A First Marathon Story


The "Race" Begins

At 6:41 it was officially underway. There was no gun shot to be heard (if there was one), but you could tell as everyone started moving nearly simultaneously. It is hard to describe the stampeding chorus of foot steps, but it seemed that everyone was jogging in cadence. We were moving pretty slow, but the beauty of the chip is it doesn't matter how far back you are from the starting line. Your race officially begins when you cross the red carpeting. I really wondered how that technology worked so well. I can understand a simple proximity device being registered, but there were over 2000 people running over this carpet in one to two minutes! The device off to the side was beeping like crazy and I thought it would be easy for it to miss a single contestant. It was great to finally be running!

The first two miles were slightly downhill and I consciously tried not to pay attention to the pace of the other runners, focusing on the ground in front of me and telling myself to stay slow, don't go out too fast. The chorus of footsteps still filled the air. If you go out too fast I knew it could have ugly consequences later. But it was impossible not to follow the other runners being so crowded.  A very funny sight was that of runners (male and female) veering off the road into the fields both left and right to find bushes and trees to relieve themselves. Yes, you can't be too bashful if you're a marathoner. I was feeling I had to go, but being my first marathon I thought I could tough it out: it'd relieve myself later in the privacy of one the port-a-potties at the mile markers if I absolutely had to.

Somehow I did go out slowly. Nine minutes for the first mile and then 8:45 for the second. Very good for going downhill. In front of me there were a sea of people and the predominant color was white. I marveled at how fast some of these runners must be going. I wish I could say I was feeling great, but instead it was anxiety at how the run was going to play itself out. This may be the worse part of a marathon. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say I was feeling a solid 3. At three miles the course leveled as we made our first significant turn into a large housing development. We had two lanes of the roads all to ourselves. To our left at 50 foot intervals were red cones that would line the entire route and we were always to stay right of these. Even if there was a sidewalk present we were to run in the street.

Mile 3 - The only real failure is the failure to tryThe mile markers in this marathon were two and half feet high sandwich boards donated by one of the sponsors, the Scottsdale Running Company. But along with the mile marker, most included a motivational saying. I can't honestly say I remember what even a single one actually said, but I did read them, especially at the beginning. Some seemed okay and others seemed a little corny. The thing was you couldn't help but read them. After all, what else was there to do to break things up.

At 3 and half miles the course started up a grade that noticeably slowed many runners. Up until this point I had passed virtually no one, but now I was suddenly passing people left and right, even though I didn't think I was going any faster. My watch was telling me that I was keeping close to an 8:45 pace, just a little faster than my target, but it felt so sssllloooowwww I didn't think it could possibly hurt. But I wasn't at all happy with the way I was feeling. A recurring thought was how difficult this was going to be! I passed up the first water stop at two miles, but at the four mile mark I knew I better start hydrating. I grabbed a dixie cup of water from one of the outstretched arms of a volunteer at the water station.  Being the first time I'd done this running, I was amazed to not have a difficult time drinking it.  Slowly I was finally starting to have a good time and happy I'd decided to run in this marathon. I encountered the first batch of spectators yelling to us, "Way to go!" and "You're looking great!" Yeah, I am looking great!

Mile 4 - Once you've set your mind to it, there's no distance too great.Julie and Nicole at 6 miles. - No large picture available.At about the four and half mile mark I could see Nicole and Julie in front of me as I was catching up. When I pulled up they said they'd slowed considerably when they hit the hill. The sun was now high enough that we were constantly in it's light and heat - it was already starting to feel warm. Ron went out very fast and I figured he'd be out of sight the entire race. I ran with Nicole and Julie for the next four miles and now it was really going great. It was genuine fun when I wasn't thinking of how far I still had to go. My target pace for the full marathon (4 hours) was their target pace for the half. At 6.2 miles we crossed the first of three checkpoints, a pad of red carpet with the sensors to register your chip, just like the starting line. It would record your time and the fact you'd made it that far!

