It is very rare that I look back on my running career, but when I do it is easy for me to pinpoint a few key races that have lead to me being the runner I am today. This past weekend I was able to compete in the 45th Athens Marathon in Athens, Ohio, which was my fourth time running this event. Doing this event again allowed me to travel back down memory lane and look at the impact the Athens Marathon has had on my running career. I have previously ran this marathon in 2006, 2010, 2011, and now again in 2012. Lets take a short journey back through time and see how these races changed my running career. Starting with 2006...
Many people reading this could easily describe how I look when running a marathon, ugly, tired, slow, and wearing blue shorts, white race top, and of course a white MarathonGuide.com hat.
Even though the hat passed its test my body failed me on that day. I was 23 years old and still working towards being able to run back to back races at a quality level. The day prior to the Athens Marathon I competed in a half marathon in Columbus, Ohio. This depleted my body.
At the time I did not have a sound and tested system for taking in my GU Gels and energy drinks during a marathon, this might have lead to me barely surviving the race. I was grateful and excited to win, but full of pain from the event. This was even evident in my post race comments to the local newspaper, when I stated to kill me and throw me in a ditch. For the next three years I maintained my stance that the Athens Marathon was not for me, but then life changed on August 31, 2009.
I woke up that Monday morning, left the Buchanan, Michigan home I was renting and headed out to do farm work, thinking this day would be a fun day in the fields. That innocent bliss lasted for a few hours until a phone call arrived stating that my Father-In-Law had fallen off of a silo from roughly 24 feet up and was in a bad condition. To make a long story short we immediately moved from Michigan to Berne, Indiana to help on his dairy farm as he recovered from massive injuries. For the next 10 months I enjoyed learning more about the dairy farming industry, even if the milking schedule hindered my training and traveling. This is when the thought that "Life is not about you" really sunk it. It motivated me to help my Father-In-Law as much as I needed to even if it caused my running to suffer.
Due to this move we now lived closer to the Athens Marathon, which is why we returned to run the marathon in 2010. I found during that race that the race was actually not as bad as I previously thought. I guess compared to other obstacles that life might throw our way running an out-and-back marathon on a bicycle path is not that bad. The 2010 event ended similar to the 2006 event, a win but with a slow time. I looked forward to running the race again in 2011 to prove that I was faster than the efforts I had put forth at their marathon.
The 2011 Athens Marathon was one of my better spring marathons that year, not just because of my 2:29:39 winning time, but because I was able to stay competitive throughout the race. From mile 8 to mile 19 I had a tough competitor matching my efforts stride for stride. We traded surges several times, which I liken to boxers trading jabs. You might not win the match with some jabs but they wear your opponent down for when you want to land the killer uppercut. My knock out shot was a 5:29 mile for mile 20. Sure this is not a blistering fast mile but it is not the size of the hit as much as it impact that makes a difference.
This year my goals for the race were a little hazy. I thought it would be neat to try to win my 4th career Athens Marathon, which would tie me for most wins in the races history. This race represented my 3rd marathon in 3 weekends, but I did not feel any soreness. Maybe due to wearing Recovery Sock compression sleeves all week, or taking multiple ice baths. My training this past week finally started to get better as I did 2 speed workouts and was feeling stronger.
From that point on it was a solo mission to run as fast as I could. Unfortunately the mile markers were not accurate so it was hard to gauge how fast I was going. I decided it would be best to stay uncomfortable, push hard, and be aggressive, much like a honey badger. With the mile markers off it was hard to tell how close I was to breaking 2:30, which unfortunately I failed to achieve. I was able to win in 2:30:34, which gives me a good boast of confidence that I will soon be back to running like I should be. Sure I was a little disappointed not to break 2:30 again, but all that went away when I received one of my weirdest compliments ever. A spectator came up to me and stated, "Nice shins you have." I asked them to explain and they stated, "I bet you never get shin splints with shin bones like that." Odd indeed, but it did give me an internal laugh. I look forward to returning to the Athens Marathon in 2013, it has become an event that I really enjoy, a complete change from my initial impression.