Before the RaceThe 4 hour drive from Cabot to Springfield was absolutely beautiful! The leaves were changing in the Ozark Mountains and highway 65 was spectacular. Here's are a couple of pictures I took on the way up, and it only captures a little of the beauty.
God gave us a great trip up, no traffic issues and beautiful scenery.
We arrived at the expo around 4:00 PM to pick up our packets. It closed at 7, but already a few of the vendors had packed up and gone. Picking up our packets was easy enough. Many of the vendors were local, not really beneficial or offering anything of interest to out-of-town runners. But TEAM 413 was there and I learned they would be hosting a worship service at 6:15 the morning of the race. That was pretty cool, especially when I saw the race post about the service on its Facebook page the night before. It's really nice that decent sized events like this exist that aren't so afraid of offending someone, they're still willing to stand up and honor God.
We headed out and checked into our hotel before returning for the 6:00 PM pasta dinner. This was the first time I've ever signed us up for the pre-race dinner, because they're usually so expensive. But, when I registered for this race, the cost to register for the pasta dinner was only $10 a head. I didn't figure we'd find a decent meal for that price anywhere else, so what the heck. I'm really glad I did, because we got to sit with some really nice folks and hear two legendary marathoners speak -- Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter. Our TEAM 413 friends, Faye and Lester, joined us, along with Steve and Paula Boone. Steve and Paula directed the End of the World/Day After the End of the World double we did last year. It was a great meal at a great price with great speakers and friends. Here's a picture of Frank Shorter speaking to the crowd at dinner.
This morning I rose at 4:00 AM, gaining an hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings Time. I got ready, then at a couple of granola bars and downed some coffee. We headed out just before 6:00 AM to get there in time for the worship service by TEAM 413. It was an awesome way to start race morning. We did miss the Marathon Maniacs/Half Fanatics photo, but I figured God wouldn't look too favorably on us if we got up and left a worship service to go get a picture made at 6:30. Priorities, and I'm glad we made this choice. Here's a photo of the service.
Now, it was time for a pre-race bathroom stop, then to the start line.
The RaceWe started right in front of Bass Pro Shops. It was a little different than most decent sized marathons as there were no barricades separating runners and spectators. As a result, we were mingled for quite a while before the start, although most of the spectators cleared out before the race actually started. My friend, Cindy, who works with me at school and one of the few my wife thinks is just as fanatical about running as I am, was with us. She and I planned to run the race together.Here's a pic of the starting line, waiting for the 7 AM start.
Then the clock rolled over to 7 AM and we were off. We were packed in pretty good from the start, but I knew from the course map we'd be separating with runners of the half at mile one. Still, even in the crowd, we managed a 9:58 first mile. When we did split, there was a man with a bullhorn yelling, "Full to the right, half to the left." I remember thinking he should have been saying, "Fools to the right, half to the left," even though I was feeling really great at that point.
The course was absolutely gorgeous, running through residential areas and a biking/jogging trail, decorated with the splendor of fall colors in the trees. Around mile 2, we caught up with the 4:30 pacer and another pace group quickly caught up with us, and passed us. This latter group wasn't an official group, but carried a handwritten sign identifying themselves as the "4:00 -- 5:00 pace group." They were decked out in colorful garb. Cindy wanted a picture with them, so we caught up temporarily and I captured this shot.
We finished mile 2 in 9:45 and moved past the 4:30 official pace group to finish mile 3 in 9:21. The next few miles passed through beautiful neighborhoods with some pretty tough hills. Again, I expected these and was still feeling great. We were averaging around a 9:30 pace through mile 10. The pictures below are a lake we passed around mile 8 and my favorite sign we saw on the course a little while later. Even though I wasn't their teacher, it was nice to know other teachers were out on the course and their students were out supporting them.
After the picture of that sign, I didn't take anymore until after the race. I was starting to feel the pace and the miles, still feeling good, still unworried, and actually visualizing a BIG PR. My goal going in was a 4:30 finish, and by mile 10 we were 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Now I was starting to visualize a 4:20 finish. My previous PR was 4:43:15 and we were on pace to shatter that! But it would take a few more miles before I remembered a lesson I've learned many times before, but seem to forget with regularity. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon, and just because you feel good in the first 10, doesn't mean you're going to feel good the entire distance.
The hills didn't quit at mile 10, and we did finally slow a little. Miles 11 -- 14 averaged around a 9:40 pace. Then we slowed to around a 10 minute pace in miles 15 -- 20. The course was still beautiful, but we were talking less and the miles and the hills were starting to take their toll. We finished mile 21 in 10:29, and that's when the first signs of what was to come appeared. The little twitch in my right hamstring, not a pain and not a pull, but a twitch that I've come to know means get ready, because cramps are coming. That little twitch was my first warning, but we pressed on.
Mile 22 we covered in 10:24, but just before we arrived at the 23 mile marker, those promised cramps, foretold by that little twitch, struck with a vengeance. My right hamstring completely locked up. I couldn't even walk. When I pulled up, cried out, and bent over to stretch, a volunteer blocking a cross street yelled, "Do you want me to get someone for you?" Without hesitation, I replied, "No! I'll finish this race if I have to crawl." It took me a few minutes, but I finally stood there long enough to get it unlocked where I could walk.
We walked a quarter of a mile or more, finishing mile 23 in 11:46. But when I finally felt comfortable to run again, it was at a much slower pace than we'd been running before. It was during this walk the 4:30 pacer passed us. I told Cindy to go on, but she insisted on staying with me. A little over a 5K to go, and it became more of a shuffle than a run, but God kept me going. I decided to walk the hills from this point, even though I might have been able to run that slow, slow pace. I just didn't want to take a chance on challenging those cramp-prone muscles.
We were able to pick up the pace as we progressed toward the finish line, but never approached our previous pace. We covered mile 24 in 14:33, mile 25 in 13:02, and mile 26 in 12:02. Then it was downhill to the finish, and we managed that last little bit at a 10:04 pace. Then, finally, the finish line!
I didn't make my goal time of 4:30, but I did manage a PR of 2:34:50. That would not have happened had it not been for Cindy sticking with me through those last 3 miles. She encouraged me, practically dragging me through until we reached that beautiful line!
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
So thank you Cindy! For running a pretty tough course with me and sticking with me to the finish.
Below are a few cool pics of some birds of prey they had at the conference center when we finished. (And a big bunny rabbit a young lady had too.)
Thank you Jesus Christ for giving me the friends, the strength, and the will to persevere, to continue running. I hope and pray that our run brought you glory on this beautiful day!
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.