I'm back to it. This race is still on my mind.
Specifically: how I was weaseled by a weasel.
As you may remember, ages ago I made a bet with a friend of mine. I wanted to do the Flying Monkey Marathon but, with a race this small, I was concerned about being last. Ian bet me that he would be last. I was game.
But then, my plans changed and I was out. Ian was out, too (because he's a wuss), so the bet was just off and I wouldn't be doing the race and that was that. Right? Well... No. Of course, as you know, I got a last minute ticket and was good to go race morning.
Ian, his brother, and I all lined up at the start. Ian's plan was to run the first 7 or so with his brother and then meet up with him for the last 7 or 8. If I could stay with his brother, then I'd get Ian's company, too. I didn't think I'd be able to keep up with him, but once we started running we fell into a pleasant camaraderie and were fairly well matched. Ian's brother was undertrained (by a lot) whereas I was experienced - but slow and tired.
For a while we rolled along (and that's all you can do on a course this hilly, just go with it). I was in good spirits - we were going slowly enough that I could just talk... and talk... and talk..., and Ian's brother is interesting and engaging and (most importantly) was willing to listen to me blather on. We hit a few rough spots, and his knee started bothering him pretty badly. I was happy to take it easy for him. I could have maybe picked it up a little bit in there, but I wanted the company more than I wanted to finish a few minutes faster.
We met up with Ian again around 18 and our party kept moving on. I hadn't been watching the time, but when we hit the 23m marker, I looked down at my watch: 5:30. Drat. I'd been hoping to break 6 hours (and I think I would have with no problem if I'd left Ian's brother behind). I said something aloud, jokingly, about how we needed sub-10 minute miles for the last few to break 6 hours.
Well. With that, Ian's brother took off. I don't know how else to describe it. He just took off. No real warning, just a massive burst of speed. And he kept it up! He dropped his pace by nearly 4 minutes per mile for the last 3.2 and finished in 6:02.
On one hand: seriously, you weasel. For real? After we all just went through, you ditch me?
On the other hand: it's a race. As in, every man for himself. And he rocked the finish.
On the (hm, okay, go with it) third hand: I was jealous. That kind of mind-over-body determination? I don't have it. Can it be learned? I sure hope.
Honestly? I was just impressed. This was a bastard of a first marathon, and to do it undertrained? Insane. To do it undertrained and blast out sub-10 minute miles on crazy hills for your last 3 miles after averaging closer to 14 for the rest of the race and dealing with debilitating knee pain? DUDE.
Still, I feel like I have unfinished business with this race. Partly because I was definitely holding myself back at points for Ian's brother, partly because I had such a rough go of it between Chicago and NYCM and I wasn't prepared to do this race except as a lark. Like I tweeted my imaginary friend Angry, "there's no glory in a 6 hour marathon finish, even if there is a 3500 ft elevation change."
On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"