I loved playing basketball growing up. This passion started at a young age, I was on my first organized basketball team in 3rd grade as part of the AV Youth Basketball League. Each year from that point until graduating from Arcadia Valley High School I was on a basketball squad bleeding Tiger blood. Basketball was my first athletic love. I still find myself daydreaming about my best games, the hardest practices, and lessons basketball taught me in life. I realize today is Halloween and while reading this you might feel "Tricked" because you expected only information about the Atlanta Marathon, but trust me. Keep reading and you will recieve your "Treat".
I grew up in a rural area in southeast Missouri consisting of three neighboring small towns, added together they held a whopping 2,400 people. Our town was known for being a basketball town. This is partly due to succesful players that have come from our area. Chris Carr, my neighbor growing up, made it to the NBA. Virtually everyone of these ball players were impacted by Coach Lashley. He remains one of my favorite people and coaches to this day. If I was blaming the refs on a blown call he would not hesistate to put me in a headlock, yell at me, and snap me out of my negativity. He would continue to stress to us athletes that we can control what happens with the ball but cannot control the refs and fans. After playing for him for 2 years and developing a friendship upon graduating, I understand more what he meant. He was stating to do your best and do not blame outside influences for your preformances. That lesson from basketball applies well to the Atlanta Marathon that I ran this weekend, I cannot blame my preformance on outside issues.
Melissa and I were both able to travel to Atlanta, which always makes the trips better. We did not know what to expect with the race. She was battling a cold most of the week, and I was going on little sleep. I just could not resist the urge to stay up late this past week and watch the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series. Despite that we felt that we had a chance to be competitive, possibly top 3.
Race day welcomed us with a brisk 43 degree temperature at the 7 AM start time. Typically this is fine weather to compete in, but getting used to it takes a few runs. Neither of us were worried about the weather, but the 19 uphills on the course seemed a little daunting. The evening before at the packet pickup a race official stated that this course is hard because there is literally no flat sections which make pacing nearly impossible. Gee thanks for the honesty, but that haunted my dreams the night before. With a loud shout of "Go" 1200 of us marathon runners were off...
We started down a steep hill, turned right, and went up a steeper hill. That was just in the beginning half mile! By mile 2 I was in a three person pack in the front. Soon after mile 3 I found myself in the lead, I also found myself having to pee. Just before mile 4 I decided to call a "timeout" and relieve myself. Due to the 7 AM start time we were still running in the dark, this made a pitstop easier to do. Fortunately enough that stop did not cost me the lead nor did I have to stop again. The race course went past several landmarks that I have seen on television, but now was seeing in person. It was a surreal moment for me. I found myself daydreaming a lot during the race.
Running past Centennial Olympic Park I thought about the unfortunate attack that occured during the 1996 Olympics. Not far past the Olympic Park we passed under the Olympic rings. That was total chicken skin. (Goose bumps to those who do not use the term chicken skin) The Olympic Rings prompted me to recall my favorite 1996 Olympic moments, but these memories came to a crashing hault, literally. A bicyclist out on a morning leisure ride just side swipped me! I stumbled some but did not fall to the ground. I could have lash out at him, but like in basketball, I could not blame others, including bad fans. The next landmark we passed was the Atlanta Braves baseball stadium, I looked it over briefly, but tried not to lose my focus, per chance another biker tries to take me down.
The aid stations were laid out roughly every mile to mile and a half. The first few aid stations were doing everything right. The volunteers were cheering loudly, signs were marking which drinks were where, and gels were even handed out at mile 8. Things were going great. My hands were a little frozen because my gloves were wet, but besides that I felt like I was running well, but maybe I was running too fast. From mile 8 on I was running ahead of the race committee van that drove around the course to stock the aid stations. This was annoying, but to prevent any bodily harm due to dehydration I adjusted my pace and tactics accordingly.
Even without fluids the aid stations were stocked full for supporting people, but all they had to work with was a table of cups full of air. Maybe these were oxygen replacing stations instead of hydration stations. Either way I just took in the cheers and used that to keep me moving up and down the hills. One fan late in the race noticed this situation and offered me a unopened water bottle. Bless her heart, it helped a lot, but did not make up for loss of fluids. As with any dehydrated athlete I probably was a little grouchy after crossing the finish line, even though I won I was not interested in talking to anyone about how the race went. I simply wanted to sit in our warm rental car, change into dry clothes, sip on sports drink, and wait for Melissa to finish. During this reflecting time I concluded that unless I wanted Coach Lashley to put me in another headlock and yell into my ear that my excuse was, "A pile of bullbutter" I needed to be grateful for the marathon organization and this event. Even without proper fluids and a hilly course I still managed to win, which is enough to be happy about. My time of 2:33:45 was not near as fast as my goal time, but not every goal gets achieved.
After Melissa finished she too changed into dry clothes. Then we walked around the post race area. Every race volunteer was eager to talk to us about our win. Such a great group of people. This charming spirit completely made up for the lack of fluids. We were happy to be there and glad we made the trip to run the Atlanta Marathon. Winning this race together will be a memory I will reflect on later in life, but not now. I am busy thinking about my junior year in high school when the basketball team went 27-2. I sure miss playing basketball, but winning the Atlanta Marathon was also a lot of fun. I can never go back to high school to play basketball again, but hopefully I can make it back to Atlanta to win this marathon again.