When I go into a marathon, I have a mixed set of emotions. This comes from having many experiences; from having it all come together, to blowing up, and straining my leg and walking it in. I have been plagued with fatigue, a bad stomach, and bloody noses. So, going into a marathon with little training made me think I was not going to do very well. Especially, considering it was the toughest course I had yet to attempt.
I arrived, got a few hellos in and lined up. Unlike my normal marathons where I’ve warmed up, I didn’t do a real warm-up here. I just lined up and ran. In the first mile, I was in a group of five as we moved along. My sides started hurting like I was getting side-stitch. I decided to dump half of the water in my 13 oz. shorts bottle and position myself in second, watching the leader slowly put distance between us as I put distance between the rest of the runners. I was trying to relax early, not pushing the pace. I was getting my calories in, every 30 minutes I would eat a gel, timing it so I could throw it away at the aid stations.
At 7 miles in, things started to click, and I was getting that feeling that I should try for an ambitious goal. At the 8 mile mark, I decided it was time to chase the leader. I was playing to my strengths; remaining steady on the uphills, but absolutely flying on the downhills. At mile 14, I started to see my efforts pay off, I could see the pace truck on some switchbacks. It was not until mile 16, that I was on the leader’s heels and made the pass.
“Good Job!”, he said
Now, I was completely honest with him, “Thanks, I might blow up later, but I am going to try.”
At this point, I thought to myself “I did a lot of work up to this point to get the lead, don’t stop now that you have it.” I did not realize it but I had stopped eating my gels and was falling behind on my nutrition. I lead for the next few miles trying to separate us. But on the second hill to English Point, my energy was starting wane and he passed me right before the aid station. My Dad was there at the aid station. I told him to give me three chew-able electrolytes as I dropped the bottle I had been carrying for a 13 oz. handheld filled with orange juice with half a dozen peppermint candies.
Having then grabbed what I needed, I took off down the hill. Halfway down the hill, I slowed to a walk, and took a few seconds to unwrap my first candy, then forced myself to run. I had lost a lot of ground during my energy low, but I was eating candies and washing it down with OJ and getting a surge. Two miles later after the next aid station, I caught and passed him once more. I was watering down my OJ at each aid station as I went. Two miles to go, and he passed me during another energy low. I was not in the energy low for long. But, by the time I recovered and was pushing the pace again, there was about a mile left and I could not catch him. However, in my typical style, I celebrated my finish with a solid sprint and a jump over the finish line.
Would I have liked to have won? Yes. But, never have I been more happy to lose. True, it was not my fastest marathon, but it was by far my best marathon effort to date. More than anything, it was a personal victory. I twice overcame the want to just give up the chase. Instead, I dug deep and exceeded by best exceptions. Next time, however, I will have a better nutrition plan.
Congratulations, Taylor Neal. I would not have achieved my best without you there, thank you. I wish you and all reading this happy trails till we meet again.