Joining Raritan Valley Road Runners club in January was indeed the best decision of the year. All I was trying to find was a group of people with interests similar to mine. What I actually found was a bunch of motivated, high endorphin souls who are dedicated and involved with the sport of running a million times more than I am. Watching some of these runners just stroll around the park itself is very inspiring. It is a peaceful sight that can crush your ego and pride and tell you to just shut up complaining and run. I’m thankful for these running acquaintances that can race and crush their PRs week after week and at the same time can remain incredibly humble and helpful to any new building runner. Few of these wonderful friends stuck with me on all those long Saturday runs and tolerated my yapping most of the time.
Speaking of Marathons, my first one last November at Philly was quite a disaster. 2 weeks before the race Hurricane Sandy hit our area. I was hit with Flu and Bronchitis around the same time. Missed most of taper runs. High on antibiotics. Couldn't eat properly on days leading to the race. On race day itself I had bad pacing from the start, not enough nutrition, bonked after 17 miles. You name the mistake. I can assure you I managed to do it. But I did finish in 5 hr 9 minutes.
I took few weeks off from running. Went to India for a vacation that included two weeks of intense Yoga training. Returned home by Christmas and felt ready to start some serious running. I signed up for New Jersey Marathon and trained for it starting January. I was bothered with Achilles Tendinitis & a left ITB issues for first couple of months. I cut down on swimming and Yoga and instead took up Physical Therapy to treat these issues. It worked great and I was able to wrap up my training and get in all the runs prescribed by Hal Higdon. I was pleasantly surprised at how calm I was on the days leading up to the race. Carpooled to Long Branch with a fellow runner from my club. Reached the race location pretty early and met up with few more club members who were running the race as well. Headed to the start line & it was chilly & cloudy around 48 degrees when the race started. Sun was out within an hour into the race and it warmed up to 65 degrees with a cool refreshing breeze throughout. It was the perfect running weather one could have hoped for.
My only strategy was
a) Run comfortably to the next water station
b) Stop & Drink water/Gatorade / Gel as needed
c) Resume running focusing to the next water station.
I maintained this strategy throughout the race. I was really calm and surprised that none of my body parts were bothering me as I was rushing to the finish line. I saw few super fast club friends cheering for me at the finish. My official finish time was 4:43:20. Nothing stellar but a satisfying one for my level of conditioning and training.This was an improvement by 26 minutes over my Philly Marathon time. My time during the 20-mile training run was around 3:28:00 and I was hoping to finish the race around 4:40. To be able to execute the race so close to my target and finish with no cramps or aches felt very sweet. I was constantly reminded of that cute 8-year-old boy who died during Boston bombings last month and the images of legs and arms flying in the air during that horrific act. My mother slipped and fell down few years ago in her bathroom and broke her hip. Since that hip replacement surgery she is pretty much bed ridden. This happened to her just a year after my dad passed away. They were together for 55 years. My uncle got his left leg amputated due to an infectious tumor a week ago. I think remembering these incidents made me realize how fortunate I am and felt very calm / thankful for what I can do and not fuss about pace and finish times.
Collected the finisher medal and took some pictures with the members of my running club. We gathered for a post race eat out at a near by restaurant. Some of those runners in the 50s had clocked 3:40, 3:35 times and missed Boston Qualification by few minutes. I was so impressed at what these athletes were capable of doing. I can only dream to be in their shoes one day. It was awesome to see many friends break their marathon and half marathon barriers. I only wish them the best on bigger and better racing future. Overall it was a perfect evening and reached home feeling great. Spoke to my Mom this morning and she sounded very happy to hear at my race results. It was one of the best conversations I had with her that I’m going to remember for a long time.Few days after the race I still feel good. I managed to do few slow 2-mile walks, Yoga & few swim laps. I expected the delayed onset muscle soreness to kick in by 2nd day. Some how it spared me this time.
Life is really good. Can’t complain!! .