Date: November 19, 2017
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Weather: 51 Degrees and Windy
Distance: 26.2 Miles
Finish Time: 3:00:25 Overall: 244 out of 10,046 Age Group: 66 out of 686
As I crossed the finish line, all of the pain and agony of running at maximal effort and intensity quickly dissipated after glancing at the large finish line clock that read 3:00:25. I did it. I qualified for the Boston Marathon. The most prestigious feat in running and an 18 minute marathon personal record. It was a dramatic, memorable and emotional ending to my racing season.
Just a few days earlier my mood and spirit were quite the contrary. The weather forecast called for extreme wind of 20-30 mph, with gusts even stronger. For five days leading up to the race, I voraciously monitored the weather forecast hoping that it would change, but unfortunately it never improved and I felt devastated.
It may sound overly dramatic, but if you’ve ever trained for a marathon, you know how much time, effort and dedication is involved. The real marathon is the actual training leading up to the race.
To give you an idea here are a few of my stats over the course of 2.5 months:
Total Running Workouts: 65 (~6 days per week)
Total Distance: 410 Miles
Total Time: 4,681 minutes (~8 hours per week)
Total Calories Burned: 215,000
As you can see the commitment is enormous. I thought there was no way of achieving my goal of 3 hours and 5 minutes because that was a challenge on a nice day without any wind (my marathon time last year and PR was 3 hours and 18 minutes). Running in the wind is like running up a hill; even a slight breeze produces resistance.
My lodging for the night was at a hotel 20 minutes from downtown. They upgraded me to a suite, which was great because it had a kitchen that I could use to prepare my dinner and breakfast. No Philly cheesesteaks on this trip.
I woke up on race morning at 4:00 am. For some reason, I felt calm and content with the fact that race conditions were not going to be ideal. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t qualify for Boston this year. I was going to have fun and see what happened.
My pregame included a 15 minute movie real of the best Rocky training scenes on repeat. I ate half a bagel, with beet juice and a protein shake. I carefully applied Muscle Tonic and prepositioned my race fuel (2 energy gels, energy beans and 3 shot blocks) in my race belt. I glanced out the window to check the weather and noticed that it was raining hard – I reluctantly watched the flagpole to gauge the wind.
I shared a cab with another runner and we arrived at the race site around 6:15 am, greeted by howling winds and sideways rain. My poncho held up well, but I was paranoid about my sneakers getting wet (increased weight and risk of blisters). Luckily, the rain stopped shortly after the race started.
After three trips to the porta john, I did a brief warm up and entered the first corral. My strategy was to run my pre-planned pace (7:03 per mile) and let the wind decide how long I could maintain that rate. Typically in marathons there are pace groups; these are volunteer runners who hold a sign and get to the finish exactly at the advertised finish time. I saw signs for 3:15, 3:10 and 3:00. I looked franticly for the 3:05 pace group, but never found one. At that moment, I decided to go all in and join the 3:00 pace group.
I don’t know why, but the first 6 miles were challenging. Well not challenging, but harder than I anticipated after having tapered for 3 weeks and from my experience at previous marathons. The wind was definitely a factor, but I think my legs were a little rusty from not having run the previous few days. I settled in after Mile 6 and started feeling great. My strategy was to draft behind other runners as much as possible so that they would block the wind. This was also another benefit of running in the pace group.
I always feel grateful to the people who come out and support the runners, so I try to wave and give thumbs up, etc. The runners in my pace group however were so serious.
Before I knew it, we hit Mile 13 (halfway point) and I was still keeping up with the 3:00 pace group. There were periods of little or no wind, and other periods of extreme wind. 70% of the time the wind was in our face and the other 30% at our backs. At this moment, I felt a rush of adrenaline and excitement – I started thinking, wow maybe I can actually pull this off. However, in the back of my mind I remembered my first two marathons (I ran perfect races until mile 18 when I hit the wall and fell apart).
If you remember reading in my last post, I upped my carb intake this year in an effort to prevent hitting the wall. Well I think it worked! Mile 18 came and I conquered it. Meanwhile, our pace group evaporated. I actually passed a lot of people in the next few miles. It wasn’t until Mile 24 when I started feeling terrible; the wind was ferocious – there were extreme gusts of at least 30 mph directly in my face. My body felt like it wanted to give up, but I had the mental strength and fortitude to keep going – I thought back to all the months of hard work, along with the previous 24 miles and I wasn’t going to fail.
As I approached the finish line, I had to look twice at the clock when I saw 00 after the 3. I almost collapsed, both from the physical exhaustion and mental elation. I actually had tears in my eyes, as I thought about what I had just achieved (in spite of the weather conditions) and how hard I worked to make it to this point - months of difficult workouts, dark/cold/sleepy mornings, tiring after work runs, and long weekend runs that consume half a day.
I couldn't believe it. Just like Rocky, it was the ultimate underdog story.
YO ADRIAN, I DID IT!!!!!!!!!