Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Delaware Marathon

My thoughts are many yet my hand will not write. Am I in a slump, am I down or have I just had enough. The challenges of the outside world which include physical pain in the form of injuries, issues at work and just the day to day challenges that life in general provides are doing their best to challenge me. I never give up so even though I may slow I will always find a way to move forward. That being said here is a short version of my experience at the Delaware Marathon this past weekend.

The short and sweet of it is that the three days prior to running the Delaware Marathon I could not walk without a significant limp and even the mere thought of running was out of the question. I wasn't worried or sad or down in anyway because I had no doubt that I would be ready to run the race as long as I rested properly. It's been hard for me to come to grips with the fact that I may never run the way I used to but I've done my best to accept that possibility. I will never give up trying to isolate the problem with my leg and gain the appropriate direction as to how to correct it. In the mean time I can only follow the path that I believe God has set before me.

Due to my inability to train at the level I'm comfortable with my expectations at the Delaware Marathon were not high. I only wanted to run pain free and represent myself and my state with dignity oh and for once I wanted to have some fun. It was about feeling comfortable, having fun and running with pride while doing my best.

I found comfort and joy as I watched the one mile children's fun run the day prior to the marathon. In fact what I witnessed on this day is what I will remember most from my weekend experience. My friend Rick and I stood about 300 yards away from the finish line waiting for the first finishers to round the bend. My bet was on two little girls who we saw up front at the start. Girls are strong; they always are no matter the age or the event. When they went by us at about the 1/8 mile mark both young ladies were gliding easily with little effort while two young boys just ahead were already huffing and puffing. I was wrong though because the first person that came in sight was a young boy about the age of 14. He went on to finish in 5:45 but he was closely followed by the two young girls who finished in just over 6 minutes. Just as the girls crossed the finish line directly ahead of us my attention was diverted to a little boy behind us who was about the age of 5. He came running by us at a steady pace and as soon as the finish came into view he kicked it into high gear passing several people ahead of him. The cutest thing I saw was when he smoked an older gentleman who participated in the event. It was obvious the older guy was pushing hard to finish strong yet the little 5 year old blew easily by him. It was just so cute; I wish I had a camera at the time. I also wonder what had to be going through the older gentleman's mind as the little boy passed. The whole event was really fun to watch and it was very cool to see the smiles on the faces of the little children as they each received a medallion commemorating their finish.

The day of my race I stood calmly at the start line waiting for the cannon to fire. When it finally went off I took my first steps praying to God that there would be no pain. There is a reason why the Man above has allowed me to be pain free once a race starts but I haven't figured out why just yet. I didn't take the time to theorize why but rather conservatively started my run.

The course was advertised as a fairly easy flat race around the city of Wilmington. It would take me on roads that ran parallel to the historic Christina and Brandywine Rivers. The race consisted of a ten mile loop that left the Wilmington Riverfront and then traversed city streets for one mile before returning back to the original start. We then left the start area once again to head out onto the streets of Wilmington this time to be lead along the banks of the Brandywine River. I’ve lived in Delaware almost my entire life yet somehow I never stopped for one second to observe the beauty that surrounds me. We crossed over the Brandywine on a narrow, swinging bridge to the other side and then returned back to the original start area.

The final 16.2 miles were broken down into three 5.4 mile loops that led from the start area to the Christina River walk out just past the Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard and back. The Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar) was a Dutch built, armed merchant ship, called a pinnacle, constructed in about 1625, and carried Swedish settlers to establish the colony of New Sweden in the area that is now Wilmington, Delaware.

I had some concerns going into the race that the loops would be monotonous and that the potential lack of spectator support would have a negative impact on the final result. I was wrong in all cases. In fact the course was beautiful and I could not get enough of the scenery. The support I received from those around me was enormous and it positively influenced my performance.

I am a very focused runner and therefore have the ability to block out anyone and everything around me. When I run I find a place deep with in my soul and reside there until I cross the finish line. It's a tiny place in the world in which my heart is intact and my body feels no pain. I don't know how to explain it other than I have the ability to place myself in a state of mind where I only hear and see what I want to hear and see. It's because of this that when I run marathons I prefer to run alone as to not be distracted and brought out of reality where pain exists. I need to be confident, determined and focused the entire way in order to perform my best.

