"Last mile, buddy. Remember this."
As I pounded out my last, painful strides on the Missoula asphalt, my dad rode alongside on his bike and spoke these final words of wisdom. "Remember this." He had come from Seattle to be a part of this day and ridden the entire marathon route, stopping every few miles to snap a photo and give a little encouragement.
My legs lightened, then disappeared.
I rounded the last corner onto the Higgins Street Bridge. And there, on the left, was my mom, cheering with hands in the air, and my stepdad smiling ear-to ear. "Go, Michael!" They had loaded me up with homemade carbs the day before, and driven four hours just for this moment.
I kicked hard and challenged the guy next to me, "Let's go!"
Exhausted. Don't fall. Stay up. I knew Lisa, the kids, and my in-laws were right there. I could hear the cowbell. Lisa had gotten up at 4am to drive me to the start. Didn't want to miss a single moment. She had encouraged me through months of training, put up with my stress and worry on this "vacation", and even helped the kids make big posterboard signs for the finish.
I put one hand in the air and stomped the timing mat.
Two of my dad's old Montana running buddies were the first to find me. "You're in the club now." Then came Lisa, glowing with excitement and wrapping herself around me for the best hug ever. Next my kids, not normally out of bed before noon in the summer. Suddenly everyone was there. The picture I had painted in my head, the one which kept me going through the thousands of steps now behind... the picture had come to life.
There's nothing particularly heroic about running 26 miles. Just about anyone can put one foot in front of the other for a few hours. It was not a sense of having "conquered the roads" that made me feel like a hero in Missoula last weekend. It was my family's love. And that is what I will always remember about my first marathon.
Missoula Marathon | Sunday, July 12, 2009
Time: 3:32:12 | 13mi Split: 1:42:52 | Pace: 8:06 | Place: 80th of 615