I saw Tim McNeill (fellow Athens runner) and his family in the hotel lobby just before heading out to the start line. Nice run today, Tim. Then I saw Joey Butler on his way out. He had a VERY strong run today at 3:22. WOW!!! Nice job, Joey. That's Tim and me below.
It was cold at the start. I'm guessing low 30's? I knew I would warm up, so I didn't want to overdress, but I was literally shivering waiting for the starting gun. Part of the shivering was excitement, but most of it was cold! I started far back because I knew I was going to start slow. Thanks to my training accountability partner, Mark Freeman, who started with me even though his pace was far more aggressive than mine. Good job Mark!! It was awesome keeping up with your training for this race. We're going to have to pick another race to train for soon. This dude sent me a text message every day to check on my training. It's a ton easier to train when you know you have friends who really care about your training. Below is Mark and I shivering at the start.
I stuck to my plan for mile 1. Slow and easy. About 1.5 miles into the race, Philip Stewart caught me and we ran together and chatted until near the 3 mile marker, hitting the 2 mile split a little faster than I planned. I made up for it in mile 3 by slowing just a bit. Somewhere past mile 4, someone lost their breakfast. YUCK! It was still there on the way back. EWWW! That's awfully early to be having that problem.
Here's Mark Freeman just past mile 5.
Leigh was waiting at Airport road just past 5 miles with a fresh water bottle.
I had a fairly lonely run until just before the 7 mile mark at Whitesburg Elementary where I met up with Glen King. It was a brief meeting, but it was good to see him running pretty good. Then, just past the 7 mile mark, I met Ronnie Nelson and chatted with him for a bit. He said that he had read my plan on the blog and was expecting me about now. :) Good to see you Ronnie!
Just past the 8 mile split, I met a nice lady, Debbie, from Columbus, GA, who was a multi-time marathoner. She encouraged me pretty good and we had a nice chat up till just past mile 10. Then, Philip Stewart caught me again. He was running pretty strong today! We had a nice chat until near the 12.1 mile aid station. In the pic below, that's Phillip and I chatting it up near mile 11. Just ahead of us is Debbie.
I hit the halfway split just behind my target of 1:48 and was happy to see Whitney Hollingsworth there calling the splits. Thanks for volunteering! It was an absolute blast and wouldn't have been possible without the hard work and sacrifice of the volunteers.
Then, it got lonely and difficult! I didn't see anyone I knew again until Leigh, like clockwork, was waiting at Mt. Gap Road just shy of the 18 mile marker with a fresh water bottle. THANKS and I LOVE YOU!!!
Other than the brief water bottle exchange, I didn't see anyone I knew at all between mile 12 and mile 20. That was a long 8 miles. My feet were starting to hurt, but other than that I was feeling pretty good. I wasn't hitting my planned pace starting at 18 miles, so I started to realize that 3:30 was a long shot. I was getting discouraged, then I met up with Eric Fritz and Emily Johnson. Eric's a solid distance runner. Emily is downright impressive. She held off my sprint at the end of the Monte Sano 10k back in August to finish just ahead of me. She outright laid a BEATDOWN on me on the last 10k of the marathon today. We ran together for a bit, but she was running very strong and left Eric and I pretty far behind. She was about 5 seconds ahead at the 21 mile marker and opened that lead up to 1:10 by the finish. Tom Holt (fellow Athenian) also passed me near the 21 mile marker and finished strong.
From then until the end, I was alone again. And I was beginning to fade. People were slowing badly beyond the 22 mile split. There were people walking, and others were stopped and stretching out cramps. One guy was laying on his back in the grass in someone's yard. He said he was fine, though, and got up as I was running by. No one looked to be in serious trouble, but I sure was passing folks who were fading. And I got passed by a few, too.
The one break in the lonesomeness was when I saw Angie Reed at Airport Road for one last word of encouragement before the end. "Finish strong, Eric!" she said as I ran by. Thanks for the cheering and for volunteering to help with the race, Angie!
Beginning at mile 24, I started hurting. I wanted to STOP! I kept telling myself, though, that I didn't train this hard to stop 2 miles short. Oh, it hurt, though! What hurt? EVERYTHING! I slowed more than I wanted to, and told myself over and over that 2 miles is nothing. Nothing.
The last mile is no doubt the longest mile I have ever run!!! There was no kick at the end. I was just thinking FINISH!!!
The race directors let Leigh put my finishing medal on me, and that was VERY special to me. I'm so thankful to have such a wonderful wife! I LOVE YOU!!!
When I stopped... OH THE PAIN! It took a good 45 minutes before I was anywhere near normal again.
At the finish Mark was waiting on me. Thanks, bud. Also, my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew were there to congratulate me. My parents brought my daughters there to congratulate me, too. And, last but not least, a good friend who has been incredibly supportive of me in this, Kevan Moore, showed up just to congratulate me. Dude, thanks! You've been just about as excited as I have about this. Sometime next week, I want to eat a cheeseburger at Five Guys with you! I definitely thought more than once that these people drove all the way from Limestone County to see me finish! Thanks for your support!
And unofficial splits for those who care.... 3:33:21 gun time (which is when I started my watch) and 3:33:02 chip time.
- 7:40 (my first in the 7:40's, a little late)
- 7:44 (my last in the 7:40's, a little early)
- 8:18 (starting to hurt)
- 8:04 (hurting)
- 8:15 (really hurting really bad)
- 8:13 (can't adequately describe the pain)