A story from my life about the first marathon that I completed in Logan, Utah.
| The beeping from the alarm was so loud it would have been the same as someone dumping a bucket of water on me. As I scrambled to shut it off, I noticed the time was 4:30. I got some sleep but how much? The last thing I remember seeing was 3:13. If I was lucky, I sleep the whole hour and seventeen minutes. Surprisingly, I was not tired or groggy but actually full of energy. I got everything packed up, brushed the teeth, and grabbed some plumbs and headed out the door. The warmth from indoors was nice which caused a little shock at the cold September air as I walked outside. I threw everything I did not need in the trunk and I was off to Merrill Olsen Park in Logan.
As I pulled up to the park, certain streets were barricaded off and parking was not the greatest. I parked as close as I could and began a small hike to the side of the park where the buses were loading. As I got closer, I could see others making their way in the same direction. The closer I got the more people seemed to heading in my same direction. Then I could see the buses. Some were all loaded and ready to go. I walked past the first one and it appeared to be full.
As I walked by, the volunteer who had stopped everyone from getting on announced that there was still space for two more. Being the closest to the bus, I jumped on. This bus ride was so much more enjoyable than when I attempted the Ogden Marathon. I did not have the dark cloud of a knee injury looming over my head. As we reached the starting point, all the buses where lined up in a neat, diagonal fashion, spewing passengers.
Once out of the bus, there were port-a-potties as far as the eye could see. But there had to be a limited amount because the lines were fairly long. Everyone was stopping and talking or waiting for others. I decided it was time to eat some breakfast. I had already had some plumbs but I thought it would be good to stock up on some potassium before the race so I pulled out a bottle of Acceleraid and a power bar. I noticed people were walking down a long pathway that apparently led to the starting line. I wasn't waiting for anyone so I make my way down there. The pathway was really nice.
Where was I exactly? “The Top of Utah", I thought. I wondered how close I was to the Idaho border probably not as close as I thought I would be. The Starting line was empty. Everyone was huddled elbow to elbow in a circus tent that apparently had fires. The warmth defrosted the ground and so it was really muddy. I did not want to wade through the mud and elbow my way into the tent. It was not that cold outside and the sky had begun to lighten up but seven AM seemed like it would never come. Stretching seemed like a good way to kill time and keep warm. The street behind the starting line began to fill in. The sun seemed ready to peak over the top of the mountain at any moment.
At long last, the starting gun went off. The race had begun but there was one problem. No one was moving. All the empty spaces had filled in and the road was too narrow for 2,000 people to start running. Soon people in front of me started to move and worked into a jog. Before long, there was plenty of space and I was able to run. The road ahead could not be seen. Instead, it was a sea of people moving but mostly bobbing up and down. The sound of hundreds of feet pounding the pavement and people chatting filled the air.
The first aid station came up and it almost seemed unnecessary. The race had just begun. Of course, there were several port-a-potties and lines as well. I'm not going to allow myself to fail this time. I feel good and everything is working out the way I had anticipated. Mile marker four and five came and went and people had dropped clothing all around each marker. More port-a-potties were there and lines of mostly women. Every now and then you would see a guy run off the road and behind some trees. There is no waiting behind the trees. I stopped at the aid station for some water. Gatorade was definitely out of the question. I had enough sugar from the Accelorade I had earlier.
The canyon was beginning to open up and mountains no longer surrounded me. The river that followed the road grew noisier and ahead there was a monster of a hill. I sure hope I don't have to run up that thing. Luckily the path veered off to the right and it was nice and flat. I came upon the half way mark. 13.1 miles down and 13.1 more to go. There was an aid station and a man was sitting there. It looked like he was writing down everyone's number as they passed. I found that the support in Logan was amazing.
Two women passed by on mountain bikes cheering everyone on. Being out of the canyon, there were people standing around cheering all the runners as they passed. The miles seemed to not pass as fast as they had at the beginning. Aid stations were much more welcome and each one seemed to witness exactly how many runners were ahead of me. Garbage cans full of orange peels and empty cups overflowed onto the ground. But that was just part of it the whole area behind the station was littered with cups. Logan was getting much closer.
