Rhode Island

When it comes down to the toughest state I ever ran on my way to 50? I am sure most would point out that Georgia came in 15 minutes slower than any other state. It was a tough day and a friend recently told me that when she passed me she thought I didn’t look like I should be walking much less running a marathon. However the reason I would not agree is that by the halfway point I had already banked enough time I was sure I could run it just under four hours. I did run a 3:58 and the shuffle I did the last three miles could qualify as running… but just barely. I knew I was going to make it and it was never in doubt. The situation in Rhode Island… well that was just a little different.

Rhode Island is a small state in the Northeast as I am sure most of you are aware and due to the small size of it and the fact that the majority of 50 staters live far from these small states, they double up their Newport Marathon with the Hartford Connecticut Marathon on the same weekend every year. I was at dinner the night before Hartford and when friends asked me if I was going to sub 4 at all my last four states I told them there was a 1% chance I would not. Call me smug if you will but I do not believe in letting doubt enter the mind when I was just four states away!

I finished Hartford in 3:25 or so and actually would have been faster however some stomach cramps really slowed me down and forced me to walk. I do not like to give excuses but I did find walking was the one way to get rid of them. I also found out that running and drinking can cause them – and I mean water. Heck if I drink a beer during a marathon I stop and enjoy it! Besides party fouls exist whether during 26.2 or a house party! Anyway, after the race finished I showered up and met with Suzy and her fiancé to drive over to Rhode Island. I do not drive the Northeast very often but let me assure you if you ever do drive it? Give yourself an extra half hour because it seems like you will always need it!

Some of it was due to bad GPS, some was due to not quite knowing the area and some was due to traffic but we made sure to make it to our location with only an hour to spare. The line into the expo was massive! However guess what? Half marathon line was massive and the full marathon line was only about two minutes! Ha! We may have to wait longer to cross the finish line but at least we get to do it running! Payback halfers! Seriously half marathoners do from time to time have some hideous lines to wait through. I wish it wasn’t that way – only so many volunteers I suppose.

And just after that Suzy had lined up a free place to stay with a friend of hers named Jim. When we got to his place and I saw in the basement Boston Marathon medals and various other running and military awards I knew we would all get along. Suzy and I were both there to run the double marathon and her fiancé had run a messed up 5K the day before leading him to not feel like running on day two. He was considering the half but that line would have talked him out of it if he had not already decided against it. Jim and his wife made us a fantastic spaghetti dinner on the spot and were great conversationalists.

That night Jim had some great talks about running really stressing the importance of loving running and running every day. He leads up a running group and really believed the strongest runners were the ones who ran the most. And I told him how much I agree with him pointing out that most of my personal records come during the summer when I am loving the higher temps and my practice runs are at all time highs. I really wanted to stay up later and talk with him but it was the night before and I was somewhat tired. I would like to point out that my friend Karen did text me around ten and said I should not be reading this and be in bed already. Sorry Karen, I was quite up. I just wasn’t that tired! I saved that for the race…

And the next morning I was not overly tired either. We arrived at the drop off spot and I was able to drop off my bag with my friend Jennifer so I could get a ride back to Hartford with her and her friend. We got on the bus and rode over and I was able to meet Beth on accident. Beth actually is the person who certifies all finishes for the 50 States Marathon Club. We had actually been emailing all week regarding my finish and to meet her was really nice. She was doing the double as well and I believe finishing her second tour of the states.

One the bus dropped us off, there were so many people I knew, I just spent the entire time talking and getting along with other runners. These double events can be more social than anything else for us 50 staters and maniacs. With about 15 minutes to go I realized I had lost Suzy and glanced over to see her walking by herself. Hartford had been tough on her. It had hurt her and this race had a six hour time limit. She was more than a little concerned. I almost made my move to go talk to her but I stopped myself. Suzy seems to me to be a fierce independent spirit. I thought I bet she is psyching herself up and needs the alone time. I let her be.

However my concerns would just not go away! Stomach cramps set in just before the race again and as I walked through them, I started to cough. I got scared and now I was near vomiting! After getting red in the face and feeling okay, I just said screw it and got in the starting area.

I was able to talk to a great friend who I do not see enough in Patti who was nice enough to offer me a place to stay in Tulsa (that is one way we can keep travelling prices down from time to time) and I wanted to stay and talk but I was pretty far back and did not want to start quite that far back. When I run a marathon on back to back days I try to start out easy on day two so starting in the crowd is fine however I usually find I just streak out and pass a bunch of people by mile 2 in any case so starting behind the four hour pace people is not where I want to be.

I did find my way up to a group including my friends Lacey and Adam and we all had a good time talking as we waited for the gun. It was a delayed start and considering I was on a semi-tight schedule I was not happy! My friend Jennifer had already warned me she thought there would not be much time to spare in getting me back to the airport by five. I kept trying at convincing her we had plenty of time but she was not convinced.

And then we were off. I ran as I always do – picking off people left and right after finding a groove including another Marathon Maniac who was trying to run back to back Sub 4’s as well and the immortal Larry Macon (over 1,000 marathons completed) and talked with both briefly. I felt not great but I was going and still passing people until the Maniac caught me by Mile 8! I had just passed him three miles earlier?  Eventually on a double I will start to slow down, but eight miles in? Inconceivable!

At first I thought it had to be the wind! I am not used to some coastly gusts and I would catch him! Just wait. But then we got to inside town again and there I was not catching him. I could still see him but lots of people were passing me too! Excuses were made – they had to be halfers and besides we were on a hill! But even when it switched to downhill I was not gaining speed – I had lost my gust and then the worst thing of all happened. We got to the finish for the half marathon and I kid you not when I say the finish was not more than ten feet from where I had to run. So not only was I fading but I got to see all these other people happy and finish? It was completely demoralizing thinking I was just halfway done.

I now had to hit 16 miles by two hours (to ensure the sub 4) and instead I settled for 15.2 miles. The gusts picked up again and were pushing me around and then I had to break for water and that meant walking and that wasn’t helping anything. And then the pain of running 44 miles in two days kicked in and there was more walking. All I could see was 3:30 gone and pretty sure about the sub 4 but it was not going to be pretty or a surety. Just when I thought it was a really rough day, another runner stopped and walked next to me. He was going for a 3:42 PR. He had wanted better but it was not his day either. We got along and soon enough we were on the same rhythm. We were pushing each other. Half my spirit was back! I fell behind due to a hill and then the next thing I know I see him cramping and hurting!

I asked him if he was okay and he told me to go on. I believed he could do it and moved on to my fastest three miles to finish and passed over ten runners along the way. I made the most of the day I could and was relieved to be done.

The 3:42 I got was bittersweet as I had lost my friend and his PR was a 3:43. If he could have stayed with me, he would have made it. I watched him cross the line in 3:52 and was impressed he stuck it out. I watched all my friends cross the line – they all looked like the toll of the double had got to them as well. It was almost humorous as some runners who do not typically come in fast came in way before other friends. And lastly as I got back to the car I saw Suzy finishing up way before six hours and still running up the big hill – she looked great! I knew all she needed was that time alone with her thoughts to be okay. And I made it to my flight on time with two pit stops to spare!



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