Mile 6 - Where the mind goes the body will followAround the four mile mark.  Marathonfoto, a professional studio was there to take pictures of the participants. Soon after this checkpoint a banner moment came as we crossed the 6.5 mile point (which was not marked) signifying that one quarter of the run was complete! I was thinking it would be very nice to feel this way at the 18 mile marker! There were more cheers and claps, "You're looking great!" By mile 6 there were water stops every mile with an army of volunteers with water and/or Gatorade in a cup at arms length ready to hand to us. There were going to be many times during the race that I wished I could just stop and hug these people. They all seemed to be so happy and smiling while cheering us on. This was so different from my dashes down the Grand Canyon where any water you have is that you're carrying. With the heat I would not pass any of these stations. If I wasn't really thirsty, I would take the water and pour it over my head to cool myself as you could feel the additional heat as each mile passed. The water would really make be feel good for the next quarter mile.

Mile 8 - Failure is not an optionApproaching the nine mile mark, the marathon path would split and the half marathon group would head straight while we would make a right turn back onto McDowell Road. Nicole had told me that I better go ahead because she needed to slow down. I probably was going a bit fast at that point now feeling very good about completing one-third of the distance. If I felt like this at mile 18 I'm going to be very happy. As I neared the corner, there were now a lot of people lined up on the side of the road waving, clapping, and generally encouraging all of us. You heard over and over, "You're looking good!" It was okay. I felt good. It was easy to smile, wave back, and say, "Thank you!" Some of people lined up had signs. I remember one little kid having one that said, "Go Dad!" As I rounded the corner onto the dreaded McDowell Road I could hear someone saying, "Happy Birthday!" A young girl (she looked in her twenties) was soon along side of me saying, "It's not really my birthday. You're not going to tell them, are you?" We were at least 200 feet down the road already and I chuckled. "Sure! Like I'm going to run back there!"


Life is good, and so is the Marathon

Mile 9 - You are tomorrow what you believe todayI would run with her for the next five miles. The race is going as well as I could have hoped! Oh how great it would be to feel this good at mile 18. With the "fork in the road," there were considerably less runners on the road as most of the field were only doing the half marathon. I somewhat envied that group since their race would be over very soon, whereas mine hadn't even begun. She introduced herself as Megan and she was a "personal trainer" who lived in Omaha, Nebraska. Normally, my first sarcastic thought would be, "Sure, you're a personal trainer!" But here she was running in a marathon all the way from Omaha, not only wasn't it a big stretch, I was willing to bet she was a very good personal trainer. In fact I soon learned this was Megan's second marathon and she had a goal of doing 4 hours. There was a gentlemen following her along side on a bicycle in full biker gear which I soon learned was her father. She had her own mobile support! Every mile as I passed the port-a-potty I thought about stopping, but each time I declined the urge thinking I needed to keep going. Maybe I'd go after the next mile...

Mile 10 - Pain is temporary, pride is foreverMegan Hottman at mile 25. - No large picture available.She agreed it was pretty warm, but she told her woe of training in the snow so she appreciated the weather. Her strong suit was actually biking and really was hoping to compete soon in a triathlon. I related my story of not being a runner and this being my very first marathon. In fact, I told her I hadn't run over 15 miles in my entire lifetime. We exchanged a couple of stories (when you're running this distance, you better be able to speak, otherwise you're definitely running too fast) about training. I briefly told of my canyon hikes and was able to point in the distance to Camelback Mountain which I've hiked 100 times. Squaw Peak (which I've hiked over 1200 times) was not visible being behind Camelback from our position.

For anyone reading this who has not run long distances, you might be amazed that we're carrying on these conversations without gasping for breath. But it is vitally important that you never get out of breath in a long distance run. If you have to breath that hard you are simply running too fast and if you continue you will soon be walking. I was still reading the motivational sayings on the mile markers as everything seemed to be going well.

