Back in 2013 when I ran my first-ever marathon on what I dearly refer to now as my home course, it was going to be a one-time deal.
Run the 26.2 miles, pick up the finisher’s medal and be done with training for that distance. That’s sort of a joke now, especially among my friends who run or even those who don’t.
Last Saturday I completed my 20th marathon on the same course I started on. Fittingly, it was the 20th anniversary of the Top of Utah Marathon. I really didn’t plan it that way and actually didn’t realize it until my wife pointed it out to me a few weeks ago.
I had planned for my 10th marathon and had to run an unplanned one to make it work out so No. 10 was at Boston. But this time it just kind of fell in place.
The 20th and final Top of Utah Marathon was definitely one to remember, and the weather was great. The race will live on next year on the third Saturday in September like it has the past 20 years, but under a new name, course and owner. That’s fine. Troy Oldham has promised to carry on what has made this race so runner friendly.
As I ran the TOU on Saturday, memories popped into my head from the five previous times I’ve ran the course and the many years of covering the event for The Herald Journal. The year it snowed. The year a cattle drive in the canyon left the road, uh, less desirable to run on. The years when nearly 2,500 runners came down Blacksmith Fork Canyon and finished at Merlin Olsen Park. Watching friends finish their first-ever marathon and then following in their footsteps. Coming close to a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time and not even knowing what that meant. Running two BQ times on my home course and using one to earn a trip to Boston.
It was a flood of memories, and I tried to soak them in and use them to propel me to a good time. I would have loved to run a BQ one last time and was on pace to do just that until about mile 21. Reality sunk in as I started to struggle with heavy legs and exhaustion.
My son, who caught up with me for the latter part of the race, did all he could to encourage me. I kept checking my watch and running the numbers through my head. It became evident it wasn’t going to happen. Out loud I begged for that runner’s high. For me, that has meant running and not feeling the pain and just giving it all you have when your body is tired. It didn’t happen.
I missed a BQ by 10-and-a-half minutes. But I’m not disappointed. I ran hard and gave it my all. Sure, I could have skipped running a marathon the week before, but that was fulfilling another goal I set at the beginning of 2018. In the end, I was at peace. It was my best marathon time this year.
A few years ago, I would have been really upset with myself. Running friends have taught me to enjoy the moment. Do your best and live with the outcome. Most importantly, do it with a smile.
I placed in my age group and received one of those famous moose trophies. I saw some friends run their first-ever marathon and was delighted when they crossed the finish line. I saw friends at aid stations and along the route who cheered and lifted my spirit. Seeing my name in chalk about a mile down Hollow Road was terrific. Thank you Drew and Beth Neilson.
The Mile 23 aid station is manned every year by members of my local running family. It was great to get encouragement there. My wife had dropped off my favorite Powerade drink at this aid station, which was passed along to me as I went through.
It’s hard to explain to those who don’t run the camaraderie at races. I saw many familiar faces at the start line, along the course and at the finish, made a few new friends, ran some miles with some old friends, high-fived some great friends along the way as they waited to do the relay and just generally had a good time.
Crossing the finish line and having my wife there to greet me was incredible. She has been a big support to me this year as she has dealt with injuries and not been able to run as much. She has helped me through some struggles of my own, which I’m very thankful for.
Friends were at the finish line to congratulate me as well, which was much appreciated. In many ways, running has saved me.
With 20 marathons under my belt now, I really don’t know how many more I have in my future. I do know I will be running St. George in less than three weeks, and I’m signed up for two more in 2019. I would like to do Boston again.
For now, I will remember No. 20 being an awesome experience and glad it happened at the Top of Utah.