This sample comes from Chapter Two on the Cleveland Marathon. It picks up the story right at mile 16 and ends just at the finish line after I receive my medal.
As we run past mile 16, my mind races and I blurt out, “singles.” To me that means that we are down to single digits in miles. I wonder when the trees and the park area will appear that my running buddy has previously mentioned. Within a mile and a half, we get there and it is around this time I see several runners stopped, walking, or on the side of the road attempting to stretch out their calves and backs. I think that pretty soon I might join them, but I am feeling so good and I wonder how long my body will hold up. I am smart enough to know that this great feeling might not last and it could turn at any moment.
As we come out of the comfortable tree lined streets and park area we are around the 18-mile mark. It is here that the winds pick up considerably. It is a cold wind off of the lake and I think that it will hold me back a bit. I am about 2 ½ minutes behind pace now but I am feeling pretty good. I wonder when I might make my move to get the time back. Too early, and I could cramp or hurt myself. Too late, and I might not get it all back. I decide that if I still feel this good at mile 23, I will run those last 3.2 miles like a normal 5k. Even if I run it slow, I’ll do it in 25 minutes and can make up the 3 minutes easily.
We then run onto a bike path and into a state park area as we approached mile 20. Reality is setting in for me now. I have only run this distance once in my life just three weeks ago on my longest training run. Compared to that humid day in Southmont, a suburb of Johnstown Pennsylvania, it is much cooler and I feel much better than I did on that day. I tell myself that I am going into uncharted territory, but feeling as good as I am is a positive that I will try to hang onto as long as possible.
The next stretch takes us over a highway overpass and onto mile 21 and it is here that I can see downtown Cleveland from a distance. It seems pretty far away, but I know we will be back downtown in another 3-4 miles. That is a good feeling. I see others on the side of the road being attended to by medical staff and I wonder again, if I won’t be far behind. But it is hard to think that I could break down any moment because I feel so strong. I don’t want to get cocky, because I have never run this far before. I just try to stay focused and continue pushing toward the finish.
My thoughts race to all the training runs I have done in the snow, cold, heat, humidity, and early mornings. This is why I did all of that and it is paying off. In my mind I keep saying “Trust your training.” I can’t believe I haven’t encountered the wall. I wonder if it isn’t too far off in the future. What have I done correctly? I don’t know. “Trust your training.”
Running past mile 22 and closing in on mile 23 we once again go by Cleveland Browns Stadium. The crowd is growing. There are more people on the side of the road and I high-five a young kid who is holding his hand out hoping some runners will slap him. I revel in my good feeling and want to enjoy the last few miles and really take it in.
As we crest a slight incline and move toward the stadium I begin to pick up my pace. Mile 23 is just ahead and I feel great. With just three miles to go, I begin passing a lot of people and decide that I absolutely need to crack the four-hour mark. I can taste it but I don’t know if I can get there. I have taken a safe approach for most of the race and it has cost me time, but I am going to give it my best shot.
Back into the city and going through mile 24 I have gotten back nearly a full minute and I am still feeling pretty good. I’m not tired and my legs are very loose. We weave around a few more corners and as I approach mile marker 25, I see Becky who is taking my picture. I smile because I know I’ve got it licked. She yells, “Almost there, you’re looking good. I’ll see you at the finish line.” I yell back, “I feel great.” I do.
The final 1.2 miles are a blur. I keep checking my time and just before the 26-mile marker I know I won’t be able to finish in less than 4 hours. I have run so hard for the past 2-3 miles and I am beginning to tire. I slow slightly once 4 hours passes on my watch. I make my way around the final turn and into the homestretch. I can hear the guy on the loudspeaker and see the finish line. I have done it. I’ve made it and I’ve made it in great shape. “Trust your training.”
I can’t really fathom what I have just done. I see a woman passing out medals and I anxiously wait in line. My legs feel like they are still running even though I have begun walking. I am relieved and sad that it is over and as the woman hands me my finisher’s medal, I unroll it and look at it. Although I had seen it the day before at the expo, this one is different. This one is mine. I kiss it and then start looking for Becky. A few seconds later I spot her behind the barricades. I put on my medal and then pose for a picture.