I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that hosts a great marathon each year, and is also home to such an amazing and supportive running community.
This year, I started out the marathon running with several of my running buddies from class including my pace group leader from last year who has been in the training class for three years, but was injured for his first two. This year he made it all the way through to the finish line and I was honestly even more excited about that, than I was about finishing myself.
Early on in the race we were passed by Jeff Galloway, who is responsible for popularizing the Galloway run/walk/run method that enabled us to run the marathon.
It was actually pretty cool to see him go by and get a chance to see a little bit of his running form (what wasn’t obscured by the trash bag, anyway) in action. He takes really small, quick steps. It was also cool to see someone who has made what appears to be an amazing career out of traveling around the world, running marathons and helping other people achieve that goal, but isn’t too proud to don a trash bag at the start of a race and throw it off after warming up.
In the early part of the race I tried to take quite a few pictures. Last year I didn’t have a good camera with me, so I was determined to get some good photos for this blog this year. The biggest problem with that is that I’m not actually a very good photographer. But here you go anyway.
Somewhere during the first few miles of the race, we were joined by four other Galloway runners from other states. Two were 50 Staters and two were Marathon Maniacs. It was really great to chat with them and hear their stories. I’ve been saying often lately that if anybody had ever told me that marathons could be a social experience, I wouldn’t have believed them. But they can be, at least for us slow runners. We get to meet awesome people from around the country and around the world. Joining groups like the Maniacs, the 50 Staters and even just the family of Galloway runners can make it even more social by giving you something in common to bond over. We even passed Negative Ned, who you may remember from last year. I recognized him as we went by and was really glad to see that he’d already latched on to someone else. I hope he had something positive to talk about with that person.
I really love this race and the race course. It’s beautiful and fun. I don’t know much about other marathons yet, as I haven’t run any others. I might be wrong in assuming that not many other races have people sitting on horseback cheering the runners on.
Our race day weather was really wonderful. The morning started with cool temps in the low 50s and warmed up slowly. I actually wore a fleece vest for the first couple of miles and some of my buddies wore “throw away clothes” as well. Later in the morning as we climbed the hill at Big Flat Road, we were gifted with a large, fluffy cloud. It kept the sun off of us during a part of the race that can be quite warm for the runners. I loved that cloud so much that I had to take a picture of it. That could is my favorite cloud of all time.
Also on that same stretch of road, we came across this sign, which made me laugh out loud. Perhaps it was the fantastic weather, or having so much great company, or the fact that I felt more confident about my ability to run a marathon this year, but I had a truly great time. I usually enjoy races, but this one stands out. Through the whole race I just felt so lucky to live and run in such a beautiful place with so many supportive, wonderful people. Even when I started to feel my aches and pains, my happiness didn’t diminish.
Do other marathons have people playing a piano on a lawn? Ours does. It’s pretty cool.
Not long after this I apparently stopped taking pictures. I suppose I was a bit too focused on other things at that point. It’s a shame, really, because we ran through some really beautiful parts of town.
Somewhere around miles 18 to 20 our group started to break apart. Some of us needed to slow down. Slowly, over the next few miles our group thinned out more and more until there was just one other runner, Jody, with me. Jody and I chatted and kept each other going. We pointed each other to nearly every sprikler we went past. One woman on Beckwith was standing with her spray hose and she hosed down our backs for us. That was glorious!
As we trucked along toward the “Loop of Sadness” we passed more and more runners and run/walkers who had slowed way down or were walking. We shared cheers and encouragement but Jody and I were not prepared to slow down. We pushed on, winding through miles 22, 23 and 24. Other than some minor issues, I was feeling good and strong.
Looking back through my official pictures, I was sad to discover that somewhere along the line my shirt got stuck up under my race belt, so my belly is hanging out in all my photos. At first I wasn’t going to share them because of that. Then I thought, “Screw it. So my belly was hanging out. I was running a marathon for frak’s sake! I look happy and that’s what is important.” So here you get to see a pic of me during the “Loop of Sadness” complete with belly flesh.
As is my tradition, if you can call something a tradition when you’ve only done it during two races and two training runs, we turned off our timers as we approached the intersection of Gerald and 4th and took an extended walk break. Then came the bridge and our “sprint” to the finish. Coming up to the top of the bridge and seeing the finish line at the end was even a little more emotional this year than last. Last year I was excited to finish for the first time and achieve a goal I hadn’t even conceived of just one year earlier. This year I was excited to be finishing just a little faster, and also to be proving to myself that this isn’t a fluke. This distance running thing is a part of my life now. I have no plans of stopping.
My final time was 5:45:34 which is just a touch faster than last year’s 5:58:09. I’m pleased.
One interesting difference between this year and last year is the absolute lack of “post race blues”. Last year I had a very rough time after the race and I was very glad for the reminder our class leader sent out about the blues being perfectly normal. I do have a lot more plans and goals this year than I this time last year. In fact, I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish everything I want to do. I’ll just have to put one foot in front of the other and take it one step at a time, I suppose.
It’s only 356 days until the next Missoula Marathon. I don’t see any reason not to run it!
Keep running happy!