On Saturday June 12, 2010 I ran the Utah Valley Marathon in Provo Utah. The race starts in Wallsburg UT at 6000 feet. It winds through Provo
canyon and ends at the Provo Town Center Mall at 4500 feet. My sisters Erin and Kara also ran the marathon. Their husbands Marcus and Tyson
and my mother ran the half.
On marathon day, we arrived at Provo Town Center at 3:45AM to board the bus. My sisters chatted with their friends while I dozed during the
ride to the top - I hadn’t slept much in the previous three days. We disembarked in the 46 degree pre-dawn morning and were greeted by a
light rain. At times it threatened to turn into a downpour. I wore a black garbage bag until 60 seconds before the start. The rain would continue
to fall intermittently through the race.
The race started at 5:44AM. I ran with the 3:10 pace group. It took us 14 minutes and 10 seconds to cover the first two miles. By that time I had
jettisoned my long sleeve shirt, hat, arm warmers, gloves and had nothing left to throw overboard. I was breathing hard, my pace felt labored. I
knew I was in trouble.
At mile 6 we started a two mile long hill that rises along the side of Deer Creek Reservoir. We averaged 7:22 up the hill. As we reached the top I
was gasping for breath. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hang with the pace group. I switched to plan B and started running a lot
As the incline gave way to the first major descent, I let the hill carry me as fast as gravity would pull. I looked at my watch to see I was running
6:18. At some point I hit 5:35. I pulled way ahead of the pace group. When the slope rose, I conserved energy, when it fell I ran as fast as I
could. I crossed the half-marathon line at 1:33:57. By mile 17 I was averaging 7:07. The bottom of the canyon drew near. The scenery was
beautiful. The wind picked up and blew at my back. I clocked my fastest mile at 6:46.
At mile 18 I began to pay the price for plan B. Every 8-10 strides my calf muscles fired of their own accord, threatening to lock up. I slowed to
7:22. The course flattened out and I slowed to 7:39. I was again struggling to breathe. Now the suffering began in earnest. At mile 19 I took a
mental inventory - I was hurting, I had to maintain my pace to make a 3:15 qualification time for Boston, and I still had an hour to go. I felt close
At mile 21 the 3:10 pace group caught me. I was on the side of the road trying to stretch my calfs that had gone from protesting to rioting. The
group leader made every effort to keep me with the group. I ran 7:22 for half a mile, but fell behind.
I entered a whole new reality at mile 22.5.
This would be the defining period of the marathon. When I ran at an 8:30 pace, the pain was horrible. When I ran 8:15, black curtains
progressively closed on my vision. I tried to run faster to see if I could push through it. The lights went out and I staggered diagonally across the
road. For the last 4.5 miles I averaged 8:20 – right on the edge of loosing consciousness.
I couldn’t hold my head up. It rolled back on my neck. I thought I might fall over backwards. When I tried to pull it forward, the lights went out.
Once again I stumbled across the road.
At mile 25, I came to the 75 foot hill where the road bridges over a railroad track. I slowed to an 11 minute pace fighting to get over the top. I
could see the finish. I had a mile to go. If I could do it in 9 minutes and 30 seconds I would qualify for the Boston Marathon. I wasn’t sure I could
do it in 15.
I ran with every last ounce of energy – right to the razors edge of passing out. I had music playing – I couldn’t hear it. Spectators were waving
and cheering – I didn’t even register that they were there. I crossed the finish line with 3:14:59.6 on the race clock. Marcus and my mom caught
me at the finish. I could barely walk. Marcus had been gripped in anxiety as he measured my slow progress against the 3:15 Boston qualification
time. He was elated that I had just qualified by 0.4 seconds. It turns out that Boston gives a 59 second cushion. Between the qualification time
of 3:15:59 and my chip time of 3:14:51. I had 68 seconds to spare.
I was a wreck in the finish area – barely able to stand. I collapsed on a cot in the medical tent. The doctors were worried about my hydration. I
was worried about my Boston qualifier race shirt. Marcus picked it up for me. He helped me put it on and I immediately felt much better.
Isn't he a great writer? Something to look forward to in December! Or maybe not... :)