Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Marathon

At 3:15 am in the morning the day of the race, I woke up and ate a bowl of cereal. Somehow I was able to sleep the night before. I put on my headphones and set the MP3 player to "The Rising", Springsteen had gotten me through the entire training period and I was ready for some inspiration. I wrote the following:

Got up 15 minutes ago. Rather, I finally got out of bed. Slept well for at least four hours, maybe more. The last hour was very restless. I think I woke up every 10 minutes. Jules left me an inspiring note that I'll carry with me. I can't believe I'm actually doing this. I'm excited and just a bit anxious. But I know I'll finish. Those last six miles are for Jake. This is why I'm here-- to rep CF and raise awareness. By now it's sounding a bit like an old line to a fine routine, but I feel that in my heart.

The journey here has been worth it. Now, let's hope I complete this Odyssey with some grace.

P.S. If I never drink another glass of water...

I met up with my team at 3:45 and we all walked over to the starting line. I can't begin to describe the vibe we all got as we joined this mass of human bodies. Over 20,000 people inching their way to the beginning of the line. Robert led us up to the middle of the pack. I had decided to run with Sebastian and Lilith. The 4/2 and eventual 5/2 was my goal, and I felt like I could keep up with them for the duration of the race.

Just before 5:00 am, the ceremonies began. Someone sang the National Anthem. I have no idea where this person was standing because I was so far back. Them fire works lit up the dark morning sky and the race officially began. It would be another 20 minutes before we crossed the starting line.

The race broke down into different sections for me...

Miles 1~8:Started off strong. We seemed to be making excellent time and had a very nice pace. There was no sunlight, which actually made for excellent running weather. It was already feeling muggy even that early in the morning. I remember passing a couple of drunk women making their way home from the bars and trying to make a call on a cell phone. As we ran through downtown Honolulu, the Christmas light displays were all lit up. It was a remarkable thing to see and I kept it in the back of my mind as something we could take the kids to see later in the week. As we crossed through downtown, we also passed by some open bars. People stood on the street corners cheering us on with beers in their hands.

In the distance, Diamond Head loomed. I was worried about what kind of hill this was going to be. Robert had assured us that our training in Pasadena prepared us fully. I prayed he was right.

Miles 8~10:We take on Diamond Head for the first time. I can't believe it, but it's not that bad. At one point, we see one of the wheelchair racers pace us on their way back to the finish line. As we reached the peak, the sun broke through the clouds, rising into the sky. I could only think of one thing. "Little darling, here comes the sun..." Budd was with me after all. He always says that song reminds him of Jake. Coming down the hill, I twisted my ankle. It wouldn't be a long run if I didn't twist my damn ankle. There wasn't much pain.

My running companions were great. They really kept me going. Lillith cracked me up because she was all business. "Let’s get this thing done", seemed to be her mantra.

Miles 11~13: My legs began to ache as the sun began bringing on the heat. I popped my Advil and hoped it would ease the pain. I saw Jen Mundy for about 10 minutes and we ran together. Poor Jen was in a lot of pain and didn't know whether she was going to make it (she did). After those 10 minutes she told me to take off. Falling back with her threw me off the pace of Sebastian and Lillith and they began running about a 200 yards ahead of me between walk breaks. God bless them for waiting for me several times until I told them to stop waiting for me and go by their own pace. We reached the half marathon marker in a little over 2 hours. I felt good about that because we seemed on pace for what we accomplished the day we ran the 20 miles. Still, my legs were really bugging me and I had eaten too much pasta the night before. My stomach was cramping up. On top of that, I did something you should never do and altered my running routine by drinking some of the sports drink being handed out. The sugars in the drink messed with my stomach too.

However, I have to say that I felt a little relief when my companions disappeared. I didn't feel as much pressure to run harder. I was going to tackle this thing on my own.

