Finding Contentment

Eager to take advantage of the cooling weather to set personally fast times in one or two additional half marathons prior to the conclusion of 2019, I registered for the Longview Half Marathon, taking place in Grandview, Missouri, on November 9, 2019. I never enjoy driving this far, nearly six hours both ways, for just a 13.1-mile run, but I used this being my first running event in Missouri as a motivator.

PC: KC Running Company

I cannot remember the last time I managed sufficient sleep before a race, so doing so this time felt almost foreign. Confident off my recent Chicago Marathon, I shot for my fourth sub-1:50:00 and even a personal record in the half marathon, especially reading and hearing from many the course is expected to be flat. Nevertheless, around four miles in and already encountering repeated semi-steep rolling hills, I knew hitting a personal best would be verging on impossible and shifted my focus towards staying ahead of the 1:50 pacers. Once I saw the front 1:50 pacer in sight not even halfway through, I realized even this secondary goal would be a major challenge and only thought about pushing my hardest and trying not to slow down too drastically.

Final sprint! PC: KC Running Company

With a quarter of a mile to go, I sprinted like a maniac to the finish, passing numerous runners, including those participating in the 10K and 5K, on the way, which made me wonder if I inadvertently approached the race conservatively to have this much energy remaining and could have gone slightly faster. I even asked myself, particularly in the middle of the race, whether my losing weight would benefit me by giving me less to carry or sap my strength and endurance. Although I did not achieve either of my time goals, I did manage to run my fourth-fastest half marathon, in 1:51:40.9. I find contentment in knowing I gave my all and that my three quicker times came from easier courses. Thank You, Jesus!

Chicago, First Major

Joan Benoit Samuelson!

Ready to enter my name into the lottery for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2019, taking place on October 13, I remember praying to God to only allow my entry to be accepted if I could actually participate. I more often than not sign up for races at the last minute, lacking confidence my schedule will not change; thus, being admitted almost a year prior to my first Abbott World Marathon Major slightly concerned me, especially as I predicted I would be out of Kearney, Nebraska, and have begun a new job by then.

Deena Kastor!

Running the marathon feels like just another day at the office at this point, and I remained more anxious about learning how to get around the city of Chicago, specifically from my Airbnb to Grant Park, where the race commenced. The Expo in McCormick Place with its immensity seemed more like a major business conference, and I spent six hours here the day before my run, making the most of all the perks and even meeting two of the greatest American female marathoners of all time, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor. As Joan kindly signed for me, she asked how many marathons I have completed, and I replied, “I have run five ultras, and this is my fourth marathon.” She continued, “You are serious,” and I felt shy and out of place in the presence of this humble legend. I also asked Deena after her guest-speaker appearance, “What is your main source of motivation?” to which she answered, “Being a role model and a good mother.” I could have been more nervous if I had read more thoroughly through just how much these two women have accomplished in the sport of marathon.

Pre-race!

Walking far more extensively than I planned the final two days leading up to Chicago, I worried this may hurt my performance. Following twenty minutes of sleep, I rode Uber and then the subway to pick up my professional-runner friend, who ended up finishing in 2:16:29 and 31st male overall, from his hotel and walk to the event location together. I had never walked so far to reach the starting line, which seemed to be at least half a mile away from where my corral, G, assembled. The initial lengthy tunnel lost my Garmin satellite, which utterly messed up my GPS. Another tunnel or two later hindered satellite progress as well, but I reminded myself GPS does not mean much anyway. Intentionally or unintentionally, one fit blonde woman and I continued to run in proximity from around mile 4 to mile 15; she would be in front and then pop back up from behind, I would pass her and she would pass me, and later I just smiled each time we ran almost shoulder to shoulder. I half-jokingly blame her for my overpacing the first half, crossing the 13.1-mile timing mat in 1:57:46, but based on how strong I felt I thought I possibly could break four hours, my primary ambitious goal. Unsurprisingly, however, I hit the first wall around mile 16, but I repeated to myself, “This will not always get worse,” as ultrarunning legend David Horton would say, and carried on. I recovered for a moment, but with seven or eight miles to go, I really bonked and drastically slowed down, and I battled constantly with my mind, “Should I walk a little?” but each time I thought of what would make me happy after, this time eating Korean food, and persevered. The effect of my lack of sleep rapidly revealed itself, as I almost felt like I was sleep-running. Furthermore, I must have passed, squeezing through and running around, at least a thousand runners and not many runners passed me the first fifteen miles, which could have contributed to my loss of energy. Slightly past 21 miles, I pulled out my last of three Honey Stinger gels in my right pocket just to accidentally drop it, and I, beyond frustrated, decided to move forward without pausing, mainly due to the muscle tension in my neck that would have given me pain had I crouched down.

