As I headed out the door for the 41st running of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon I was both nervous and excited that race day was finally here. I was excited because it was finally time to start, run and finish the 26.2 miles of this race. I was nervous because I was going into it with minimal amounts of training and another round of IT Band issues, which was the reason I had to back out of this race the first time. I knew the pain would set in, I just wasn't sure when, and what I was going to do when it did.
The weather was picture perfect, and other than being just a little to chilly while waiting in the corrals for the gun to go off, almost no wind and clear skies as the sun came up made for a beautiful start. I told myself over and over as I made my way across the starting line to run my own race and don't let others control my pace. I knew that if I went out to fast I was going to be in big trouble so I treated this like it was just another long run, I picked a pace and stuck to it no matter what was going on around me.
Things were going pretty darn well up through mile thirteen until I got greedy. I was feeling really good at that point with my pace sitting right around a 10:00 mile average. I started to let thoughts of speeding up and letting my potential finishing time cloud my judgment. BIG MISTAKE. I started to push the pace by almost a minute and it took no more than a mile to aggravate my IT Band. It was at that time I had to come back to reality and slow things back down. This is also when the walk breaks entered the conversation as well. Walking usually calms the pain down in my knee so once the pain subsided I returned to a 10-10:30 avg pace. I was able to grind out a mile or so before I would have to walk it out for a couple of minutes, and this strategy got me through the next few miles.
Right around mile 19 I had caught up to my fellow race ambassador, Brian, who was taking a walk break just as I needed to take one as well. Brian is a firefighter in Sandusky, Ohio who runs almost every race in full firefighter gear. He originally started competing in endurance events because he was 50 pounds overweight and at risk for heart disease. He found performing the basic fire ground operations became exhausting and difficult, so he knew he had to make a change. Did you know that 40%-50% of all In-The-Line-Duty deaths on the fire ground are related to heart attacks and strokes, I never would have thought that with all the other dangers they encounter. Brian is now in the best shape of his life and runs almost every race in full gear to bring awareness to firefighter health and to raise money for the Fireman Rob Foundation . I hung with Brian for the next couple of miles as we both would push each other to run just a little more. It was just what we both needed to get us through and finish at our own pace.
So at mile 22 I pushed on at a 11 minute mile pace trying to finish this race without walking anymore, unfortunately that was a pipe dream. By the time I started mile 26 I had only taken a couple of short walk breaks and was getting pretty tired, but I was so close I could taste it. I switched up my playlist to a group of songs that would get the adrenaline flowing and push me to the end. The unfortunate byproduct is I always end up cranking up the pace as well and with just over a half mile to the finish my IT band let me know just who was boss at that point. Walking wasn't even an option I needed to just stop because it felt like I couldn't even bend my knee it was so tight. I tried a couple of stretches to loosen things up, but wasn't much help. About another minute went by when a gentleman I had passed earlier came up and stopped his race to check on me. I was leaned over trying to massage my IT band and all he said was "come on, lets go get our medals". I looked up at him, smiled and we started to jog it out together.
The last 50 yards was amazing. Running down the finishers shoot lined with people cheering for people they don't even know like they have known me for years is a incredible feeling and a humbling experience. I crossed the finish line where the race director, who I've known for years and years, was there congratulating all the finishers gave me a hug and a high five. I ended up with a finishing time of 4:43:40, which is right about what I was thinking before the race began. After I received my medal I almost wanted to think that all of the shit I've gone through that kept me from this race until now was because this year's medal was so f-ing badass compared to years past. The medal was huge and featured some great Toledo imagery showing inside the overall shape of the state of Ohio.
Once I felt like I had my feet under me again my parents and I headed down to the after party to get my free commemorative beer mug and a little post race chow. The live entertainment on stage was a band that is fronted by one of my long time friends from high school who I was also in a band with. Between songs he started picking a few notes from one of our old original songs then he asked if I wanted to hop on stage for old time sake and hit the skins. It was a blast to get back behind a drum kit again even if I was tired from running a marathon. lol :)
In the end, I would have to say other than a few minor little things I would change about the race, you would be hard pressed to find a fault with this race. The race director, the race board that makes all the decisions, the Toledo Roadrunners club, the police and fire and the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers did an amazing job. The Mercy Health Glass City Marathon may be just a small hometown event compared to a Columbus, Chicago or Detroit, but man this crew treats it like it is one of the marathon majors. Every year they seem to make it bigger and better without losing that hometown intimate feel. Oh and if you are looking for a great race to qualify for Boston, this is it. A little over 22% of this year's finishers qualified and so could you.