Well I did it! 3 hours, 58 minutes, 43 seconds. Here is how it went down:
I woke up at 5:15am Sunday morning. Straight away I went downstairs ate a toasted bagel, banana and a big glass of water. Next up was the nip guards and body glide! We were out the door by 6:20am and headed to downtown Portland. Kelly and her Mom dropped me off at about 6:35 or so. I made my way to the 4h 15m pace group in the starting area and was ready to go!
I had a really hard time deciding what pace group to follow. My training runs showed me that I was closer to 4:15 so I told myself I would start with them and then after the biggest hill (mile 17) I would see how I would feel. Anyway, back to the race…
Mile 1: The first mile was spent basically fighting for position. There were so many people (around 12,000) so it was a fairly slow mile. What I remember most from the first mile was the huge smile on my face. I really enjoyed all the hootin’ and hollerin’ from the runners as well as the bands that were playing downtown.
Mile 2: I got to see Kelly and Donna on the side of the course, which was great!
Mile 3: The first of the 2 big hills on the course was actually quite easy compared to the hills I was running on Mercer Island during training.
Mile 4: Still feeling great, and I got to see my friends cheering me on! Thanks Brian, Nicole, Daniel, and Emily!
Miles 5 – 16: This was a fairly flat and very straight portion of the race. I decided to move ahead of the 4:15 pace group but not quite catch up with the 4:00 pace group. I found 2 girls who looked like they were from the University of Oregon that had about the pace I was looking for. So… the stalker that I am, decided just to sit back and run behind them until I got to the dreaded St. Johns bridge.
Mile 17: The night before the marathon we drove over the St. Johns bridge just to check it out. I had heard it was a killer, so I wanted to see the lay of the land to know when to attack it. It was one of the best idea’s I had!! As I was approaching the bridge (still following the Oregon girls) I decided that I had reserved a ton of energy on the flat straight portions and that I was going to attack the biggest hill of the course. So I took off, gave a smile to the girls and to my amazement the bridge was super easy! I think two things happened, one… I reserved a lot of my energy by running slower, and two… the adrenaline was starting to kick in big time! I was passing people left and right!
Mile 18 : Coming down the other side of the bridge I was still running super fast. I was running at about 8 min/mile at this point. I was ready to start kicking some butt, and then all of the sudden I see my buddy Brian! My friend came all the way out to see me at mile 18!
Miles 19 – 23: I ran quite a bit while in junior high and high school, and then about 4 times a week the 4 months prior to the marathon, but I had never quite experienced what is known as a “runners high”. Well, from mile 17 – 23 I was there. I wasn’t tired at all, I was running much faster than everyone around me due to the fact that I was running at a slower pace up until then. One of the cool things about the Portland Marathon is that they put your name on your bib. So as I passing just about everyone during this section a lot of people were calling me out by name! It was a great feeling to here people say things like “you can catch the next pace group” or “wow, he still has a ton of energy”.
Miles 24, 25: Somewhere around the end of mile 22 and beginning of mile 23 I finally caught up with the 4 hour pace group. I had them in my sights for about 5-10 minutes, so I was pushing really hard to get there… in fact mile 22 turned out to be my fastest mile of the entire race! Now, I don’t know if it was psychological or not but when I finally pulled next to the 4 hour pace group leaders my runner’s high started to go away and I really started to feel my legs. But I thought to myself, all I have left is a 5k race. Just stay next to the pacers and I’ll be fine. This turned out to be the most difficult stretch of the race. If I wasn’t actually in the race I would have surely started walking or just sat down. In fact, this is the section of the race that I saw quite a few runners on the sidelines, or just walking holding a hamstring.
Mile 26: My legs are absolutely locking up at this point. I am still running, but really most walkers are probably going faster than me 😉 but I am still right there with the pacers. Now during the last mile you cross over the broadway bridge and you are back in downtown Portland. Here is where the craziest thing happened to me. I was basically just slogging along concentrating on anything but my cramping/locking up legs when all of the sudden I hear the pacer say “NOOO!!!”. I look ahead and see the rail road crossing gates coming down! There is a train coming right across the last half mile of the course! I am still on pace for less than 4 hours, so I say to myself “screw it, I’m going for it!” So I start sprinting as fast as I can… it was about 75 yards or so to the rail road crossing. Now I will say, that the train was one of the trains that are going super slow that you see downtown from time to time. It wasn’t at full speed. But still, there were race officials trying to block me… but I just ducked them and made it through! Now for the final 200 yards or so. As I come towards the finish line I am just trying to take it all in. There are so many people cheering and I hear for the left side… “Shane!!” I look over and see Kelly and all of my friends! I didn’t think I would see them, but it was so great!
As I cross the finish line, somebody puts a medal around my neck and a marathon blanket around me. I hobble my way towards the food and engulf a banana, bagel, and a strawberry milk. I usually love strawberry milk, but not here and now! I just about throw up, but hold it in. It takes me a few minutes to find Kelly, and then she drove me back to her brothers house.
All in all, this was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But during the race and the weeks after I still have the same thought… I found that the training was much, much harder than the actual race. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!