The 2013 Missoula Marathon was an amazing experience to say the least. It was the first time I have ever attempted to run a marathon and the race was everything I expected and more. To start the day I got out of bed at 4am (6:00 was the start time) and after taking a shower, eating breakfast, and getting my running gear on, I headed to downtown Missoula with my two friends, Mike and Adam, who were running it with me to catch the shuttle out to Frenchtown. On the fifteen minute drive the nerves and final realization that I was about to embark on the single most challenging thing I have ever done, started to sink it.
We arrived at the Clark Fork Valley Bank in Frenchtown around 5:40 and had enough time to use the restroom, stretch, and do a quick interview before the starting cannon boomed. When 6:00 rolled around and the fireworks and cannon went off the marathon was underway. The start was pretty crowded and it took us a mile or two to separate from the massive group. Adam had a knee injury which he hurt a couple weeks before the race but decided to give it a try anyway's. He had to go at a slower pace, so Mike and I went ahead, running at a pretty good clip at an 8:30 per mile mark. Unfortunately, Adam would end up making it to mile 8 before having to call it quits because of his left knee.
The course going from Frenchtown into Missoula was beautiful. The first 13 miles seemed to fly by and we finished half the marathon in 1:52.00. At mile 14 the course has a short but challenging hill. My knee had started to hurt so I decided to power walk the hill while Mike decided to keep running. Looking back on it, walking that hill was a great decision for me. When I got to the top I felt rejuvenated and continued my previous running pace from the previous 13 miles. Miles 14-19 went pretty well, my legs became a little tired but nothing more than I was expecting around that section of the race. But at mile 20 my knee started to kill me.
I had experienced right knee pain during training and was a little worried about it heading into the race. I had taken the two weeks prior to the marathon very lightly, hoping the injury would go away. For the first 20 miles it did, but it came back and felt like a knife was jammed in the middle of my knee cap. For the last six miles I had to walk-run-walk because of the injury. My goal was to finish in four and a half hours and luckily I ran the first 13 fast enough to give myself some cushion. At mile 22 I saw the four hour pacer pass me so I knew I had enough time to walk when the pain was too much. I would run a half mile, then walk a quarter mile and repeat that process until I turned onto Higgins.
When I turned onto the Higgins Bridge a rush of energy overcame my body. Fans lined the sides and my slow jog become a run, and when the finish line came into view my run became a sprint. When I crossed the finish line I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was relieved that the torture of the last few miles was over, and a wave of pride crashed down on me when I leaned over to have my medal placed around my neck. I saw Mike, who finished ten minutes before me, and we hugged in celebration. I then saw my wife, Brittany, and Adam and hugged them as well. We all then sat on the sidewalk and rehashed the race from each person's perspective.
It's been a couple days since the race and I am still very sore but feeling like a champ. I did something I never thought I would do and beating a challenge like that gives you a feeling that is hard to describe. I don't know if I will do another one yet, but my first marathon will be something I will never forget.