I am so happy.
I have been telling my kids that happiness depends on happenings. Things happen that determine whether you are happy, angry, disappointed, etc. When good things are happening, people tend to be happy. I am very happy.
Joy, on the other hand, has nothing to do with happenings. Joy comes from Jesus.
Whether I ran well today or not, I have the joy of the LORD as my strength. That will never change. No one can snatch that away. (To be sure, I can choose to ignore, or fail to walk in the joy of the LORD, if I want to. That would be dumb, but millions of people do it every day.)
Well, today I am happy AND I have the unshakable joy of the LORD!
By the grace of God, I managed to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in 3 hours (technically 3:00:02, but who’s counting?!) That makes me VERY happy.
Not that this is an amazing accomplishment compared to something like attaining world peace, but for me, it is a really big deal. I came across the Finish Line, and I will admit that I shed some tears of joy. I was a bit emotional.
All glory to God! I really believe that God gave me the strength that I needed to reach this goal. Before the run, I prayed, “God, this is the day that you have made, and I am going to rejoice and be glad in it… but if it is not too much to ask, please give me 3 great hours of running today.”
That prayer came up over and over again as my feet pounded the pavement of the Rehoboth Beach Marathon. I can confidently confirm that God answers prayer!
The temperature was right around 38 degrees at the start line, and the wind was blowing in from the ocean. It was cold! I was shivering uncontrollably at the start. Teeth chattering, legs involuntarily bouncing back and forth, I prayed again as the countdown when down from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
The airhorn sounded it’s blast, and we were off!
I felt so much better when we were running.
There was a pacer for the 1 hour and 30 minute Half Marathon runners, so I decided to stick with him for the first while. I realized early on that I was really running well. Before we were even one mile in, I realized that he was a bit too slow for how I was feeling, so I allowed myself to go a bit faster. The first mile clicked in at 6:51. Okay… that is a little faster than I was expecting…
Mile 2 clicked at 6:43. Hmm… Should I be concerned?
I felt great. Really great. I decided to get a great 5k in and then I could slow down… Mile 3 clicked at 6:41 and mile 4 at 6:39. I was really running well, but I decided I should slow down a little bit. Still, I didn’t want to lose my momentum, so I tried to just back off a touch…
Mile 5 was 6:43 and mile 6 was 6:47. That was when things started to get a little tricky. Up to this point we were running on pavement. At mile six we ran in a small circle and then jumped onto gravel. I noticed that I had to really pick up my effort once we hit the gravel. Still, mile 7 was 6:44 and mile 7 clicked in at 6:30. I still felt great, even though I was working a bit harder to maintain my pace. Why am I running so fast? Stop it!
I didn’t stop it very well. Mile 8 clicked at 6:30 and mile 9 at 6:31.
Now I was an hour in to the race, and I prayed, “God, You are good! Please give me another 2 hours of great running.”
By mile 9 we were back on pavement, and I knew that I was going to see my epic cheering section around mile 10 and 11. That made me happy!
I saw the kids first, and then I saw Jodi. I threw my gloves at the kids because I had been carrying them for a couple of miles. Jodi handed me a Gu as I ran past her. Mile 10 was 6:36 and Mile 11 was 6:44. I saw Jodi and the kids again at mile 11 because there was a little loop around Dairy Queen by the ocean.
At mile 11 Jodi handed me a set of headphones, and I have to give a big shout out to Skillet. For the first time in the race, I was starting to feel some fatigue. Skillet’s “Awake” album was just what I needed! I turned it on, cranked it up, and felt like a Monster.
Around mile 12 we got back onto the gravel, and we had a few inclines, and it was hard work to keep rolling. I realized that I needed to dial it back a bit so that I had enough gas at the end. Mile 12-18 were 6:47, 6:43, 6:49, 6:45, 6:52, 6:55, 6:56, and 6:55, respectively. I was beginning to feel a slight cramp in my left calf. “No, Lord, please take that away.” Severe cramping in my calves during the Louisville Marathon destroyed my hopes of qualifying for Boston in 2018. It also led me to a terrible injury, and a long journey to recovery.
