I completed the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, but as is true with every marathon, the story began WAY before race day. I won’t bore you with the details from earlier this year, but running became difficult for a variety of reasons. In late June I finally was able to get back running on a regular basis, so I decided I wanted to train for a fall marathon, and Twin Cities was the one I selected. My level of fitness was nowhere near where it had been a year ago, so instead of shooting for a new PR, my aim was to simply have fun.
My training started well enough, and with help from the Beginner’s Running Group, which I was leading, I started getting in more miles than planned. Then I purchased a new bike. Beginner’s Running Group and frequent biking became the new focus of my training plan, and I believed they were making me stronger. Personal records (PR’s) in the 10K at Alexandria, and the half marathon at Detroit Lakes confirmed my suspicions, and I began dreaming of a PR in the Twin Cities as well.
A runner never knows which little item will make or break a training cycle, but for me, a failed left earphone on August 24th was what eventually brought me down. On August 30th, I completed a 20 mile training run in the early morning fog using different, extremely snug fitting headphones. Sweat ran into my left ear, filling up the canal, and caused some discomfort and irritation. A week later, I ordered a new pair of my favorite headphones online, but the damage had already been done.
My ear bothered me for weeks, and eventually I started feeling extremely run down. I was tired and slept every chance I got. I felt achy and took 2 days off from work and 4 days off from running. I felt a little better so I resumed my training, which was now in the taper stage. Runs which should have been easy began requiring more effort than they should. The left side of my face ached all the time.
I woke up last Tuesday experiencing pain when I opened my mouth to talk or chew, so I visited my doctor. He said my ear and possibly my sinuses were infected so he prescribed ear drops along with oral penicillin. That evening I shivered uncontrollably under my blankets while I waited for the antibiotic to start working. By Wednesday morning the fever was gone, but there was blood in my tissue when I blew my nose.
Thursday saw me feeling a little better, so despite there still being blood in my tissue, I got in a final three mile training run. We drove to the Twin Cities on Friday. On Saturday, I woke up feeling the best I had in over a month. Was I ready for a marathon?
I woke up Sunday morning with my normal race day nerves. I got ready, but then experienced mix up after mix up as I missed out meeting my Red River Runner friends before the race. I walked out of the Metrodome a little late, and despite seeing 12,000 other runners at the starting line, I felt alone and isolated. I was filled with doubt, no longer thinking of a PR, but instead wondering if I would even be able to finish this 26.2 mile course. I wandered to the back of corral #1 and waited for the starting gun, seriously questioning what I was even doing in this spot!
It’s usually tough to hold back your pace during the first mile of a marathon, but even with the skyscrapers making my Garmin almost worthless, I knew I was still going slower than I had planned. I picked up the pace and successfully followed Martin’s “fade in” plan, eventually settling into a pace of about 8:20 a mile. This was a little slower than I had originally planned, but it felt pretty good, so I stuck with it.
I saw the first familiar faces about 4 miles in when I spotted the Flom boys holding a sign encouraging along all the Red River Runners. Their poster even had my name spelled out; making it the first marathon sign anyone has ever made for me. Thank you Denver, Hudson and Carter!
A few miles later Barb, Martin and Dan caught up with me. Martin was helping Barb in her attempt to qualify for Boston just as he helped me break 4 hours last year. Dan was along to help Barb in addition to taking pictures and keeping them both updated on everyone else’s race status. These were the friends I had initially planned on running with, but since I had already resigned myself to a slower pace, I knew they would eventually pull away.
Barb experienced some difficulty around the half way point and started walking. Martin told me to keep running while he stopped to find out what was going on. Within two miles they had caught back up with me, and eventually left me in their dust. Barb went on to set a PR in addition to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You’ve had a great summer Barb!
I continued at my steady pace through mile 21, and then only slowed a little up the two mile hill. Everything had gone remarkably well through this point, but eventually my less than perfect health caught up with me. At mile 23 it started to rain. My legs simply couldn’t run anymore and I walked about a half block. The crowd support was unbelievable along Summit Avenue, and I think the spectators can be credited with keeping that walk to a minimum. I fell back into a slow pace and for the most part at least kept running through the remainder of the race.
The bells weren’t ringing in St. Paul’s Cathedral, which lowered my energy, but as I rounded the bend, I caught sight of the finish line and knew I could do it! I ran down the hill, and heard my name called out. Sue and her cousin Nancy were both jumping up and down screaming, so I veered their way and gave them both a high five.
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3 hours, 51 minutes, and 22 seconds. My pace was slower than I had hoped for in August, but faster than I had feared it would be earlier in the week. All in all, I am extremely happy with a second consecutive marathon in less than 4 hours. In the end, I successfully completed what I had set out to do in June; simply have fun!