In a nutshell, it’s done. Clean and simple. No fuss no muss. And now, for the rest of the story. (Thanks, Paul Harvey.)
Like anyone preparing for a big exam, the night before is pretty nerve-racking. I did not go to bed until after 11pm. I made sure I had everything packed away from sunscreen to my GU gels. My wife and I did get up around 3 am and I started to eat some breakfast. All I could keep down was some Black Cherry greek yogurt and some Gatorade. The night before, I has some pizza from Pizza the Hutt including the pasta dish with Tuscani Meaty Marinara. I ate the entire pasta dish and several slices of pizza so, I was full but still I needed to some more fuel for the run.
We headed out around 4:15 which I thought was late for us since the lineup began at 5am. We breeze through the roads and made it to the downtown area, including parking, within 20 minutes. We were way early but my bladder had other ideas. I did not drink any caffeine drinks the night before or on the day of the race for this reason; it makes me pee like a race horse. Not that I’ve seen a race horse pee nor do I have any desire too but my bladder was one big pee machine. Hell, I went at least three or four times before I left the house and that many with I got to the race. In between all the peeing, I was able to get a quick shot of my wife and I. And of course, here’s a pic of me in front of the multiple TARDIS port-a-potties.
Moving right along, race time was getting near and my nerves were at an all time high. Everyone around me was either doing stretches or quick jogs in place. I did stretch before I went into my pen. My wife was just to the left of the pen and kept me company and helped to relax me nerves. Looking around, it was obvious that the pack around me was far more in shape that I was. I had to keep reminding myself, I am not here to compete against them, this race is about me completing the race. That is the goal that anyone attempting this race must remember. This race is not about speed; it’s about endurance.
Now, the race begins. Right from the onset, I am being passed left and right in droves. Once again, I reminded myself not to follow their paces as they were alot more fit than I was and to do so would be unwise. By mile 2, I had to stop as my bladder told me to pull over to give my liquid treasure to the TARDIS god once more. Back to the race, I kept a steady pace and stopping about every 45 minutes to consume one of the 7 GU energy gels. I had calculated the night before how many of these gels to buy and to use for the race. The magic number was 7 as I would use one before the race and then every 45 minutes. This would be about 5.5 hours worth of energy plus I made sure to drink along every mile marker for drinks.
Last year, I started to feel pains in my legs after mile 6 and by mile 9, I had started to walk due to the strain. This time around, I felt much better, not exactly running at Flash’s speed but I was better. I did take short breaks but only to take a quick sip from my running bottle filled with Gatorade. I planned on carrying two small towels to use because even at that early morning, the heat and humidity was there. By mile 8, I used the soak sweat towel to cover the back of my neck and used my at to hold it in place. This was a smart move as the sun was at my back and the towel, covered with sweat, yes gross, kept me cool.
Around mile 10, I’m already seeing people not handle this run. I saw people on stretchers and one female runner lying down by the curb suddenly sit up and started to throw up. I felt very fortunate that I trained many times on the beach during the late mornings and afternoons. The heat during those runs would drain me after only a few miles. This might have been a godsend to continue after others struggled at this point. By mile 12, the groups were being separated into two groups 1/2 marathons and the full marathons. When the two groups went in the opposite direction, the full marathoner group was dramatically thin. Still I kept pressing on as the longest run I did to date was 15.5 miles. By mile 14, I got my first of many ‘stop running’ cramps. I got worried that I would not be able to continue running because the pain was sharp and intense. So, I walked. There was some weird mantra I heard that if you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. Never give up. I didn’t. As a reward, those who know Miami weather can change in a heartbeat, there were dark clouds and then some rain. No worries on my part as I continued to run and walk.
By mile 18, I was bad shape in my legs. I could only muster a few quick moments before the pain came back. Oddly enough, I saw some guy dressed as a banana and another one as a giraffe with a baby. I had to chuck at the sight as I needed to laugh and get distracted. But the banana was an omen for me as about 1/4 mile later, there was refreshment stand that had bananas. Of course, I need this more than the Gatorade, water and other items. I scarfed the banana as I needed this shit to work quickly yo! Mile 19 – 22, I carried on but the next two miles was daunting.
The Rickenbacker Causeway connects Miami to Key Biscayne which started mile 23. By this time, I had to shade from the sun and the time was about 11:30am. If the morning was hot, the late morning was scorching hot. There was very little shade and relief. The next refreshment stand was under the bridge span to the Key which was very cool compared to walking and shuffling. I made the turn to run back the mile on the other side of the causeway. Still the heat was beating down on me that I had to use a new towel given to me during the race on my head. I draped over on one side to block out the sun. As you can see from the pic above, I look very sheik.
Mile 25 and now on the road for more than 6 hours. This was not how I planned to finish as I wanted to be done at least over 5 hours but not this much. Again, telling myself, this race is about finishing at this point and that’s all that matters. The last major hurdle was a bridge which I had to walk. One word think that down hill would have been easier. This decline started to hurt my legs even more than I had to grab the temporary barrier from kneeling over.
By this point, I saw the marker for mile 26 and started to hobble quickly towards it. I knew that my pain would soon be over but every step took great effort to channel the pain to drive me.
One of the things I practiced over and over was to end my run on a strong finish – one last push. The piece of music I was going end my run on is the last track on the Man of Steel soundtrack. Whether you care for the movie or not, the score by Hans Zimmer was my inspiration to get myself out there and to not give up no matter the obstacle. I made it to mile 26 and then made the turn to the finish line.
The first half of .26 of a mile, I ran but got a pain behind my right leg – another cramp. This stopped me again but then I saw the few people they’re cheering the runners on. I heard someone yell something in Spanish, which sucks for me because I don’t speak it, but I took it as get up or run or don’t quit. And there is was… my moment to run like the wind bullseye. Just like the moment in Man of Steel, Superman discovers his ability to fly but can’t control it. He takes a moment and take his right fist into the ground. The ground starts to tremble and rumble and then Superman flies into the air. I too gathered the same control and ran as fast as I could and channeled all that pain as fuel. In the end, I did the impossible for myself. I did it. I ran my first marathon.
So where do I go from here? The answer may surprise you. I am not planning on running the 1/2 or the full Miami Marathon next year. I’ve decided to focus on getting my wife to do a 5k next year. This would be very achievable for anyone to do and I mean anyone. I started using the Couch25k app on my iPhone and could barely run 30 seconds. This was not easy but I had to do something different in my life because I had been unemployed going on 6 months. I had no control over my life and this gave me control and the confidence to endure. I still plan on running more marathons like Boston, NYC and yes, Disney but I don’t want to leave my family behind. The amount of training for the marathon was long and lonely despite it giving me some quiet time from the family and the library. I’m proud to have accomplished a boyhood dream and I love my medal but I’m gaga over my 26.2 sticker on my car most of all.