It has been a long road from Huntsville, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee. Three hundred sixty four days from the Rocket City Marathon to the St. Jude Marathon.
It was a great experience. I feel like I'm back in the game and glad to have gotten the thirteenth state done and over with. My shin held up just fine. On the other hand my right quad had potential to be deal breaker. For the last couple of weeks it has been tender and sore, possibly a pull or strain. It has hurt periodically during my recent runs. I held up OK during the 10K's last weekend but on my easy run on Monday it was extremely painful. I hobbled through those 3 miles like Quasimoto. I decided not to run another step until Saturday. I was aware of it always, especially the first few steps after getting up from sitting down.
The fun started even before the race. Joe and I were roomies for the third time. We stopped by the Autozone Park to scope out the finish line. Joe is really in his element there on the ball field. Later we shared a great dinner with David and his wife, sharing stories of our kids, careers and "just a little bit" of running stuff. And it was COLD, at least for me; somewhere in the 30's as we walked back up Main Street to our hotel.
By the time race morning came around I had pretty much decided on my race strategy. With the uncertainty of the quad situation, I decided to run along with Joe. We'd each spent 8 hours or so getting there; me by plane, Joe by car; so why spend the 4 or more hours of the marathon running alone when I could share it a fellow blogger and good friend. I had some concerns about walking every 3 minutes; I'm used to 7 minutes on my long runs; but I needn't have worried. It was really never an issue.
The wave start worked wonderfully well. It was about 20 minutes after the start that we crossed the starting line and the pursuit of state 13 had begun. From the get go my right quad was in pain. It felt weak and almost like it would collapse at any minute. I tried not to hobble so as not to worry Joe. The first mile went slower than Joe had planned mostly due to the crowds but I feared that my hobbling had effected us as well. Joe was concerned for me. I kept going, the quad didn't get any worse. A couple of miles in Joe checked on me again. I told him it was still there and that I was just going to keep going. I think we were back on track by mile 3. As we ticked off the miles the discomfort grew less and we ticked off the miles running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute. Joe kept track of everything. I walked when he told me to walk. I ran when he told me to run. He kept me up to date on our progress to the goal, 4:40, at every mile marker. I think we were always at least a few seconds ahead of schedule from mile 3 on.
We even synchronized our bathroom break. I'd been feeling like I could stop but wasn't in panic mode yet and didn't want to upset the rhythm. When Joe mentioned that he needed to stop I jumped on the chance to take care of business. The break cost us about 90 seconds which we made up fairly quickly by skipping the next scheduled walk break. We even got smart somewhere along the way and postponed or expedited the walk break on the uphills (which were really more like inclines) and the got right back on schedule the next time the watch beeped. It worked incredibly well.
It is just a hoot running along with Joe. He high fived the kids, stopped to pet a beautiful golden retriever, thanked every police officer on the route, belted out some Elvis tunes, heckled the mime, and did a great English Lit prof imitation. Joe meets a friend everywhere. We met Maniacs, Fifty Stater's, Army, National Guard, Team Weber, and St Jude Heroes. It was way more fun than gutting out 26.2 miles alone. There was no doubt I'd made the right decision.
We both felt pretty good right up to about mile 22. Around then it took me a little longer to coax my legs to start running after the minute walk. Around mile 23 my right IT band starting letting me know it was there. A mile later Joe's left IT band "started barking" at him. Very near the end it really seized up and he urged me onward. About a half mile from the finish there was a sharp U-turn to the right up a ramp. My right leg nearly collapsed on me then. I hung on and ended up crossing the finish line in 4:36:15 (official). Joe was about 30 seconds behind.
I was pleased to have completed marathon 16, state 13. I wasn't back full strength but I was back. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my wife for taking the risk on me back in July and planning this trip. And a huge Thank You to Joe for meeting up for the third December in a row and allowing me to run along with him. The St. Jude Marathon was quite the experience.