I have had the fortunate opportunity to be on the production side of major running races for the past 7 years. We sometimes call ourselves the ‘elves in the woodwork’ who raid the streets in the middle of the night to put all the plans in place- mile markers, decoration, metal truss with sponsor logos, turn arrows, you name it and we do it. So when runners start arriving at 5am, all the hard work has been done and the best part of every event can happen- RACE DAY!
I can safely say I have never disliked a marathon setup. However there have been a few ‘this is going to be rough’ moments like when it was full on hailing at 3 in the morning during the setup for the Cleveland Marathon or when a fencing company drove their truck into our finish line setup causing a full redo just hours before runners started to arrive. When these things happen though, there is no reason to fret because the bottom line is you need to shrug it off and make it better. For the Cleveland Marathon we actually just had a laugh at the weather because mother nature loves to through curve balls at our fine Midwest city – Go Cavs!
But enough of the lows and time to talk about the highs. It was a brisk September morning at Wright-Pat Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. The race director, Rob, had offered an entry into the marathon the year prior and I naively accepted. “How hard would it be to maintain my training? 26.2 isn’t that far, right?” Well over the course of the year, I had battled a leg injury and swapped my training to a more cross-fit style while my calf was healing. With about a month before the race, my leg was finally full go and I trudged through a few 15 miles days while still hitting the weight room.
Fast forward to 2 days before the race and I was in the gym with a tall order of squats, dead lifts, and some other leg exercises that can seriously kick your a**. I left the gym that night feeling fatigue but in good spirits.
Then the DOMS hit. DOMS is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and is the reason you think, “I feel okay!”, the day after a workout out but can’t get out of a chair without cursing your creator the day after that. Fast forward again and when race morning arrived, my legs were so sore that I wondered what the heck I was going to do on the race course. Would they hold up? Would I loosen up after a mile or two? Or would this be a rough, rough morning…
Now with all this complaining and doubting happening internally, one of the most memorable moments in my running career was about to take place. I was standing near the start line and listening to the final race instructions when I saw a plane start approaching in the distance. It was far away and at a high altitude but as it came closer it started to dive. And just like that this behemoth of a plane swooped over the start line to cheers, oh’s, and ah’s of the waiting runners. The Marathon does this amazing display every year with a different plane and this year was the U-2 Dragonlady. It wasn’t until the plane had fully passed overhead when the absolute ROAR of the engines could be heard and this was enough to give me goosebumps as I stared in awe. (Fun Fact: the medal every year will display whatever aircraft they do the flyover with)
All of a sudden it didn’t matter how my legs felt and it didn’t matter how under-prepared I was. All that mattered was it was race day and this race was dedicated to my grandpa who served and the active and veteran Air Force members stationed at home and abroad. My leg soreness would pass but this moment would be remembered for a long, long time.
Thanks for the read and thank you to the Air Force Marathon Staff, especially Rob and Rachel, for the Two 2018 Marathon Entries that will be given away on May 27 at the Veterans Honor Run.