I had company for the ’04 Marathon. My college friends Matt Hillen and Rob Bowers were also attempting their first marathons. We didn’t really have a plan and didn’t particularly know how fast we would run or even if we would run together. We made our way to the mess of the starting corral and joined the 30,000 runners or so in the Open corral. The Open corral is home to many first timers and in general, the slower runners. After the gun went off, we started the slow shuffle to the starting line. We finally made it and took off together. The first few miles are a blur. There were people everywhere, both on the course and on the sidewalks cheering on the 35,000 runners. People on the sidelines were cheering, clapping, ringing cowbells, yelling, screaming…you name it. As I mentioned before, they also will yell what ever is on your shirt. Rob had nothing on his shirt. Matt had “GOON SQUAD” on his. He tried to curve the GOON on the top of his shirt. He did it pretty well, but some people mistakenly read it as “GO ON SQUAD.” I decided to put “OREGON” on my shirt, in honor of Prefontaine. I put “ZABFONTAINE” on the back – a hybrid of my nickname “ZAB” and Prefontaine. In retrospect, I should have put it on the front, because people were yelling for Oregon and the Ducks throughout the marathon.
Somewhere around mile 5, my week-old Ipod crapped out on me. I was unfamiliar with re-setting it so when I first saw my stellar support crew in Boystown at Mile 7 or 8, I told gave it to them and told them to try to get it fixed and give it back to me in Chinatown – mile 22 or so. Rob, Matt and I stayed together up until the halfway point. Up until then, we were pretty much running three across except when Matt decided to jump around like a jackass. He was waving his arms up and down, trying to get the crowd to make noise, giving high fives, and jumping so he could see the crowd ahead. Rob and I were marveling at his antics because they were both funny and stupid. We thought that the extra energy he used dicking around would lead to him running out of energy later on. We hit the half way mark in 1:50:06. Somewhere around mile 14 or so, Matt pulled away from Rob and me. We stayed together until mile 16 or so, when I had to stop to go to the bathroom. I told him to keep up the pace and that I’d catch up to him. I relieved myself and proceeded to try to catch up to Rob. I finally caught back up to him in a half mile or so and he didn’t look so hot. By mile 17, Rob had told me to go ahead. I ended up going the rest of the way solo. I don’t remember the exact details from 17 to Chinatown. It was all pretty much a blur. I was just looking forward to seeing Tiffany, my family (Michael, Nick) and her parents. By the time I had made it to Chinatown, I saw the crew again. As it turns out, one of the best parts of the marathon are seeing your supporters. In some ways, the marathon almost becomes runs in between seeing the people that are out there to see you. You look forward to seeing them at these designated spots, despite the fact that you’re only spending seconds of a few hours with them. It definitely gives you a boost.
So, when I finally saw them at the corner in Chinatown, the thing that had been in my mind for about 14 miles or so was that they hopefully fixed my Ipod for me. So when I saw them, that’s the first thing I asked them. Unfortunately, they didn’t and basically told me to run the rest of the marathon. Not in a mean way. I think they were more surprised than anything that I just ran 21.5 miles and the first thing that comes out of my mouth was “Did you get my Ipod working?” I was looking forward to having it for the last 5 or so miles. Oh well. It wasn’t meant to be. Matt had passed by several minutes earlier and supposedly wasn’t looking too good. I kept on moving, slowing down every mile until the last 1.2 in the process.
I made the final turn onto Columbus from Roosevelt and could see the finish line. I ran as fast as I could down the homestretch and came across in 3:52:35.
I was gassed. I was elated. I was emotionally and physically drained. I had never done anything like it. And one of the first thoughts that popped into my head was that I think I’d like to do that again, and I think could do it better. I made my way through the the finishing corral to the runners reunite area. I was the first to get there out of the three of us. Soon after my support crew showed up, Matt showed up as well. He had the post-race mylar blanket tied around his neck like Superman and had a beer in each hand. Then he told me he was waiting for me at the beer cart, that's why he got back to the reunite area late. That's Matt for you.
I guess you could say I caught the marathon bug that day in Chicago and my marathon running addiction was born. Matt, despite his antics and looking like hell at mile 22, finished in 3:43 and Rob finished in 3:57. I placed 8,326 out of 33,125 finishers.
A few pics:
(L to R) Matt, Rob and me - before the marathon started
Nick and Michael, anxiously awaiting my passing through Boystown. Yes, Nick is wearing a suit. Not because it was my first marathon. He went to a wedding in the city the night before and stayed in the same clothes from the night before. Nice!
Here I am passing through Chinatown, right around Mile 22. I looked pretty good. My face does look a little swollen though, a theme that will be present in quite a few of the upcoming pictures.
Tiffany and me in the reunite area following the race.