“Hey Dad…you know we might as well go ahead and run a full marathon now….”

Last weekend was yet another milestone in my son’s quest to see how far he can push his “old man” (and for the record, I am still convinced he is trying to kill me!).  For those of you who may not know, this journey started with our decision to train for and run the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run.  I talked about that race here.  Then, we set our sites a little higher, taking on the 2011 Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, which I blogged about here.  So, last Saturday, we attempted our first full Marathon:  The 2nd Annual Charleston Marathon.  It was an experience that I will never forget, and quite frankly, even after a week to ponder things I am having a difficult time finding the words to adequately describe the experience.

By Charleston standards, it was a cold start for the race (32°F and breezy), but the sun was out and our adrenaline was high when the gun went off at 8am.  Our goal was to run a steady pace of around 12 min/mi for the entire race.  We were hoping to finish under 5 hours 20 minutes, but ultimately our goal was to just finish.

Because there was no pace group for our target time, we ended up running the first 10 miles or so with the half marathon 2:30 pace group.  This should have put us running about an 11:40 min/mi pace, which was a little faster than our plan, but tolerable.  In actuality, they ran way fast.  Our average pace for the first 10 miles was just under 10:45 min/mi!  Even so, we were still feeling pretty good at that point.  Later in the race, we would find that took a lot out of us.

After we split off from the half marathon runners, we slowed a bit, and found a good groove, running about 12:15 pace and feeling great.

By about mile 16, we finally got warm enough to shed our “throw-away” sweats and the cool air hitting us gave us a bit of a physical and emotional boost, but it was not to last.  Things really got tough during miles 19-21, our pace slowed and we took a few extra walk breaks to try and get ready for the final 5 miles.  That seemed to work, and we picked the pace back up and set our sights on the finish line.

As always, the last few miles are the toughest.  When we hit the 24 mile mark we turned into the wind, and it was demoralizing.  We were tired, dehydrated and that 8-10 mph wind made the 45° air feel like 30°!  The last mile, I had nothing left.  It was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and praying for the finish line to hurry up and get to me!

We had a couple of false alarms where we turned a corner and thought we’d see the finish line but instead, only met disappointment.  When we finally turned that last corner, and saw the finish about 150 yards ahead, I was unexpectedly overcome by emotion.  At the time I couldn’t explain why, but I knew I was on the edge of weeping.  I held my composure for the sake of having a decent finish photo, but hearing my name called out, crossing the finish line, seeing that we beat our goal time and having that medal put around my neck was too much. I totally lost it for a minute or two.

And that is the part that I have such a hard time putting into words.  The excitement and pride, the highs and the lows experienced during the race was a large part of it for sure.  However, I know it was much more that that.  It was also all the emotions from the months of training and hundreds of miles my son and I have run together, the sore ankles, strained muscles, the great conversations we’ve had and the friendship & respect we have forged with each other, all for the sake of just getting to that finish line…it all came back at that single moment.  It was indescribable.

I wish that everyone could share that experience…and the fact is…you can!  If you are reading this and thinking you could never do something as extreme as running a marathon or even a half marathon, please read this post. You can do it!  You should do it!

So, what’s next?  Well, believe it or not, my son and I have now started training for our final leg of this journey extreme running journey.  We are running the SweetH2O 50K Trail Run in April.  It is going to be epic…I hope I survive!