Is it a bad sign to get a side-stitch a mere 100 feet from the start line? I am guessing the answer is “yes”. Maybe this was foreshadowing the pain and misery I would feel in the back half of this race.

But before I jump into the painful details, I would be remiss not to thank all of the people that helped to raise over $1650 for The Lucas Fund. That money will go a long way to help the babies and their families who are in the University of Virginia Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Myself and four other runners formed Team Running Dad and started a “Sponsor a Running Dad” campaign for the marathon.

Team Running Dad

Team Running Dad Members from left to right: Jamey Walters, Jeremy Sanders, Dave Jones, Alex Lane and Jonathan Haines.

Now back to the race. I took the light rail to Camden Yards the morning of the marathon so I did not have to worry about parking. I was early and got to watch them set up the start line area and set up security perimeters that will be a part of big marathons after the Boston bombings. I milled around and waited for the rest of Team Running Dad to show up at our appointed meeting spot – the Brooks Robinson statue. After meeting up and getting some group pictures, we all found our appropriate start areas based on estimated pace. Jonathan and I started way up front in the 6:00 – 8:00 mile pace section.

After the National Anthem, they sent the wheelchair athletes out onto the course, followed by the rest of the marathoners. As I mentioned, it wasn’t more than a minute into the race and I have a pain in my side. That annoyance lasted at least six miles. Jonathan and I trained together for sixteen weeks, so we stayed together for the majority of the race. Our goal was a 3:10 time. At the halfway mark, we were on pace for a 2:54 finish time. Awesome, right? Uh, no. That was way too fast, but the first half was heavily downhill. So the speed was easy, but the hills chewed up my quads. At mile fifteen, Jonathan started to struggle a bit. I felt my momentum fade as well. At mile eighteen or so, my calves and quads decided to curl up into little balls and take a break. Not a pleasant feeling. I had to stop several times to rub the knots out of the muscles. Thankfully nothing tore.

Twenty miles into the race, the course takes you around Lake Montebello. Here, the wind was in my face and I felt like I was losing a shoving battle with the lake breeze. That zapped all of my energy and started my shortness of breath. The next six miles were a cycle of walking, stopping, rubbing, self loathing, run hating, labored breathing and misery. I can honestly say I hit the wall and pushed through it. Nearing the finish line, I had adopted at shuffle/gallop gait to propel me forward. It was not pretty, I am sure. If zombies can run, that’s what it would look like.

With the finish line in sight, I spotted Connor’s neon green Running Dad sign we had worked on. I waved at him and Jen yelling “Hey Buddy! Daddy’s almost done! Take care of Mommy and Cole because I am going to lay down over here and die.” Well, I didn’t really say that, but I felt like garbage as I crossed the finish and completed my second marathon.

Trying to reunite with my family was hampered by my inability to walk, think, and breathe at the same time. I was in la-la-land. Did I mention I wanted to puke? Finally after some aimless wanderings, I found Jen and Connor. I also found Alex, who was battling worse cramps than I had. His pain made me forget about mine for the time-being as I started to feel human again. No more zombie shuffle for me.

Doesn’t marathoning sound like fun? Why would anyone do this to themselves? Train for sixteen weeks for this? Crazy. The weird thing is, I enjoyed myself. I proved to myself that I could push through the pain and finish. I proved to myself that I could help a friend in pain when I am in pain myself. I proved to myself that I could pioneer a cause and do something to help babies and their families. I finished. It was thirty minutes slower than my goal, but I finished.

Mixed in with the myriad of setbacks during the race were some really cool experiences. These are just a few:

  • High-fiving kids along the race route
  • Seeing the different areas of Baltimore that I had not seen before
  • The fan signs that made me laugh.
  • The lady yelling “You got this, Running Dad! You got this, Running Dad! You got this, Running Dad!”
  • The dude in the tiger costume
  • The sweet smell of the Domino Sugar factory
  • The overall fan support
  • And of course a sweet race shirt

I plan to do this race again next year. It got the best of me this year. Next time I will be the one doing the butt kicking. I hold a grudge.