Just a few days after arriving back from Patagonia I couldn't believe it was already time to run the Twin Cities Marathon. Originally I hadn't planned on doing this but after getting swept up in the excitement of my brother and a couple of good buddies running I decided I was in, who cares if it was 7 days after running the Patagonia 63K and traveling all the way back from Chile, I would gut it out and be able to run with some of my really close friends.
That was the plan anyway.
The weather forecast all week was showing doom and gloom for Sunday, cold, windy, rainy, figured if we were gonna do it might as well make it hard.
But when I walked out of my apartment Sunday morning to meet my brother, the weather was cool but not cold, the sky was clear and it looked like we were in for, if not a beautiful day, at least a beautiful start. And that's exactly what we got.
As usual the starting corals were a zoo, Alex and I found a spot in coral one, last year he had ripped off a 3:22 marathon, myself a 3:32 so we were allowed in the first wave. This year neither of us really knew what to expect. I told him before, as this was my chief concern, that I wasn't going to get caught up in the way he runs. He's fast, pushes hard and survives on his guts and heart to put together amazing races.
I am the tortoise to his hare. Slowly but surely making my way along, keeping an even pace, trying to run negative splits, and avoid the blowup as much as possible. On the car ride down I told him we can start together but if I feel like you're pushing me I am gonna have to drop off, as much as I would have loved to run the whole way together I knew it wasn't realistic.
As the gun went off and we started through the streets of downtown Minneapolis, I realized that I was about at top speed after the first mile which we completed in around 9 minutes. I could tell Alex wanted to go; he was like a young colt straining at the reigns. Just past the one mile mark I pulled off to use the Biff, Alex kept going as I told him I'd catch up.
But there was a long wait and by the time I finally got moving, I decided to give him a mile of hard running to see if I could catch him, if not we were on our own.
I bulldogged up the hill by the Walker, down towards Lake of the Isles trying to spot his black visor-clad head, but he was nowhere to be seen. On a turn by the lake I thought I spotted him and picked up the pace again but I was mistaken and dialed it back after that not wanting to blow up.
By mile six my legs were gassed, I began to wonder if this was a terrible idea. I have had some epic marathon blowups, and even suffered a pretty brutal one earlier this year in the Afton 50k and didn't want to relive any of those episodes.
Moving around Lake Harriett things seemed to pick up, legs and body found a rhythm, mind went blank, I kept my head up, a smile on my face absorbing the cheering through this packed section.
Had to laugh at one point thinking to a week prior when I was in the middle of the Torres Del Paine, top of a hill surrounded by snowcapped peaks and scrub desert, and not hearing a sound. Surrounded by total silence, no wind, no birds, bugs, nothing. Now here I was in the middle of the 'Most Beautiful Urban Marathon' surrounded by screaming fans and elbow to elbow with other runners.
On Minnehaha Parkway I was taken aback for a moment when a huge crowd of runners surged past me. Don't know that I have ever been passed by that many people that early in a race, but I looked at my watch and realized it didn't matter; I was still on my pace of getting in under 4 hours.
I plowed along to River Blvd, my feet pretty sore at this point but everything working well outside of that.
As I picked 'em up and put 'em down I realized I was doing some solid 'Old Man Running' never going too fast, never going too slow, keeping an even steady pace, running smart. Maybe all those races of being passed by those type of runners and studying them from a distance was finally paying off.
By the time I got to the 20 mile mark I was hungry. The one big difference in Ultras and Marathons is you don't get to eat real food during a marathon, it's gels, water, PowerAde and that's it. I wanted a cookie, or at least a Clif bar.
As I neared the 21 mile mark I spotted my parents and my Gramps. My favorite part of the race, getting to see my little cheering section and always getting to hear a funny line from my Gramps (and always after I leave them thinking about the story Gramps tells of running a marathon in fatigues and boots when he was in the Army)
Sure enough as I pull up and gave Gramps a hug and slapped hands with Big Tom, Gramps says 'Can I run the rest of the way with you?' I started laughing and said of course, and my mom reached in her bag and handed me a cookie. Never been so happy in my life.
The cookie hit the spot and carried me up to Summit Ave. Once there the cheering of the crowds, which seemed to be three deep on either side of the road, carried me up the Summit hill.
But here I started to get worried. I hadn't slowed down at all through this race and with 3 miles to go wondered if I had enough to finish it. I just put my head down, cleared my mind, blinders on, not hearing or seeing the crowd, just putting one foot in front of the other.
This was work I thought, still fun of course, but this was one of those moments where you reach back to early morning training runs when you didn't want to get out of bed. When you pushed yourself through something and proved something new to yourself. I called upon all of those experiences, knowing the whole time I could do it, it was just not gonna be easy.
As I rounded Summit and the Cathedral came into view and the Capitol building and finish line I began to get chills. Not the chills of almost finishing the race, but chills that this was the culmination of a hell of a couple of weeks.
The trip to Chile, the race in Torres, the 27 hours of travel back, jumping right into work & now almost finishing this thing. It was chills of setting a goal that while I knew it was attainable, was previously out of my reach. Of doing something that people said, while not impossible, was crazy. The chills were for the support that I had through it all, from Patagonia to the Twin Cities, from random people screaming for me to finish even though they had no idea quite what I was trying to finish.
I flew through the finish at the speed of smell, accomplishing my goal of under four hours with a 3:52, medal around my neck found Alex who beat me again (never have I ran faster than him) and our parents, and it was off to stuff our faces with breakfast food, a TCM tradition.
And in what is becoming another TCM tradition it was off to work after that for game one of the WNBA Finals, a Lynx win was a great way to cap an incredible two week span.