I, by the grace of God, overcame these obstacles and succeeded in never walking throughout the entire 26.2 miles, crossing the finish line in 4:19:20. As I walked another half a mile to leave the finish area, I did not feel content, as I believed wholeheartedly I could have performed better; nevertheless, this substantial personal record in the marathon showed me how far I have come since my first 26.2 five-and-a-half years ago in Atlanta, Georgia.

From start to finish, the crowd and performers filled the streets with positive energy and entertaining signs, and this truly means a great deal to runners. Meeting numerous individuals with the same passion from all over the world brought out the motormouth social butterfly in me, and I miss that atmosphere. Ultimately, I hope to finish all six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, leaving Boston, New York City, Berlin, Tokyo, and London on the list of marathons I need to pursue. Finding a way into these Majors feels more challenging than running the marathons themselves, as I have already been denied by New York City and London, but I will figure out a way. Thank You, Jesus!

Nebraska (Half) Marathon Major

PC: Jason Feddersen

On May 5, 2019, I participated in my third Lincoln National Guard Half Marathon in the past four years. Familiar with this semi-hilly course of the biggest race in Nebraska, I hoped to set a personal record, predicting my adrenaline rush and more intangibles of running alongside thousands of fellow dedicated runners and with spectators lined up on both sides spreading cheer and sporting amusing signs throughout the entire 13.1-mile distance to play a factor. I also acknowledged my body that copes with the cold much more efficiently than the heat would not enjoy the temperature advantage with a 54-degree start and this objective as overly ambitious. As per usual, I managed barely any sleep, of three hours, before the event.

The uncovered sun in the clear sky, contrary to the forecast of a potential thunderstorm, released sweat from the early miles, and I took a couple of sips of water at most aid stations, just enough to stay hydrated without being bloated. The straining of the outside of my right foot, which I began feeling earlier in the week, that flared up again with four or five miles to go bothered, though not worried, me. I knew I could and would block out the pain in my head until the end and find a way to not allow this symptom to slow me down and ruin my performance. This, however, did remind me to practice what I occasionally preach: take recovery as seriously as training. Running an ultramarathon and two half marathons in just over a month, without sufficient rest in between, may have been too much too soon and overwhelmed my body. Regardless, this certainly did not annoy me as much as some in the crowd, one openly, smoking cigarettes in front of runners heavily inhaling and exhaling to maintain the pace and rhythm. Really?

That left calf though. 😉 PC: Lincoln Marathon

Following a 2:00:43 finish the first time in 2016 and 1:59:08 finish the second time in 2018 on the same course, I crossed the finish line this third time in 2019 in 1:51:51. My sub-1:50:00 streak of three came to an end, but I found contentment in this visible progress, that consistency pays off. I shared with multiple people throughout the weekend that I took a while to break the two-hour barrier, but once I finally did, my speed rapidly improved that even breaking 1:50:00 soon no longer appeared unusual. Quite surprisingly, many seemed to agree and relate. With summer swiftly approaching, I doubt I who prefer racing in the low 30s will be setting any PR’s in the next several months, but never say never! As always, I thank Jesus for blessing me with good health, time, and motivation to continue to pursue this healthy and joyous hobby that attracts a myriad of amazing and inspirational people.