Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Inspired to Do More - Columbus Marathon 2012

Well, the 2012 Nationwide Children’s Hospital ColumbusMarathon is in the history books and for me it will go down as one of my favorite races yet.  The weather was perfect, the 18,000 runners and walkers were inspiring, and the huge crowds and Children’s Champions were encouraging and supportive.  What more could you ask for?!

Going into race day, the plan for me was to support my friends, Teri Pokosh and Cindy Warner who were running the half and the full respectively, since stress fractures had sidelined me for the past two months with no running as I worked to get healthy again.  Sure, my legs were really starting to feel better and I wanted to get back out and run, but I knew that I needed to keep being patient so that I could fully recover.

So, on Sunday morning, I packed up my bike and met up with Teri and Cindy and got ready for what I knew would be a fun-filled, exciting day.  We met up with a bunch of other running friends prior to the start and then as the start time approached it was time to hop in the corrals.  I had locked up my bike about half a block past the starting line, and since I had a bib of my own because I was registered for the race I jumped into the corral with my friends and waited with them for the race to get under way.  Our friend, Melanie Kopp, who was also doing the full, joined us and it was fun to listen to all of them talk through the butterflies and pre-race jitters.  I tried to offer as much encouragement as I could and pretty soon it was time to send them on their way as the starting line fireworks erupted and 18,000 people began their journey.

Teri, me, and Cindy before the race
Just past the starting line, I made a quick right turn and hopped on my bike and began my own adventure as my goal was to get to as many miles as possible to cheer my friends on.  Sometimes this required going around a block, riding down alleys or across open fields, or just slowly going down the sidewalks while avoiding spectators.  Some of the trickier spots were going around the port-a-pots since runners would dart in and out of them.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get through the first six miles of the race with very little issues.

Then, around the 10k time checkpoint, the biking started to get interesting.  There were no sidewalks and no open fields to get around.  I hopped off the bike and carried it as I walked along a very narrow curb as I tried to stay out of the way of the runners.  I made it through eventually and then the course opened up some more as I again kept tabs on my friends.

However, the real fun began somewhere between Miles 6-8 when my rear tire went flat.  I noticed the flat when we hit the cobblestones of German Village, but I just kept on going because I knew that I had to get back to Nationwide Arena to where my vehicle was parked and I figured the race course was the best way to get me there.

As part of my plan to ride support, I was carrying some of Cindy’s fuel and some spare water so she wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuff on the course.  Well, when I realized I was having problems, I gave her what I could and let her know that I would do the best I could to come up with a backup plan.

By Mile 10, the plan really became a jumbled mess when the chain on my bike came off.  I knew then that it was going to take a miracle to be able to provide any more support on the course.  I asked a policeman who was working the event the quickest way to get back to Nationwide Arena and I set out jogging with the bike beside me.  My hope was that I could get to the halfway point and at least offer some encouragement before Cindy set out for the tough second half solo.

As I arrived at Mile 13 and locked the disabled bike to a tree, I received the text alert that Teri had already finished her half marathon in 1:43.  I knew that I had to be close to catching Cindy going by, but as the seconds and then minutes ticked by I realized that I had to have missed her.  It’s tough in the crowds to find people, but afterwards I discovered that I had missed her by roughly 30 seconds.  Bummer!

I unlocked the bike and wheeled it to my vehicle where I found Teri recovering from her great race.  I stowed the bike and then set off to find the shuttle to the ‘Shoe to try to catch Cindy going by there.  I had trouble figuring out where the shuttle was and by the time I did find it and saw the long line waiting to board it I realized that I probably wouldn’t make it out to the Mile 18 mark in time to cheer her on.  I knew that was a risk I couldn’t take if I wanted to see her finish the race.

So, I headed back to my vehicle again.  I knew I really only had two options left.  Wait around at the finish line for an hour for her to come in or head out on the course and cheer her on.  The decision was a no-brainer as I quickly peeled off a couple of layers, laced up my running shoes, grabbed a Quaker granola bar and a Gatorade G1 pouch for fuel for me and a bottle of water to take to her and I set out.  Before I knew it, I had knocked out two miles at a sub 8:00 pace.  Where did that come from on no training and two months of running inactivity???

