It’s over…it’s all over!
After months and months of anticipation, speculation, and apprehension (not on my part), it was now time for what will probably be my last marathon of this year’s racing season. The 5 Points of Life Marathon isn’t one of the biggest or even one of the best marathons out there, but it does offer something that will forever be near and dear to my heart…it is in Gainesville. This would be the fourth year in a row I have entered the 5 Points of Life Marathon, and it is the scene of both my best finishing time and my worst finishing time. Gainesville is my home away from home; running through the streets gives me an adrenaline rush that no other race provides. I would need all the adrenaline I could get, as I was determined to set a PR (personal record) during this race.
After a week of light running and recovery from 26.2 With Donna last weekend, I left Saturday morning around 9:30 am. I would be staying with Lindsey and her roommates (Marisa and Mallory) this year instead of my friends Paula and Bill. I picked up Lindsey at 2:30 pm and we made our way to the race expo. With only 861 participants (168 running the full; 693 running the half), the expo was once again very small. However, I was able to score a pretty nice “I Run Gainesville” running shirt, which I decided to wear for the race. We had lunch at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and did some shopping at the Oakes Mall. It was there that we ran into “Awesome” Amy, who is a member of the Turtle Running Club of Ocala. We had discussed running together for the race, but she was obligated to run with some of her friends who would probably be running a slower pace than I had planned. After shopping, we went back to Lindsey’s apartment, watched the Gators basketball game against Arkansas, and then went to dinner at Blue Highway Pizza. I went to bed around 11:30 pm, as the ladies embarked on a marathon of their own…nonstop episodes of Dawson’s Creek.
I woke up at 5:00 am, which was like sleeping in. The race started at 7:00 am, and I was only ten minutes away. The temperature was 70 degrees, which was 40 degrees warmer than last week in Jacksonville. There was a 70 percent chance of rain, but it was just warm and humid when I left Lindsey’s apartment. I met up with Amy and her friends, took some photos, and made my way to the start line. It was strange running a marathon without either Elaine, Jen or Pam, but I just used this as motivation to make them proud of my finishing time.
This marathon has more hills than any other race I compete in, including Ocala. After three miles (and one potty stop), I was already soaking wet from the humidity. The first part of the race takes you west on Newberry Road, then a right turn on 43rd Street, and another right at Milhopper Plaza back towards downtown Gainesville. Mile ten puts you on the campus of the University of Florida, where you get to run through “The Swamp,” down Fraternity Row and past Lake Alice. This is the point where the half ends and the real adventure continues.
For the next two miles, I literally saw one other runner. This is one of the disadvantages of running in such a small race, as you sometimes wonder if you are the only one running. Fortunately, I know the course pretty well, and they have made significant improvements over the years to have more volunteers directing the runners. I would be passing Lindsey’s apartment at mile 15, so I called ahead on my iPhone and asked her to bring me a soda, a bag of M & M’s and the camera for an action shot of me. When I got to her, I was greeted with a can of Diet Mountain Dew Code Red, but no chocolate or camera. Lindsey offered to run back to her apartment and get the other two items, but I couldn’t afford to wait that long. Besides, I was grateful that she rolled out of bed as early as she did (9:30 am) to accommodate me.
I was pretty beat at this point, but I was keeping a steady pace going. I still didn’t see any other runners, but lots of encouragement from the police officers directing traffic. I was now entering what I consider the worst part of the race. From mile marker 17 to mile marker 22, you run west on Williston Road, which is best described as a highway. This five mile stretch from hell is as boring as it gets. To make matters worse, there was a 30 mph headwind to add to the misery. It was so gusty at points that you had to walk until the wind died down. I did pass several runners along the way, as they were struggling as much as I was. The wind really took its’ toll on me, and it was apparent that today would not be the day for the PR I was hoping for.
Once I made the right turn on NW 34th Street, the wind was now at my back. I did have to endure a brief shower, which actually cooled me down a bit. I was able to pass a few more runners during the last four miles, but I was pretty spent when I crossed the finish line (despite how happy I look in the photo). I missed my PR by only seven minutes, which was also the third best time for me in a marathon.
After a shower and then lunch with Lindsey, I made the drive back to Coral Springs. I had never been so tired driving home after a race, and actually considered staying at Lindsey’s apartment one more night. I downed a Rockstar on the drive (250 mg of caffeine) and eventually caught a second wind. When I got home, I saw that my Facebook page was blown up with congratulations and people telling me what an inspiration I was for completing four marathons in five weeks. I actually get very humbled when I get complemented like that. I do realize that not everybody could accomplish what I have, but in my mind, it’s what I do. That being said, I was verklempt when Pam posted on my Facebook wall: “So proud of you. It's an honor to say I run with you!”
I’m grateful that I held up as well as I did physically, and I want to thank everyone who has supported me from the time I announced my intentions, until this last race.
KEEP TRACK OF MY RUNNING ON