Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Then came the hard part (marathon part 2)...

PITTSBURGH. Crossing the river back into Harrisburg was a transition point in the race. The adrenaline of the start and early miles was punctuated by seeing the finish lines and spectacle on City Island.

The course proceeded north along the river before moving inland toward what seemed to me to be the real test in this race, miles 12-20. On mile 12 you made a right turn onto industrial road and climbed a bridge that brought you literally across the tracks.

As you came down the other side, you entered into the loneliest and most difficult part of the course. Running through an industrial park alongside 18 wheel trucks. It is here where we passed the halfway part at 2:01. Continuing through Harrisburg Community College, and ultimately through a nature preserve, this was the part of the course where you most needed to reaffirm your commitment to complete the challenge. Miles 17-19 in the nature preserve also featured the course's most significant hills -- several little roller coasters, steep up and downs.

When I passed back over the railroad tracks and down the hill toward mile marker 20, I felt a definite rush of adrenaline that was bolstered when I bumped into my cheering section again who got me geared up for the last 6.

The only near mishap occurred around mile 25 when my left leg seemed ready to seize up. Some deep breathing and relaxing thoughts and the threat passed. If you've seen the pictures of the race, you know I had some issues that caused my shirt to be a little bit bloody (perhaps and understatement). This actually worked to my advantage a little. People saw me coming assumed that I must be in pain and applauded my grit and determination. It gave me a little energy boost and helped keep me going.

Crossing the bridge back onto City Island, I saw my fans, again there to provide me with encouragement as I ran the last 0.7 around the northern end of City Island and back to the finish. Crossing the line was an emotional experience, when months of preparation came to a moment of success.

After a hurried trip back to the hotel to make our check out time, we all went over for a big meal at the Appalachian Brewing Company to raise a glass and celebrate. One of the best parts about the marathon is that you get to test yourself at the same distance that truly elite runners test themselves. I learned that not even the marathon is an individual sport. While personal determination is a key ingredient, it would not have been possible or as rewarding without the support of family and friends. I'm not sure if I will be back on a course of this distance again, but part of me will be on the course every day.


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