Mile 11 - Always push the limits.  Because if you never fail... You will never succeed.Mile 12 - Trample the weak.  Hurdle the dead.At the 11 mile mark we turned north and would enter a 3 mile loop that would take us right back to where we were right then. Runners were coming out as we were going in and it was amazing to think these runners were 3 miles ahead of me! A quarter mile later I spotted Ron, but he was too far away and wearing headphones so he couldn't hear me yell. He was nearly 2.5 miles ahead of me! I was really feeling generally okay and I was hoping against all hope that maybe I'd feel this good at the 18 mile mark. But that feeling didn't last long. By mile 12 I could feel that I was indeed now tiring and the water stops were more welcome; it was now a question of how fast I would taper off. The thought that things were going to get very tough must be the worst part of a marathon. But a temporary moment of satisfaction came when crossing the red carpet which marked the 13.1 mile point - half way done. (Or for the pessimists, half way started!)  My watch read 1:52 which was really good since only last October I'd done this same distance in 1:48. Only four minutes slower and this with a final goal of twice that distance.

Mile 14 - If you can read this, you're running too slow.Ron at mile 25. - No large picture available.Before I exited this 3 mile loop, Megan announced that she couldn't keep up with me and had to slow down. In retrospect I should have slowed with her, but I was at a comfortable pace and didn't want to go any slower or any faster. Just keep the pace I was at I kept thinking to myself. As I exited now I looked at runners just entering the loop. Wow! Now I was 3 miles ahead of these runners. There were more people lining the street cheering us on with the same mantra, "You're looking good!" Really? Well I wished I felt a little better.

As I now lost Megan, I was now keeping pace with another runner, Joe who I soon learned lived very near by. He was looking very strong and he told me this was his second marathon. He finished his first in just over four hours. I really wondered for a few moments if I had any possibility of that. Four hours was my secret wish at the beginning, but now my legs were starting to feel ever heavier and the heat was draining so in my heart I knew that time was probably out of the question. The real question was that of any marathon - are you going to finish? I was still feeling good about that, but now I really knew it would come at a high price. I passed the 15 mile mark without any fanfare in my mind, even though it marked the furthest I'd ever run in my life. Every mile after this would be uncharted territory.

My parents had planned to see me running and I recommended the upcoming section of the course, but unfortunately they had completely closed this part of the course to all traffic. It was too bad because the next section I recommended was at the 22 mile mark. I was already worrying that I would be looking horrible at that point. I was even beginning to worry if I could make it that far.


Through The Gates of Hell

Mile 16 - Some days it's better to just say in bed ... today would have been one of them!Mile 17 - If failure is not in your vocabulary, then you should have paid more attention in schoolAt the 16 mile mark everything began to fall apart rapidly. This time I couldn't help but stop at the port-a-potty. I had to go. It felt very good not to move for a minute, but I now found it was difficult to get myself going again. Joe was now so far ahead there was no way I could (or should) catch up to him. Some of the water stations had orange slices and Clif Shots, but I had my supply of fig newtons. Every other mile I'd try to eat one. I wasn't hungry, but I was trying to fuel my body. The uncharted territory was hostile. The motivational aspects of the mileage signs were now starting to elude me. It was getting difficult to concentrate on anything except focusing on the road in front of me. In fact I think the sayings were starting to mock me.

Mile 18 - What made you think you could do this?Just before the 18 mile mark came the dreaded hill. Yesterday in the car it looked difficult. Now it looked impossible. I wouldn't have been surprised to see mountain climbers in full gear at either side of the road attempting to scale it. I didn't even try to jog it. I went into my hiking race walk and even at that, it was getting me out of breath. Yet I was amazed that some were actually jogging up this 20% grade. Starting up the run after this hill was again extremely difficult and how I wished I was approaching the 20 mile mark rather than the 18. For the entire run I'd wondered what I'd be feeling like at mile 18, hoping I wouldn't be too spent because the tough part of any marathon run would follow. In my mind I was telling myself you should try to run all the way to 20 miles, but by mile 19 a cycle of walking and jogging began. I knew I was in real trouble and with so many miles to go: surely this must be the worst part a marathon. Over the remaining distance the walking would become ever more frequent as the jogging would be ever more infrequent. When I walked it was a race walk, but it wasn't fast enough to keep up with those who were still running. The aid stations were such godsends, I wished they had them every quarter mile! And as for the motivation sayings, I'm not finding them at all inspirational.

