Escape From Work Marathon
Marathon-A-Month #24 (44 overall)
Friday, August 8, 2008
Time: 3:23 running time including several stops.
With Ironman Lake Placid falling in late July and Worlds coming at the end of August, trying to fit in month number 24 in my Marathon-A-Month quest to complete the goal of two years was difficult.
I wanted to get in the run well enough before Worlds so that I would have enough recovery time to not impact the race, but I also wanted it far enough away from Placid where I would be sufficiently recovered from that.
With no marathons on the race schedule in the New England area, I knew I would need to wing my own. And since I have always been inspired to attempt the challenge of running home from work, a fairly challenging course no matter which way the route goes, I decided that’s what I would do. Complete the goal with a lofty much desired challenge.
And so Friday, August 8, 2008, at precisely 3:50 pm, I set out with my hydration belt and enough Gu’s to get me through.
The first 5 mile stretch went quickly. It was humid with a hot sun nudging puffy and dark clouds out of the way from time to time, and with forecasted thunderstorms due in at 5 pm, I wanted to put distance into the run so that I would be at near the halfway point before the clouds would explode with down pours, because if the last few days were any indication, when the rain would start to fall, it would fall hard, with hail and with lightening.
At mile 8 I stopped to refill my water bottles. Next up was through the town of Haverhill, up and down rather large hills, dodging cars escaping early from work, and by mile 10 or maybe 12, I popped a Gu.
Every chance I could get I peaked at the sky behind me to gauge how long I had before hell would break loose. Now in Haverhill and marching toward the town of North Andover, the road had turned so that I could see the madness deep in the sky. It was only a matter of time.
To this point my pace was strong. I was running much faster and harder than I thought I would, but somehow, running in the evening, I seemed to have extra energy even though it hurt the joints a bit more and was much harder to get in fluids, as the stomach just seemed off from the go — probably not used to running on a full stomach.
By the time I reached North Andover and much more familiar streets, I couldn’t believe how fast it had coming. Knowing exactly how much farther I needed to go by the roads (not mileage), I was surprised on a level how short this seemed. Even my June marathon seemed short. I supposed it was that with the training for Ironman and being used to workouts of much longer a duration than 3 hours, it was shorter… than I was used to. Still, I was very pleased to already be in North Andover, one town and about 8 miles from where I live.
Marching on to mile 19, I refilled my water bottles yet again and gobbled another Gu. The dark, angry writing in the sky told me the sky would break at any moment. Just then a distant rumble of angry thunder kicked off the rain. The fun was about to start.
With rain now coming down harder and harder, and with dark clouds overhead and even darker ones lining up en queue, I knew this was just the beginning of sheer madness.
Finally on the final long stretch home, sheer madness indeed broke out. I laughed as the rain hammered to the ground, me completely drenched, as it reminded me of the conditions in Lake Placid just a few weeks earlier. On I went.
The road I was on was a long go-between road, a lane going each way, with a highly ignored speed limit of 45. Fighting into the rain, I ran on, inching even farther to the edge of the shoulder abutting the grass, because of the lack of visibility and cars weaving all over. Because the rain was now growing harder.
Just then… CRACK. “Holy shit!” The earth shook. My heart stopped. Without warning, a lightening bolt slammed the ground. So close it was that I heard it and jumped before I even saw it. It must’ve crack not even a tenth of a mile away, maybe closer.
At first I was scared. I noticed the metal gaurd rail I was running along side, but then I calmed when I remembered that I was running through a state forest. There were too many lightening rods in the form of trees all around me. Surely one of those would take the zap before I.
With lightening now inching farther away, the skies really opened up, sending me even farther to the edge of the road.
Just then I noticed the headlights of a car way up ahead pull to the side of the road. I guessed the driver wasn’t comfortable driving in the rain — probably couldn’t see.
As I neared the car, with recognition overcoming me, I smiled at the sight of a very familiar car. It was John (LRR). His window was down, his arm extended out, and in his hand was a bottle of Gatorade and one of water.
“How ya doin’, dog?” John asked.
I told him good.
“You’re farther along than I thought.”
“Yeah, I was moving at a good clip… saw the thunderstorms coming.”
After I slugged some Gatorade and refilled my bottles, John said, “Well get going, you might wet.”
And so I got going. As I pulled away, back running, I kept smiling to myself at the friend and very thoughtful and caring things this guy does for me. I mean, it was pour raining with lightening bolts crashing all over the place, and here he came, out to check on me, out to make sure I had fluids and was doing well. He even had dry socks in the car in case I needed them. And a hat. Dang. I was touched.
But now with him driving up to each next intersection and cheering out the window, telling me exactly how much distance I had left, I now had to maintain my fast pace. There was no bonking or slowing now.
And so, in the driving rain, with John marking the way, I ran on, increasingly picking up pace but also increasingly feeling even more fatigued.
Down a long hill, through a puddle so large in gulfed the road, I finally made it to the final turn at the Police Barracks, a marker I knew meant only 2.5 miles left.
This was a stretch I was looking forward to on one level but also dreading. I was looking forward to it since it meant then beginning of the end. Dreading it since I knew the rolling hills all-too-well, as it was the same stretch of road I do my brick runs on. Those rollers are constant and stead, one after another, and when you’re hurting or deeply fatigued, they simply suck.
And so with John pulling the lead, manning the next intersection, urging me on with cheers of telling me I’m not running fast enough, I hammered on over the stretch and finally made the final left turn for home, now only three-quarter of a mile away.
With my pace still solid but with me now wanting this to end, my driveway finally came. I zipped across the road, almost done, still running strong, and saw up the driveway to the garage. With the left side of the garage with the door up and the light on, I saw John on one side of the opening, inside the garage, holding something; and on the other was Heather, also inside, and also holding something. As I punched up the driveway, I realized John and Heather was holding packaging tap for a makeshift finish line.
As I broke the tape, even though water was streaming off me, the tape stuck to me just like the memory of this run and of the friendship shown me.
Finish: 3:23 running time. Includes a bunch of stops.
A big shout out to John: John, thank you. You’re a special friend. I mean that. And not just because of the things you do. It’s the way you do them. You teach me so much about how to be a better person. And you do it all the time. Such as yesterday. You made it that much more fun. You kept me in the game, my pace strong, and my motivation high. A part of me was sad that the run had to end, while another part was glad to end it so that I could say thank you. Thank you.