I can sum up my run with one word; consistency. I was happy with how I ran and how strong I felt the entire way. There were definitely some challenges but I was able to overcome them with the help of some friends. I had the distinct home field advantage of having friends on and off the course feeding me encouragement along the way. I will admit that there were several times when I looked forward to reaching a certain aid station because I knew someone there would cheer me on and lift my spirits. Other times when I felt my mind start to wander I was able to regroup by remembering that I had several friends in the Virginia mountains attempting the grueling task over running 100 miles on the most difficult terrain the east coast can provide. My little 26 mile run on the flat roads of Delaware never seemed challenging after those thoughts.

In order to place less pressure on myself I refused to look at my splits the first 10 miles of the race. I knew if I started looking it would only cause negative side effects so I refrained. Part of my acceptance of the future has been to let the past go and it’s been because of this that the pressure has been mightily reduced to where I can now have some fun. I did, however, start calculating splits at the ten mile mark mainly because the big time clock at the finish line was staring me right in the face as I passed through to begin the first of my three 5.4 mile loop. I noticed that my ten mile split was 1:08:45 already putting me out of range of a sub-3 hour time. I went on to record the following splits hoping to be able to predict my finish time as the race progressed however I didn't put a lot of effort into a prediction.

13 miles-1:29:55
16 miles- 1:49:00
20 miles- 2:21:00

When I saw the 2:21 split at 20 miles I thought I had a chance at 3:02 or 3:03 but I never pushed myself beyond my limits. I wanted to comfortably run the entire race and feel as good as possible at the finish. I never felt weak until the 25 mile mark and even then I didn't lose a lot of steam. I felt some muscles twitching and my right leg gave out on me a couple of times but there was no pain. I crossed the finish line in 3:07:38 but found that I had went down the wrong chute so I had to return back to the course a little in order to run through the proper finishing chute. It was a bit embarrassing but like most guys I can't multi-task. I was so focused on running across the finish line that I didn't pay attention to the fact that there were two chutes; one for the finish and one for those who continued on.

I felt good about finishing the race and felt good about my time. After running 26 miles at a respectable rate of speed I not only find it to be hard but also very disrespectful to explain to others that I'm really hurt. Truthfully I don't even bother because I don't think it's fair for me to have people believe that I run with a handicap. Who knows what's going on out there with everyone else? I know for certain that my friend Rick ran with a strained hamstring for 22 miles and also finished with a respectable time. I didn't hear him whining about his injury nor did I hear anyone else discuss pains they may have had prior to or during the run. We're runners and unfortunately part of running means we sometimes must manage pain.

Despite the fact that in the days leading up to the race the pain in my leg was unbearable I'm thankful that God once again gave me the ability to run pain free if for just one day. The adrenaline and other chemicals flowing through my body allowed me to stay pain free for several hours after the race but once I settle down and finally allowed my heart to stop racing the pain once again set in and virtually crippled me. I'm feeling a little down and a little sad because I'm not certain what the future will bring to me. However I am certain that if I place my faith in God I will find the right path and all will end well.

In conclusion I want to add that I was very impressed with the effort that the race directors put forth in order to put on a successful race. The course, support and overall organization were top notch.

There is most certainly a problem with my leg and I have once again begun to run the gamut of doctors. My first stop is back to the neurologist who hopefully will be able to locate a damaged or impinged nerve. If that's the case even though it may take time at least the injury will be defined and a path forward can be put in place. If not my plans for Western States will remain up in the air until the very last minute. My only definite commitments this year are to return to Death Valley to help a friend successfully traverse the 135 mile course for her 2nd finish. Also whether I run, walk or crawl I will be in Hagerstown, Md in November to finish my tenth consecutive JFK 50. Come Hell or high water I'll be in both places.

Finally I want to congratulate my friends who made their attempts at conquering 100 miles of the Massanutten Mountains.

Delaware Marathon Results

Dave B.


Blogger Lisa B said...

You wrote: "I crossed the finish line in 3:07:38 but found that I had went down the wrong chute so I had to return back to the course a little in order to run through the proper finishing chute. It was a bit embarrassing but like most guys I can't multi-task."

Ha! That is pretty funny about not being able to multi-task. :) Sometimes I think I am such a great multi-tasker but other times I wonder if I don't just have a bad case of ADHD...

Congrats on 18th place, Dave. That's a very nice run, handicap and all. I really hope the doc can give you some answers tomorrow.

Thanks for the nice report.

7:29 PM  

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