I loved it. I hated it. I had no idea it was possible to feel so alive while seemingly trying to kill yourself. I had run the distance, 13 miles, a few times before. What I learned this past Sunday is that there is a big difference between leaving your house in the morning to go for a run and feeling so good that you run 13 miles, and leaving your house in the morning knowing that you have to run 13 miles. Head games, of course. So much in sports gets played out in our heads.
This started to dawn on me Friday. I had the day off and was really on edge all day. Nothing seemed to go right on one of the more frustrating days I've had in quite some time. It wasn't until Saturday morning that I realized I was getting nervous about the race. Once I acknowledged that I was fine. I felt good all day Saturday until it was time to go to sleep. The alarm was set for 5 am and I could not sleep. Much the same way I struggle to rest the night before a long drive awaits in the morning, my adrenaline is on and I am having trouble turning it off. This is why I often end up rousting my family at 4 am when we're heading out on vacation. There is no starting the race early, though I am sure right now I could run it. At one point before finally drifting off I actually wonder if I have to run only the Half Marathon. Can I just keep going and run the whole thing if I feel good enough? Just how preposterous a thought that was will become obvious later on.
Sunday morning eventually comes and what a cool scene it is downtown. Thousands of runners lined up on Pearl St. for the start. Greg Bauch, my friend Jim Jarvis and I are near the back of the pack as we wind our way through Downtown and out to the Lower West Side. Bauch breaks away and Jarvis and I are enjoying the run much the same way we do any other time we run together, talking about our kids baseball games and music and whatever. We hit LaSalle Park and we pass my friend Michele, who helped raise some money for Hunter's Hope. All smiles as we catch up to Bauch. I am having a great time and feel really good. It is kind of hot but that's okay.
Right about mile 4 I lose Jarvis. Am I slowing down? Did he pick it up? It doesn't really matter, of course, but it has me thinking which isn't good. I let that go and settle in with Bauch as we make our way through the Marina and down towards the Arena. We are about an hour in now and the way the course is designed sends the leaders back the way we're currently heading out. These guys are on mile 12 while we're on mile 6 and they are just flying. Long, beautiful strides that I can only dream of. Wow.
We run through the First Ward and I am still feeling great. I love this feeling and am thinking about what it will feel like to finish. Here comes a bridge on South Park. No worries. I leg it pretty hard up to the top, losing Bauch in the process. Into the Valley we go, onto Elk St. and another bridge. No problem again as I bust it hard to the top and Mile 9. This is one of the best things I have ever done, no doubt.
A couple of side streets and then a left on Exchange and another bridge and why am I suddenly cold? It's really hot out. My shirt is drenched. My socks are drenched. I find myself thinking about how much my hair weighs. Really? I've never thought about this before, and now is when this pops into my head? I really shouldn't be cold. I guess this is why you see people getting wrapped up in those shiny blankets when they are done with long runs. Will there be a shiny blanket for me? Do you get wrapped in a shiny blanket after running the Half Marathon? I want a shiny blanket. I need a shiny blanket.
To be sure, there will be no shiny blanket if I don't get up this hill. There is a guy throwing up over the side of the bridge. I am really cold. In the span of about 5 minutes this has gone from the greatest thing I have ever done to the worst day of my life. There is no busting it up this bridge. I make it and for the first time all day am really looking forward to the next hydration station, which come every two miles.
Where is it? I can't even see it off in the distance. It should be close, no? It's really hot but I am cold. What the hell is going on? I hear sirens. I hope Bauch is okay. I know my family said they would be at the finish line but I am looking for them out here. Where is mile 11? It has to be close now. There is a mile marker coming up but no water station.
Mile 10. I am going to die out here. Mile 10 is a joke, right? The mile between 9 and 10 has been the longest run of my life. I feel like I could have run to the Buffalo Airport and back in the time it has taken me to run this 1 mile. And I still have another mile to go before I get a drink. What am I doing out here anyways? I used to sit on my porch nursing a hangover while these maniacs ran by and never once did I think it looked like something I needed to do. I am an idiot for thinking I could do this.
Finally, there it is....Mile 11 and water. All day I have grabbed a drink and kept moving. There will no doing that here. I stop and start drinking. I stay so long I should probably leave a tip. I start walking away and am devastated by having had to stop and by the thought that these last 2 miles are going to as hideous as the previous 2. Nonetheless, I start running again as we turn onto Michigan Ave. and yes, another bridge. I make it halfway up before I have to stop again and walk the rest of the way to the top. This is why I am so upset I stopped at the water station. Once you stop, it's easier to stop again. I clear the top of the bridge on Michigan and convince myself that all I have left is the equivalent of one lap around Ring Rd at Delaware Park. Come on, man, you can do that.
So I start to trot again and the crowds are thickening up as I head back into Downtown. I am going to finish this thing and be running when I do. A left on Franklin and I can see it now, the finish is in sight. A couple of blocks from the finish there is a split in the course for the full marathon. They turn right and eventually head up into North Buffalo. I think about having considered whether or not I could run the entire thing if I felt up to it and laugh out loud.
I spot my wife and kids and slap a high five with my boys and get across the finish line.
Water. I need water. There is water. Man, there are a lot of people down here. I want to find my family and have some water. There they are and I feel so proud and they are so glad to see me, but, I feel like I may faint. That feeling passes and we're talking and wondering how Jarvis and Bauch are doing and I feel faint again. My wife asks if she should go get me a banana and I say it might be a better idea if you don't go away right now. I am seeing some spots and really feel out of sorts and surely need to put something in my stomach. Here's Jarvis and now I can send my wife off in search of a banana. They return in pretty short order and I am feeling better already. I will not pass out, thankfully.
Bauch eventually shows up and it is only then that I realize that I didn't even notice my time when I finished. It is now just about a half an hour since I finished and already I have gone from thinking I don't ever want to do this again to thinking about what I may do differently next year.
I eventually find out that I ran it in 2 hours, 19 minutes and change. That is about 9 minutes over what I thought I would run. Man, if only I hadn't stopped at that last hydration station.
We ended up raising over $1,500.00 for Hunter's Hope. Thank you to all who donated and those who ran with me and helped raise money.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go for a run.
I've got a half marathon to train for.