Minnesota was very kind to me - I guess that's why they call it Minnesota Nice. I flew in early to Minneapolis and drove my rented car about two and a half hours north to Duluth. The road was scenic, even the large stretches of road that was under construction. The view of the city on Lake Superior as you enter was breathtaking - the way the bridges and the water meet as you come down the road - it was all very picturesque. The packet pick up was easy and well organized. Since I got there around lunchtime, I decided after I picked up my packet that I would grab lunch at their pasta dinner. It was there that I received the call from my mother saying my Uncle Evan, who had been battling lung cancer for months, wasn't doing too well. She told me that I should run tomorrow as best as I can and to think of him. I sat at lunch contemplating.
I stayed in Moose Lake, Minnesota, which is a solid forty-five minute drive south of Duluth. I really didn't want to stay for two nights, the minimum of most hotels in the area, and the price here was reasonable. When I pulled into the parking lot around 2PM, it was completely empty of cars. I had visions of the Shining...
Inside, I was able to check in to my room, where I grabbed a nap, then a dip in the pool and jacuzzi. I like to soak before my marathons - it keeps me loose. After, I found a tiny place to grab my pasta dinner, went back to my hotel room, and watched Oceans 13 while soaking in the tub in my room. It was a suite - sweet!
In mile 15, I passed a guy who started walking, so I made it my goal to try to motivate him to stay with me. He told me he was a triathlete and this was his first marathon. I encouraged him and gave him some good mental imagery, but he faded after a few miles. I did this with a few runners, and some stayed as long as they could and others said thanks but they were fine.
Heading into mile 19, I noticed that my last few miles had crept in 8:00 minute per mile pace. The temperatures had dropped a bit as clouds came in, and it was then I decided I was going to try to lay down the hammer for the final 10K. As I neared the 20 mile mark, I picked up my pace, sharpened my form, and turned over my legs with better efficiency. Plus, I kept in mind what my mother had told me, so I said to myself, "Okay, Uncle Evan, you're running with me the final 10K!"
And, it worked. I dropped nearly a minute per mile off my pace the next mile. I started to feel good and my legs felt capable of holding this pace, so I tried to maintain it as best as I could, all the time repeating in my head, "Stay with me, Uncle Evan!" I passed people and the crowd saw me surge and cheered louder, which only fueled my mental game. At one point in the 22nd mile, I became so overcome emotionally thinking about my uncle, I started to cry! I had to tell myself to stop crying because I needed to breath calmly and normally.
The thrill of passing people late in the race was exciting and I was on my mental game. As I passed the 23 and 24 mile markers, the end game was in sight. All I had to do was hold this pace. There were a few small hills remaining, but it was nothing that was going to deter or slow me. The 26th mile was when I started to fade again, but by then I had come too far and was too close to the end to passively back off. I went into my "sprint" for my finishing kick and held off a few runners I was pretending I was competing with, and I crossed the finish line a few seconds over 3:20.
(.2) - 10K 45:32/ Half 1:37:22/ 16.2mi 2:01:22 / 19.3mi 2:26:35 /
23.1mi 2:56:04 / 25mi 3:10:46 - 487th out of 5785 finishers
For the temperatures that day, I was impressed with my effort. I had erased the scar of Boston, and reminded myself I can run a marathon without walking and feel strong.
It was the 19th marathon I completed in my 11th different state. I am well on my way to finishing the 50 state club by the time I am 50. I did experience a weird situation with my eye after the race. I couldn't get them to both focus for about ten minutes. I almost went to the medical tent, but it cleared up, so I grabbed a snack for the road and water and Gatorade. Then I took off for Minneapolis where I caught the Twins v Brewers game.
In the morning, I grabbed breakfast at the airport and was texting Keith while trying to find the Larry Craig Memorial Bathroom stall when my Dad called to tell me Uncle Evan had passed away just minutes earlier. I paused, reflected, and said a prayer, then called my brother who booked me a flight from Baltimore to Providence. I would like to remember the words of wisdom he gave to me the night before Boston and his confidence in me that I'd finish as well as the thoughts I had during my race. Life is funny sometimes as there are no guarantees, and each race and every run I pause to appreciate what I have and how fortunate I am.