Guest Post: Running Your First Marathon Part 4

Good Morning! Here is the final installment of Michael’s marathon story….Enjoy!

CALM BEFORE THE STORM.

With all the hard work behind us, we began our couple weeks of tapering.  There were still some longer runs left in the training program, but it felt different.  Whitney and I had some relatively relaxing weekends leading up to the marathon, the most memorable was “steak house dinner night” where we made delicious steaks complete with gorgonzola sauce, Cesar salad, potatoes au gratin and something ridiculous for dessert.  I should confess that my favorite part about training was definitely the ability to eat whatever I wanted.  One of the strangest things to happen to us during our weeks of tapering was the crazy leg attacks.  We both experienced those pains at night that make your legs twitch and make it impossible to fall asleep.  Whitney did some research and apparently this is caused by your body healing all the small tears in your leg muscles.  Awesome, we were uncomfortable as hell, but at least we were on the mend.  The Thursday night before the marathon, I picked Whitney up with all her gear and we spent the night at my place (I can see the airport from my apartment).  Up early, showered, hailed a cab and we’re on a plane and headed to Chicago, my emotions were all over the place.  A huge part of me was terrified, but once again I had my seasoned athlete girlfriend there to remind me that it’s time to have fun, stop worrying and smile, you’ve earned this.  When we landed in Chicago we decided to head directly to the expo with our luggage and all.  I can remember this past spring going to the Boston Marathon expo with Whitney and being a bit jealous of all the runners preparing to run.  But now I was standing in line to pick up my race number, buy some jazzy gear marathon gear and walk proudly amongst my fellow runners.  We probably spent an hour there, the highlight being our green screen picture that Whitney had to twist my arm to take and came out awesome.  We then headed to our hotel where my parents were already settled in and awaiting our arrival.  It’s true, my parents flew to Chicago to be part of my marathon experience.  I have the greatest parents in the world, they continue to support me in all ways possible.  My sister ran Chicago twice and both times my folks flew out to check out the city and support their daughter, it was now my turn.  My parents are food nuts, so they had reservations made for all three nights we’d be there, all we had to do was show up with an appetite.  Friday was Italian, lots of carbs.  On Saturday Whit and I did some sightseeing, then more Italian food for dinner.  We had everything ready to go earlier in the day, so when we got back to the room I immediately passed out (without setting any alarms) and Whitney did her remaining pre-race preparations, which included setting two or three alarms.

Our Green Screen Photo from the Expo!

LET’S RUN TOGETHER.

I’m going to change-up my writing style here because I want to attempt to convey the way the morning and race went.  It’s all so vivid, but in my mind it exists as snapshots and less as a motion picture.  Here ya go…

Awake, Dark, Alarm sounds, I start moving.

Shower, sun block, beep beep…oatmeal ready.

Pin number, finish dressing, sneakers on, beep beep…more oatmeal.

Prerace photo, final check, down the elevator we go.

Still dark, runners stirring everywhere, cabbie!

Near the Bean, runners everywhere, where do we go?

Walking, walking faster, wrong gate, we follow the crowd.

The narrowest entrance, excitement builds, port-o-john lines are really long.

Where’s the 3:30 pace team, Whit panics, stay calm, keep moving.

Open corral, near the front, stretching, waiting, excitement builds.

We discuss strategy, our eyes well up, we barely talk, it’s almost time.

National Anthem, wheelchairs off, elites off, it’s a perfect day for a run.

Past the start, under the building, we weave through the crowd.

Over a bridge, Mile 2, wave to parents and jump like a maniac, I’m running a marathon.

Over a bridge, over a bridge, we head north.

Sun still low, it’s warm, Whit’s on my right, pregnant woman on my left.

Crowds cheering, Lincoln Park, buildings keep us shaded.

Turn south, crazy crowds, 1 out of a 1000 people run a marathon sign, I feel good.

What happened to mile 8, Whit loses her pace team bib, it’s she and I out for a run.

Over a bridge, crowd is electric, Whit says “if you can’t enjoy this moment right now, then you never will”

Smiling ear to ear, parents again, half marathon in under 2 hours.

I lose a step, Whit turns, I love you…see you at the finish line.

I’m dried out, cramping foot, I head west, crowds diminish.

Stopping, stretching, drinking, where are the people?

Mile 19, getting close, I hope Whitney is doing well, stretch.

More water, more Gatorade, no bananas for this guy.

Mile 21, the crowds return, Chinatown, dragons.

Mile 23, a woman grabs me as I walk by, “You have 3 miles to go, you need to run!”, it’s hot.

I saw that sign at mile 10, running in pain, I thank a helper.

Nike Inspiration Zone isn’t inspiring, I think I’m close, dude lying in street being attended to.

Mile 26, I’m almost there, I dance up the hill, 400 yards to go.

Turn the corner, finish line ahead, 4:21, they call out my name!

Heat sheet, medal, I’m a marathoner.

Hurts to walk, water, bags of ice on head, don’t pass out.

Walking, misting fans, where the hell is Whitney she must be thinking I’m dead.

Fountain ahead, Whit running towards me, “hello marathoner!”, hug, kiss, bliss.

Walking, hurting, sharing war stories, we’re done.

Sitting on grass, shoes off…aaaahhhhhh!!!

Borrow stranger’s cell phone, call parents, see Mom, hugs, congrats, pictures, let’s go eat.

Whit and I at the Finish!

And there you have it folks.  I have so many amazing memories from that day, far too many to include here in a post.  Going through this experience with Whitney was truly amazing; I couldn’t have done it without her.  The half marathon we ran together was so awesome.  I don’t think we spoke to each other much during those two hours, we just ran next to each other and took it all in.  Having my parents there to root us on (twice), seeing them smile as I ran by, I will have that memory for the rest of my life.  Later that day we watched the Patriots game in my folks room, drank beer, relaxed and prepared for our celebratory dinner.  My parents took us out to dinner at a swanky steak house.  It was awesome strolling around with our medals on, having complete strangers come up to us and congratulate us.  Whitney and I had the entire next day to ourselves.  Sleeping in was divine and so was the ridiculously huge breakfast we had, complete with a long conversation with a fellow marathoner at the table next to us.  We cruised around the city, took in some sights, enjoyed another warm Chicago day, and then headed to the airport and back to Boston.

Whit and I Ate Celebratory Dinner!

Thanks for letting me share my first marathon experience with all of you!  I look forward to sharing my next running adventure.

-Michael

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