“I was pleased with (my race). The first mile felt really comfortable, and I knew it would. But the altitude … it’s just one of those things that it gets progressively harder. Those last 2 miles felt so long. I was like, ‘Just picture yourself at the Boston Marathon finish.’ But I was hurting worse than that.” — Ryan Hall, as quoted in Tuesday morning’s Denver Post
5:30 a.m. Monday: Wake up in the downtown Boulder apartment of my friend Sarah, who was kind enough to let us stay overnight so we could avoid traffic coming into Boulder from Denver. Heat up the oatmeal she lovingly prepared for us the night before, since her wave doesn’t leave until after 9 a.m. (more than 54,000 people ran the race). Chug coffee, and remind self that it ‘s 7:30 a.m. EST, so there’s really no reason to be tired.
6:15 a.m.: Greet our friend’s neighbor, an Irish Ironman triathlete who is full of the kind of energy I’d be lucky to have at noon, on our way out the door. He and his wife are running the race, too, and we all chat briefly about our expectations. “You know the (expletive) rule, right?” he says in a thick Irish brogue. “Go big or go home!” Steve and I hop in the car to drive the two miles to the start; he and his wife leave to run there. *So* Boulder.
7:15 a.m.: My wave inches toward the start line. Between the race’s CU-centric starters, athletic director Mike Bohn and mascot Chip, and the bongo drummers in the background, the scene oozes Boulder’s particular brand of college-town crunchy-granola.
7:17 a.m.: Am passed by seemingly my entire wave, including a speed-walker, as I realize the altitude is going to be a fiercer foe than I’d expected. Settle into an easy 9:30-minute-mile pace as I pass the first of several live bands, two dudes dressed like the Blues Brothers.
7:30 a.m.: Walk through my second water station before I even pass mile 3. I have never needed a water station so badly in my life. I have never felt so physically exhausted in my life. My right knee hurts. My left hip flexor hurts, probably because I’m running funny on my bad knee. My shoulders hurt, and are still tired and sore from my 7K swim late last week. There are supposed to be 31 bands on the course. At 7:30 a.m., there are maybe 10. Unfurl my iPod headphones and press “play” to cue Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over.” Breathe, and start to run again.
7:40 a.m.: I am made of cement. I would run up this hill much faster if I were not made of cement. My hip and knee are made of some terrible thing that’s worse than cement. Florence and the Machine isn’t doing the trick. Switch to Eminem.
7:45 a.m.: Make the mistake of looking at my Garmin while shuffling uphill. Nearly gasp when I see I’m running at an 11-minute-mile pace. Kiss my secret goal of 9-minute miles goodbye, and start wondering if I’m going to make it to the finish line in Folsom Field within an hour of my start.
7:55 a.m.: Downhill! Whee! Race is totally salvageable. I giggle out loud as I pass porches full of cowbell-ringing, mimosa-drinking spectators. One group of spectators is actually doing kegstands on the front porch of a house I may have once partied in as a college student. A light rain starts to fall, which is kind of perfect, as I’m feeling overheated despite the perfect 60-degree temperature.
8 a.m.: I recognize where we are, and realize how far it is from the stadium. I almost weep. Instead, I breathe, and repeat: “Run the mile you’re in,” an especially fitting mantra considering the fact that it was Ryan Hall who first said it (Hall would race with the elites at 11 a.m.)
8:15 a.m.: The hill up to Folsom wasn’t bad—sort of like the Iwo Jima hill at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon, in that it would be terrible if you weren’t expecting it, but totally manageable if you’re prepared for it. I try to pick up the pace to cross the finish line in less than an hour, and don’t waste much time mourning how slow of a time this will be for me when I realize my legs are moving their absolute fastest. I try to sprint once more I enter Folsom Field, imagining all the wonderful times I had in that stadium as a student. Sprinting, in this moment, means not walking.
8:20 a.m.: Meet Steve and our wonderful friend and support crew, Mike, in the stands, greeting both with sweaty, exhausted hugs. In telling them the story of the race, I decide to be proud of my race stats, which show that I was painfully slow but gutsy, as a race run in honor of someone fighting cancer should be. Plus, I feel weirdly proud of the fact that I managed to average sub-10-minute-mile pace, albeit by only two seconds. Most importantly, we raised $3,000 for the American Cancer Society in Steve’s mom’s honor—the ultimate success.
- overall place:
- division place:
- 227 out of 723
- gender place:
- 6272 out of 26860
- mile 1:
- mile 2:
- mile 3:
- mile 4:
- mile 5:
- mile 6:
- net time:
- 09:58 (based on net time)