This excerpt is taken from the Chapter written about the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon that I ran in 2007.
The final 2.2 miles would be the most miserable miles I had ever logged in my life. I began to rationalize that a nice secondary goal could be breaking 3:25, but after a 10:00 mile at mile 25, even that seemed to be unattainable. And it was. It was as if I were lugging a backpack full of lead through the streets of Cincinnati. Coming upon the final 1.2 miles, the crowds increased drastically and the barricades appeared. Typically I would be embarrassed to be running so slowly, but I didn’t care. I knew I was going to PR, and I knew I was going to PR huge. At this point nothing mattered to me anymore but getting to the finish line. As I ashamedly came upon Becky with about a half mile to go, she snapped photos of me as I said aloud, “I’m dyin’ Beck.” It felt weird. I was proud of the PR I was about to set, but it was almost as if it was all for nothing.
I rounded the final corner and headed down the finishers chute, looking up at 3:26:08. Over thirteen minutes shaved off of Baltimore. I finished over thirty-three minutes less than Cleveland less than one year ago. How could I be disappointed? Incredibly, I was. It was a sad mixture of rejoicing and disappointment. I knew immediately that I hadn’t enjoyed this one as much as either of the previous two. I was happy to be done. I was satisfied to PR by so much time. But my mind would wander to “the next one”. When would I attempt to qualify next? I wanted to take some time to think about it and let this one sink in first. As I walked around and settled onto the grass with Becky, I talked to her a lot about the range of emotions I was experiencing. Qualifying for Boston is one of the toughest things I’d ever attempted. And I hadn’t done it yet. I was still over 10:00 away. It was a terrible feeling and over the next couple of days and weeks and it would only get worse.
A couple of days after returning from Cincinnati, I posted the following on my blog. I entitled it Too Hard on Myself (A fresh perspective).
I made no secrets. I went to Cincinnati to qualify for Boston. One week before Cincinnati I started to have severe piriformis pain in my hip and lower back. I didn’t run a single mile in the six days prior to the marathon. I loaded up on Motrin and whirl pooled and iced and heated and iced and heated and whirl pooled and loaded up on Motrin.
I said goodbye to our dog, Mesa, 4 days before the race. He had to be put to sleep (rest his soul). I wondered if I had plenty of reasons NOT to run this race. I drove 5 1/2 hours to Cincinnati on Friday. I woke up Sunday morning and ran the race. I worried about my hip, that amazingly had gotten just well enough for me to run. I panicked when my right calf began to cramp slightly in the middle of mile 5. I worried some more. I panicked when my slight calf cramp reappeared somewhere during mile 13. I still believed I could qualify for Boston. I ran with the 3:20 pace group for 21 miles. I was within striking distance of qualifying until mile 22. I didn’t hydrate properly throughout the race and bonked during mile 22. I said goodbye to Boston. Still, I realized that a PR was not only a possibility it was a sheer certainty. I could have walked to a PR. I did walk (about 150 yards or so). I got angry with myself. I reached down and gathered what I could to battle through and ran (jogged) those last four horrific and miserable miles. Inevitably I did finish. I was disappointed. I felt bad for myself. I knew I hadn’t run the smartest race, yet I gave it my very best shot to qualify. I knew I would have run smarter if not for the attempt to qualify. I thought I was ready. I don’t make any excuses. I did not qualify for Boston.
What did I do? I chopped over 13 1/2 minutes off my previous personal record (PR). I finished 315th of a possible 4,732 runners overall. I finished 58th out of 378 people in my age group. I ran my 3rd marathon in less than 365 calendar days. I got faster for the second time. I persevered. I conquered what I thought I might not be able to conquer less than 2 days earlier. I toed the starting line. I ran 26.2 miles. I crossed the finish line. I learned a lot.
I learned that Boston is now just 10:09 away. I learned that under the worst possible circumstances I could do it. I learned that the mind is a very powerful thing. I learned that not every day is a good day, but even bad days can be good days. I learned that every race, every marathon is different in its own unique way. I learned that every day should be a blessing. I learned that I love what marathons bring out in me. I learned once again that running a marathon is tough. Running a marathon is humbling. Running a marathon is a lot of things planned for, and a lot more things unplanned for.
I learned. I ran. I finished.
After getting things into the proper perspective, I began a journey of two very tough weeks. The cramp that I felt around mile 5 in Cincinnati turned out to be terrible tendonitis that I would struggle with for weeks. I ended up on an anti-inflammatory and would have to take off eleven days straight with no running at all. Walking was difficult. The break would be the longest stretch of time I had not run since I began running over five years earlier.
Eventually I would get healthy and in time to run some of the more memorable runs of my life. In June 2007 I headed to Boston for that work conference. In the five days I was there, I was able to run along the Charles River, through the streets of Boston and across the actual finish line of the Boston Marathon. I went to Boston hoping to gain needed inspiration to hopefully make it back there someday. I came home with pictures and memories and a renewed sense of energy, and a location for my next marathon. It would only make sense to head to the #1 rated Boston qualifiers according to Runner’s World magazine. Philadelphia. It would be the first marathon in my home state and in a historical place rivaled in my mind by only one other. Boston. November 18, 2007. Training would begin in the heat and humidity of July. It would be a complete reversal from the winter training for a spring marathon. I figured if I could acclimate myself to the heat and humidity in the summer and hope for a cooler marathon temperature in the fall, it just might work. I was close and I knew it.