And did it in under 3:30.
What, do you want to fight about?
After all my bitching and whining about this and that injury, my up and down training, and a pretty bad attitude going into it, I managed to knock off 5 minutes from my best marathon time. But the best part was that I actually felt good (relatively speaking) throughout the whole race. I didn't have to stop because of leg cramps and I wasn't a total zombie at the end. I never hit the wall.
Unfortunately I can't take the credit for my time. Going into the marathon I only had one goal, stick with Tracey and see her through to the end. Being her first marathon she had two goals, finish, and qualify for Boston. No problem, the time she needed was a 3:50 so we would be aiming for around a 3:40. That would make for a decent pace but nothing too crazy. I could get another marathon under my belt, get in a long run, and help Tracey qualify, all while taking it a bit easy so as not to hurt my already flaky knee.
That plan lasted about two miles. The first mile was an 8:00 pace. So was the second. The third was faster. I started to get nervous that Trace was caught up in the excitement and pushing it too fast but we let her run. About mile 8 Michael told me that he wouldn't be able to hold that pace and that it was going to be down to me. Suddenly I went from having options to being committed, there was no way short of injury that I could let her do it on her own. By mile 10 Michael and John had dropped back and we were on our own.
We crossed over the second bridge and hit halfway around 96 minutes. So far the miles had been coming off real easy. Most of the mile markers were on us before I even realized it. Still, our pace was almost exactly 8 minute miles. After 13.1 Tracey was officially in the longest race she had ever been in.
The cold and the rain didn't seem to be slowing us down any as we continued on. Finally, the 17 mile marker came up, we were down to single digit miles left to go. A psychological boost for sure, but it was definitely starting to get harder. The nice easy stride took a little more energy, my breathing was a bit more labored, and the miles seemed to be getting longer. At some point Tracey got a little too excited and I had to yell at her to slow down, now was not the time to be pushing it to a sub-7 minute mile pace.
Over the bouncing bridge for the second time and it was the final turn for the finish line 8 miles down the road. (The bouncing bridge is a metal bridge where the pedestrian walkway hangs off of the bridge side and looks straight down to the river. It literally was bouncing up and down as we ran over it which, while fun, also wreaked havoc on our knees and was a bit scary to run on due to the metal plating that was coated in rain)
Mile 20 approached. This was the big one. I hadn't done twenty miles in over two months and Tracey had never run farther than that. Up until now we had averaged an 8 minute pace with the last few miles faster than that. It was no longer a matter of if she was going to qualify for Boston, it was a question of just how much faster than that we could finish. As long as she didn't hit the wall 3:30 was a definite possibility. Now I was starting to question the earlier pace. Tracey was heading into unknown territory but so far seemed to be holding up really well. It turned out that my knee was a total non-issue and the only worry I had at this point was my calf that had started to get sore. As long as that didn't seize I up I was going to be ok. I was tired, I was sore, I couldn't feel the fingers in my right hand but I still felt strong.
All of a sudden Tom Rooney starts running next to us looking pretty damn energetic for mile 20. Turns out he wasn't running the marathon, just running with the club members to help keep us going on the back stretch. I was starting to doubt myself so it was a relief to have him along for a few miles to take some of the pressure off of me, even if just for a little while. This is where the race really begins, and Tracey just kept on going.
We said goodbye to Tom around mile 23 and I tried to mentally prepare for the last few miles. I could tell Tracey was getting tired, her questions about our pace were coming much more frequently, but our pace stayed the same. At mile 25 we could see the arena where the finish was across the river. The next half mile was a gradual turn to the right on a banked road which is exactly what my legs wanted right then, a nice uneven running gait after 25 miles off steady, even, and flat running. Luckily nothing seized up on me.
Finally, the turn into the stadium. All we had left was a lap around the outfield on the warning track and the finish line awaited us. Well, actually, all we had left was a lap around the outfield and a couple of tarp covered mounds of dirt that we had to hurdle and then the finish line. As we turned around right field towards home plate I could see the clock, it was right around 3:29:22. I yelled at Tracey to pick it up and beat 3:30; and she did.
We crossed at 3:29:38. A new PR for me by over 5 minutes and an amazing first marathon finish for Tracey.
We met up with the rest of the group, froze our asses off, and reveled in the performances of the day. A very impressive day for all including several Boston qualifying finishes. And I managed to finally run a marathon in which I didn't have to stop for a bit due to muscle cramps: those didn't hit until I tried to step up into the minivan. Still, that was nothing compared to the ensuing quest for a Dunkin' Donuts. But that's another story all together.