Its 6:25am, October 5th – I have just stepped out of the shiny black Volvo and said good-bye to my “best-ever” brother-in-law. After a night awake with little Max, he still got up and brought me down to the start of the 2008 Portland Marathon.
I wasn’t cold, wearing just a short sleeve top and my running shorts. Asics on my feet, complete with my timing chip – I was either ready or not; it was too late now to question.
I had to walk about 10 blocks to the start of the race, only about 3 blocks as the crow flies, but the organizers put up a lot of chain-linked fence to close off the course, so I had to take the long way around, giving me a chance to hit a port-a-john without a line and warm up my legs.
Making a right onto Salomon, I saw the large crowd of people gathering at the start along with the Red Lizard Pace Flags, indicating anticipated finishing times. I had told my family and friends my goal was to run 3:16, 7:30 pace, optimistic at best, unrealistic at worst. I didn’t really have any beta to base that time off, other than a half marathon I had run in July in 1:36……. But I felt good and strong and would just have to go for it.
I found a spot between the 3:15 and 3:20 pace groups, a bit closer to the 3:20 group. Last year when Hailey and I had run together we finished in 3:27 and my PR (also on this course) was a 3:17:02 that I ran in 2002; after spending the whole summer training specifically for this race and clocking a lot of time on the track. At 7:00am the gun went off and I crossed the starting line, stuck behind some slower runner, I darted and dashed between them, not able to find a comfortable pace for the first mile. I was right behind the 3:15 group and stayed there for the first 5 miles; 3:15 is 7:27 pace, they were definitely running faster than 7:27 pace. I am wasn’t confident I could keep up and knew I needed to run my own race, so I did just that, ran my own race, at my own pace.
Murph joined me at mile 7 and ran with me until the turn up into Northwest, about mile 10 giving me a GU and red Powerade. I saw Mark right after the turn, gave him my shirt and smiled for the camera. I knew I would see Kacy, Andrew, Mom, and Max soon. About this time, I had caught up with the 3:15 group and as we weaved our way past 21st and 23rd St, I was right in the middle of a large pack of runners. At the Thurman turn I saw my family. Mom was there with a banana and drink – but I couldn’t get to her, I waved, and kept running, I was boxed in and just kept going.
I ran in the pack until the downhill turn from Thurman onto St. Helens road, “use the hill” I kept saying to myself and after a couple of “excuse mes” and “on your rights”, I had passed the 3:15 pacer and was off – had I made a mistake? Should I slow down? Will trey pass me again as soon as I begin to fade? I couldn’t question myself, I just had to run. At the half way mark I looked at my watch, 1:36:28…..the number seemed to fast, but I felt great. At this point I was still questioning my ability to keep up this pace, 7:22s, but I couldn’t slow down now. I saw Mark pass in the white Jeep and soon he was running beside me with a GU and a video camera. I started asking him questions, he told me not to talk. The guys that were running near me started laughing and joking, Mark soon broke off and I passed the guys – the bridge would be the real test.
As I passed “Check Point Charlie” and “No Bib, No Bridge” signs, I felt my pace slow, climbing up the on ramp of the St. Johns Bridge – but even as my pace slowed, I continued to pass people, giving me confidence and fuel. I crested the bridge and the rain really started coming down, cooling me off as I quicken the pace as I used the downhill slope to my advantage. I spotted Mark, camera and Gatorade in hand, I couldn’t help but smile. He handed me a banana, I gulped some Gatorade (which never tasted so good) and I headed to the University of Portland. Mile 18 to 19 flew by, and as we passed the mile 19 marker, I said to a guy that has been running near me, just 7 to go – it was only now that I felt I was going to make it to the finish line without fading.
I saw the crew and they handed me a banana, I didn’t really want to eat it, but I knew I had to, sticking it in the side of my cheek to slowly dissolve. My family was awesome, we’ll see you at the finish they yelled – little Max being sheltered by Kacy’s raincoat and Mom running next to me for as long as she could. Along the bluff I went. Murph would be meeting me soon and then the home stretch.
And then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted Sara, a complete surprise – “You are doing so good” she said. I still felt strong and as she ran beside me, I was talking and thanking her, she told me to be quiet. She ran with me for about ½ mile when Murph spotted us, after a quick intro, and being told to quite talking, Sara pealed off and Murph ran with me until mile 23. A GU and some more red Powerade as we headed down the Interstate hill.
My quads started to hurt at this point, you think you are going to be grateful for the decent, but you are wrong. Your legs tighten up and fatigue starts to creep in. Murph left me with 3 miles to go, 3 miles, anyone can run 3 miles. Across the Broadway Bridge, I was passing people left and right. Guys with cramps were stretching and walking, I wanted to yell encouraging things to them, but decided against it. I rounded the corner and under the bridge, just over a mile to go.
A straight line with a slight up hill and I would be at the finish. That seemed like the longest mile in the whole race, but I ran it in 7:13. I crossed the finish line in 3:13:56. A new PR and I felt great, exhausted, but great. The finishing area was almost empty and I easily found my family and chugged a whole bottle of chocolate milk (which they are now giving out at the end of races, proven to be a great recovery drink). Kacy, Mom, Mark, Andrew, and Max – finishing with a PR was great, but having everyone there was the real highlight of the day. The Portland Marathon provides a great course, aid stations, and usually perfect running weather, but the reason I come back to this race each year isn’t just to run, but to run with the support of my family, to see their faces, share their smiles and get a hug at the end, no matter how sweaty and stinky I maybe.