Mile 20 - If Philippides had died at mile 20, you'd be done!The 20 mile mark was magical in that there was only 10K to go. In my mind I started calculating the route near my house that would take me that distance. 6.2 miles should be relatively easy, but not after you've already run 20 miles. My legs had now gone from lean running machines to a set of legs you find on any baby. They move around but they don't support any real weight. They were essentially numb. They didn't want to move and it took a lot of concentration to make them. In the movies this is a point where you should have flashbacks. I might have thought of the road that took me here; the road that started last May; how I was going to kill the idiot (oh, that would be me) responsible for getting me into this mess. But there was none of that because my mind was focusing on simply putting one foot in front of the other. The running was simply no longer automatic, it now took real effort and concentration.

There was only one genuine thought that I can remember and I told myself over and over: you've worked very hard to get this far. Yes, this is tough but you've made it this far. You must continue! Do you ever want to run this far again? I will readily admit that I probably stood no chance if this was the first time I'd experienced this numbness. I've had it on the trails at Squaw Peak and had it on the trails of the Grand Canyon. I knew I could go further - a lot further, but could I make it the entire way? There were now a lot of people along the course and the cheering still continued, "Good job. You're looking great!" Okay, I'm really thinking these people are not being honest. I can't be looking great. I feel awful! It was getting hard to even acknowledge these people and I always wanted to smile, wave back, and tell them thank you. More and more I'm thinking, "Never again."

Mile 21 - The Marathon is just like life.  At the end of both you die!At Gene Autry Park.  Photos by my Mom!Every mile marker was now a real victory. 21 miles. Well, I actually have no memory of passing 21, but I must have! Then 22, then 23. I can't remember them, either. I can't even remember passing the water stations! I can't remember how many times I said to myself, "Never again!" I was trying to walk fast, but those running seemed to be passing me easily. It seemed like a lot of people were passing me. I wasn't so irritated that they were passing; it was irritating that they seemed to be going so slow and they were passing! But the further I went, the more I spotted walkers. This gave me a perverse pleasure knowing I wasn't the only one experiencing difficulty! Misery had a lot of company. There's very little else I remember specifically about this section, but besides the "Never again!" I also started bargaining with myself. "If I can just finish this marathon, I promise I'll never do this again!" The landscape seemed entirely unfamiliar, even though we'd driven it the day before.

Greeting my parents at Gene Auty Park.I couldn't exactly remember where Gene Autry Park was, but now I knew I was there because there were my parents at the side of the road! I'm sure this is a sight that I'm never going to forget. For just a brief moment I realized I had this whole other life. I stopped and gave my Mom a hug saying I'm really tired. I couldn't say much more. I should have told them I'm really starting to go slow so they should warn Cindy it might be some time before I make it to the finish. Slow? Any slower I'd be at a dead halt. It was a big relief to have spotted them because I was worried about it for the past several miles. Near this same point Megan ran by and gave me words of encouragement. I think they were along the lines of, "Gene! You're doing fine. Keep going!" It was definitely not, "You're looking great!" I can't even remember what I said to her in response. I can't even remember if I was able to acknowledge her. I was happy, however, to see her doing well. Maybe she would make her 4 hour goal!


It is good to have family and friends cheering you on.

Mile 23 - Got life insurance?  No one is going to sell you it now!Somewhere between mile 23 and 24 the numbness in my legs was replaced with genuine pain. "Never again!" Not every step was painful, but an increasing number of them were. Then there was pain in my thighs, then pain in my toes, and then pain in my back. Surely I had arrived at hell's door step. Why do I just not stop? Why do not flag down a car and get a ride back to the stadium where Cindy is waiting and is probably starting to worry. There is a very thin line between the bravery of continuing and the pure stupidity of it. No since wondering about it: I passed that thin line many miles back...

