I wanted to give myself a week before trying to write this review. I wanted to let the emotion of the event fully leave my system. There was laughter. There was pain. There were tears. And there were several “WTF am I doing” moments. As I said shortly after I finished, the Portland Marathon was the most painful and humbling experiences I have ever put myself through. And now that a week has past, when I’m asked whether I would do it again, I can honestly say yes, without a second of hesitation.
The event itself is fantastic. I’ve done a lot of small events where the focus is on making sure runners have the basic needs of the event. I’ve also done a few bigger events where it was more about the glitz and glam rather than substance. The Portland Marathon impressed me with what seemed to be the right combination of both. I think the community deserves a big chunk of that recognition. Aside from a few sections of the race where spectators were not allowed for safety reasons, there was not a stretch of the course where there wasn’t a good cheering section. At some points people were lined up 3-4 deep along the road. The neighborhoods really seem to embrace the chaos of race day, something I’m sure all the other runners appreciated as much as I did. There was one house that really stood out to me. They probably had 20-30 people outside of their house in what can only be described as a huge tailgate party. The finish line was as close to my fantasy finish line as I could imagine it could be in reality. Thousands of people lined the streets of the final stretch, all of them screaming their lungs out, willing you on to the finish. I made those last two turns and all the pain just went away. I got a huge adrenaline rush from the crowd. It was just amazing to experience.
As for the race itself, I did not hit the time goal(s) I had for myself. Sure, I’m bummed about that. But something I’ve worked on the last few months is learning how to adapt my race during the race based on the conditions that I’m presented with. Whether those are weather or course issues, or if it is something wrong with me. I started out the race nice and easy, at least for me. I still have the bad habit of going out too fast, but luckily the start was EXTREMELY crowded and I didn’t have a choice. I thought for sure we were running about a 10:00 mile but when I checked my pace at mile one we were sub 8:30, which is right where I needed to be. It took a good 4-5 miles for the pack to really thin out before I could really think about making any kind of move. After that I settled into a good pace and felt like things were going well.
Through mile 10 I was right no pace. Mile 11 things started going a little sideways. I felt much more tired than I should have for what my perceived effort was. Pace check at mile 11 showed that I had slowed down. By mile 14 I knew something wasn’t right. Was really started to drag ass even though mentally I knew I shouldn’t be. I did a quick assessment of my fuel and fluids and did note that I was a little behind on my plan but still within my normal consumption for runs. I just figured it was going to be one of those days.
Mile 17 is when you come to the only real hill on the course. You climb up and cross over the St. John’s Bridge. I made it less than 1/3 of the way up and realized that at the pace I’m “running” I could walk up the hill just as fast and save some energy. So I took the opportunity to catch my wind, hydrate and fuel up. Ran into one of my TnT coaches at this point and he said I made the right call, so didn’t get too down on myself. Once I got up the hill I picked the pace back up and felt much better. I got a solid couple of miles in getting me close to the infamous mile 20. It was about this time where I noticed a major problem. I had essentially stopped sweating. I’m not a doctor, but even I know this is not good. I had already picked up my hydrating pace before this but after noticing the sweating issue I knew that I needed to be drinking every chance I get. My goal times went out the window at this point and the main goal was to finish the race standing up. From there on out I walked each aid station, grabbing two full cups of water. And these weren’t your itsy bitsy 2oz cups of water that most races give out. These were full 8oz cups. So each stating I was drinking almost 16oz of water while taking a decent walk break. I ran as much as I could between stations but still had to walk from time to time as my body just was not happy with me.
My trainer, Charles, met me about mile 22 at the aid station. Gave me some encouraging words, “Suck it up and push, I will fix whatever is broken later!” Gave me a nice little boost. Found out later that day he had sent a text to my wife say “He doesn’t look so good”. Good thing he didn’t me that!
Once you get to about mile 24.5 it becomes really hard to walk even if you want to. You know you are getting so close and the crowds are urging you on. It’s almost like you are running for them at this point. About mile 25.5 I got a nice surprise when my wife met me on the course and gave me a high five. I’ll be honest; I pretty much lost it at that moment. It’s really hard to run and cry at the same time!
As I mentioned above, the finish is just amazing. You start feeding off the energy of the crowd. All the pain just disappears and you feel like you could run another 10 miles. The finish line was the most amazing sight. My time was 4:07:18. Not what I had planned but given the problems I ran into during the race I am quite pleased with that.
What does one look like when they are coming to the finish of their first marathon and they aren’t feeling so good? This picture pretty much sums it up!