Personally, I have not hit the proverbial wall, but as my October marathon looms closer and closer, I can’t help to have that fear in the back of my mind. My friend and fellow Running Dad, Shane Curtis, who I had run 22 of the 26.2 miles of the Shamrock Marathon in March of 2013 – before he left me in his dust – recently experienced the dreaded wall in Alaska. His story is below. I have no doubt he will be on his game when he tackles the Richmond Marathon in November.

I hit the wall on my 4th Marathon. I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska on a Friday to run in the Mayor’s Marathon on Saturday. Not arriving at least a day early was my 1st mistake. When I got to the motel at 10 p.m. on Friday night, I had 2 slices of cheese pizza and was in bed by 10:45. Pizza and late bed time, were my 2nd and 3rd mistake.

Race morning was unseasonably warm for Alaska, 60 degrees.  I was hoping for a break from Winchester, Virginia weather. I was thinking 40 degrees with no humidity. No such luck.  My running friend, Kelly, dropped  me off for the Marathon start and she proceeded to the Half Marathon starting point on the other side of town. Not having my running gang to start with was a huge downer.

Okay, the race starts and I’m on mile 4 and 5. I’ve met a couple of runners and we’re talking. I’m keeping a 7:20-ish pace and feel good.  They tell me that once we get to mile 18, it’s all down hill from there. Remembering the elevation chart, that sounded about right. Anchorage was more hilly than Winchester, but doable. There was no problem with elevation since Anchorage is right on the water. So, I’m running well and I move on.

At mile 9 and 10, I met a girl that was running very well. Her name was Kirsten and she was a hometown Anchorage girl. I’m still on pace and slowly move ahead of Kirsten. We have been running on fairly loose gravel for several miles and now we’re on a tank trail, which is dirt. By mile 20, we’ve seen several significant hills and even a switch back hill. I’m having trouble keeping my breath, but still running well. I’ve dropped to an 8:00 mile a couple of times, but when running with Kirsten earlier, I’d had a couple 6:58 miles, so I’d banked some time.

At mile 21, we’re back on pavement. It’s hot. I’m tired. I am still short of breath. Half way through mile 21, I come over a hill and see another hill and it just crushes me. For the 1st time in any race, I start to walk.

Immediately, Kirsten calls to me saying not to stop, but the damage is done. I run with her for 100 yards and drop to a walk again. I’m crushed. I’m wondering whether there is a bus to pick up lame ass runners that can’t finish the race.  The mosquitoes have unleashed their fury on my hot, sweaty body and I’m flailing my arms in defense. I am still walking, so that’s a positive, right?

I come up on a water station at 22 and down 10 orange slices and 10 gatorades and waters. After 5 minutes of standing there stuffing my face, I start to walk again.  I walk a mile and try to start running again. I get to a 10:00 pace. I have to walk and jog for a mile, then I finally keep running at a 9:30 pace. I keep moving, but an old lady is in front of me, I’m catching her slowly. I almost catch her. She stops and leans over. Is she going to puke? No, she’s off again. She and I repeated this process to the finish line.  I don’t think I ever passed her, but I have finally crossed the finish line.

I finished with a time of 3:44. I was hoping for a 3:15. I needed 3:25 to qualify for Boston.  I saw Kirsten, who I ran with earlier. She finished at 3:18 – 2nd place for all women. I should have stayed right w/ her instead of moving ahead. SHE ROCKS!!

THE WALL.  I’m not sure how it happened. Too much travel, too little sleep, not enough carbs, no friends, worried about hills, gravel, etc. I just let myself stop running.  I was running well and I let my mind convince me to stop. I realized that once I stopped, I was done.

Now I can say I’ve experienced the WALL. On to the next race, hopefully this experience has made me a little wiser.