Friday, August 27, 2010

San Francisco Marathon - Part 3

Everything starts to fade out for the second half of the race – I am noticing less and less of what is going on around me and can only focus on the rhythm on my feet. Haight street is lined with dread-locked people lazily watching us trickle by. I keep mentally repeating the same phrase:

Walking hurts way worse than continuing to run.

And it’s true. The few times I slowed to a walk, I started to feel the pain in all my joints and muscles and would quickly start shuffling forward again.

I never worry about being unable to finish- what I am concerned with is being unable to finish in time. The limit is 6 hours before they officially start opening up the street and forcing runners to the sidewalks. My goal was a 5 hour finish and I know I am behind schedule. Each refreshment table I pass has fewer and fewer people, runners that have already completed are sitting at cafes drinking beer, cleanup crews are already beginning to work the brooms.

A woman passing me must have seen my worried expression. She pats my shoulder, says “Remember, there’s only one speed. Forward!”, and takes off ahead.

Looking up, the Bay Bridge seems miles away – I tune into my headphones, look up again, and I am passing underneath it. Drums are playing in the distance, friends and relatives are snapping pictures, and I can see the finish line.

There is an elderly man directly in front of me and I think to myself, “If Wife is taking pictures right now, he is going to be in the way, but I can’t go faster or slower or veer at this point.”  Only one speed. Forward.

Crossing the finish line, I slow to a walk and my lower body cramps into a solid block. Eagerly grabbing all the supplies I see, I devour scones and energy drinks. A medal gets placed around my neck and I see Wife on the other side of the barrier. She begins the trip around to my side while I sit on the pavement and think.

The one emotion above everything else is relief. I am happy, but disappointed I didn’t make my time. I am excited but want to fall asleep. Above all I am relieved – that I made it, that all the training wasn’t wasted, that I can tell everyone that knew I was participating that I finished, and that I don’t have to have regret hanging over my head until I am 70.

The most frequent question I am asked is : “Will you do it again?”

Answer: Maybe. I need a break from the time commitment of that type of distance running, and the thought of something with obstacles really intrigues me. Regardless, whatever I decide to next, there’s one thing that I know :

I know I can do it – and that made it all worth it.

3 comments:

Sabrina said...

Maybe you'll do it again when your 70. Then you can be the old guy in the pic :)

Leonard said...

Matt 'Marathon Man' Allen.. has a nice ring to it.. Put it this way - it is a better middle name than 'Danger'.

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