Yes, that is a picture of yours truly at the finish line of the Flying Pig Marathon. The smile you see is a bit forced. I don’t think anyone feels like smiling after running 26.2 miles, at least not until they have a chance to get off their feet. But somewhere along the last mile or so, a guy behind me was explaining to the lady he was running with that it was very important to decide what pose you were going to do at the finish line. The ideas he threw out there were the thumbs up, flashing the #1 finger, doing the Hulk Hogan-esque arm flex, or just smiling. I chose the later. It sure beats the worn out look that most of my pictures typically have.
So the marathon was a fun experience. It started off with the not very fun chore of waking at 4:30am. I actually woke a bit before that because I was full of nervous energy, and was surprisingly not tired when I got up. Kristy was less than enthused to get up at that time, but I managed to get her up and out the door with me. The drive from our hotel in Northern Kentucky to the starting line went by fast, and we parked about 1/4 mi away from Paul Brown Stadium where the starting line was.
The first sight to greet us was the lines for the port-o-potties. There were literally like 60+ of them, and the lines were all at least 30 people deep. I jumped in line since I knew I would regret it if I didn’t, and they weren’t going to get any shorter. After that was out of the way, the race was only about 25 minutes from starting. I did a few stretches and tried to reassure Kristy that I would not hurt myself. With about 10 minutes left to start, we parted ways and I joined the mass of people at the starting line. There was the usual non-denominational prayer, cheesy local celebrity MC, and race organizer speeches. Finally at 6am, the cannon fired and we were off. It took me just over a minute to cross the actual starting line (thank goodness for timing chips) and it was on.
We wound through downtown a bit and I weaved in and out of people to try to get up to pace. We then headed over one of the bridges over the Ohio River and ended up in Kentucky. After a few miles in Kentucky, it was back over another bridge and back into Ohio. I had planned to run with the 3:50 pace group (around 8:47/mile), but I found myself ahead of them and felt I had a good pace going of around 8:30/mile, so I stuck with it. The toughest part of the course was between miles 5 and 9 when we faced a 400 foot increase in elevation. Fortunately it was a serious of hills instead of one long, gradual incline. I’m usually not good with hills, but I handled these pretty well (probably because it was still early) and kept my pace. Around mile 9 while ascending one of the hills, Elvis was singing and high fived me on the way by. A definite highlight. Another cool thing was a few miles later when we passed a senior center where about a dozen seniors were sitting in wheelchairs on the edge of the street, watching and cheering us on.
I hit the halfway point at about 1:51, only 3 minutes less than I had done in my previous marathon. So I knew I didn’t have much margin of error if I wanted to break under 4 hours. So I just kept plugging away, drinking gatorade every 2nd mile. I ended up using my Gu energy gel packs at around mile 10 and 20. Those, along with the gatorade and a few orange slices helped keep me somewhat energized. Surprisingly I had no knee problems the entire race, which is typically a nagging injury that shows up at least once a run.
When I hit mile 20, I knew the real race was just beginning. In my previous marathon, that was the point when the wheels began to fall off. I kept plugging away, resisting the urge to walk (except through a few water stations). Unfortunately, around mile 22 or 23, I felt a twinge in my left hamstring and had to walk it off for a couple of minutes. It never got back to feeling 100%, but I knew I had to get back to running. So I kept battling, with the occasional 30 second walk break. At the 24 mile mark, I felt good about my chances of breaking under 4 hours, but I knew I wasn’t in the clear yet. It wasn’t until mile 25 that I knew I pretty much had it in the bag. It wasn’t until that last mile that we got back to sizeable crowds, and there was no walking to be done amongst all of that cheering.
As I got closer to the line, I sped up a bit. I managed to see Kristy and knew I was almost home free. When I actually saw the line, a wave of relief hit me and it was a sprint (well, as much as I could sprint with a bad hamstring). I hit the line and made sure to flash the smile. Three hours, fifty-two minutes and twelve seconds. Fifteen minutes better than last time. Not bad. I was happy. But I just wanted to sit down. So I did. And it was over.