Finally, here it is…sorry for the delay. Been a busy couple of weeks since the marathon. I know this is going to be long, but since it’s taken me so long to get it done…I didn’t want to delay and make you read 2 of them…..
We left Wilmington on Thursday afternoon. I was originally going to head down from Wilmington to Savannah, about a 5 hour drive, on Friday morning, then hit the Expo..and then go rest at the hotel. Then I got to thinking, would I have enough time to see everything and get my packet, get food, rest, look around, etc. I didn’t know if driving down the same day would give me time. So I decided, why stress about it and rush. So, we left Thursday night and drove about 4 hours to Walterboro, SC, and stayed overnight. Got up Friday morning for my 2 mile shake out run, and went down this long, scary deserted road with old hound dogs barking at us (I ran with my 12 year old son), but not chasing us. My wife found this road on her 5 mile jog. We did a mile out, and a mile back. Boy did it feel awful. If I hadn’t listened to my wife previously, I might have said let’s pack this ship up and head home, cause the marathon is gonna suck. But she said that her Boston shake out run was horrid, so I felt okay and we headed into Savannah for the Expo.
What a great feel. The Expo was awesome! Lots of activity, lots of enthusiasm, lots of people. Big variety of vendors, lots of opportunities to go broke signing up for ALL the races. We wandered around and looked at stuff, bought a souvenir, got my packet and shirt…and then headed on to downtown Savannah to find a bite to eat for a late lunch.
So many places to choose from to eat. My wife and I were in Savannah sans kids about 15 years ago, and had the most awesomest nachos ever in a restaurant right on the river. We think we found it, but did not eat there. We chose an irish bar that had poor service, so-so food, but cold beer. Yep, I had 2 beers at lunch. My final carb loading :). We met with a friend of mine since middle school that was running his first half marathon, and chatted for about an hour. Then it was time for all of us to head back to our hotels and start prepping for the big race.
We got to our hotel Friday night, settled into the room…and found the closest resaurant that served burgers. That has become my night before go to, a big fat juicy burger. The boys played in the pool for about an hour, burning off energy from a 5 hour car ride and 2 days following dad around with minimal exercise. My wife graciously went to the restaurant and picked up my burger. I finally got my gear together, our parking pass, cold weather clothes, post race gear bag stuff..and went to bed.
Up at 3:45 am on Saturday morning, dressed…woke the boys up, put them in the car…and headed down to our designated parking deck. It was about 1/4 mile to the start line, and was about 0.8 miles from the finish. So not too bad. And we bought the parking pass as trying to find a spot to park on Friday for lunch was a complete disaster. Savannah is a great city….bad parking. Anyways, we walked to the start line and found a place to sit and relax. Port-a-johns were not very busy, so I decided to hit it real quick one last time before it got busy. And as all you runners know, it is important to hit the port-a-john as close to race time as possible. At about 6:15am the sun started coming up, and it got really busy. The temps were about 45 degrees, light breeze…not bad at all for my first marathon. Music starting playing, the atmosphere just came alive.
We met up with a fellow Wilmington running buddy who has run 110+ half marathons and 40+ full marathons for a quick good luck. I entered my corral, the music was blaring, weather warming up, national anthem……….it was GO time!
I was in corral 9. It took about 11 minutes for me to cross the start line. “I’m going to do this thing”. The first mile or so was straight out. We took up the entire road. It was now getting sunny, and warmer. Everyone started the race with long sleeves, gloves, hats, etc, as it was about 45 or so when we started. I was wearing a long sleeve green shirt, turned inside out (it was actually a race shirt from a mardi gras 5k we did in Galveston, TX a few years ago). As we ran the long stretch, clothes were strewn about the street everywhere. Some people were nice enough to place them in the same spot as others, others just tossed. We crossed the first mile marker and hit a slight bridge, nothing big, but the group I was running with started saying “not hills already”. They were doing the 1/2.
We turned the first corner just before mile 2 and the streets got narrow. We turned another corner, then a few more. I shed my long sleeve shirt on the side of the road. I kept my gloves on, as my hands have always stayed cold the longest. As we ran thru the first neighborhoods, I kept watching my watch. Right on about a 10 minute mile pace, which was my goal for the race. I tried to look around at the scenery, but I was more focused on where I was running and what was immediately around me. There were people on their porches cheering us on, bands at every mile, and lots of people at every aid station cheering you on.
