at the starting lines, two fighter jets flew over us- talk about chills. We shook each other's hands and said let's do this.
It was a great day to watch a race, might have been a little warm to run in. I don't think there was any shade on the whole course. About three miles into the race Nick and I passed the 4-hour pace group; I said to Nick hopefully we don't see them pass us later. I would have to say I did not feel as good as I had hoped to on race day; my legs seemed sore after mile 8 or so. There were really only two points when I questioned or wondered, "Can I do this?" For some reason at mile 14 I felt zapped, and I remember thinking I still had twelve miles to go- that scared me a little. Like any long run you just keep going and you will feel differently soon. My next big scare was around mile 19. I think we might still have been on pace for our 4 hour marathon at that point; I pulled up quickly with major cramps in my entire right leg. This scared the hell out of me all I could think was this is going to keep me from finishing all the hard work and it is going to end like this. I made a concerted effort to drink more fluids and took all the fruit I could till the end of the race. Thankfully that was the last major cramping incident for me, although it did feel like a major cramp was just one more step away the rest of the way, so that kept me paying special attention to my body. Nick and I decided to walk through the water stations and stretch more often the rest of the race. I would say around mile 23 -24 I started to get a little choked up for no apparent reason once in a while. I think that is when I realized we were definitely going to finish, and Nick mentioned that our Dad, who had passed away, was going to help us get through. I got pretty choked up coming towards the finish when we saw my wife Heather, Nick's fiancée Nikki, and Heather's parents cheering us on. A few steps later we saw our mom and my uncle and his wife right before the finish line. We crossed with our hands in the air together in 4 hours 21 minutes; we were thrilled and relieved.
Running has been so rewarding to me on so many levels. But most important has been the bond I have made with so many tremendous people.