After the first time I ran the California International Marathon, in 2004, I swore I'd never run it again. This weekend did a 180.
In 2004 it was ridiculously cold as we gathered at the Folsom Dam start, and I had no gloves. That would prove to taint the whole experience, as my hands never thawed. I seem to remember Fair Oaks Boulevard being industrial strength boring. And, at mile 17 that day, my right knee decided it wanted nothing more to do with this whole running a marathon thing. It agreed to go along if only I would walk. I walked the last 9.
This weekend could not have been more different.
My brother got up early and took me to the start, with the obligitory Starbucks stop along the way. Thick fog shrouded the area, that was quickly filling with 10,000 runners. I fully expected to throw up the coffee I'd just inhaled, as I usually do right before a race. Didn't happen. Hit the portapotties a couple of times, and then lined up to run.
Almost immediately I hooked up with a couple of runners of similar years, one a marathon virgin, the other, Scott -the-lawyer-from-Cleveland who's hated his job for thirty years. The first guy didn't stay with us long, but the barrister and I ran and chatted together for about 12 miles. He then said he was pretty much done, running-wise. I gave him one of my two English Mars bars (my secret energy weapon), told him he couldn't have it until mile 17, said cheerio" and struck out on my own.
Nothing much really happened the rest of the way, other than, for the first time in 21 marathons, I was able to stick with my Jeff Galloway method 5:1 run/walk pace all the way to the end. I ususally toss all that out somewhere between 17 and 20. Not sure where this batch of resolve came from, but it's welcome anytime.
The only down part of the race was as I approached mile 21, I started to sense the onset of a migraine, which I only get when I am really, really tired. Remembered that a migraine means the blood vessels in the brain are constricted and can't get enough blood through the affected area. I hadn't brought my migraine meds, although I'd thought about doing so as I got ready earlier, but forgot to follow through. Decided to experiment, by stepping up my pace to see if the old ticker would push a bit more blood to where it was needed, and maybe fend off the looming headache. For about a mile and a half my vision was blurred, and I could barely see the road. Good thing it was wide and closed to traffic. The experiment apparently worked, as my vision cleared a few minutes later, and I cruised the rest of the way in.
I have wanted to break the 5 hour mark for years, but had recently come to the realization that that was probably never going to happen at my age (56). Have taken on board, sort of, Jeff Galloway's and John Bingham's admonishments to just let go of the time limit thing. But I'll admit breaking that barrier was something I still really wanted to do.
As I crossed the 26 mile marker I noticed my Garmin showed I'd actually run a little more than that, so I carefully watched it tick up to 26.2...then hit the stop. I couldn't believe that my total time was 4:56. Un-freakin' real. Kept going and crossed the official finish line, even though I'd actually finished my marathon about half a block earlier. My brother, his wife, and their boys were there to welcome me in, which was awesome.
So, even though I'm officially done putting finishing time limits on myself, I quickly realized with a 4:56 on record, I am now just 26 minutes away from being able to run my dream marathon, San Sebasitan in Spain. They have a strict 4:30 course limit. I'm just saying.
Next up it's Carlsbad Marathon at the end of next month.