As the saying goes, there is always a first for everything. This weekend was one of those experiences. Many people may call it a milestone. In ancient times, a milestone literally meant placing stones beside a road to mark the distance in miles between destinations. Now in modern times, we adopt the term to mean a very significant event in one’s life.
For me, my milestone was having just completed my 50th marathon. Big ” 5-0″!!! To a lot of accomplished runners, it is just a passing phase to the next 100, 150, and so on. But to me, it was big enough that I could scream and tell the whole world “I did it!”
I chose to run my 50th in San Diego, home to the very original Rock n Roll Marathon! This weekend was full of firsts, not just for me: Meb Keflezighi made his first debut masters record on that course for the half. And Henriette Thompson, a 92 year old woman made national headlines for being the oldest person to complete a marathon. What a feat for her age!!
I felt lucky to have chosen that course for my own big 5-0 race. The race weekend started with a wonderful Saturday at the expo. I met one of my fellow Marathon Maniacs, who happened to be the 4:25 pacer. And it was his 197th marathon!
On top of that, we got to hear Deena Kastor speak during a Q&A period. She was very articulate. And she covered topics ranging from her training, to her diet, to her aspirations. For those who don’t know Deena, she won the Bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. A very inspiring woman! Afterward, I got a photo with her. Lucky me! Unfortunately I just missed Meb’s Q&A talk, as we had to grab lunch. It would have made this a perfect day if we had stuck around.
Oh, another amazing thing with this expo was that they had a hair-braiding booth for the runners, sponsored by Paul Mitchell. So I stood in line to have my hair braided. I liked it! It was fun!!!
Around 2:00 pm my tummy started grumbling. So we left and grabbed a quick lunch in the Gaslamp Quarter, an old refurbished part of the city filled with excited runners. We picked a restaurant and got seated outside, observing runners and tourists walk by. Our server shared some history about the course – that in the old days, it was designed exclusively to draw local runners together for a very fun event. That year was 1998; now 17 years later, the Rock n Roll brand has grown leaps and bounds. They have races all over the U.S, Canada, Europe, and Mexico. Very successful branding for sure! But I must admit their events are fun, thus leading to their huge following.
After our light lunch, we headed back to our hotel and grabbed dinner shortly afterwards. Set the alarm for a 4:00 a.m. wakeup call and went to bed early.
The next morning, got ready and left in about 15 min. Many highway ramps were closed, so we were glad we left early. Plus, the earlier we got to the start, the higher our chances were of finding a parking spot. Of all the parking spots available, guess who parked behind us? My marathon maniac buddy. What a coincidence, really! We chatted all the way to the start, watched the crew set up, and noticed TV broadcasters getting ready for their newsfeed. Time just went by as we conversed, and before we knew it, it was time to start, right at 6:15 am!!
There were about ~4000 marathoners. A cloudy cool morning. The weather may have been perfect, but the course was not that easy. A lot of twists and turns. And not to mention about an 800+ foot climb between miles 20 to 22! That was real tough, as the sun began peeking out and the humidity intensified. But the earlier miles were neat: we passed by little Italy, Mexican town, a few quaint areas of San Diego, then we routed along the marina bikeway, which was about midway. From that point on, I only remembered climbing those brutal hills. Luckily, I had Mr. Elvis running close by to help divert my pain and agony. Oh, and not to mention, the group of firemen – I thought they were outrageously amazing. Wearing their uniforms in that kind of heat to run the full 26.2 miles. I overheard some guys asking if they trained in their full attire as well. Amazing effort!!
Mile 23 came, and the volunteers were shouting no more hills…they were lying! We moaned and groaned until about a mile to go. Then some volunteers said 8 more blocks, 6 more…my God! It felt like 60,000 blocks in my head!
As I turned the corner, I saw the finishing line but felt like I had no gears left. Nevertheless, I was so happy to finish. This was a tough one. But I did it! My 50th Marathon DONE!!!
Even as I write, this experience hasn’t quite sunk in as a major moment/achievement in my life. When my legs return to normal, maybe I will soak in my own glory!!!
I will always remember this journey, and where my running has taken me! As for now, like they say, “the journey is more important than the destination”!