Report of
St. George Marathon
2003

 

Training
Training for this marathon was weird. I ran less than 30 mpw over the entire training cycle. Only two weeks were over 40 miles. Most weeks were in the 25-35 mile range. Moreover, I combined my speed work with my long runs; I did the last half of these long runs at a pace about 30 seconds faster than my goal marathon pace. I did no other speed work whatsoever, except for one half-marathon race. On the other hand, I did do lots of long run: three 20 milers, three 18 miles, and three 16 milers. I also averaged about 120 miles of biking, until 3 week before the marathon, when I did a one-day, 184-mile bike race.

Pain
I can't say I was injured at all during the training cycle, but I had constant nagging pains, especially in my left hamstring. The week before the marathon, I had pains in my quadriceps during the night (enough to wake me up), but never during the day. Strange. My biggest worry about the marathon was my hamstring.

Goals
I set a goal to qualify for Boston Marathon (BQ = Boston Qualify or Boston Qualification ) by running a 3:45. I didn't know whether my training would help me achieve that goal or not. I didn't know whether my pains would allow me to achieve the goal. I didn't know whether the biking would hurt (because it aggravated my hamstring pain and other aches here and there) or help (by increasing my cardiovascular fitness). My other goal was to simply finish, because I have a goal of eventually joining the 10-year club for the St. George Marathon. This year's marathon would be my fifth St. George (my twelfth marathon overall).

My Plan
I knew the St. George Marathon course well, so I determined my mile splits and made up a custom wrist band with the paces and times for each mile. A friend of mine, Dan Nielson, a fellow member of our cycling team and a colleague at the university, offered to help pace me during the marathon. He had already qualified for Boston, and is a much younger, lighter, and faster runner than I. He just wanted to finish St. George, so I took him up on his offer, with specific instruction to help me hold back the pace at the beginning and help me maintain my pace at the end.

Miles 0 through 18
Everything worked almost exactly according to plans for the first 18 miles. I hydrated just enough but not too much (in the previous two St. George Marathons, I had to make several pit stops), and only had to make one short pit stop at mile 7. I wore hat, gloves, and long-sleeved shirt for the first two miles so I wouldn't get too cold at the beginning (a problem I had experienced in my previous attempt to BQ), threw those off and ran the rest of the race without being bothered at all by the temperatures. And most importantly, Dan and I stayed right on the planned pace for the first 18 miles, without deviating from my pace chart by more than a minute at any of the splits. The miles seemed to click by one after another and a steady but fast pace. I felt fortunate that my hamstring never really bothered me during the entire race. My main fear was allayed.

Miles 18 to 23
But what I didn't fear, and probably should have, were my quadriceps muscles. They began to hurt at mile 18. By mile 19, I knew I was in trouble. By mile 20 I was in severe pain. I kept muttering, "I can't hold the pace." And Dan would say, "Yes you can." I would mutter, "I'm not going to make it." And Dan would say, "Yes you are." He encouraged me to shorten my stride, or if that hurt, to lengthen my stride. He told me that sometimes running faster helps, or at least doesn't hurt any worse. So for some stretches, I ran faster. He told me stories and gave me two book reports to take my mind off the pain, which was now getting to the point that I couldn't bare. When he sensed I was falling behind, he encouraged me to hang on, keep up the pace. When he heard me moan, he would say "You've got it; just a few more minutes of holding on!" When we came to downhill stretches in the course, he encouraged me to run faster to make up for lost time. But at mile 23, I didn't see how I could possibly maintain the pace. I stopped and stretched, but that didn't do any good; in fact, I had a horrible time getting my legs to move after I stopped. I was in agony.

Scott and Dan at about mile 18

 

Miles 23 to the Finish
By mile 23, when I was about to give up, I realized that I had suffered so much and had received so much encouragement from Dan, that it would be sad if I missed my goal. All that suffering for naught? I just couldn't let it happen. And Dan wasn't about to let it happen. He kept encouraging. He even rallied the spectators to cheer me on. I knew that the only way I would make it now was to not stop for water, because if I slowed down at the aid stations, I would never get going again. So I bypassed the aid stations the last 3 miles. Over the last mile, I couldn't get my brain to work, couldn't read the time on my watch, couldn't tell whether I was going at an 8:30 pace or a 10:30 pace (it was actually an 8:47 pace), and had no idea whether I would achieve my goal or not. As I crossed the finish line, however, I raised my hands in triumph as I saw the race clock and realized I had made it. My official time was 3:44:56, only 4 seconds under my goal of 3:45 (and 64 seconds less than the 3:45:59 allowed for me to BQ).

After the Finish
Once I stopped running, I couldn't maintain my balance. As I staggered through the chute, Dan held me up while I received my finisher's medal. He helped me to a shaded area under a tree in the finisher's corral where I fell to the ground as cramps sent pain up and down both legs. Every muscle seemed to be rebelling from the torture they had endured over the past 8 miles. It was an hour before the cramps subsided sufficiently for me to stand up and walk around. I was in so much pain but was so thrilled to have BQ'd that my thoughts kept turning to childbirth. Even though my pain and my reward were much less than new motherhood, I somehow seemed to relate to what my wife went through in having our children. The other thoughts that kept going through my mind were questions about my dear friends and how they finished. I was thrilled to later find out that many had achieved their goals and disappointed that many had not. I was happy, however, that, as far as I know, all my friends finished the marathon and could go home proud of their achievements.

Final Thoughts
This was a memorable marathon in more ways than one. First, I really enjoyed meeting many new friends at the spaghetti bash at my condo. Everyone there was as friendly, cheerful, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable as they appeared on the St. George Marathon Forum (see forum members at right). Second, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dan Nielson for helping me achieve my goal. I would have never done it without him. Finally, I feel a sense of gratitude for many other things as well: my wife who puts up with my athletic hobbies, the great organizers, workers, and volunteers of the superbly run St. George Marathon, and the good Lord for giving me the passion to run and the physical ability to do so.