There were even more people lining the course at certain spots. Some were still yelling and clapping, "You're looking good!" Okay, I know these spectators are just plain lying. I must look like hell. If I died right now my family would have a hard time identifying the corpse. Probably they're cheering because they're grateful they didn't decide to run a marathon. They must be wondering why anyone would do this voluntarily. They must conclude we hadn't; we all committed heinous crimes against mankind and this is our punishment. I was still able to do some simple math so I could continuously calculate the miles of woe ahead. More complex math like figuring out my pace was now impossible. Ask what year it was or what was the first president, I wouldn't have had a clue. At the 24 mile mark it was hard to fathom just two more miles. I should be celebrating, "Only two more miles!" and start a happy dance, if only in my mind. But the hell continued and I was very certain this was simply not worth it. I should stop. "Never again!" I would take a few more steps and, "Never again!" But Cindy and my parents were waiting for me at the stadium. I guess I should just keep walking, but why should walking be this painful? The race was now a nightmare! Maybe if I could just wake myself up...


It is bad to have family and friends at your marathon.

Mile 666 - If you have a soul to spare, you can get out of this right now.Was this the worst part of the marathon? You'd think so and I'd agree if I could remember much of anything. But it's hard to think of anything (and I assure you hard to remember anything) when you have to summon every last bit of your mental being just to put one foot in front of the other. Because if you don't you'll stop. Between the concentration of simply putting one foot in front of the other and the almost continuous mantra of "Never again!" I had two other thoughts. When will this nightmare be over and this is surely the most stupidest thing I have ever done! I hadn't a clue as to why I thought it was important to complete this ridiculous, impossible, distance. Now finishing was only thing I had left. I simply must finish!

Just past the 24 mile mark was a 11 mile sign! What? For a moment I thought I was hallucinating. At this point in the course the half marathon had merged with the marathon again. Now I knew there would also be a 12 mile mark just past the 25 mile mark. Oh, how nice it would be to be a that point, but that was still many painful steps ahead.  Along the side the road I could no longer hear any cheering whatsoever.  Now I dared not make eye contact as they had all donned grim reaper costumes.  Or were they costumes?  I didn't look up to see the circling vultures, either!  

Every so often I would glance at my watch seeing the time ticking away. Earlier in the race I frequently checked, but now what did it matter? With 2 miles I can vaguely remember it was 3:52:00. The mental exercise of keeping going could not let me calculate how many minutes per mile. I remember thinking 4 hours was completely out of reach and maybe even 4:15 was out of the question. Why should I even care at this point what time it was? It was my last shred of competitive instinct coming to the surface. I was now mostly walking and only briefly now and then would attempt to break into a slow painful jog. The 25 mile marker had the last water station, but I had no need for anything. Earlier I had thought that maybe I could run this last mile, but no deal. It was still mostly a walk and with the pain even my walking pace had to be slowed. There was a section of street at this point from our drive the day before and there were a number of speed humps. I have no memory of any speed bumps, but I must have crossed them!

Mile 25 - "Don't worry.  I got you running!"I would always run when I was crossing traffic. These good police were there to stop traffic whenever we had to cross and it seemed rude of me to just walk. When I would clear the traffic it was back to the painful walk. The pain was now constant in my legs, my hips began to hurt, and my shoes felt like they were tied too tight. My body was really screaming at me to stop, but I was now so close. That last mile was starting to feel good only because I was so near. The stadium lights were now in view and any amount of hydration left I would have cried at the sight. A half mile ahead I would cross Brown Drive and I would be on the school grounds and torture would be over. Oh, no! Suddenly just in front of me was a marathon photographer. They are there to take pictures during the event and then you can buy these later on. I have to run a little, but it was excruciatingly difficult and I stopped rather quickly. The photographer must have had a lot of experience with my brief jog since he said, "Don't worry. I got you running!" Wow, running? He was being very generous since I don't think you could have even described it as a jog. However, that really did give a good feeling, if only for a moment. Nearing Brown Drive with an unbelievable number of spectators suddenly watching I dug deep and mustered every last bit of remaining strength I had and started to jog and vowed to continue until I crossed the finish line. I would not walk across the finish line!

