The goal was pretty simple - PR. My best of 2:44:59 (sounds better than 2:45) was an eight minute improvement achieved in April on a fairly challenging Derby Festival Marathon course in Louisville. Looking at past results and hearing the horror stories of how hilly this St. Louis course was had me thinking it would be a tough day that might yield a top ten result if I was lucky.
Coming off the line with the 1/2 marathoners is always tricky business in terms of keeping yourself in check, but I stayed well under my threshold and, despite a tight hip/hamstring combo, the miles ticked off pretty easily. I was feeling strong fitness wise and made the turn at the 1/2 mark in the 1:21 range, and was curious to hear for the first time what position I was in now that we had left the halfers. I saw my girlfriend right where she was supposed to be she said "you're fourth!"
Fourth? I double-checked my watch to make sure I hadn't gone out stupid fast. Nope. Right where I should be, but I knew more hills were coming and just kept my focus up the road ahead and on running efficiency. Probably over-compensating for the leg tightness, I was drinking at every aid station and eating lots. It was working. My energy levels were high, and I was getting used to the fact that I had a personal bike escort showing me the way. Then, running through Forest Park, I saw a strong looking guy coming the other way on a two-way section of course. A minute later, I was rounding a 180. That meant the guy I just say was right in front of me. Could this be happening? A shot at third place? Finally we exited Forest Park, my bike guy told me that it was a straight shot back. I looked up the wide rolling highway and saw the third place guy and his bike escort. Maybe needing some conversation, I told my bike guy "it's a hard place to be - just wanna make it all up at once." To which he replied, "man, you look better than he does - just keep doing what you're doing." I took his advice.
With about 5k to go I pulled even with my target then rolled away. My bike guy went with me and his stayed with him. It was a little surreal. Was I really running 3rd in a huge city marathon being escorted by a medical bike? The legs were really really tight, but my head felt good so I just concentrated on not blowing up. A couple twists and turns downtown and I was looking at the shoot. One more look over my shoulder and a glance at my watch. 2:43!