The course was beginning to wind around. The finish line was probably only a couple miles away but the course went back and forth, left and right for another 8 or 9 miles before I'd be able to claim I finished a marathon. I slowly began to catch up to a woman in front of me. I had seen her several times during the race and recognized her from the shirt she was wearing. We got on the same pace. Since we had just pasted mile marker 18, I was very happy and feeling good so I decided to talk to this woman.
"Hey, we only have eight more miles to go. We can do that! We've already run that plus ten miles. Eight more miles is nothing." She gave me a grateful look and it seemed to lift her up a little. We got to talking and she was experiencing some trouble with one or both of her calves. After about a quarter of a mile, she had to stop and walk. I also needed to stretch my IT-band. In front of us and to the left, there was a really nice house with the greenest lawn I think I had ever seen. I walked over to the island of grass between the sidewalk and gutter and sat down and stretched. Not much further down the road, she had to stop again but I did not want to stop and kept going. She seemed a little distressed that I had not stopped with her. She wanted the company and support. I felt bad for her as I continued down the road. I hope she's able to finish. I know what frustration lies ahead of her if she is not able to reach her goal.
The weather was perfect. A slight overcast kept the sun from coming out. It had sprinkled earlier just enough to cool me off. I took a left turn and there it was a terrible incline. I tried to keep my pace, but shortly into it, futility overtook me and I began to walk. Even small inclines were not fun especially after going about 19 or 20 miles.
I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I was headed west toward Main Street and as I crossed an intersection two blocks north I could see the finish line or at least the final stretch leading to the finish line. Hearing people cheering for the runners about to cross the line buoyed my spirits. I was painfully close, just a few miles away. I turned right onto Main Street. Traffic was backed up. I slowly passed the cars that were sitting still as if in a parking lot. Mile 22, I knew would be the most difficult. A deep pain from exhaustion began to swell from my thighs and my core body but mostly from my legs and arches in my feet. A pain and agony that had I had never felt before. It was as if my body was screaming at me to stop. It had had enough. The intensity started to cause me to break down. I could feel myself losing control of my composure. I told myself to suck it up. I wasn't going to allow myself to sink to such a level. Surprisingly it worked. A quarter of a mile down the road, the same pain returned but I refused to give in. Mile 23 was almost as bad as 22. Toward the end of the mile, I got a second wind, renewed encouragement to finish the race. Over the hump of dreaded mile 22 and 23, I knew that I was going to finish.
"Keep that smile and you'll be sure to finish!" a Volunteer claimed as I made my way past. Was I really smiling? I know I was pretty happy and was feeling really good but I did not know I was actually smiling. I was still taking breaks to walk every now and then but it was very much needed. At the aid station on mile 25, people were cheering and the sun had come out and it was getting fairly hot. I dumped a paper cup full of water over the top of my head. The cold water gave quite a shock as it poured down my head. I passed the 26 mile marker I only had to go .2 more miles and my life-long goal would be complete. I turned the corner and headed east. A couple of blocks and I would make the final turn and just have the home stretch remaining. There were 2 guys standing on the corner with finisher medals.
"Only 60 seconds away." one of them said as I increased my stride to a full on sprint. "Thirty seconds." He corrected himself. The closer I got to the line the faster I ran. The road was packed on both sides with people cheering.
"Finish strong!" One woman yelled out as I went past. A large digital clock was ticking away and showed 5:24. I am going to finish under five and a half hours! I pushed with everything that I had as I reached for the line. As I crossed, I slowed down. I had run a marathon. My life-long goal was accomplished.
Several feet from the line there was a woman collecting microchips. Behind her, a woman had an arm full of finisher medals and was putting them around the necks of all the finishers. She had hung one around my neck and it seemed much heavier than I was expecting. I stretched out my legs. I had heard that they were giving free massages so I walked over to a volunteer and asked her where to go. Once I found the line, I noticed it was incredibly long and so was the wait. I sat down on the grass. My legs were exhausted, body was slightly over-heated, and stomach was empty. A feeling of happiness and accomplishment rushed over me. Whether I run a marathon everyday for the rest of my life or never run one again, I knew I would never have this feeling. As I sat on the grass in Logan, Utah, a cool breeze blew past and cooled me a little. The sting and failure of not finishing Ogden was gone. A memory was made that would last a lifetime and remind me to never give up.