As I ran the course in reverse, I got to watch all but the top five marathoners finish and it was amazing to watch how hard these men and women worked to finish so strong.  I offered up encouragement to each and every one of them as they went past including my friend, Ken Varian who was running so strong.  I’m sure they had to wonder why a guy with a marathon bib was running the opposite direction.

As I closed in on the Mile 23 marker, I started thinking about how far I should go out as I knew that I would need to have the strength to run with Cindy to the finish at whatever pace she was running when I found her.  I paused three times around this point to cheer for my friends, Dan Bosch, Doug Owsley, and Melanie, who was still smiling on her way to a PR and just missing a BQ (Boston Qualifying time).

Melanie smiling the whole way!
I decided to go ahead and go one more mile to Mile 22 as I started to wonder if somehow I missed Cindy in the crowd.  However, just past the mile marker I saw her coming in the distance.  As she ran by where I was, I hopped in and started to run with her.  She didn’t even know that I was there for the first 25 feet or so, but as soon as she did you could see a big smile cross her face as she realized she was going to have company for the rest of the run.

The next four miles clicked by as we began to pass people who were hitting the wall.  I vividly replayed the previous year’s race in my head when I walked most of the final six miles on the same course as I gave in mentally and then physically, so I knew exactly what the people who were struggling were going through and I offered as much encouragement as possible to everyone we went by.  Despite pain in her right leg, Cindy just kept gutting it out and her pace never faltered by much.

As we closed in on the Mile 26 sign, I realized by the elapsed time and our current pace that it was going to be really close for Cindy to BQ (she needed a 3:55).  The crowds were really thick through here and I hollered at them to let the runners hear them.  They responded with great cheers and I think it really picked up the spirits of everyone as we turned right to head down Nationwide Boulevard to the finish.

Turning the corner, I decided it was time to let Cindy know just how close this finish was going to be.  The coach side of me got stern and hollered at her that she needed to get her butt in gear if she wanted to meet her goal of the BQ.  I told her she had worked way too hard over the past few months and more recently the past nearly four hours to come up just short.  It was really cool to see the fire rekindle as she found one final burst of energy and hit a 6:13 pace heading towards the finish as she crossed the line in 3:53:50 to meet her goal by 1:10 and set a new PR by nearly five minutes!

Cindy on her way to her BQ!
As I’ve had a few days to reflect back on the events that transpired on Sunday, I’m continually inspired and amazed by what all took place.  Watching everyone work so hard will continue to motivate me to be a better runner.  I’m filled with great pride for all of my friends that did so well.  And I was able to see first-hand the difference that being a little more mentally tough and pushing through the wall can make.  While I didn’t gain the experience of running the full marathon like I originally had hoped to do, I gained so much more experience by soaking it all in.

I’m also pleased to report that even though I ended up running 13.5 miles after not running once in two months that my legs feel great.  In fact, I went on Wednesday after the race to my doctor, Darrin Bright, and I’ve now been cleared to start a return to running plan.  I can’t wait to get back out!  And, I plan to be back for the 2013 marathon in Columbus.


Melanie K said...

this was one of my favorite races to date, as well. i am so glad you were there. your encouragement was and is irreplaceable!! thanks for being the awesome friend that you are!

MVNUSID said...

Thanks, Mel! It was so much fun cheering you on to your best marathon yet! You killed my time from last year by the way. :)

RancidGoat said...

Nice write up. If you don't get the chance to share some of this with the official marathon blog, they're missing out. You've shown a stellar example of just what can happen even if The Run isn't what you'd planned.

I've told you this before but for the benefit of your blog readers, your popping out of the crowd with a high five and encouragement was a critical point for me. Just enough lift to stave of walking for a bit longer.

MVNUSID said...

Thanks for the kind words, Doug! Glad I was able to help out 'cause I know you would do the same for me. As for sharing my story with the Columbus Marathon folks, I did. They liked it, but asked me to edit it down as they don't want to encourage people to jump in and do some of the things that I did. I understand that. I'm not sure whether they'll use the edited version or not, but they gave me their blessing to at least post my complete story on my blog. :)