The United States Air Force has been putting on one hell of an event since it’s inaugural race commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Air Force on September 20th 1997. Since then it’s just gotten larger and larger. I’ve been privileged enough to run the past two. When I say privileged, I don’t mean you have to qualify, I mean that as a nod to the race coordinators and the event staff and all of the volunteers that spend way much more time than I do at the event making sure each and every runner is having a good time, and is well taken care of. There is a reason this race sells out well in advance every year.
While I admit, my training hasn’t been the best this year, I went in pretty much knowing that I was going to PR this thing. About mile 13 I got injured last year and walked a couple miles until some NSAID’s kicked in and then I finished the race at 5:37:54. My goal for this was anything under 5:00 hours and my stretch goal was 4:30, which was the pace group I signed to run with.
There were 2,908 entries into this years full marathon. The marathon start time is coupled with the 10k at which had 1,643 entries….over 4,000 people at the start line for this one. I lined up trying to find a good place with the 4:30 group, but got shuffled around and didn’t find the 4:30 group until about mile 4. I was feeling incredibly good, and just kept my pace for a bit longer.
I’m going to stop here for a second though and acknowledge some folks that run in honor of the men and women in uniform over-seas. They ran this marathon in their honor with almost full gear.
Sorry for the blurry picture, but I was running. Those people right there did all 26.2 miles with a full pack, over 50lbs of equipment added to their body weight, and in combat boots.
Okay…..so…..back to the race at hand. It’s a funny thing about marathons. It’s a different mentality when you run it. You get to mile 6 and you’re like, oh, I’m already at mile 6 even though you’ve been out there for over an hour. Your mind just doesn’t seem to notice, and if you go out right, your body doesn’t either. I just kept on going along. Eventually I found my fiance and two of our kids around mile 9 and tried to give them a nice sweaty hug. They wanted none of that
I passed them up after pausing for a minute and went on my merry way. I ended up having someone come up and start talking to me around mile 10 and we were chatting for about 2 miles, he was annoyed with his brother because the only reason he was running this was because his brother wanted him to. Apparently his brother walked during the first up hill mile and then at mile 4 and 6 and that annoyed him so he took off. It was at mile 12 I realized he was picking up speed as we went along and so was I. All sub 10, bordering on 9:45 miles, and I did NOT want to go that fast. So I told him thanks for the chat, stopped at the water station a bit past mile 12 and slowed way down. At this point I was way ahead of the 4:30 pace group with only a little hip flexor pain. I knew it was going to become a problem if I didn’t slow it down.
At the half way point I was at 2:11:57. About 3 minutes faster than my absolute, maybe I could do it, but I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t goal. I was feeling good and slowed down to let the pace group catch up to me. The pace group at 4:30 was about 90 seconds behind me, so the break wasn’t as long as I’d hoped. I stayed with them until about mile 16 when I had to stop and really stretch the hip flexors the pain was becoming more pronounced. Mile 17 I stopped at the medical tent for some motrin.
I don’t know if it was the motrin or if it was the electrolyte beans that began to make me noxious, but at mile 18 I started to become extremely noxious. It was to the point that I couldn’t really go more than .25 miles at a time. I contemplated just jamming my finger down my throat to make it happen, but I was afraid that the fluid loss would be even more detrimental.
So basically that was the end of my race and my hope of finishing in under 5:00 hours and I knew it.
What happened after that though was something that no finishing time could compare with. There were people on the course that needed help, medical type help, no medics around at the moment. So while one person was on the ground rolling grabbing his calf because it seized up, I stopped and helped him stretch it and massage it. The medics came about 40 seconds after so I could continue. They were that fast.
Around mile 22-23 there was a woman crying, so myself and a few other people helped her along. She wasn’t hurt, but the soreness really messed with her mind. Eventually she became strong enough to continue on.
At almost the same time I heard someone talking to his buddy. This guy looked fresh as hell like this was nothing. I found out it was nothing for him, this was his friends first marathon. The guy running with him usually has a 7 minute pace. He was saying things like “At this point it’s in your mind, continue on, don’t stop, shuffle if you have to, don’t walk. You can do this.” That was actually pretty motivating to me as well but I started asking questions. Talked to him about my experience my first time, and said things like, it’s only 20 more minutes. You’ve been running for over 4 hours, what’s another 20? Talking to him about me being in pain too, and wanting to stop and vomit. His friend agreed and helped him out, pushing him along the way. While I stopped at the next water stop and tried not to vomit, they continued on and finished about 45 seconds ahead of me.
It’s things like that that make the slower time worth it. Making a difference is so much better than an arbitrary finishing time.
I finally finished the 26.2 miles at 5:08:42, and my watch which I’ve had issues with was only .04 miles off at 26.24 miles….so not really off at all, that made me happy.
I got some bling:
Ate some pizza, and took a picture with an F-15
Marathons are not for everyone, I’m debating if they’re even for me, but I’ve got two under my belt to show for it, and we’ll see if I do this again next year. USAF puts on one hell of a race, and the lure of a well organized and flawlessly run race on race day makes it hard to pass up.