Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Harrisburg Marathon 2013

It was a cold morning in Harrisburg on November 10th, 2013.  It was similar to how it was five years ago, for my first marathon.  I got to City Island shortly past 6:30, and I parked the car.  Then took a warm up lap around the island going to the bathroom at each of the port-a-johns around the island.  When I was headed back to my car, I saw my good friend Ed.  Ed was taking the job of Matt Smith that day who was off defending the nation, part of is reserve duties that he has to perform.  We chatted a bit, he wished me luck on qualifying for Boston and I headed off to my car.  I then met up with the River Runners for a group photo and then headed off for one last bathroom break.  I ran into Andy Courtney and Howard Andrews we chatted and walked up to the start line together.  I tried to start up front, I saw the 3:25 pace group and definitely wanted to be in front of them (3:10 was the goal).

First Mile, Photo take by
Bob Rudolph
The national anthem was sung and then the horn went off for the race.  The first mile was way too fast for me 6:20 and the second one was even faster 6:19, I had to slow down there is no way I could keep this pace going for 3:00 hours.  I stopped in the first port-a-john I saw (I sort of had to go) and I knew I would be with slower runners when I got out, and maybe that would slow me down a bit.  The third mile was 7:11 and and I felt like I was at a good pace we were just entering the green belt section of the course where you go through Phoenix Park by PennDot.  We got out of that and I still felt good and my pace was still under 7:00/mile pace.  We headed back to the island to take a lap around the island and then back out along the river.  I was telling my self just keep a good pace like I was doing and I will make it just fine. 

I was feeling real good up until Industrial Road where the wind started picking up.  Around mile 14 I saw Josh Beck running past me while pushing Donna Mummert, an ALS patient, the entire marathon.  I thought at this point I was in trouble, but I looked at my trusty Garmin and saw I was still on pace, and I told myself only 12 miles to go.  I headed into the HACC parking lot feeling a little run down but the parking lot had a tail wind and I was picking up the pace a little, being glad that I would have a tail wind for the hills of Wildwood.  I eventually hit the hills at Wildwood and told my self just to hold on until mile 21 where we will meet up with Jason and he can pace me through the rest of the race.  I climb the hills of Wildwood  and was running out of the Wildwood park, I average a pace around 7:20 or so through the hills, so I knew I needs one or two more miles that were going to be below a 7:15 pace to finish the course in a time of 3:10.  

I climbed the final hill on Industrial Road and saw coach John Leftko, one of the Team in Training coaches, he shouted out that I was looking good and Jason was waiting for me on 6th Street.  I turned the corner saw Jason and signal to him to start running.  I finally caught up to him and we started running together like we do every morning.  I was in a lot of pain at this point and had five more miles to go, we then saw Shelly Sandom and the Team in Training support crew behind her to cheer us on, and that lifted my spirit until about Green Street.  Jason kept me going and I kept trying to keep pace we finally got to Vaughn Street and turned onto Front Street for the final stretch of the race.  My legs were hurting and I was just wishing this could be over.  

At this time of the race I remember something I heard Craig Alexander said to both Pete Jacobs and to Luke Mackenzie (2012 Ironman World Champion and 2013 runner up at Ironman World Championship respectively), which was "You will have to put yourself in pain if you want this".  So I knew I was in pain, but I didn't want to give up so I kept running.  When that finally wore off I remembered what I read in the book called "Running with Kenyans"  by Adharanand Finn.  It said in the book that Paula Radcliff, a British marathon runner (and world record holder of the marathon), said when she hits a rough patch in the race she would repeat "I Love you Isla" (her daughters name) and for some reason that would help her through the rough patch.  So I figured if it works for the British is should work for me too.  I said to myself "I Love you Bex, I Love you Belle" and it was helping.  I finally hit the water stop at McClay Street stopped and got a quick drink and headed off to finish the run.  Jason was telling me not to stop and to just stop the bitching for the rest of the run (I'm glad I taught him so well) [Jason if you are reading this I hope you are laughing] We finally got around the sunken garden and headed down along the river.  Jason reminded me of a conversion we had there.  He said "remember when we ran here a few months ago at a 7:15 pace," and I said "no," he continued "you said then all we have to do is do this pace for 3 hours and we will qualify for Boston."  We went under the Walnut Street bridge and all I had to do was climb the hill and run across that bridge, about half a mile to go.  I checked my watch and I was at 3:06 at the top of the hill I had four minutes to run across the bridge.   I heard the Team in Training family cheering "Go Keith!!"  

I said a few more time "I Love you Bex, I Love you Belle" I finally crossed the finish line the clock was reading 3:07:56 or something.  I beat my BQ time by 2 whole minutes.  Thank God it was over, and I met my goal.  I caught up with Lisa and Bex and gave Bex a huge hug and a kiss and said to her "I love you Bex!" she hugged back and said "I Love you daddy." I caught up to Jason and thanked him for helping me out for the last six miles.  

Jason, Lisa, Bex, and I went down to the pavilion got some food (I wasn't that hungry but thought I should eat something), and then decided we had to go since we were getting family pictures in the afternoon.  As we were leaving they were posting the results I was 5th in my age group 27th overall, not to bad since the first time I did the race I was 574th (4:40:48).  As we were walking back to the car I saw Andy Courtney he also beat his qualifying time of 3:30, and later we found out Howard also beat his qualifying time too.  I drove Jason back to his car and headed home.

I want to give a big THANK YOU to Jason who without being there there was no way I would have done that good.  I'm sure  he was probably just tired of me talking about qualifying for Boston, but thank you anyways, and I will keep prodding him to qualify.  I also was so thankful for everyone that was cheering for me, all the Team in Training people that were screaming my name and telling me to go.  I joined Team in Training hoping to put some purpose behind my training, which I did, and I also found a ton of friends which are like family to me, one of which was Jason.



Thank you all,
Keith