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Running Background:

marathon photoI consider myself a beginner runner and I primarily run for fitness. About 9 years ago I decided to quit smoking and begin a new healthier lifestyle. I began playing hockey again which was always my favorite sport, but I needed to be in better shape to keep up. I began working out and running a couple miles here and there at the gym. My daughter, in the meantime, had left for college and began running herself. In the summer when she was home, we ran together and she would push me to do more and more. Eventually we did some races and in 2006, I did a half marathon while she ran the full. I had a good race that day and I remember standing at the finish line waiting for her to come in. I noticed so many older gentlemen that looked to be in no better shape than I was. This is when the notion of trying a full marathon first crossed my mind. Now I run because I love the challenge and commitment it takes to accomplish something so few others have done. It is extremely rewarding for the body and the mind.

Training:

I trained for 18 months following Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Plan for Novices. I think I would have been better served if I did more than one 20-miler in the training period.

Some training advice I would share with others is that rest isn't a bad thing. When I hit a wall in training and felt very sluggish, I would take 4 days off and try again.

Race Day:

The 2007 Kentucky Derby Marathon wasn't quite what I expected.

This was my first full marathon. My daughter and off/on training partner for the last few years decided to run this together. This would be her third marathon and she promised to stay with me for the entire race. We also had my brother-in-law join us, running in his first ever half marathon.

The morning began quite early, as I woke an hour and a half before the alarm. I lay in bed and tried to sleep but to no avail. Finally, the wake up call comes at 4:30. My daughter yells at me that it's too early to get up yet. Well, I know that, but I made up this time line and I'm sticking to it!

Finally, it's time to leave and hop the bus to the start line. It looks to be a perfect morning, cool enough, but I'm not freezing standing around in shorts and a tank top. The excitement of race day is all around. I try to remain calm, but I'm like a cougar inside. Let's go!

Miles 1-5: A nice easy start because of the huge crowds at the beginning of the race. The neighborhoods here are full of old brick homes with lots of charm. Shortly after, we enter the first park where the elevation charts say the hills are the toughest. The adrenaline is still flowing strong and I think to myself, "if these are the toughest hills, then this course wont be that bad."

Miles 5-10: We make a port-a-potty stop around mile 6 and lose ground to our pacer. My daughter and I get separated briefly after the stop, but find each other a half-mile down the road. Now, how fast should we go to catch our pacer? We pick up the pace and eventually find him a mile or so later. I wonder if I'm going to pay later for the last 2 miles, but hey, I still feel great right now. The next mile brings us into Churchill Downs and what is considered the highlight of the race. It was quite awe inspiring to run down the tunnel and into the infield, but there really wasn't much view of the track and the horses out training. Next is the stretch up 4th street along the University of Louisville campus. The houses along this area were incredible. I imagined what it would be like for a student to be living on the 3rd floor of one of these tall brick masterpieces. This truly is a unique area of town.

Miles 10-15: Soon we lose the majority of the runners as the half-marathoners split off at mile 12. The course is now much less crowded and I get some time to talk with our pacer, Bill. We hit the halfway point and Im still feeling fine with the exception of my knee that always gets sore on a long run. Usually it just gets sore and I can deal with it, so on we push. Somewhere around the 15-mile mark, we begin to catch a few more hills. Whoa, these hills weren't supposed to be as bad as Iroquois Park, but theyre taking their toll.

Miles 15-20: Were now running through Cherokee Park and my daughter is telling me that she needs to slow down. At this point, Im still OK and I revel in the fact that she wants ME to slow down. Numerous times in the next few miles she yells at me to slow down. She has pushed me and pushed me some more in our training, but this time, she didn't have time to train properly. I guess I can kid her about this for a long time to come. We're still hanging with our pacer, but around mile 18, he starts to slowly get ahead of us. By mile 20, I'm glad my daughter wants to slow down as I'm starting to fade. Maybe we shouldn't have tried so hard to catch him back at mile 6.

Miles 20-23: The toughest stretch of the race, I'm now looking forward to each water stop just so I can walk a little. We walk backwards a bit to help relieve some of the tightness in my hamstrings. Now we have to head up the bridge to cross over the Ohio River and it looks like the bridge never ends. Thank God there is a water stop in the middle. I know we don't have far to go, but my legs are just about shot. After a short walk, we pick up the pace again only to feel an intense pain in my good knee and another pain shooting up my shin. Oh my God, it hurts so bad I can't even run anymore, so we continue walking. I look to the other side of the road where runners are coming back from Indiana and I see pacer Bill. Now we must be a mile behind our goal. I think, why not turn around and head the other way; who would know or care? But we just walk on for the next mile or so.

Miles 23-end: Finally we're heading back the other way on the bridge. We decide that once we hit the water stop in the middle of the bridge, we'll pick back up and run the rest of the way. I'm starting to think that I can just walk the rest and maybe finish under 5 hours, but my daughter is determined to make me run to the finish. Off we go again at mile 24 and thankfully, the legs co-operate this time. Any thoughts now about kidding her for making me slow down have totally vanished. We're back in the downtown area and there are more fans along the streets. Each one tells me Im doing great (funny, I dont feel great at all), but I thank each one of them. I really do appreciate the fans encouragement. Soon we pass the 26-mile mark and turn the corner where I can see the finish line. I don't know where the energy came from, but I ran the last .2 as fast as I could. In my mind, I've thought about how Id react once I finished, but after a big hug from my daughter, there was little celebration. I was absolutely drained mentally and physically.

Recovery:

My recovery was pretty rough. The afternoon following the race, I was painfully sore and struggled to do anything. I spent most of the day wrapped in a blanket lying on the floor in the hotel room. By the next morning, I felt much better and going down steps was the only problem.

Running Gear Recommendations:

Asics Gel Cumulus
The shoes I run in.
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iPod
For those long training runs.
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Nathan Fuel Belt
Keep hydrated!
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

Making the commitment to doing it is the hardest part, but once you do, the immense sense of accomplishment is like no other.

Plans to Run Another:

I'm planning to continue to run marathons because once you start doing races, it gets in your blood. Now, I consider myself a true runner and look forward to bettering my last run.

For my next marathon, I'm going to put in more of the longer runs during training. I think I underestimated how difficult this really would be.

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