This happened in 2009 (part 1: Marathon)

Looking back on the year, most of it seems like a blur.  Although waiting for the birth of the boy seemed to take forever, now wonder where the time went.

So while I will get to that bigger story of my life in 2009, I just wanted to reflect on the other events of the year.  The first (and maybe only  one I write about): Running the Pittsburgh Marathon

Running the Marathon

All told, I trained a good six months to tackle this beast, but prior to hardcore marathon training, I’d begun running 10Ks and just trying to get into shape since the beginning of 2007.

I basically used the Nike+ training regimen to begin, which starts with shortish runs and builds over time, with a long run every week.  It ended up that every sunday I’d do a long run- I remember my first 12 mile run, and about mid-way I was expected to do a 30 mile run but I completely failed at it.  That scared me into taking it all a bit more seriously.  Rarely did I miss training, which would see me running 4-5 days a week, during my lunch break at work if I had to.  By the end, my long run was 24 miles, and my “short” mid week runs were between 6 and 10 miles.

I got to see a Pittsburgh I never really knew, running through the puke-stained South Side at 5:30AM, through downtown and the strip as things were just starting to wake up.  I’d climb up to Bloomfield and then on to East Liberty.  Finally it was Point Breeze to Squirrel Hill and back home.

I’d take a clif bar, some clif bloks and pick up a bottle of gatorade on the way.  These runs would generally cost me about 2000 calories.

The Marathon

The day of the Marathon was rainy and cold.  I got downtown very early and ended up sitting in a stairwell playing Drop 7 while I waited for the race to start.  When it finally got underway I was surprised by how slow going it was, but things spread out quickly and I had to work to keep a good pace.

Longer than I expected

Although the race is clocked at 26.2 miles, my Nike+ registered nearly 30.  I’d assumed it was pretty accurate but I suppose I assumed wrong.  This affected not only my expectation for when the race would be over, but meant my training was not really sufficient.

Damn those hills

A lot of the race was up hill: Southside to Oakland, Oakland to Point Breeze, Point Breeze through Hazelwood, Hazelwood through East Liberty.  Let’s say miles 10-20 are practically all uphill.  This really fed the burn in my legs.

Too much energy.

By the time we reached the South Side groups of people (official and not) were passing out gels, pills, fruit and liquid with an incredible frequency.  As we ran down Forbes Avenue in Oakland Pitt students were handing out bits of peeled banana, soaking wet from the rain and right out of their palms.  I cannot think of a more disgusting thing.  I tried to restrict it to what I knew I needed but I think I actually ended up eating and drinking too much during the run.  I have yet to taste an energy gel that doesn’t hit the puke button on my tongue.

The Soundtrack

Initially I’d really hoped to run without headphones on, but I brought my iPod so I could track my run for nike+.  Running with headphones is discouraged in organized racing and its illegal in many marathons, but not so in Pittsburgh.  Lots of folks were using headphones and so when I finally gave in and realized that I would need something beside the people around me to keep me invested in the race, I put my headphones in and went with it.  I think I actually listened to a podcast but the one song that I kept coming back to, of all things, was a track from the Valkyria Chronicles soundtrack.  A video game.  That looks like an anime.   It really is a fantastic soundtrack to a truly wonderful game though.

Desperate Fight:

Bloomfield is awesome.

As I ran down Liberty Avenue, totally blasted from the rain and sheer exhaustion, my spirits were lifted by the Bloomfield revery.  Folks passing out beer and pizza, lots of cheering and just general good times.

The last mile nearly killed me.

Although it was a downhill grade to a flat run at this point, the last mile was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.

Overwhelmed

When I finally reached the end, exhausted and looking for Dawn and my dad, I completely broke down.  They’d managed to literally muscle their way passed security and were waiting for me, and when I saw them, I just burst.  Physical exhaustion, elation, pure adrenalin, it all just started flying out.

After that we made our way to a nice brunch at Point Brugge and the rest is history.

In the end it took me about 5 hours, a run that is in no way respectable, but I did it.  I did it without stopping or walking.   It was so exhausting and painful I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever do it again, but I’m glad I can say I did it.

Marathon Stats
My Nike+ stats for the Pittsburgh marathon