P557.jpg P556.jpg The finishing tents.

Mile 26 - Was there ever any doubt?My parents in the stands - just like high school.I never saw the 26 mile sign, but I knew that Brown Drive marked the 26 mile mark. The end was now very near. This was extremely neat to finish on a track in the stadium; it reminded me of the Olympics when those marathon runners enter the stadium and do a lap and a half to finish in front of the cheering crowd. I jogged down the road still lined with red cones and a lady shouted to me that I was to turn right. As tired as I was I couldn't imagine needing this direction. Directly in front of me was a mass of people so you had to turn left or right. Right was into the stadium and left was into the parking lot! There were people everywhere. As I entered the stadium and made the right turn onto the track, I had a genuine moment of deja vu which resulted in an unbelievably bad anxiety attack. The reason is I ran track in high school (never mind how many years ago that was) and I've run a lot of 400 meter distances (the length of one full lap of the track) and knew how far it can be. That distance is so long I knew I couldn't make it running!! I briefly admonished myself for starting the final run too early. But the feeling instantly subsided as I looked over to the welcome sight of a finish line on just the other side of the track! I only had about 180 meters to go.

60 yards to go! 15 yards to go. The ordeal is over!

The finish line!Before me was the big white banner and I can't even begin to describe what a beautiful sight it was. Suddenly I wasn't tired. I could see the digital time of 04:18 with some odd seconds. I looked up into the stands to see if I could spot Cindy or my parents, but they could not be seen. As I neared the banner the flash of a camera directly ahead caught my eye and it was Cindy taking a picture. As I crossed the red carpet I instinctively raised my hands in victory with a big smile and slowed a bit waiting for the flash of the camera to take the final picture. I wish I could say I was euphoric. I should have felt that way, overjoyed that I had really done it. But it was simply relief the ordeal was finally over. Yes, it was over, yes, I had really done it, and yes, I'd never do it again.

They then turned me to the left to enter a tent where a volunteer cut off the timing chip and then another volunteer put the finishing metal over my head. You only receive the metal if you finish! Cindy was then able to join me and suggested I take a bottle of water. I really wasn't thirsty and I definitely wasn't hungry. At first I wanted to keep moving, but soon I really wanted to sit down. I was becoming sick to my stomach and I found a seat to rest for a few minutes and I immediately felt a lot better. It felt so hot! Megan came by to offer congratulations, but I was really out of it. More conscious I realized that I hadn't seen my mom so I got up and walked over to the stands, but Cindy thought that was a bad idea because it was even hotter up there. My parents had come down, however, and I wanted to thank them for coming. It was more deja vu. In high school my parents came to many track and field meets.

Just a few more steps! Rejoice! We conquer! Next to the water tent. I have no idea who the gentlemen is standing next to me.  I have absolutely no memory of him standing there with me!

Ron & Nicole.  Picture by Cindy.Ron and Nicole were no where to be found. Cindy had seen both of them (she missed Ron coming into the stadium 40 minutes earlier) and she thought they were getting something to eat. She remembers Ron saying, "I'm hungry." I wish I was. They had a tent stocked with bananas, oranges, bagels, for us, but none of it looked appetizing. As I stood I was now feeling sick again and had to sit down and then lie down. When I lied down I would immediately feel better so Cindy said we should get to the car and head home. I couldn't even make it to the car. I've just gone 26 miles and now I can't go 100 feet without resting. I had to sit down at the curb and Cindy went to get the car. It was so hot it was hard to imagine I could have run in this heat. As we drove away from the stadium we followed part of the course and I was amazed to see so many contestants still running. Ron finally called when we were heading home saying he'd grabbed a bite to eat. He was back at the stadium and wondering how I'd done and whether I had finished. I told him it was pretty bad that last 8 miles, but I was now well. I'd save the ordeal story for later.


