I’m still in a state of shock. Did I actually run 26.2 miles/42.16 kilometers? After mile 17 I thought to myself, “what was I thinking trying to run a marathon? This is really hard!” I reached into my pocket and read the kind words from Rebecca Shourie of the Satya Niketan School, “Our prayers are with you. You are participating in God's plan for the city of Nagod. It is no small thing. You will run effortlessly and with Joy. God is with you.” Well, I don’t know how effortlessly I ran but run I did until I almost dropped. (It could have been much worse, I could have run this year’s Chicago Marathon where one runner died and over 300 were taken to hospital with heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions.)
I ran between a 9:30-10:30 minute mile for the first 18 miles and then I started to bonk, right after the beautiful crossing of the St. John’s Bridge. Running too fast and not enough carb intake caused stomach cramps along with leg cramps. Alot of other runners complained of stomach problems too, which was probably due to dehydration. (It was cold but humid.) Along with referring to Rebecca’s words of encouragement I thought of the children in Nagod and elsewhere who have so little and ask for less. I received energy watching others run for their causes and loved ones. Many had pictures pinned to their shirts of friends and family who had suffered and passed on from cancer and other fatal illnesses.
Between miles 20 & 24 I swore that I would never run a marathon again - I was in that much pain. But I continued on. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to finish what I had started. Now, consider this: 70 year old Charles Nutter from Belliville, Kansas ran a 4:54:26. That’s one minute twenty-two seconds faster than my own finishing time! And 83 year old Kay Pearson from Milwaukie, Oregon ran a 7:13:35! Impressive? I’d say so.
The people of Portland, Oregon are wonderful, kind trusting and caring. To a New Yorker or anyone from the Northeast they seem too trusting. Believe it or not they leave their purses, coats and luggage unattended in restaurants and coffee shops. Only a blind woman who was sitting in Powell’s Books cafe asked if we would keep an eye on her Braille laptop as she went for more coffee. Many Portlanders lined the marathon route cheering with encouragement and the volunteers mostly made up of teenagers were so sweet and efficient and expedient in their tasks and responsibilities to aid the runners.
Running the marathon reminded me how similar to life this event is: there are hills and valleys, highs and lows, periods of strength and joy and miles of weakness and pain, but most of all how important it is to take ‘it’ one step at a time.
When I rounded the final tenth mile of the race the streets were lined with people cheering and I picked up my pace. I heard my name called from sidewalk. It was my wife Terry who hours earlier finished the 5 mile race. I slowed so she could snap a few photographs and to take in her big and loving smile. I crossed the finish line with arms raised and eyes filled with tears of joy and pain. The destination was reached through the journey. Two hours later I registered for the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, which takes place Sunday November 18th with the Paris, France Marathon scheduled for April 2008.