Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Longest Marathon Ever

And I'm not kidding ...

On Sunday January 15, 2006 I ran the PF Chang Rock N' Roll Arizona marathon. This was my 5th marathon and it took me 5 hours and 40 minutes.

So I'll take you through the marathon experience.

It started 16 weeks ago when I ran my first training run. The way it works is you get a training program that has all the runs scheduled. You know what days and how far you will run every day from the day you start until the marathon. It's actually very easy and nearly guarantees your success. Even for someone like me who is far from athletic.

It starts out easy enough with a 3 mile run and you run shorter distances throughout the week. Every Sunday there is a long run scheduled. Week number 1 is a 6 miler, but by week 11 weeks you are up to a 20 mile run.

So I got through my runs just fine and I came down to Phoenix a couple of days early to relax and hydrate as that is important. If I stay home I know I'll never be able to stop, I've always got something to do when I'm home. I stayed in Phoenix with my friend Craig who is the most orderly and organized person I've ever met. He lives in a house that reminds me of a model home. Everything is perfectly in place; nothing is ever out of order. Good for him, I like clean to but even I have trouble living that way for an extended period of time.

The great thing is once I told him I was coming down for the run, he went online and researched the entire Phoenix marathon and had a complete itinerary set up for me by the time I got there. He even signed up to do race support at a water station because he figured it would be a good use of his time since he was taking me down to the starting line anyway.

I literally had nothing to worry about the entire weekend. That would prove to be my downfall.

Craig picked me up at the airport and after taking me out on a little business with him (see the previous blog entry) we had a nice relaxing evening. Friday was good to. All I had to do was get downtown to the runners expo and pick up my race packet. It includes my race bib with my number, my timing chip, my race t-shirt and a goody bag. The goody bag has a bunch of give away stuff. Most of it is not worth anything.

I signed up for a pace group, something IĆ¢€™ve been wanting to do since I started running marathons. It is a group of people that run together with a goal to finish in a specific time. It is led by people that have run many marathons and know how long it will take them to finish. I signed up for the 5:00 (that's 5 hours) group as I had run my other 4 marathons between 5:10 and 5:20. My thinking was I'll just tag along with these guys and not worry about it, another big mistake.

So everything went well Saturday, I went out on my final short run and relaxed the rest of the day. I figured I had everything under control and nothing to worry about.

I had to be up by 5:00am to get ready and get to the starting line by 6:30am. We made it easily as Craig had mapped out and driven the route in advance. He knew exactly how long it was going to take. Now the marathon had 33,000 participants so it was quite a site. All those people milling around and because it's the Rock N' Roll marathon, they had a band playing some great music while we were waiting for the start.

My first sign of trouble was when I went to try to find my pace group. The leader of each pace group carries a sign with the time on it. They are very easy to see as they carry a pole with the time on top that sticks up way about the crowd. I had no trouble finding every one but mine. I saw every one from the 3:00 (that's 3 hours, are you kidding me!) to 4:30, but no 5:00. I tried to find a race official that could direct me to the right place but no luck. Since so many people are in the race at the same time they line you up in groups with the fastest in the front and the slowest at the back. I took my place with the other 5 hour people figuring I may find the pace group there, I never did.

I ran the first 5 miles of the race thinking I was a little ahead of them. So I slowed up a little thinking they would catch up. That was my biggest mistake. I ended up slowing my pace up, never seeing them. I was not emotionally prepared because I thought I would be just following a bunch of people. That is why I ended up running a 5:40. But the truth is, that's OK with me. I was just glad to finish. I ran every step of the way and heard some great music. They have a different band at every mile. And it's hard to describe but you really feel like you are a part of something. Because it doesn't matter whether you are running a 3 or a 5 hour marathon it is the same for everyone. You have to train and the marathon itself is hard.. When you hit the finish line you really feel like you've accomplished something and you know you did it all by yourself.

Now that is something to be proud of. I hope you can have moments like this in your life.

I can't wait for my next one.

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