One year ago, I ran my first half marathon as part of the Nationwide Columbus Marathon & Half Marathon Field. Yesterday, I completed a year-long journey of ups and downs and had a blast doing my first full marathon as part of the biggest field in the state of Ohio to complete a marathon as I once again ran the Columbus course, but this time the 26.2-mile version. Here's the back story that got me to the starting line.
I remember first thinking about the marathon after last year's race. Honestly, it wasn't the mileage that frightened me. I just could not get over wondering what in the world I would do to keep from getting bored while running for roughly four hours. I also knew that the training would be much more time-consuming with double the mileage.
On January 1st, I started the year off on the right foot by running the First on the First 5K ace in Westerville. That started a string of 40 straight days to start the year of at least five miles per day all outside regardless of how brutal the weather was.
I kept on training hard with my local group of friends, the Mount Vernon Running Buddies. I knocked out two spring half marathons, the Kenyon Earth Day half and the Capital City half, along with the Run Cbus 10-miler and kept lowering my times at each of them. I was starting to really get geared up about a possible run at a BQ in Columbus in the fall. I even did a 26.2-mile training run in 3:36 on May 28th just to see what the distance would feel like. After that, I officially signed up for the Columbus Marathon and the goal was in place as I put myself down for a 3:15 finish.
I did several more short races as the summer months heated up and even took home some awards including second place overall at the inaugural CoSIDA 5K in Marco Island, Fla. and age group awards at both the Granville Five-Miler and the Fredericktown 5K ON THE SAME DAY! I racked up 77 straight days with at least a 5K and boy was I feeling on top of the running world.
Then, the wheels began to fall off. I started having all kinds of issues with my legs. What started out at first as severe shin splints got so bad that I went to see Dr. Bright, who specializes in runner's injuries. I ended up getting an MRI on my right leg and found out that I nearly had a stress fracture. I backed off the training and instead did lots of stretching and therapy. Gradually the right leg got better, but then the left leg had issues all of its own with swelling and possible compartment syndrome-like symptoms.
All of these injuries forced me to really cut back on my training including taking nearly the entire month of August off. I walked a local four-mile race with my six-year-old daughter and then walked the Emerald City quarter marathon since I had signed up for both a long time before. It was frustrating to be relegated to that after becoming a runner, but I made the most of it and still found ways to enjoy the experiences.
Next up was the Presque Isle marathon in Erie, Pa. This was a last chance opportunity to get a BQ time for the 2012 Boston Marathon before the new qualifying times went into effect. It as also an inexpensive race to sign up for (only $40!) and one of my wife's college roommates lives there so we had housing. However, as the race drew closer, I was worried about making it once around the loop course let alone twice for the full marathon. When I got an e-mail saying I could switch to the half the week before the race, I decided that it made more sense to do that and just treat it as a training run to try to continue to get healthy for Columbus.
The Erie race went well and was definitely one that I want to do again and possibly take a shot at doing the full. I finished just two minutes off my PR in 1:36 something. However, I continued to have swelling and pain in my left leg afterwards and decided that I would need to be really careful the rest of the way heading towards the Columbus race. So, I primarily did the long runs on the weekends and spent the rest of the week resting, icing, and getting stim treatments from our athletic trainer, Brian Humphrey. (In fact, aside from my wife and kids who are my biggest supporters, Brian probably deserves a medal of his own for keeping me in the hunt.)
Well, that's the story of how I got to the starting line on October 16, 2011. Stay tuned for the recap of what transpired in the race. Gotta love a cliffhanger, right? :)