This is an easy one:
Scott spent 16 weeks of the summer and fall training for his first marathon. He was to run it in Leavenworth, WA with his buddy, brother-in-law, and former roommate (all the same guy) (we really like that guy).
It was tough finding time to train and following the program he chose week after week required sacrifice on both of our parts.
A month before the race, his buddy had to drop out due to an injury.
Two weeks before the race, Scott’s vitreous detached when he got nailed in the face with a soccer ball.
One week before the race, a raging case of poison oak appeared, as a direct consequence of our illicit adventures at a State park.
As the day of the race approached, I’ll confess to having a sense of impending doom.
Doing it the old-fashioned way
Having plenty of spectating experience, I knew all about how to help Scott prep for the race.
But he insisted on NOT driving the course beforehand or even wearing a watch. He just wanted to go by how his body felt. [My sense of impending doom peaked after hearing this. He’ll go out too fast!! How will he possibly pace himself during his first ever marathon if he just “wings it”?!]
His only requests were that his sister make him peanut butter and jam sandwiches on her homemade whole wheat bread, and that we try and see him on the course as often as possible in the last six miles.
Bright and Early
We stayed with Scott’s amazing cheering section (his mom who came out from Utah, his sister and injured brother-in-law and their three little kids) in a cabin about 25 minutes away from the course.
The drop off to catch the bus to the starting line was 6am so Scott and I were up bright and early. I returned to the cabin and fidgeted and worried and checked the clock about 25 times, then woke my girls up and hustled them and my mother-in-law out the door to drive to the first spot we could see him on the course: mile 10.
We unloaded the girls, found a spot on the street with a good view, and I checked the clock. If he was on pace, he should be there in 3 minutes. If he was too fast, (as I predicted), he may have already passed us by but there was a little 1 mile out-and-back that returned to that same spot so surely we could catch him on his way back.
3 minutes passed, then 8, and when we hit 13 minutes, I started to panic. How could be be a full minute behind his mile pace? Was he injured already?
And then there he was, two thumbs up and grinning ear to ear, ready for the first sandwich installment. His mom made the hand-off while I took pictures and struggled internally whether to let him know he was dog slow.
Nah, better let him enjoy running. 🙂
The Next Ten Miles
We were the most enthusiastic and persistent spectators on the course, hands down. We cheered for every runner we saw, going nearly hoarse in the process.
We caught Scott at miles 10 and 11.
We managed to land ourselves in a closed part of the course, at Mile 15 after the course was flooded with thousands of half marathoners. The full marathoners numbered less than 200, I believe, and were spread out by this point:
We passed him in the car and hollered out the window at mile 17. The older man running next to him at the time thought we were cat calling at him and he was obviously flattered. Scott noticed but didn’t set him straight. 🙂
We handed off a half a sandwich at mile 18 and he never broke stride, seeming to still be in good spirits:
Putting All His Turkeys on the Line
When we caught him again at mile 20, he tried to smile but it was obvious from his face that it was getting painful to put one foot in front of the other.
Scott’s sister and brother-in-law with kids in tow had been trying all morning to see him on the course and closed roads and traffic jams had thwarted them at every turn. I thwarted them once myself by directing them to a certain gas station, where they would have a beautiful view. They would have had a beautiful view had I realized that there were two gas stations by that name in the town and been more specific as to location. The one they arrived at had no view at all. 😦
They finally caught him and our brother-in-law leaped out of the car and started running with Scott. Despite his injury, he was able to stick with Scott and keep him going. When I saw them for the last time at mile 22 (out the car window), they were plugging along, but I could see the pain from across the street.
The next 4 miles were closed to spectators and so I just focused on getting myself and my girls to the finish line. And I’ll admit to praying on the way there that Scott would just be able to finish, because I really wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep going at that point.
When I arrived at the finish line, I saw the race clock was a full ten minutes earlier than I thought! Apparently they started quite late, so when I saw Scott at mile 10 he was exactly on his goal pace. Still, though, the agony at mile 23 made me think we’d have a long wait at the finish line.
Only a minute or two later, my mother-in-law shouted that she saw Scott coming around the corner. Now, she had had several false alarms that morning, so I barely glanced that direction but she was absolutely right. He cruised around that corner, ran through the finish line a few seconds under his (ambitious) goal time… and then totally melted down.
He had truly pushed himself to his limit, in the words of an ultrarunner friend, he “put all his turkeys on the line”.
And, I’m so glad I got it on camera. 🙂
He recovered pretty quickly, though, and had a flock of admirers for his cooldown routine.
I wanted to get a quick few shots of his dedicated cheering section, and the pictures turned out to be priceless. (Hint: Keep your eye on my nephew in the front row. I have no clue what he was doing, but I had close to a dozen frames, each capturing some different and equally crazy expression.)
It was such a fun day and exhilarating to see Scott succeed at something so difficult. He inspired me and I’m grateful for the inspiration he is to our girls as well.