As I wrestled with my sheets Saturday night exhausted from an early morning long run it dawned on me that my trip to St. George in two months would mark the 20th anniversary of my best marathon ever. It set my mind to thinking about the events that led up to that fortuitous day.
1990 was a tough year personally. Running was about the only thing that was going right in my life. I piled on the miles that spring which included a move from Phoenix to Kansas City. Despite the hard work including my first 100 plus mile week in more than 15 years my racing was so, so. The spring culminated with Kansas City's famed Hospital Hill Half Marathon. I remember the race quite well. I ran the first seven miles with Dr. Greg Hartman, an outstanding masters competitor at the time. I was shooting for a sub 1:20 effort and I can remember Greg gently scolding me for pushing the uphills too hard. He was right because by mile eight I was feeling flat and couldn't take advantage of the gentle downhills offered on Brookside Boulevard. Then as I began the climb up Broadway back toward Crown Center and the finish line I realized Steve Riley was coming up from behind. I began a three mile push to the finish and barely beat him to the line.
I was one unhappy camper. I had failed to break 1:20 by a handful of seconds and I realized that I felt fresh enough to run the course again at the same pace as soon as I had finished. The training that followed was lackluster and half-hearted at best through the next two months. Sometime in mid-August I realized that an opportunity was slipping away and began training feverishly for St. George. My mileage suddenly climbed from 50 miles a week to 80, then 90, then more than 100. I added a steady diet of races in with the high mileage and suddenly I knew that my long time goal of breaking 2:40 for the marathon was within reach. Steve Riley even pushed me through my final long run, a 26 mile effort in 2 hours and 56 minutes.
October came and I stood at the starting line knowing I was fit and full of run. I ran within myself for the first seven miles of gentle downhill awaiting the testing climb and rolling hills to come. I hit the halfway point in 1:21:20 full of confidence and full of running The time came to race shortly after 13 and a half miles when the bottom drops out on the course and I started to fly. Coming off a series of 6:15 miles I was suddenly clipping along at 5:35 pace. By 17 miles I had slipped by my good friend Craig Davidson feeling great.
Marathon running is about resource management and I knew I had to be careful not to go too hard too soon or I could fall apart and fail. Mile 21 was my fastest at just a touch under 5:30 and I knew my goal was well within reach. It wasn't until I hit the last mile that the effort started taking its toll. I knew I would break 2:40, the only question was by how much. Part of me wanted to get greedy and go for something under 2:39 but I held back and finished in 2:39:24.
I look back on this race as one of my most satisfying because I had a goal and a plan that I executed to perfection. My efforts had paid off with a personal best and an age group award to boot. Now, 20 years later, I'm training hard, running about half as many miles as I did back then, yet I'm looking forward to running my slowest marathon ever!