I adjusted my expectations accordingly. I decided that I just wanted to finish. I think in some ways my experience in Long Beach has scarred me and running fast now seems to me a recipe for crashing out.
Regardless, I wanted to enjoy the marathon. Why not? This was supposed to be my 10th marathon after all, and I wanted the medal, the glory, the feeling of complete elation. I did. I'm greedy that way.
Because of all that, I got up at 3:10 a.m. Sunday, got my stuff together and met up with a friend in nearby Corona at 4 a.m. After a trafic-less drive to Costa Mesa and the OC Fairgrounds, we hopped on a shuttle bus and before too long were standing near the start line.
My friend Kuuipo and I ran into another friend of ours, Vance, and the three of us set off on our 26.2-mile journeys at roughly 5:30 a.m. I felt great. We started slow, which was planned, but after a couple of miles we picked up the pace ever so slightly. I felt comfortable and wanted to stay that way as long as possible.
Shortly into the race, Vance and I had to jump into the bathroom and Kuuipo kept on going. She was just up ahead and stayed that way. Eventually we lost her. Vance had springy legs and I told him a few times to run up ahead. After the midway point, he said he wanted to negative split, I wished him luck and off he went.
I was alone, and fine with it. I knew my race was going to be slow, and I didn't want to hold anyone back.
I was cruising. I wasn't going particularly fast (the 4:30 pacer went past me around Mile 16 while the 4:40 pacer passed me around Mile 22) but I didn't care. I was comfortable. I wanted to stay comfortable. I felt like if I were to have dug deep to find that extra gear, that I'd crash out eventually and then I'd be toast.
Mile 17 came and there were no feelings of despair. I made it a goal to focus on the next mile and tried to stay mentally sharp. Pretty soon I passed up the Mile 18, 19 and 20 markers and celebrated after each one. After I hit 20 miles, I marveled at how much different and better I felt then than I had when I'd finished my 20-mile run last month. I knew I could get through another six-point-two miles.
Sure, there were tough moments. I had an issue with my phone and phone holder at about Mile 21. I had to fumble around when Mrs. LB called me a mile later. There were moments when my legs felt heavy. But I pushed through it all. Around Mile 25 I started to run with a smile afixed on my face. I knew I wasn't going to crash out. I knew that I was going to cruise into the finish. I also knew that I wasn't going to beat my LA time but it was night and day from how I felt at the end of LA to how I felt this last mile, and for that I was happy.
People were out on the course cheering me on and I thanked as many of them as I could. The horrendous situation that happened in Boston last month did not keep these people from lining the course and supporting the runners, and for that I felt humbled. I appreciated their cheers, claps and high-fives. It really did help lift my spirits.
Eventually, I came upon sight of the Mile 26 marker. I'd had some tears welled up in my eyes, as I have had in each of my marathons. I thought back to how I was before, 300-plus pounds, and here I was now about to finish my 10th marathon.
I rounded the final corner. The finish line was up ahead. I'd been practicing my pose for a little bit and here now was showtime. I lifted my arms up, spread my fingers out and commemorated my 10th marathon that way, with a smile and tears and finally, that medal.
And afterward, the best-tasting beer I've had in quite a while.
* Kuuipo finished in 4:30:16, not bad considering she was worried
* Vance, who ran with me every step of LA, finished in 4:24:14 - his pace at the half was 10:12, and overall was 10:04, so he got his negative split. Proud of him.
* I love the OC Marathon. I really do. Enjoyed it last year, enjoyed it this year. Becoming very fond of this event.