Last Saturday, April 18th, I participated in the 6th Annual Salt Lake City Marathon. I have come to realize that running a marathon is so much more than the actual race. Having said that, I really enjoy race day and all the anticipation, excitement, comraderie, pain, agony, and satisfaction that comes from running 26.2 miles.
I left on Thursday evening with Chase, Jordan, and Tanner and we drove to Las Vegas. Camille and Trevor stayed home so Trevor could participate in his 1st grade program on Friday. Then they would catch a flight to Salt Lake on Friday evening. We stayed at the Hilton where we got a great rate on a room. We got in around 12:30 am and quickly went to bed. I got up around 7 am on Friday and went for an easy 4 mile run on an outdoor track at the hotel. I got the boys up, we all showered, and had breakfast at McDonalds. We drove to Provo where we stopped and picked up our race day shirts that had been delivered to my brother Boyce. Our timing was pretty good as we arrived right before my parents and my sister Lindy. We said a quick hello and then headed to Salt Lake.
We went straight to the Salt Palace where the marathon had an expo in process. I picked up my race bib, timing chip, and goodie bag. The kids and I then spent some time viewing the various booths and merchandise on display. I was finally able to find a decent headband to wear - something that doesn't look like it came from the 80's (I know I'm getting older but I don't have to completely look the part). We then headed over to my mother-in-law's home where she had prepared an excellent pasta dinner for me and the kids (thanks Bonnie). After dinner, I got all my running stuff ready to go and got myself and the kids ready for an early bedtime since we would be up early the next morning. Camille's flight was delayed so Bonnie agreed to pick them up at the airport so I wouldn't be up late.
I got up around 4 am or so and got all prepared. I dressed warmly and took some water and granola bars to eat while I was waiting for the race to begin at 7 am. I felt good - not nervous but just a little anxious about the race. However, I was dreading going outside and waiting to begin because I was fearful that it would be cold (and most people know that I can't stand to be cold). Fortunately, the weather turned out to be warmer than anticipated so my worries were for naught. Camille drove me to the light rail train station and I took the train to the race start. The train was crammed-full of bikers and their bicycles since the bike tour started at 6 am.
The start of a race is always fun probably because everyone is in high spirits and is excited to begin. There are always interesting people to observe and it's always fun to share war stories with other runners. However, on this morning I kept more to myself as my thoughts were turned to my sisters who have suffered with Cystic Fibrosis. I thought about Shannon who passed away last October - what a great fighter she was through it all and how she fought valiantly to the end. I was also thinking of Lindy and her struggles with this disease. Having run the marathon before, I knew the pains and agony that was to come during the next few hours. It was emotional to think about how it would feel running down the final stretch to the finish line wearing their pictures on my shirt.
Soon it was time for the race to begin and I went to line up with the thousands of other runners. As I was standing and waiting for the start, I turned around and there was Paul! I didn't think I would see him before the race with there being so many people but there we were standing next to each other. I was able to meet Kat, Paul's fiancee, who was running the half-marathon and we briefly chatted before hearing the starting gun. We were quickly separated by the throng of people pressing forward but we were finally off and running.
The first half of the race went well. My plan was to push for the first 9 miles and try to bank a few minutes for the later miles and I was able to do this pretty well. Most of the course was a gradual downhill over this distance and I felt really good. I had planned to take an energy gel every 5 miles but I missed the aid station at mile 5 so everything got pushed back. There were a few hills during this time that were much more severe than I had heard but I was still feeling good when I passed the halfway point. I saw Ty & Megi and family around mile 14 as they were on the side of the road cheering. Just before I rounded the corner, I saw and heard Boyce across the street. He was cheering and yelling loudly - I kind of felt like a rock star with all that attention and it gave me a little boost to keep pushing on. I was still on pace to run a 3:30 although I was beginning to tire.
At about 15.5 miles, I ran into problems when both of my calves started to cramp. I slowed my pace and tried to run in such a way as to prevent any cramping but I had a feeling that it was only going to get worse. It did. By mile 21, my calves, quads and my left inner thigh muscles were all cramping. I would walk until the pain stopped and then run until one or more of the muscles would lock up. I was very frustrated because at that point there was nothing I could do except push on and try and rehydrate at the aid stations. By mile 24, things started to feel a little better but I was still cramping. However, I really wanted to finish in under 4 hours so I ran as best I could, determined not to walk anymore. As I headed toward the finish line, I was relieved to be finishing, excited to see my family and friends, and satisfied that I had run as hard as I could. It was such a high point to be running down the last stretch and hear words of encouragement from my family and to see them pulling for me. There are so many metaphors about life that I have learned from running but I won't go into them all here. Suffice it to say, it was a great experience.
I finished in 3:56:01 which was a PR by over 2 minutes but still a disappointment from where I had hoped to finish. I went and got something to eat and drink and receive a massage (which was awesome!). I headed back to the race to see all the family and to watch Paul finish. It was fun to talk with everyone and see how they did (Boyce ran the 5K, Suzanne did the bike tour which covered the marathon course, Kat did the half-marathon).
It was fun to cheer Paul as he came across the finish line. Paul's mom had talked the announcer and informed him of why we were running the marathon. So as Paul is coming down the final stretch, the announcer is telling the crowd of people about Shannon and her struggle with Cystic Fibrosis, how Paul had donated part of his lung to her to prolong her life, and how we had used the race as an opportunity to honor Shannon and Lindy and raise funds to cure this disease. It was a grand moment!
We all went home to clean up and relax before we gathered later that day for a barbeque with many of my aunts and uncles on my mom's side and several cousins as well. We had a great time visiting, sharing stories, and just being with one another. We spent the night again at Camille's mom's house and left for home early Sunday morning. It's always a longer trip going home but we arrived safely and without incident.