And just like that, I am once again a marathoner!!!!
I want to start off this post by thanking the IMT Des Moines Marathon organizers, volunteers, and spectators for another amazing year. You guys are all the true champions of making this an amazing experience for so many.
A huge thank you to Chris Burch for allowing me to write this blog and hopefully entertain you all. It’s been an honor to be a part of it.
The biggest thank you goes out to the runners in this community. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a lot of aspects from runner, to blogger, to race director, to having the great pleasure or serving the community by helping you hit your goals as a sales associate at Fitness Sports for a number of years. I am truly inspired by all of you and you push me to constantly be a better version of myself.
To recap my races from this weekend, I had no anticipation as to how it was going to go. I’ve been dealing with some personal things for the last year that have really taken a toll on my drive and my desire to train. While I was still training, it wasn’t nearly what I knew I was going to need to run my best. To catch you up, I haven’t run a marathon in 11 years and hadn’t done any race specific training as I’ve been really focusing on ultras.
I naively signed up for the Mercy Live Up Loop 5 mile to be used as a “shake out” run before race day. I told myself that I wasn’t going to get caught up in the event and that I was just going to run easy…then I put the bib on and we all know how that goes. The wind out of the North/Northwest was fierce as we made our way around Principal Park, and west on MLK. Heading towards Gray’s Lake was nice because the wind had a little break and then coming over the bridge it was a great tailwind. As we made our way along the Meredith Trail to the east, I got in “hunter mode” with a guy just meters ahead of me. Looking back on it, it was probably a bad idea to push this hard, but I’ve done dumber things. When we hit the pedestrian bridge to cross over the Raccoon River, I told myself with 1/4 of a mile left that I was going to charge and take the guy ahead of me. To my surprise, he shifted gears and left me on the chase. He totally CRUSHED my spirits at the end. Way to go Samuel Stepp 😉 A 9th place overall finish (and what I think is a 5 mile PR later) is awesome for me, but I questioned what exactly just happened…
After the race, I was whisked back to the expo…actually I just drove over…and took over my duties of “work mode” at the Fitness Sports booth. I told myself that I was going to do my best to get off of my feet as much as I could, but with being asked to speak to the crowd as a part of the Heal to Toe Club speaker series, doing a little product promotion for the store and fitting amazing athletes in shoes, then heading home to watch my daughter play soccer, I was GASED at the end of the day and realized how little I had eaten and how little water I had drank….drunk?….drinked?…. Oops. I guess I’ve got some work todo that night
Sunday morning and I did my normal thing. Coffee, eggs, tortilla and lots of water before heading to the start. Once I finally found a place to park, I came to the race start with about 20 minutes to spare. Did the bathroom “thing” and made my way to the chute. The energy was AMAZING!!!! So many people around. So much joy, fear and anxiety for what was about to go down. The temps were COLD and dressed in a throw away shirt which I haven’t done since my first marathon. I was huddled up with a group of friends and we just tried to take our minds off of how freaking cold we all were. National anthem is sung and the gun goes off. Here we go…
For the first time in YEARS I actually started the race off with headphones. I wanted to be in my own head and run my own race. Having a 24 hour running race coming up in less than a week, I didn’t really want to push hard and if I’m chatting with people during a run, I tend to run significantly faster than I need to. The miles were ticking off and I was with a pace group that was faster than what my goal time was because I knew at some point I was going to drop off as I’m not one who is very good at keeping an even pace or cadence.
I won’t recount the whole race, but the crowds were awesome. The volunteers were great. The offerings of the race were really cool. I got to see a lot of people out on the course that I haven’t seen in a long time. My nutrition was on point, I was drinking and then about 16 miles I started to get that “crampy” feeling. Usually if that happens, I reach to the pocket of my Nathan Vapor Krar waist pack and grab my salt pills…wait…..where are they?….Oh crap….I left them in my car!!!!!!!!! Well, I guess the next 10 miles are going to suck 🙂
Getting to mile 19 was awesome because there, like a scene out of a movie, was this glorious image of light beaming down and the “Hallelujah” chorus of angels singing was the most wonderful thing in the entire world…Bacon at an aid station!!!!!!!! I grabbed a handful, chugged some water and just kept moving. My last 10 miles worth of splits were terrible, but I knew that this was where most people in marathons will bonk and just spent the next 7 or so miles offering up words of encouragement and anything that I might have that would help pull people out of a pit. That’s what we ultra runners do, we know that at some point the race is going to suck, so why not help someone out of theirs.
Coming out of Waterworks Park into Gray’s Lake was two enormous cranes with the American flag flapping in the wind. What an amazing sight.
The wind around Gray’s was TERRIBLE and it sucked everything out of me that I had left. Yuck!!!! As we came up to MLK Bridge, I was shocked to see my friend Julie coming up right behind me. She looked AMAZING!!!!! So strong and just working her a$$ off!!!! She very briefly told me that she was on pace for a huge PR and Boston qualifier and I knew it was my duty to bring her in strong. I didn’t have much left in the tank, but I knew that I was on a mission. I would push ahead of her hoping that she would come after me, but she was pushing with everything she had and I didn’t want to get too far ahead of her. Some words were said that were between she and I that I will not repeat, but I knew the lion was in her and it needed to come out.
The crowds were getting bigger and more frequent and so many friends were out spectating. I found myself getting into the role of “crowd pumper upper guy” just trying to get people to scream for her and not even paying attention to what my watch was saying. She was digging with everything she had. As we turned onto Court Ave, I kept screaming “you’ve done it!!!!! There it is!!!!!” and was so excited to cross the finish line with her. What a powerful experience. It is one of the highlights of my life to help others reach their personal goals. What an amazing way to end the race….Oh….and I ran an hour and 25 minute PR at the marathon and beat my time goal by 3 minutes 😉
And that’s what I love about this sport. It is intrinsically a personal thing. We chase after personal bests, medals or distances, but what should drive us as a secondary goal is to help those around us to be their best. In a world that is so focused on “me” and not helping our neighbor, what would it be like if we spent just a few minutes each day building up those around us and helping the other guy/gal be the best at whatever they are choosing to do. Dig deep folks, today is the day to change someone else’s life…
Again, a huge congratulations to all who ran in any of the IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend races. It was an amazing experience to be a part of and I can’t wait to see you all again.
As always, hats off to Chris Burch and his crew for putting on a world class event. Des Moines is an amazing community and I love living here and experiencing it with you. Make sure to support the locally run businesses in our community that support races like this.
I wish you all the best in your recovery and would love to hear how your race went down. In the comments section below, let us know.
Stay Strong, Run Long