The morning of my 10th marathon started off much like the nine before it, an early wake-up call followed by a quick breakfast. For the first time, though, I had to throw some cough medicine into the mix as I continued to fight off a cold. I felt good enough to run, but my body was definitely not at 100 percent.
Lindsey and I were out the door at 5:20 a.m. to make the very short drive to Huntington Beach. My always-faithful-maybe-slightly-crazy girlfriend is always ready and willing to support me, no matter how early the wake-up call.
Standing at the start line to the race, I was in a sort of daze. I had little to no energy and couldn't shake this deep-chested cough. Next thing I knew, we were off and running. Somehow I ended up between the 3:40 and 3:50 pacers. I knew that wouldn't last for long, but decided to try and ride the wave of adrenaline from the start line.
Two miles in my body was not happy. I was coughing and was struggling to find energy. I passed Lindsey and told her, "This is gonna be a long day". I really thought it was.
Minutes later I was contemplating the upcoming 23+ miles and decided I needed an attitude adjustment. I knew if I let myself make excuses, it would indeed be a very long, painful and frustrating day. Instead, I decided to turn my excuses into motivation. I would take the "I wasn't feeling good, so I didn't run very fast" and turn it into, "I ran my fastest yet, despite being sick". Sounds simple, but it was a huge turning point for me.
At that point, although very early on, I was posting 8:45 miles and was on pace to finish right around my previous personal best. This was no big accomplishment, as I had been at that same point in a majority of my races but failed to hang on in the end. For some reason today was different.
Maybe it was the weather (beautiful and overcast) or the course support (excellent) or the other Maniacs on the course, but I found new energy that never left me.
As I neared the 20 mile mark, I started to anticipate "hitting the wall", physically or mentally it had happened to me in each of my first nine marathons (in varying degrees). Instead, I noticed that my mile pace was getting quicker. It was as if my legs didn't know what was going on. Maybe they were too sore from my race two weeks ago. Whatever it was, I LOVED IT.
I was passing other runners and kept seeing my new PR get faster and faster. The sun still hadn't shown its face and I knew I had only a couple miles left.
I was cautious, hoping my legs wouldn't start cramping as I neared the finish line, but I pushed myself harder anyhow. With about a quarter mile left, I spotted Lindsey and my parents (who surprised me by showing up) and I had all the energy I needed to sprint to the finish.
I pumped my fists and let out a yell. I felt way too good to have just run 26.2 miles. For the first time in 10 marathons, I never stopped to walk, I never hit a wall and I never let an excuse slow me down. As a reward, I experienced a serious case of runner's high. Maybe it was the sickness leaving my body or the shock of setting a PR, but I don't think I have ever felt that good.