It had been five years since I first thought of running a marathon in under three hours. It had become very elusive. I had tried everything I could with training techniques, diet, mental preparation, strategies during the race and so on. I had been working on the breathing technique that I had read about and it seemed to work remarkably well, reducing some of my run times by as much as five minutes after years running close to the same.
I was ready for this race. I was able to place all my Gatorade bottles on the tables provided. I had kept my weight about 10 pounds lower and I was eating a diet very rich in protein. I started at the front of the crowd because I knew I belonged there. I was confident. From the start the race went well. I was relaxed and cruising. Jim Miller (not the author), my good friend was out on the race course. Always good to see a friendly race. I was way ahead of pace, which was scary, but my breathing seemed fine so I thought I was ok. At around mile 21 or 22, Jim jumped out on the course and said something about how I was going to get it! He had this tremendous smile on his face. Nothing like having one of your running partners cheering you on. It is a brotherhood of sorts. I still had about five miles to go, but I knew it too. I started to get very emotional and chills ran down my spine. I almost started crying. One thing running marathons do is strip you down to the bare emotions. Many people cry at the finish. One of my training buddies, Eric, who is a tough guy just broke down in tears. Tim was so wiped out I was afraid to even look at him. The emotions are pure and unadulterated.
I had been training for this for five years, but I knew I had to stay calm and execute my plan. I continued to focus on my 1,2,3,4 breathing. It was my meditation. Shockingly at mile 25, a very heavy lady stepped from the side of the course right in front of me to give somebody water or something and we collided hard! After 25 miles, few can contend with something like that. It could be my whole race gone in a flash. I believe she may have fallen over and I almost did and regained my balance to keep moving. I was stunned and breathing hard with the sudden shock. I pulled myself together with my breathing and told myself to be calm.
The last half mile to a mile is downhill slightly and I told myself to run like I never have in my life. I did not know my time, but I did not want to leave anything in doubt. I started going faster, faster and faster. I was pushing myself as hard as I could. I focused. As I came within about 100 meters of the finish line, I looked up and the big digital clock showed 2:55 something. a sensation ran through my body like no other. I shot my arms up in the air in triumph which somehow the photographer caught on camera. It was magic.
Remarkably, I felt great. Somebody told me I finished second. After talking with a few people I actually ran back up the course to meet an old student of mine, Kevin , who was running his first marathon. I wanted to help him finish strong. I had lots of energy on this day. I actually ended up in third place out of 468 runners and I believe I was 6 minutes back from the winner. Hard to believe. I had done it. So many lessons in this long journey from what seemed to be a life ending injury to breaking three hours in the marathon. More on this soon.