It happened today. 25 years after my first race in high school indoor track, I shocked myself by finally calling on mental strength that I had given up on ever tapping, and shattered the 3 hour 30 minute barrier at the California International Marathon by over two minutes.
While I felt more mentally prepared for this marathon than any other, it was a Mark Allen, the six-time Ironman winner and god, interview I listened to yesterday that added the icing on the cake. His two thoughts ; pain is only a momentary feeling and can pass, and endurance events are when you discover what kind of person you are.
When my calves started to get predictably tight and cramp at mile 12, Allen's words got me through the pain. When my right quad started to go at mile 22, I just focused on the moment, temporarily abandoned my numbers game (e.g., only 4 to go, that's a short run in Golden Gate Park) and concentrated on the moment. And with 2 miles to go, when I began to contemplate walking in some freakish 2nd grade deja vu (Laurel Pines Country Club, Maryland, summer of 1972 I quit the two-lap test to qualify to go off the diving board with 10 strokes to go), I shut off my mind and just ran.
I was extremely ready for this race physically. My training went well, I didn't get sick and I was rested. But I can say that about San Francisco Marathon 2001, Vineman Half Ironman 2004, Wildflower Half Ironman 2006 and Lake Placid Ironman 2006. I was ready for each of those. But when fatigue and/or cramps set in, I gave in. Maybe not completely like at Wildflower where I only walked from mile 11 to 12, but on some level. In short, I have never gone to sleep after a race over a half marathon thinking I pushed myself further than I thought I could. I have never tasted the satisfaction of real achievement.
Until today. Running strong the last ten miles (I basically ran even splits the entire race) went against everything I have ever done in a marathon. When I ran under the finish line clock at 3.28.05 (I'm guessing 30 seconds to start) I was seriously choked up, like the last scene of Field of Dreams. Or the latest sappy AT&T commercial.
I am not sure if today was an aberration. But in every race I ever do again I want to recapture the feeling of the California International Marathon, December 3, 2006.