Ron Hendricks crosses the finish line more than 3 miles ahead of me! - No large picture available.Postscript

Ron ran the event in 3:39. This was an unfathomable time to me, but a disappointing time for him. This was his 11th marathon and he is still working for a 3:10 which would qualify him for the Boston Marathon.

Megan crosses the finish line over a mile ahead of me! - No large picture available.A few days later I wrote to Megan and found she crossed the finishing banner just after 4 hours, missing her goal by less than a minute! She was just sick about it. But that's not what I'd seen in the finishing times. There it was listed as 3:59!! Ah, the beauty of the chip. It had taken her over a minute to get to the starting line and I had now been the one to give her the news that she had actually made her goal.  Later that year she did finish the half Ironman Triathlon in an amazing time of 5:49:47!  


With my finishing medal, but not feeling very good.Would I do it again?

Are you kidding? What kind of cruel question is that? Did you not just read this escape from the depths of hell? After over 6 miles of "Never again!"? After 4 hours and 18 minutes and knowing exactly what Philippides must have felt like just before he keeled over?

It was just 9 months later! On September 22nd I started training for a marathon on December 7th. From the start this marathon was going to be very different from my first. This time I would know what 26.2 miles feels like and specifically how bad it could feel near the end. So you can see it took less than 7 months to forget that last 10 miles of mostly "Never again!" That marathon came about largely due to simple serendipity. To repeat the marathon (and not repeat the experience) I was determined to be fully prepared and vowed that if I wasn't, I wouldn't go through with it. After all, what was there to prove since I had made it across the finish line the first try? Since then I've read a line recited by several marathoners that really resonates with me. "It's not getting to the finish line that's tough, it's getting to the starting line." I'm pretty sure they're speaking of the difficult training over many months, but I'd add that it's equally difficult deciding to go to the starting line once you really know what you're in for: like uttering, "Never again!" for nearly ten straight miles.

And prepared as I thought I was (almost 400 miles in 11 weeks), I hit the wall even earlier this time! But training did make a difference as I was able to at least jog for almost the entire way, doing maybe 40 yards of walking every mile starting at mile 13. I finished in 3:53:48.

And then less than 2 months after that I entered the Las Vegas Marathon: 3:37:57. My time would have been a lot better but 15 miles into the race, we hit 25MPH headwinds with gusts to nearly 40. Up until that point I had visions of a 3:30.

A real photo of one of the Valley of the Sun Marathon mile markers with motivatonal slogan.And will I do another? Up to this point I've always said, "I'm really not a runner." But now having completed 3 marathons (I have to keep saying that because I still find it hard to believe) I'm going to have a hard time selling that line. I really would like to finish in 3:30 which would allow me to qualify for the granddaddy of all marathons: Boston. So in a perverse way I'm really saying I want to run 2 more marathons!

Valley of the Sun Marathon 2004 - Volunteering at a water station.And what about the Valley of the Sun Marathon? Though I had absolutely no desire to repeat this marathon, I did return. This time volunteering at one of the water stations! I manned the Mile 12 station and I was happy to return the favor for what was for me a very special marathon. I hope I showed the appreciation of the water people when I was running as these runners were to me. Marathon runners are among the best! As you can see from the photo above, I did get a look at one of those motivational sayings on the mile marker.

And finally, what about Dr. Larry?

I have added #564 to the stupid list: Disparage the Marathon run. "A classic case of writing about something you know nothing about. It's not 26.2 miles of pain. At most it's 6 miles and maybe 2 hours of discomfort and a lifetime to savor the accomplishment."


They don't give these medals to just anyone!  Proof of insanity required - finishing a marathon!

I ran 26 miles, 385 yards, got completely drained, sick, and all I got was this lousy medal! Well ... I also got this story. :)


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