Sun, Sept 19, 1982
Silver State Marathon
Marathon # 1 – Country #1
It’s Sunday, September 19, 1982. Reno, Nevada. Or more precisely if you care about these things, the Bower Mansion on Washoe Lake, 20 miles south of Reno on Highway 395. Just beside a rock with graffiti on it. Dozens of runners are approaching the start line of the Silver State Marathon. There’s a blonde haired 38-year old male runner on the right side of the start line. He’s wearing a Silver State Strider singlet. Race number 324 is pinned to the front. He’s a home town boy.
He looks fit and feels good. But he’s nervous. He doesn’t know anyone at the start line. He doesn’t know much about running a marathon. It’s his first time. He started running a few years ago to lose the weight he gained when he quit smoking. He’s run a few short races in Reno –5K and 10K events – but got discouraged with those short distances when his oldest son –Chris, 11-years old with no training – whomped his butt in a recent ‘Fathers and Sons’ 5-mile race. John, for that is his name, decided to run longer distances, as he always feels his best and most comfortable when he ran 8 to 10 mile long runs on the weekends. He always felt that something relaxing and wonderful ‘kicks in’ after 4 or 5 miles out on the road.
But why run a marathon? Destiny? A mid-life crisis; trying to prove that 38 is not the end of his life (or, giggle, manhood)?
When he announced to his family and friends that he would run a marathon just a few months earlier he had absolutely no idea how to train for a marathon. But now he’s ready. No not really, but as ready as he’ll ever be for his first marathon. Who ever really feels ready for their first marathon?
He’s standing at the start line, unaware that this will change his life. He had read somewhere that a 3:30 marathon (8-minute mile pace) was recognized as a challenging and important target for most marathoners so that has become his goal.
It’s 6am. The race starts. Immediately the adrenaline starts flowing. So too, does the inexperience. He goes out at a 7:30 mile pace – to give himself lots of margin he thinks – he’s expecting to slow down a bit in the last 6 miles. But he can’t help himself. He follows the lead group, running the first mile at a sub 7-minute mile pace.
He soon realizes he can’t keep up with these top runners and backs off.
He reaches the halfway mark – 13.1miles – in one hour and 38 minutes, doing great, feeling great. He’s on schedule. But he senses that he can’t sustain the pace, and so drops off to an 8-minute mile pace. At Mile 18 his legs are rubbery and very heavy. It’s a struggle now. It’s hurting to run an 8-minute mile pace. By Mile 20 his legs have turned to cement. He can’t believe how much it hurts just to keep his legs moving at what he thinks is an unbelievably slow 9-minute mile pace. But he tells himself he is tough and can handle this for another 6 miles.
At 22 Miles he runs into an 8-foot high, 8-foot wide solid brick wall stretched across the marathon course. This is his first experience with ‘The Wall’.
It is not pleasant. His body has been hit with a giant sledgehammer. But he must finish. His family is waiting for him at the finish line. So too, he thinks, is his manhood. He tries to run again. Nope. His body shuts down. Refuses to move. He tries to walk and run but the pain is excruciating, the fatigue unbearable. He starts cursing and screaming at himself. He looks up to the sky and prays, ‘please, please God, just help me finish this race – ‘ALIVE’- and I promise I’ll never do anything so stupid ever again’. He’s desperate.
BUT he begins to walk, his body now allowing this simple motion without unbearable pain. He tries to run again but he’s not accumulated enough prayers to withstand the pain. By Mile 24 his body is bored with relentless pain and so cuts him some slack. He starts to walk and run; pain and curses still with each step but he’s moving faster and prayers are no longer needed. At Mile 25 he realizes that if he can run the last mile lightly he can still finish under that ridiculous time of 3:30. Why is that so important? He has no idea right now. More pressing matters are on his agenda.
Finally, he finally crosses the finish line. It’s a time of 3:28.
To the loud and exuberant cheers of his family he replies, in a hushed and beaten voice, ‘I will NEVER, EVER run another marathon as long as I live!’