It was near-perfect weather for running a marathon, and I was blessed to get a new PR, finishing in 4:17:16 on the beautiful flat course alongside the Arkansas River. The weather and the course weren't the only blessings God gave me that allowed me to reach that PR today. He also sent two other Marathon Maniacs my way, Ryan Westin and Ed Childress, who ran with me the entire distance and pushed me to my fastest marathon ever!
These guys were great. We started off at a pace to finish in four hours, but I told them at the start I might not be able to hold it the whole way. Ryan, who paced me to my previous PR last February at Mississippi River Marathon, told me if I couldn't hold the four hour pace, he'd run me to a PR. I'd never met Ed before yesterday, but he, in true Maniac fashion, joined us at the start and said he was there for the duration.
The first ten miles went great, but I was feeling the faster-than-I-am-accustomed-to pace. We crossed the timing mat at the half after 1:58, on pace to meet the four hour goal, but with little room to err. Not long after that, the effects of pushing the pace must have been showing. They suggested we pull back for a bit. But I told them I wanted to maintain that pace until at least mile 15. By the time we reached the 14 mile mark though, I was easier to persuade. So we backed it down, and that was definitely the right decision.
Just past mile 17 was the long climb up the Big Dam Bridge, one of the bridges for which the race is named, and we decided to walk the uphill portion. That proved another wise decision, because the last eight miles were really flat and I still only beat my previous PR by a little more than two minutes. It's pretty much certain that if we hadn't backed down when we did, I'd have faded even more in those final miles, and that would have cost me the PR.
Many thanks to Jesus Christ for getting me to and getting me through this marathon, and many thanks to Ryan and Ed for sacrificing what could have been much faster times for themselves to help me get a new PR!