My wife and I had made plans based on the course layout that they would be around mile 5 and 8 to see me. So as I came closer to mile 5, I began to scan the sides of the course for my wife’s bright orange Boston marathon jacket. In case you aren’t aware, this year’s jacket is bright bright bright orange…you can spot it from the moon on a heavy overcast day. But, it was what I needed. I saw my wife and boys waiting just past the 5 mile marker…waving and cheering me on. I felt good. Still on a 1o min mile pace. I heard my wife yell out you are doing great….and then they were gone…..I didn’t see them again until just before mile 8. As I approached mile 8, again, I saw my family off to the side of the course. I tossed my gloves to my 8 year old, gave high fives, said I feel good, and wouldn’t see them again until at the finish. I didn’t remember much of the course between miles 6 and 11. Lots of large, pretty houses with cool trees (after the race my wife pointed out a road we ran down….which I didn’t remember and still don’t). Savannah is an absolutely gorgeous city, and I would love spending days there exploring….just not at that pace!
As the miles ticked away, it was all of a sudden the split point….at about mile 12. The 1/2 marathoners were on the home stretch. We were not. We turned left, they went straight. Up the on ramp we went onto the interstate. I remember thinking when I was watching the race course video that running on the interstate was dumb. Well, it was. Almost 2 f***ing miles along the interstate…not the shoulder either…we had the fast lane on the way out…it sucked. And then I saw it. The lead marathon runner. I was passing mile marker 12. He was just passing mile 24. WTF??? Good for him, A-hole. Not really, that’s awesome what he did….I was jealous. So 2 miles later we got off the interstate. There were at least very large speakers every 1/2 mile blaring music, other runners passing me….so it passed fairly quickly. We came off the interstate, ran thru some neighborhoods. Again, I don’t remember too much. I do know my legs were feeling a bit stiff and beginning to become sore. It’s not that I don’t remember as I wasn’t paying attention, I was fully focused on the course, my task at hand, not falling down…you know, that stuff.
We then came into Savannah State University. What a sight for sore eyes. Mile 15, didn’t seem far enough, but the energy was such an uplift. It was just great. I could feel myself pick up steam and feel a little faster. Students everywhere cheering, loud music, cheerleaders, the mascot, and even the PA system in the football stadium had a lady yelling encouraging remarks to us all as we did a lap around the track in the football stadium. I noticed a Coast Guard helicopter flew over. Little did I know, but my wife and kids saw that same helicopter (see post here)…….
After leaving Savannah State University, we ran thru more neighborhoods and then thru Daffin and Hedeman Park. They are pretty parks. It basically felt like we did one large loop around a grassy lawn That was the longest 3 miles ever. I knew if I could just get back to the interstate, which was mile 23, I was going to finish. I remember running around the Park, and there was supposed to be a gu station at mile 19 +/-. Well, mile 19 came and went..and then so did 20. I had one gu left from the stash I had brought with me. I wanted to get one from the gu station so I could have one reserve if needed. And I needed it. Finally, almost at mile 21, gu station. I got my flavor, strawberry banana, as I had trained with that flavor. I didn’t think salted watermelon or vanilla bean were gonna taste good or sit well. I had a gu at 21….I finished my gu, and was heading back out of the park….when I passed the funniest sign: “Cocktails for Quitters”. with drinks lining the table. Made me smile. Then came the interstate. I knew I could do it. 3 miles to go. I took another gu, to get thru the last bit. This time the interstate felt very long. And it felt even longer when the street sweeper drove past in the other lane cleaning up the course behind the sag wagon. There it was, the end of the interstate. Mile and a half left. Long stretch of pretty road with overhanging trees. Actually, I think almost every road in Savannah has trees hanging over it. Except that damn interstate.
Final stretch. I could feel the finish coming. The final turn was coming. There it was, the finish. I passed and waved to my wife and boys near the finish, and finished strong. 4:23:39. Just about a 10 min mile pace. Goal met!! What a great day! I grabbed my medal, got some grub and some water and chocolate milk…found my family…got my gear bag..and we sat in a park and rested. We got to hear the last song by the headliner at the concert, Phillip Phillips, which was nice. My first marathon experience was a very good one. Great support crew! Great weather! Good training. I can’t say I won’t do another marathon, but I know I won’t do another one anytime soon. Too many other BIG events for us to complete.