Miles 14~17: At my own pace, I realized one thing that would stick with me the rest of the marathon: I may have been running by myself, but I wasn't running alone. There were so many people that I sort of fell into a pack that had its own ebb and flow. Things started to get rough by mile 16. I had to take longer walk breaks (even ignoring my watching for a couple of minutes) and my stomach really began to bother me with the cramps. It wasn't anything like that day I was running up here in Valencia, but that fear was ever present. The last thing I wanted to do was get caught in someone's front yard and.... Thank god it never came to that. The sun was now BEATING down on us (at least, that's what it felt like to me) and my feet really began to swell up. I thought that pouring water on them might alleviate some of the pain. It only made my feet heavy. Boy, what a mistake.

Miles 18~20: Miserable. That's the only way to describe how I felt. I began running about a 2/2. I say about because I wasn't being scientific or anything. And really, come on now, can you really call what I was doing running? But I push on. Then, something wonderful happened that would carry me through the rest of the race.

Halfway through mile 20 I see Robert waiting for me over to the right. He had that supportive, enthusiastic smile he always seemed to be wearing. I couldn't help but laugh. He joined me in my "pace" and told me that he's seen Sebastian and Lillith up ahead. They told him I had fallen back. So, he called my cell phone thinking I might have it on me. Instead, He got Julie and had to explain that I was no longer running with my two friends. Then, he whipped out his phone and called her again.

I was miserable. My feet hurt. My stomach was bothering me. But hearing Julie's voice and the love and support that was coming through that tiny phone receiver... I tell you what; I knew I was going to finish this damn marathon, no matter what. I suddenly had a moral boost that would carry me to the end.

Miles 21~23: Running with Robert, we started with a 3/2, but the cramps were bad (and I started thinking about the movie "Raising Arizona" and the opening scene where a male inmate says "Sometimes I get the cramps real bad."--- My mind was warped by the sun). We switched to a 2/2. Robert was definitely stronger than I was. His pace was faster. But I kept up. He must have known I was in pain, but he distracted me with conversation about how long Julie and I have been married, when he's going to get to see "King's Highway", and about a script he's been working on. He's a great coach in that he reads the moment and tries to make it easier for you. At mile 23 he held back and decided to wait for some other runners. I was a little disappointed not to have a running partner (because it made a HUGE difference), but a bit relieved not to have to keep- his pace.

Miles 24~25: Man, I was really hurting. I could barely run. Fortunately, I had my name written on the side of my arm, and people were calling it out, cheering me on. I was marveled at the outpouring of support by all of the people who came out of their houses. Some families brought out their own water to hand out to runners. And then there were those folks who were handing out beer, as well. Ohhhh, the beer sounded so tempting.

I ran out of trail mix and I started to get hunger pains. A volunteer from the Leukemia society was handing out pretzels and I grabbed a handful. This part of the run was the return up Diamond Head. Remember how I said it was so easy the first time. PURE HELL. The gradual torture of the sun blaring on us and there being no shade, and it was a slow, gradual incline, which played, oh, such nice mind tricks on you. Thoughts of not finishing crossed my mind for the first time and I almost cried. I kept on humming "Come on up for the rising...."

At 25, I began the decent down Diamond Head. "You're almost done, "someone shouted", it's all down hill from here". I couldn't even enjoy this thought. I just wanted it to be over. And yet, making it though those last three miles was quite an achievement. Each and every time I stopped to walk, I'd be muttering, "Oh, I'm never going to make it." And then low and behold, there was the mile marker.

At this point I had been running over 5 hours.

25~the end: I stuck with the 2/2 and didn't care how pathetic I looked. As I approached the end, the crowd was getting larger and the buzz and cheering pulled me through. I decide that I had just enough dignity left that I wasn't going to stop and walk once I reached the crowd and that lat quarter mile or so.

Then, about 200 yards from the end, I found Julie, Sophie and Jacob standing on the sidelines. I ran over and kissed them. As far as I was concerned, I was done. But I ran off with my arms raised and a slight grin and crossed the finish line.

After receiving a shell lai necklace, I collapsed to the ground and waited. Somehow, Julie and the kids found me. It was over. And the first thing I thought was "I will NEVER do this again.”

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