I had no Salt Sticks on me, but praise God, He took the cramping away.
Mile 18 is where I often crash, physically. My whole body just gets tired and I begin to shut down. I don’t think this is too uncommon. I think a lot of runners experience this. I was starting to feel the full body shutdown. “No bueno.”
At this point I had switched from Skillet’s “Awake” album to Polen Band’s “I Am X”. I’m not afraid to listen to myself while I run… haha. I was hoping that listening to and dissecting my own music would help keep my mind off of my pain. I was about 2 hours into the run, and I was beginning to feel the mile 18 wall that I have too often slammed right into. “Oh Lord, please give me one more hour of great running.”
I had strategically placed my wife and kids at mile 18.5 as a pick-me-up, so I knew that I would see them soon. I was starting to fade, and they were perfectly placed! At around mile 18.5 my wife handed me a bottle of Maurten Drink Mix. It was much needed. Unfortunately, it did not kick in right away, but I made sure to keep taking sips from it so that it would carry me to the end.
I knew that I had quite a bit of time in the bank, so I started to strategize, “If I can slow down a bit for a couple of miles, and keep from losing too much time, I can run a strong 5k to the Finish Line and still be right around 3 hours.”
Mile 19 was my slowest yet. I ran 7:03, then 7:11 for mile 20. My plan was working. My energy was growing as I was strategically slowing. The course turned back into gravel around mile 20, but I was still doing okay.
Then the unthinkable happened. In the middle of mile 21, in an instant, I had a full-on cramp in my left leg. I couldn’t go on. I stopped, let out a yell, and immediately started rubbing and stretching my leg.
“No, Lord! I’m so close! Please give me the strength to finish strong.”
I started running again, but mile 21 clicked in at 7:35. That was simply too slow! I had not factored in a mile that slow. My Boston Qualifying time was slipping away. Five more miles at that pace would not do.
“Oh Lord, I am depending on You! If I make it, it will be only because You gave me the strength to do it.“
It is hard to explain what happened next. Admittedly, I have run a LOT of miles over the last few years. I do not want to downplay my training. I also want to give a ton of credit to my buddies whom I have run many miles with over the course of the last several years. My brother, Brian Polen, Derrick Miller on Mondays, Michael Sullivan whenever we can fit it in, the Vertical Runner Group Run on Wednesday nights, and so many others have helped me to work hard and become strong enough to put a run like this together, but I have to say that all glory goes to God!
(Again, I understand that this run did not usher in world peace, but it is a big deal for me…)
As I began mile 22, miraculously, my cramping completely disappeared. I was able to run again, and I was able to run well. “Lord, forty more minutes. I’m asking for forty more minutes of great running.”
I pulled up Skillet’s “Legendary” and found my groove. Mile 22 was 7:04. Mile 23 was 7:12. These were great miles, but I needed one better. I found another gear. Mile 24 was 6:59. I was back under 7 minute miles. I needed that.
Only a little over two miles to go, but we were still on gravel, and the Half-Marathon runners were making the trail a bit congested. I had to weave in and out of Half-Marathoners going in both directions.
Mile 25 clicked in at 7:12. I was back onto pavement by now. “I need a 7 minute mile, LORD!” Mile 26 was 6:59.
I turned the final corner and saw the Finish Line. I gave every last ounce of energy that I had. I saw Jodi and the kids. I ran as fast as I possibly could, Skillet still pumping in my ears.
High above it allSkillet “Victorious”
I ran through the Finish Line in 3 hours and 2 seconds.
I am so happy. The finish that I needed for this run to be a Boston Qualifier was 3 hours and 5 minutes. I qualified by nearly 5 minutes!
I’m so happy that my family was here to experience this with me, and I am so thankful to God for giving me 3 hours of great running today at the Rehoboth Beach Marathon.