A marathon is 26.2 miles long. Whether you run a marathon in three hours and 27 minutes, or five hours or six or more, it is always the same 26 miles 385 yards. Each time, you meet the person you are that day. - Michael Lebowitz in the Eugene Marathon guide.
I felt like I was pretty well prepared for the marathon this time, but I've felt that way before. I've had IT band problems for the last year or two. These problems have caused significant knee pain in my last two marathons. At San Diego it happened at mile 14; at Surf City in February it happened at mile 6. My long run a couple weeks ago went well without any knee issues, but it did last time too. You just never know which version of you will show up.
We drove down to Eugene Friday afternoon. This time I wanted to get there a day early so I could get a decent nights sleep. Saturday was lazy, sleeping in a bit and hitting the marathon expo in the afternoon. Our friends met us at the expo, and we did our carbo loading at a Thai restaurant since the Italian restaurants were packed with runners.
Sunday morning I was jarred awake at 4:08 am when I bent my leg and felt a stabbing pain in my knee. I wasn't sure if I dreamt it, so I tried bending my leg again. Stabbing pain. Not the most hopeful sign. I stayed in bed until my alarm was scheduled to go off at 4:45 am. Getting up and walking around the knee felt OK. We'll see.
We couldn't have asked for a better day on the horizon. The forecast was for a temp of low 40s at the start and mid-60s in the afternoon, with little chance for rain. Our hotel was pretty close to the start so we were able to walk there.
The marathon started next to Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, home to racing legend Steve Prefontaine. The marathoners and half marathoners started all in one big group, so there was lots of people (and energy) crowded in at the start line. Cherie and I started out together, and we ran next to each other until her watch beeped for her first walk break.
The route matched the beautiful day, winding through the towns many parks and finishing next to Autzen Stadium. The route was mostly on paths rather than on city streets, and the last 12 miles were along the Willamette River. It really was a beautiful route.
The spectators, though not everywhere on the route, were very enthusiastic. One guy stood screaming on his front steps as Eye of the Tiger blasted from his stereo. As it was 8:00 am, and the guy was college age, the runner next to me joked that he was probably still up from the night before. Further down the road a group was decked out in costume and a guy dressed as Nacho Libre was high-fiving everyone. Another great human being was passing out dixie cups of beer at mile 24. Yes I stopped.
My day went pretty well. I held a pretty steady pace for most of the day. My hips started to tighten around mile 10, so I waited for the knee pain to begin. Fortunately it never came. There were twinges in my hamstrings and calves, but no muscle pulls. My legs did slowly fill with lead from about mile 18 on, however. My wife and Wendy surprised me at mile 23 which was a great boost when I really needed one.
Our friend Wendy has this habit of whipping out the video camera to tape our possibly embarrassing moments. She asked me what my goal was for this marathon. I told her that I would be happy with a 4:30 finish, but that I was really hoping for a 4:20.
I crossed the finish line at 4:19:12. I beat my best time from San Diego by 20 minutes and my last marathon time by 30. A pretty stellar day all around.