Count it - another marathon in the books. By what I can only explain through divine intervention, I logged a three hour and twenty seven minute time in what turned out to be my most enjoyable, albeit physically punishing, race to date. Some highlights:
- Nonstop rain from mile four onwards. I had heard about the possibility of thunder showers the day prior, but as with the aches I was feeling in my knees then, I didn't think twice about it. If it were to happen, it'd happen, and I'd find a way to deal. Fortunately, it was a mega blessing in disguise. As humid as it was, we were kept cool by the constant downpour, which probably spared a good chunk of runners from throwing in the towel. At some point late in the race, the rain stopped temporarily, making those few minutes some of the most excruciating of the trek.
- Stretches upon stretches of mammoth-like hills starting at mile 11. Yeah, I thought I knew what a hilly course felt like before. I was wrong. Fittingly enough, I was midway through a long one at mile 15 when I passed a band covering Bohemian Rhapsody, appropriately belting "I don't want to die, sometimes wish I'd never been born at all".
- Gatorade, water, gu packs, power bars, oranges, bananas, icy hot, vasoline!!! Major major major kudos to the race's organizers for offering all these products in abundance throughout the course. This is the first marathon I've completed where I didn't once worry (even slightly) that there may not be a source of energy or hydration if I needed it. And I needed it more frequently in this race than in any other. Generally speaking, an A+ job from these people not just in this effort, but in streamlining the event altogether.
- The finish line. The staff here was more concerned with putting water in my hands and carbs in my mouth than taking my picture against a finishers wall....all good things. As depleted as I was, my immediate priority upon crossing the line was to replenish...and replenish I did. If my memory serves me correctly, I had six cups of gatorade, three cups of water, 20 ounces of a a new muscle restoration drink, a power bar, half a bagel, a banana, a giant cookie, and a handful of pretzels, within 10 minutes of finishing.
- The wall, also known as the occurrence in your last six miles where your body says "STOP!" and your mind decides whether or not to obey. I tend to brand these moments more vividly in my memory than any other in-race experience. Why? Two reasons. One - they're typically the only time in a race where I question my ability to finish strong. Two - they're what define running in my book; that's to say, if you want to feel the truest sense of accomplishment doing this, you have to win the mind game and fight through those moments of hell. Running is mental. Period. For me, I hit the wall at mile 23 this time. We were in a residential area, my right quad cramped and for five minutes, I was convinced I'd have to walk. But I didn't, and eventually my mind took flight as my legs trucked on...and on and on and on and on and on...
I owe Pittsburgh an apology for my not-so-kind words last week. Sure, it has a grit and rugged feel to it in various areas, but that also means it carries personality. As with Chicago, Boston, and countless other cities, I respect that. It's what this melting pot I call home lacks.
I also want to publicly congratulate Alexis McDowell for PRing at this race and send an ENORMOUS thanks to Krystal and Ryan Brooks for making this possible and putting me up. Quality people, those two.