On Saturday, June 16, I ran Grandma’s Marathon for the fifth time. Having run it several times before, I was comfortable with the course and knew the extremes of weather that can be experienced on the north shore this time of year. The race was forecast to be a washout, which was frustrating considering I was scheduled to run the Med-City marathon three weeks earlier until extreme heat forced race officials to shorten the distance to a half-marathon.
Race morning came, I got on the shuttle, and when I arrived at the starting area there was a cool breeze coming off Lake Superior. It was cloudy with some fog and to my surprise, no rain! After a brief pause acknowledge the better-than-expected conditions, I became intensely focused on my race. I had not achieved a personal best in this distance for 3 years. I was on track to run 3:20:00 in Chicago the previous October, but asthma issues and hot weather brought my pace to a screeching halt around the 20 mile mark. I finished in 3:38:00, missing a PR by 3 minutes. I was finding some success in shorter distances, but the marathon had become a source of fear and frustration. I would commit months of time and energy to train, only to be disappointed and wondering why I wanted to do this in the first place.
Last August I had my first experience with the Mile to Marathon team and coach Ron at Ragnar Great River. My good friend Brett had started training with Ron and asked if I wanted to be a part of the relay team. After having a great time and a great race, I began wondering if I shouldn’t start training with Ron and the team. After the rough race in Chicago I admitted to myself that I really didn’t know as much about running as I thought. After all, I never ran track or cross country in high school. I ran occasionally in college, but never consistently and always on my own. I’d never learned how to properly do speedwork, I had done some on my own, but nothing specific to the types of races I wanted to accel at. I finally realized that I needed help in order to reach my marathon goals of qualifying for Boston and running under 3 hours. I reached out to Ron in January 2018 and it wasn’t long before I starting seeing great results.
Back to Grandma’s Marathon. Ron and I had everything planned out from pre-race warm-up to crossing the finish line. I felt a kind of calm going into the race that I had never felt before. I followed the paces on my pace band, refueled as I had in training, and raced according to Ron’s plan of running negative splits. I was amazed at how fast the miles went by. Every 5 miles was a slightly faster pace and I found myself feeling strong each time I surged slightly ahead. Before I knew it, I was nearing mile 20, a distance that has been my demise for so many races. Instead of collapsing I remember thinking that I only had a 10k left. And then I thought about how far a 10k used to feel for me. And then I started to notice how many people I was passing. I saw runners who were hitting the wall hard and I couldn’t help but feel for them because I knew all too well what they were going through. I remember a man who saw me walking near the finish line in Chicago and said “follow me, we’re running this thing in.” With absolutely nothing left in the tank, I somehow ran through the finish. I began to do the same thing to struggling runners in the last few miles. I’m not sure how many followed me, but I remember being so grateful for that man’s encouragement. It felt great to be in a position to do that for others so late in the race and also to just be able to run hard the last few miles.
When I rounded the last corner and could see the finish line I looked to my right to find my dad and my wife cheering from the crowd. With that last boost of energy I looked ahead and saw that there was no one in front of me so I began to sprint. With the crowd cheering so loud and with no other runners around me I thought that this must be what it’s like to win one of these things. I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face knowing I had just crushed that race. I heard my name come over the loudspeaker and I looked at my watch: a new personal best 3:15:48 (20 minutes faster than my previous best). It gave me new hope and new energy to pursue my marathon goals. I owe all of that to coach Ron who has coached me so well in just a few short months. I look forward to continuing to working with him to realize my full running potential!
Lifelong runner. Professional and passionate coach helping to make running goals a reality for 30+ years. Let's get started making your running dreams come true!