I’ve completed 12 marathons and countless shorter races without a single DNF. If you’re superstitious, the fact that the Columbus Marathon would have been my 13th might appear unlucky. And attempting another the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon exactly 13 days later would appear foreboding.
If you remember, my goal for the Columbus Marathon was to break 3 hours. That time goal was based on 5k and 10k races and some decent workouts. Mainly, however, I wanted to complete the marathon feeling strong (no bonk!) and set myself up for a strong assault on the 2:43:00 Olympic Trials qualifying standard.
Race day dawned with perfect weather and I hung out in the elite hospitality room with some friends, Jasmine, and Patrick and baby JB. Oh — and my obstetrician! She is also a runner and was volunteering. I was surrounded by friends on the starting line and felt calm but eager to see what I could do.
As planned, I took the first mile easy relative to the sub-3:00 goal pace of 6:52/mile. In the past I’ve consistently hit the wall in marathons which I believe is related to starting out too fast. I ran 7:07 feeling like I was walking and gradually eased into the next few miles: 6:52 6:32 6:39 6:39 6:32. Passing the 10k, I tossed my arm warmers and enjoyed seeing lots of familiar faces from my running club.
I was thrilled with how easy the pace felt and cruised through 6:50 and 6:42 splits before a familiar feeling hit. I ducked in a restroom with a glance at my watch. 75 seconds later I was back on the road, splitting 7:45 for mile 9, consciously trying not to hustle to make up the lost time. The course turned a bit around German Village before the long slow uphill of High Street. The pace was still steady and comfortable: 6:40 6:39 6:45 6:41 6:52 6:43 — but my GI system was starting to scream again.
I lost my positive attitude and even some rationality here. I couldn’t stop thinking about potentially needing many more stops and missing my time goal. I couldn’t stop thinking about quitting. Spotting a potty just after mile 15, I stopped my watch.
The Columbus Marathon was my first-ever DNF in 19 years of competitive running. I had (and still have!) a lot of emotions about quitting to sort through — but physically I was feeling great the next day. When a friend mentioned he was considering running the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon two weeks later, I was in.
Backstory: In 2011, I tried to run 2:46 at Chicago and had a rough day in the heat, but came back 27 days later to run a big PR at Monumental — a nonqualifier, but a joyful, well-executed race. So I was hopeful I could make history repeat itself in Indy this year.
I wasn’t nervous in Indianapolis on that cold, windy morning. Tucking into a large pack I ran smoothly through 9 miles of mostly headwind averaging 6:50 pace. However in mile 10 I stepped into a restroom, but was on the road again in less than a minute, finding another pack to shield the wind. I passed through the half marathon point just under 1:30 dreaming of the tailwind we’d have in the second half.
However, just past 15 miles I needed to stop again. Mile 15 again? I was repeating the pattern of Columbus, not my successful Indy run of 2011. This broke me mentally.
Despite the tailwind, I never regained my momentum, even breaking stride to walk briefly in mile 17. I was set on finishing this damn marathon, but I was preoccupied that my dad (who was watching JB back downtown) would be worried by my late arrival and they would spend too much time outside in the cold waiting for me. My third bathroom stop just before 22 miles was particularly disheartening. Four and a half miles seemed so long. When I exited and a kind nurse asked if everything was okay, I decided it was time to quit again.
So where does this leave me? Well, first I have made plans to see my doctor to form a plan to curb the recurrent GI issues. I also need to work on my mental game for when things aren’t going as planned. Following the Monumental DNF, I’d sent a few texts to friends swearing off the marathon (I believe my exact words were “fffffff marathons”), but I’m already making plans for marathon 13 this spring.