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To quote from an Amon Amarth song, “Every muscle straining; it’s the way of Vikings.” I definitely strained my muscles today. Darn near all of ‘em, judging by how sore I feel. I’m a happy Viking (and I make some small claim to authenticity as I am of Norwegian descent) as I conquered the marathon, beating my personal best by four minutes. As promised, I am writing this post to give you let you know how the story ended. And, as I warned you, this could be a bad sequel. Maybe even Grease 2 bad, which – aside from the scene with Michelle Pfeiffer climbing a ladder while singing “Cool Rider” – is a terrible follow-up. I’m in no shape to climb a ladder or sing, so don’t get your hopes up.
I mentioned trying a few new things in this, my first full marathon in fourteen years. Here’s the recap:
1. Salty snacks – I was conscientious about not overloading on sweet stuff during the run, so I didn’t feel a desperate need for salty snacks but decided to try it out at mile 23. I grabbed a small piece of beef jerky out of the ziploc filled with gas station-style snacks and put it in my mouth, instantly realizing this was not the flavor I was craving. I spit it out and decided the pepperoni didn’t hold much promise, either. I still think the idea has merit, but I didn’t need it today.
2. Podcasts – I listened to parts of a couple podcasts, but I also kept the volume low enough so I could hear the people around me. Marc Maron and Nikki Glaser helped pass the time, but I won’t remember any of the specifics of their chat. With about eight miles to go, I switched over to the Amon Amarth playlist, and it energized me. I looked at the Sharpie marker runes on my forearms, lip synched the lyrics, and found my second wind. It lasted about four miles before I hit the wall. Specifically, I hit the infamous hill at mile 22. It’s infamous because it lasts until mile 23. I couldn’t handle it. Vikings are not hikers! I ran further and more than I have in previous marathons, but I did a lot of walking in the last four miles.
3. Pacers – I found the pace guy in the starting corral. He was the one with a balloon labeled “4:30”, which was my goal finishing time (that is, four hours and 30 minutes. I was definitely hoping to finish before 4:30 p.m., which would have been a nine and a half hour run). I learned that following the pace guy was awesome, as I didn’t have to think about my pace at all. As a person who can get stuck in my own head, over-thinking little details, trusting someone else to take on the math problem of monitoring pace for 26 miles was liberating. I told him how great it felt. He was pleased, but told me he was anxious, carrying the responsibility of keeping pace. I told him I didn’t care. Fortunately, he laughed. Thanks, Andy. Much appreciated. I only wish I could have stuck with you when we got to that hill. By the way, the biggest problem with following the pace guy is dodging his balloon. I ran behind him most of the way, and the balloon had a way of bopping me on the head if I wasn’t wary of my proximity to Andy. It was like his very own personal space protector.
A few other highlights:
- Two unofficial aid stations providing small cups of beer. Awesome.
- The family that set up a bubble-machine in their yard, so their street was filled with little kids and marathoners frolicking through a blizzard of soap bubbles. Magical.
- My running team – the devious ones who talked me into this marathon – cheering me on with a sign made just for me. Motivational.
- My family cheering for me at mile 24 with big smiles on their faces when I was feeling low. Love.
- My smart phone allowing me to text my wife (at mile 24.5) and ask for a chocolate chip cookie when I got to the finish. Perfect.
The marathon is a great teacher. While I beat my previous best time, it wasn’t quite the time for which I was hoping. Nor was it the unstoppable Viking warrior performance I imagined. Finishing a marathon can be a tricky balance of disappointment and satisfaction. Kinda like life, right? Well, for now, I’m definitely sitting on the satisfied side of the teeter-totter.
So pour the beer for thirsty men
A drink that they have earned
And pour a beer for those who fell
For those who did not return
Raise your horns!
Raise them up to the sky!
We will drink to glory tonight
Raise your horns for brave fallen friends
We will meet where the beer never ends
– From “Raise Your Horns” by Amon Amarth