Modesto Marathon

I had many good reasons to run the Modesto Marathon this year. My winter training went well, I had some good friends running in it, and the package that came with the race was great! Tech shirt, medal, arm sleeves, a bottle of wine, and some other niceties, plus with the start being a 40 minute drive from my house, it was very inexpensive. Most of all though, I wanted to finish my 10th career marathon. It just seemed like a nice even number to hit, and it had been a couple years since I had run one.

A week or so before the race, I knew the big day would have its own special challenge this year: the heat. I have never run in a marathon where the temperature would be over 80 degrees at the end, so I was a bit uncertain if I would beat my time from two years ago, a goal that I had in mind during training. I do most of my running early in the morning out of necessity, so I had an unknown to face.

The day started off well. I carpooled with my good friend Randy, who always keeps me relaxed. We got to the start nice and early, and had ample time to get a good parking spot, stretch out, and take in the energetic atmosphere. We met some other friends from Mountain House and took a few group pictures and chatted about the race. By the time of the start at 7am, I felt as good as I ever had before a run.

modestomarathonThe first 13 miles went according to plan. The temperature was nice at the start and still bearable at the half way point, and I was on pace to hit my time goal. The volunteers were great, very encouraging, and there was plenty of water and GU energy gel handed out along the way. A long part of the course is an out and back, so it was inspiring to see the mens and womens division winners fly by, as well as Randy, who was keeping his usual fast pace.

The turn to head back in comes a little after the 14 mile mark, and it was then that I decided to pick up my pace a little and see if I could run the negative split I was training for.

By mile 15 I was starting to feel warm, and I dumped a cup of water on my head. Didn’t help much.

Mile 16, yes, definitely getting hot. Better slow down, take what you can get Eugene. There is very little shade to be found.

Mile 17, how long till the next water stop? The neuroma in my left foot feels like a hot knife stabbing me up from out of the pavement. Time to just be happy with something sub-5 hours.

Mile 18-19. I don’t remember much from these two miles other than walking more and more, and a lady in a tutu passing me.

Mile 20. Time goal is shot to hell at this point. Just finish. Don’t look at the sun, it hates me. Medical volunteers start asking me if I am ok, I lie profusely. Left foot thankfully has gone numb now.

Mile 20.5 (approx). I have seen these folks in their front yard in previous years, the nice people with 8 ice cold kegs of beer, offering samples up free of charge. I do not hesitate to take 6 oz of lager. Coldest, most perfect lager I have ever had. I pass the tutu lady, small victories can be precious.

Mile 23, I make the turn into town. I am out of the orchards now and running along a busy road and railroad track. I’m alternating walking and a slow shuffle, the walking coming whenever I feel a dizzy spell coming. Why is the roof of my mouth tingling so much? Have I developed spidey-sense? I am the worst hot weather runner ever I think, till I see the ambulances going past me to some poor souls even further back. That is not going to happen to me though, I will walk the rest of the way if I have to, but I am going to get it done.

Mile 24, I run past the high school kids playing live drums to a recording of Gangnam Style. I get a momentary surge of energy. Momentary as in 15 seconds.

Mile 25 was back there somewhere. I think my tongue is sunburned. The road is all wavy looking.

Mile 26, I can see the turn for the homestretch. I AM GOING TO MAKE IT! I start to run faster, and when I make the turn there is nobody in front of me or close behind. I have a couple hundred people all cheering for me. The adrenaline rush overcomes all fatigue and I start sprinting for the finish, waving my arms like the crazed orangutan The Oatmeal has written about. It is a miracle I don’t cramp up and collapse in an embarrassing heap. I cross the line with my arms raised in victory, high fiving anyone within reach. I didn’t care about my slow clocking at all, to me it was a victory to have finished what I started.

The recovery area was top notch, plenty of food and drink to refuel with, an excellent band was playing, and the volunteers again were very thoughtful in helping out all the people that struggled in the heat. I can’t think of a race I have ever done where the level of community support for the event was so high.

Although it was my tenth time finishing a marathon, the feeling of accomplishment and invincibility that came at the end was just as powerful as all of the other finishes. A full marathon is obviously twice as far in distance as a half marathon, but it is more than twice as difficult, I guarantee that from extensive personal experience. It takes a great deal of effort, planning, and time to get in good enough shape to just finish, and the risk of injury or illness along the way is significant. Race day can bring any kind of weather condition, and in this years race I had to take what I could get, instead of what I wanted.

Even with that though, I am still, two days later, floating on a little cloud, and plotting out my next racing conquest in my head.

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