November 16, 2014
Well, this was it. The culmination of 16 years of training, travel, 4:30 AM alarms, and sore muscles. I've looked forward to this for a long time, and although I was always confident that I would eventually reach my goal, I could never be sure. 26.2 miles is a long way, every single time. Not only is it difficult to complete a marathon, it is difficult to stay healthy enough to even start a marathon after the months of rigorous training. Although I've had my share of hurdles to overcome, here I was, about to realize my goal.
The logistics of planning 50 marathons has been a challenge, to say the least. It was basically a coincidence that the last state was Nevada and that the last race would be in Las Vegas. I was actually signed up to do the race many years ago, but had to cancel at the last minute when our son (then our only one) came down sick. It ended up working out well, though, because Las Vegas provided the perfect place to celebrate my accomplishment. We invited friends and family to the race, and nearly 40 people were able to come. With the race being on Sunday night, this meant that a lot of people had to miss a day of work, line up sitters, etc. It was a big sacrifice, and I appreciate everybody who came.
The weekend was busy with race activity. Like most Rock and Roll races, there was a large expo. I went on Saturday afternoon, which allowed my to miss most of the Massacre in Madison, as the Huskers got throttled again in a big game. We will save that for another blog post, I suppose. With my packet in hand, we went back to the hotel, where people were starting to arrive. We hosted an impromptu reception of sorts in our room, with friends and family from California to Texas to Illinois. This was definitely not my usual pre-race routine, but this was definitely not a usual race.
Race day came and I was anxious and nervous. The race didn't actually start until 4:30PM, and there was a 5 hour course time limit. I always run in the morning, and the last couple races have taken me more than 5 hours. What if my knee acted up again, and I let all these people down? These doubts lingered in my head all day Sunday. Fortunately, I was able to relax most of Sunday by myself, hydrate and eat. Hotel room service food isn't ideal pre-marathon fuel, but I did the best I could.
The time for the race had finally arrived. Many people came by the room and gave me a big send off before I walked a mile or so to the start. The race started in front of the Mandalay Bay promptly at 4:30. There were 41 waves of runners, most of them doing the 1/2 marathon. I was in the 12th wave. Two of my best friends from college actually managed to somehow find me among the tens of thousands of runners right before the race. It was great to see them. With the excitement of the race, I went out a little faster than I usually do. The course headed north up the Strip. At about mile 3.5, I was greeted my a large cheering section, and was excited to see my wife and kids. Oscar handed me a gatorade and wished me luck. After a brief visit with them, it was back on the Strip.
The course was cool, I suppose, and definitely a novelty, running on the Strip at night. Weather was chilly, but perfect for running. The course was very flat and fairly fast. I ran the first 1/2 in just over 2:05. I felt great and strong during most of the race. I wasn't sure how I would feel during the race, with this being the final one of the 50. I am not a terribly emotional person, but there were definitely times during the race when I got a little choked up thinking about it all. Mostly, I just tried to do what I have always tried to do, run the best I can on that particular day and enjoy doing it. The miles went by quickly and before I knew it, I had reached mile 20. My legs started to get a little tired, and my pace slowed some.
As I neared the finish, I wondered about my family. How would they make it? It was late and cold. My kids are usually in bed by now. How about my parents? Would their knees hold up so they could see me finish? As the finish at the Mirage came in to view, I could hear my name. I looked over and saw my family crowded against the fence. I stopped to receive their congratulations, and was happy to see my kids bundled up and content in the stroller. I was surprised to see that one part of the barricades had been disassembled by my brothers-in-law, Chip & Brian. The rest of my family had convinced the security guards to look the other way, and my wife and kids joined me on the course for the last 20 yards or so. I pushed the stroller across the finish line, with my wife running by my side, tears running down her face. It was an emotional end to a very long journey for everybody.
I finished in just over 4 hours and 20 minutes, a time that was better than my first marathon in Chicago. I was happy, proud, and relieved. It was over. I had done it. This dream, 16 years in the making, was finally a reality.