This past weekend Jeff and I were in St Louis. We went to a Cardinals game…
…Met the newest family member who arrived just in time for our visit… …And did a jump photo at the St Louis Arch…
But the focus of the weekend was for Jeff to run the St Louis Rock and Roll Marathon!
Coming into marathon week, Jeff decided that he would shoot for running a 7:15 pace or run a 3:10 marathon. Based on his training and how he performed in the Denver RnR Half Marathon in September (1:30:33), I was confident that he would achieve this goal.
He had discussed trying to run a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time (under 3:05:00), but was unsure if he could do it and didn’t want to add unnecessary pressure to make that his goal. Honestly, I thought it was a stretch for him to run a 7:03 pace for 26.2 miles and was glad he had made this decision. I didn’t voice my doubt in a BQ time, but I was glad he was being practical.
The night before the race I overhead Jeff talking with his older brother Chris. They discussed Jeff’s training and Chris felt like Jeff was conditioned to run a BQ time. Chris encouraged Jeff to play things by ear the next morning, but to start out at a 7:00 minute pace and to try to maintain this fast pace (or faster if he felt good) for as long as he could (and this is advice coming from someone who has qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon 3 times, with a personal best of 3:00:06).
Chris is an extremely positive and confident person and began to give Jeff a pep talk; I witnessed Jeff’s face light up and saw an added confidence that I had not seen in a while. I knew Jeff wanted this, he wanted to run a 3:05 and to qualify for Boston. I began to believe in Jeff as well and felt like such a Negative Nancy for not believing in him before!!!!
The morning of the race Jeff was positive, confident, and felt great. He was giddy with excitement and could not wait to get to the start to begin his 26.2 mile journey. The weather was perfect, in the 50s and sunny, and Jeff was in his hometown. Jeff would definitely get a PR (he previous PR was 3:19) and HOPEFULLY a BQ time.
I planned to wait at Mile 1 (near the hotel) to cheer for him, run to mile 5 to catch him again, and then wait for him at mile 16 where I would jump in and run the last 10 miles with him. I would carry a water bottle with electrolytes, GU, and my cell phone. We decided that I would maintain a 7:00 min pace so he could just follow me and not concentrate on a time or pace. I would also give him water/GU/electrolytes when he needed it. Jeff’s parents, Bob and Marcia, were also on the course riding their bikes to cheer him on in as many locations as possible.
Mile 1-5 I saw Jeff cruising along with a HUGE smile on his face, ahead of the 3:00 pace group. Obviously he felt good and was going with a faster pace (about a 6:45 pace). I called Bob and told him Jeff had ran by and they waited for Jeff at mile 3. Jeff ran by and Bob and Marcia rode their bikes along side him for the next few miles.
Mile 5- I ran ahead to Mile 5 and waited a few minutes before the runners began to run by. The 3:00 pace group passed and Jeff was a few minutes behind him, right on pace. Again, he was cruising along with a smile and said he felt great. Miles 5-15.5- I ran to Mile 16 where I waited for Jeff. In the meantime, Jeff’s parents saw him several more times and rode next to him for portions of the race. Bob called me periodically to give me updates and said Jeff was looking strong and was maintaining a 7:00 pace. Things were going very well! I was actually getting nervous that I could not keep up with Jeff and did a few strides along the course to get my legs ready to move fast.
Mile 15.5- I spotted Jeff and hopped onto the course. Jeff still had a smile on his face and immediately said, “I feel great! I can do this, I think I can maintain this pace!!!” Alright, let’s do this!!!
I ran beside Jeff or slightly ahead of him and offered him water/GU whenever he wanted. I would sprint ahead and get more water and would lead him to run the most efficient route. I would warn him of a hill and remind him to use down hills to his advantage. I was having an absolute blast!
Jeff began picking off people and probably passed 10 men from when I jumped in. We started seeing people struggling, but Jeff remained strong and on pace. At Mile 18 Jeff got a side stitch which remained for a few miles. I gave him more water and reminded him to tighten his core and try to concentrate on something else. Gradually the side cramp went away and he could concentrate on finishing strong.
Around Mile 23 there were several up hills and Jeff began to slow. Another gentleman was running with us at this point and starting pulling ahead. I stayed with the man who was running around a 7:05 pace and both of us were yelling at Jeff to keep up with us. I could tell Jeff was ready to finish. He wasn’t struggling, but dropped to a 7:20-7:30 pace.
At mile 25 Jeff looked at his watch and exclaimed, "I TOTALLY have this!” Apparently he had calculated that he was going to make it under 3:05. He then demanded that I call his brother Chris. So I dialed up Chris and put him on speaker and ran beside Jeff the last mile with Chris and I yelling out encouragement. With the finish line in sight, Jeff’s legs kept slowing but he pushed on. I got off course with 1/4 mile left and sprinted up the sidewalk towards the finish. I thought he had done it, I was sure he had snuck under 3:05 to qualify for Boston.
I jumped over the fence to join Jeff just past the finish line and gave him a huge hug. No hug back, instead I hear a string of expletives as he thrusts his watch in my face. It read 26.53 miles and a total time of 3:05:06. $hit. I told him to not be disappointed yet and to wait for the official chip time. We walked out of the finish area and Jeff started to feel better, I mean he just shaved 15 minutes off his PR!!!!
Then I got a call from Chris who checked the official results. “3:05:04. He didn’t get it.” Somehow Jeff had energy left and throws his water bottle against a building, “THIS IS BULL$HIT! The course had to have been long or the time is off!! 4 SECONDS?!?!” I felt so terrible for him; I can only imagine what he was feeling and what was going through his mind.
Regardless of being 4 seconds shy of a BQ time, he ran phenomenally. He felt great and enjoyed running in St Louis on a beautiful day. He exceeded his expectations. I am so proud of Jeff and how far he has come! Especially considering he gave up running for over a year and just started getting back into it this January.
Oh and he is already scouring the internet for a marathon to run in the next few weeks. His legs feel great and he wants to try to run another marathon while he still is in great shape…… he WILL get a BQ time the next time he runs a marathon.