Running the Baltimore Marathon
Running the Baltimore Marathon

Seeing the first marathon blanket somewhere around mile 25 was the first time I knew for sure that I would finish the race. It had been a long, painful journey up to that point. Walking to the start Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but think back on all the work it took to get this far. All of the sacrifices I made and hours spent on the road, came down to that day, that morning. As I joined the thousands at the line, the excitement, anxiety, and nerves filled the air.

The gun went off, the crowd began to yell, and it all began.  The first few miles blew by.  I kept thinking to myself, “I sure hope the whole thing is this easy!”  Then, somewhere around mile 4, when everyone started feeling out their rhythms, Cheer Team Hay (CTH – comprised of Sister, Mother, Spud and Fam + a few others…that’s right, I had the biggest cheering section in the marathon) made their first appearance. They were loud, with 8, yes 8 cowbells, and signs to boot. The racers fed off their enthusiasm, and I quickly realized I might be the luckiest runner out there.

Things went pretty smoothly for the first half marathon. I quickly found my rhythm and cruised along without trouble. I crossed the half way point a few minutes under 2:00 feeling great. When I passed CTH around mile 14 I remember Sister saying, “you look great!” and I replied “I feel great!” Because I did…for about another 3 miles.

Miles 16-20 were uphill. I don’t know who the hell designed this course, but they clearly never ran it. The hills caused me to lose stride, slowing me way down. By the time I reached the top of the climb, I had hit the wall, with little left to recover. Mile 20-21 might have been the longest. It circled a lake, so I could see the other end. With every step, the end grew increasingly far way.

By this time the half marathoners had thinned out the marathoners, making it feel more and more lonely. As they zoomed by with fresh legs, the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that they may cross the finish line first, but I will have run twice as far.

A buddy from college told me the other day, “Remember, the last 6 is what you trained for.” He was totally right. The first 20 was tough, but NOTHING compared to the end. The fun was over, the excitement gone, and for miles 20-25, every stride was a challenge.

Then finally, the first sighting. That sighting of the first marathon blanket was more brilliant than any view of the inner harbor. It brought hope, energy, and drive back into my step. I could finally taste the finish, and it tasted sweet.

The last mile grew louder, as the spectators grew in numbers. Running through the gates of Camden Yards, it felt like I was flying, with the clank of the cowbells from CTH carrying me the last few tenths of a mile.

As I crossed the line, emotion took the best of me. The pain, exhaustion, excitement, accomplishment, and relief came pouring out in the form of dry tears. A feeling I never want to forget.

I’m proud to report, I accomplished both my goals for the weekend!

Well, tomorrow is the big day!  20 weeks of work comes to a climax starting around 8:00 am. I think I’m as ready as I can be.  My head is right, my body is right, as long as my knee stays strong, my legs will be right.

I have two major goals for the day.

1) Finish.  Preferably around 4:00, but I’ll take any finish.

2) Not get on YouTube for a finish like this:

Wish me luck!
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Marathon Route
2009 Baltimore Marathon Course

Baltimore Marathon

131 Days, over 500 miles, and a pair of shoes have led me to this point.  I’m finally just 10 days away from running the Baltimore Marathon.  Just 19 weeks ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

This has been one of the most painful, challenging, and time consuming journeys I’ve ever been on.  I have given up soda, avoided junk food, and in these last weeks even put down the bottle.  Icing has become a regular part of my evening, and blisters no longer seem to gross me out.   But it has been so worth it.

A few days ago I was talking to an old college buddy who ran a marathon last year.  He told me, “Congratulations.  You have done it!”  And I think he is right.  10 days from now I’ll run the race.  God willing, I’ll finish without any worse than usual issues, and it will be awesome.  But that will be just about 4 hours of this trip.  The countless hours, the self motivation, early mornings, painful knees, and maybe even a few tears, is really what this was all about.  I set out to do something.  A kind of commitment I have rarely had in my life, and now I’ve completed the worst of it.  It might not be over until I cross the finish line, but the works is done.

Last night I went out for a quick 6 miler.  I was thinking about how many times I’ve run down that hill, and past those apartment buildings.  All of a sudden a biker on the sidewalk comes flying by.  I mumble my usual response to bikers, “It’s called ‘Share the Road’, not ‘Share the sidewalk,'” he turns to look, and we both keep going.  That got me thinking, “wow, I can’t believe nothing serious has happened to me.  I really hope I don’t get hurt by something dumb in the last few days of training.”  Seriously, not 15 seconds after that thought passes, I find myself laying face first right smack dab in the middle of 11th and U st.  I look up to see people jumping from their seats  in the outside seating area of Solly’s and a man running from the sidewalk to help me.

I got up with nothing more than a few scratches, my “10 days” bubble burst, and a red face, but left thinking that it could have been a lot worse and at least 20 or so people had something to laugh about!

10 days until race day.  The work is over, but the stories have just begun.

Weather looks perfect
Weather looks perfect

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Running Northwest

Roommate and I have decided to take on a new blog dedicated solely to marathoning and running in the district.  We are calling it “Running Northwest” as it will chronicle the pains and triumphs of training through Northwest, DC.

Don’t worry, I’m in no way giving up The Hay Say, but I wanted to keep this site from becoming my running blog.  Running Northwest will be a completely joint effort between Roommate and Myself.

I hope that you will check it out and follow along as we approach 26.2.

Rockville Twilight 8k
Rockville Twilight 8k Course Map

I don’t get out to organized races very often.  In fact this is the first one I’ve run in several years.  But as part of the marathon training, Roommate and I are trying to get out to as many as we can.  Race #1 came last Saturday at the Rockville Twilight 8k Runfest.  We had heard of horrible humidity and tough racing conditions, but this year couldn’t have been better.  With clear skies and about 75 degrees, it was a perfect evening to lace up our Asics and hit the road.

I was really impressed with the organization of the race, and all the excitement surrounding it.  About 2000 people showed up in ready to run.  There were people cheering at nearly every corner, families out in their front yards, a guy dressed up in a banana suit, and even a jazz band that popped up a few times.  The course itself showed us a few hills, keeping the runners challenged and reminding them to push themselves.  I was lucky enough to have a pretty large crowd armed with cowbells, making it impossible to miss them even in the dark.

The post race festivities were just as good as the race itself.  With registration came 4 free beers and band.  My group closed down the party, sticking around until after the stage was torn down and the lights off.  It was a great night, making me excited about the many races to come.

This weekend brings the Crystal City Twilight 5k.  They have big Twilight shoes to fill, let’s see how it goes.

The Goal.  The Plan.
The Goal. The Plan.

26.2 – A number that means so much for so many.  For me right now, it means, “crap, what did I just do.”

Tonight Roommate and I registered for the Baltimore Marathon.  We are now setting out on a 20 week adventure leading to the finish line.  As I thought about this idea today, I couldn’t help but think what that 20 weeks meant.  Since graduating from college, accepting a job, and moving to DC, I have had little-to-no real goals to work towards.  Sure, I dream of the perfect job, more money, and one day going back to school, but I have no real concrete goal or  plan of action.  26.2, that is a goal.  20 weeks of training, that is the plan.

I’ll keep everyone updated on the progress.