I accomplished something pretty extraordinary this weekend: I ran my first full marathon. That's 26.2 miles. This was the single most difficult thing I've ever set out to do, but it is, hands down, the most rewarding. I worked so hard to achieve this goal, and when I crossed that finish line, I saw the past year of blood, sweat, and tears flash before my eyes. What an incredibly surreal moment, one that felt like a euphoric out of body experience. I have never ever felt runner's high to that degree. I will be replaying that moment in my head, over and over again, for the rest of my life.
The first half of this marathon went well as I am used to the half marathon circuit. I know what I need to do to get through 13.1 miles. However, there were challenges early on. The first one started at mile 2.5 when I encountered the hill at Fort Mason. The second quad killer happened right before the Golden Bridge. Once I got on the bridge though, it was a breeze. The cold air and mist fueled me. By the time I got to mile 12, I saw my first set of cheerleaders! Seeing two members of the cribbage crew with signs and smiles really hit the spot. Sandy and Christine got me excited right before entering Golden Gate Park and starting the second half of the race!
I'm glad these two were there because my body cramped up shortly after making it to the halfway point. The "Go Endorphin Dude" signs were still fresh in my mind, so I ran through the pain. However, when I reached mile 14 and a half, my calves gave out on me and I fell to the ground. Two young women helped me up and told me to walk it off. Though I was in excruciating pain, I took their advice rather than laying there in the grass in pain. Once they got me vertical, I thanked them and told them to keep on moving. I, too, kept on moving, albeit a snail pace. I walked for the next two or three miles and by the time I reached mile 17, my legs were fresh, my mind was clear, and a second wind hit me. Thankfully, I managed to avoid a colossal meltdown by staying calm and listening to my body, and as a result, I was able to pick up my pace again and breeze through Miles 17 through 23.
Miles 23 through 26 were tough, but the excitement of only having a 5k left fueled me. By this time, I had been at this for about 5 hours. All I wanted was to keep moving and to cross that finish line. When I saw the final mile marker, that much coveted 26 mile marker, I had to stop and catch my breath--both literally and emotionally! At that moment, it hit me. It didn't matter how beat up my legs were or how deflated my lungs had become, I knew that I had achieved the hardest thing I have ever set out to do. The moniker "Marathon Man" flashed in my head as I made my way to that finish line.
My eyes lit up when I started to see my friends, one by one. I glanced to my right and saw Art and Kamila cheering me on. I moved a few more feet and noticed my sister Diane shaking a pom pom and screaming out my name with my friend Susie. I looked to my right again and there stood the Wickersham clan. Charlie clicked away with his camera as if I were the celebrity and he the paparazzi. To my left I saw Elizabeth and Smitty smiling and cheering. Across from them was the Cribbage Crew with their "Go Endorphin Dude! Go!" signs. With only inches away, I looked to the left and saw Michelle screaming out my name.
Seeing all my friends out there rooting for me made all the difference in the world. I travel from city to city and state to state to run, and 99% of the time I cross that finish with strangers clapping for me. These strangers see the bib and the cape, but to them, I am just another runner. So can you imagine what it was like for me to see all those familiar faces in the crowd at that one moment in time, the greatest moment of my life? I am one damn lucky guy!
Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to my trainer, mentor, and best friend, Charles Wickersham. Thanks for all you've done for me, buddy. I promised that I wouldn't let the runner's high get the best of me and embarrass you, so I'll just stop right here.