When I ran the LA Marathon last year my goal was to finish in five hours. I had trained for about two months and gotten down to a slender 186 lbs, the least I’ve weighed since my last year of college. Because of a disastrous combination of being mentally unprepared for the event and wearing year-old sneakers, at some point around mile 22 my left knee made a sickening pop. By mile 24 my right knee had joined its brother and I was in excruciating pain. I (literally) limped across the finish line and recorded a disheartening time of 5:46.
This year I decided to run about two weeks ago. I trained my out-of-shape, 200 lb, 33-yr old body for ten days. I figured that I had little chance of doing anything great, but I just wanted to (a) finish the race and (b) beat last year’s time. It was grueling and painful, I got a huge blister on the instep of my left foot, and I thought more than once that I was going to face-plant into the asphalt. But I was much better prepared mentally this time. The miles blazed below me and when I crossed the finish line I was struck dumb by the time: 4 hours, 56 minutes.
Today I am so sore that “sore” does not do the aching I feel any sort of justice. I am beyond pain. My right knee feels like someone is periodically nailing a very large spike into it with a very large hammer. My left calf is burning as much as if I was still on mile 18. I am covered with SalonPas patches and Ben Gay and I’ve been downing ibuprofen and Excedrin like a meth addict. I am tremendously grateful that I bought a Pro-Tec Patellar Tendon Strap before the race. I don’t know if it really helped or if it was just psychological, but my knee didn’t start killing me until hours after the race, so I owe the kids at Pro-Tec a big thanks.
I also owe a big thanks to my friend Gilbert. He bought me a GoalPace bracelet which provided definite psychological and definite moral support for the run. If you are going to attempt a marathon, I can’t recommend this product enough. It was a lifesaver.
More than anything else, though, I owe a big thanks to the thousands of people that lined the route. It seems impossible, but I thought there were even more volunteers this year than last. So many people. Strangers with water and Gatorade and chunks of bananas and water and oranges and pretzels and water and firemen spraying us with cold water and family members of runners cheering for every runner that was trying. It was so amazing. I did my best to slow enough to say, “Thank you,” and let the person that handed me a paper cup of miraculous water know just how much I appreciated their generosity.
My girlfriend proved just how awesome she is by — after getting out of bed at 6am to take me and my pal to the race — returning to the course with her bicycle to cheer for me. She probably logged a good fifteen miles through the streets of Los Angeles to be there for me. And then she drove me home and helped me alternate between icing my knees and getting into and out of the hot tub several times … She’s the best.
I also owe a huge thanks to my dad. He doesn’t know it yet, but I used his credit card to treat myself to an enormous steak dinner at The Palm last night. I had a half-dozen oysters, the french-fried onion rings, a huge Caesar’s salad, and a bone-in New York strip that was approximately as large as my head. My body is dying for food still and I would eat the whole meal again right now if I had the chance. It’s barely 9am and I’ve already had at least a gallon of water this morning.
I am so happy that I cracked five hours and so glad to have done it at all. Right now I cannot even remotely imagine running another marathon, but I’m willing to bet that my feelings change after the pain finally stops.
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