From July 17:
I have paid the fee and am registered, officially, for the Houston Marathon in 2010.
I’ll probably even run it.
When I close my eyes I can still see the 2005 and 2006 iterations of the marathon. The one with crushing defeat, the other with waves of exhilaration. I was underprepared in 2005 and I knew it, but was hoping that guts would take over where preparation gave out. They did not, and brains stepped in for the guts and I had to shut it down. I can go out to the very point on the pavement where I knew it was over, too. And then there’s the spot a little further down where I actually threw in the towel. I can still feel the failure if I stop and ponder it for even just a moment. There’s a pain associated with it that’s not just physical, but something deeper and more profound. There’s even an acrid, acidic smell that comes to mind, too. Something like baking pavement, car exhaust, sweat, and demoralization.
DNFs are not the end of the world. They happen. I’ve pulled out of a couple of MS150s without the same sense of failure. But this was different. This was not “a” marathon. For me this was “the” marathon. I’m probably never going to qualify for Boston or travel the country running marathon after marathon. Houston IS my crowning marathon achievement. My Tour de France. My Everest. Quitting in 2005 was an admission of defeat. That hurt. It made me angry.
But that tight ball of hurt and anger became fuel that would start a fire burning in July that kept growing through December.
Those very same spots, the very next year, came to carry a new and different meaning. The first where I knew I was done in 2005 became the spot in 2006 where I knew I was strong enough to finish the thing. The spot where I had to quit and admit defeat became the spot where I spat on the ground because this time the course wasn’t going to win.
A new spot was added to the list, as well, and it exists both physically and mentally. This was the spot on the course where, based on the pace I was keeping and the distance remaining, I knew I was going to finish in about 5:30, right on schedule. That barring any injury or freak accident, I really, truly was going to finish. The goal was reached. I was going to win.
Tonight I’ll take in a short run. I’ve spent the last two days pouring and stuffing poison into my body, so I’m going to have to crank up the engine to burn some of it off. I’m going to pay for the poor choice of fuel, but what the hell. Pizza tastes good. Beer tastes good. Saturday or Sunday will feature a longer run (3 miles?) and another shortish ride (10 or 15 miles, maybe). I’m going to have to plan a trip back out to the Woodlands to scrub the embarrassment of the last RTW out of my hair, too. I know, I can go to Memorial and run a 5k there, but none of those runners know I’m chasing them down to pass them and nobody has a stopwatch or free goodies to give away, either.