Unfinished Business Part III: A Guest Post by Stan Morris
Editor’s note: This is part III of a three part guest post by Stan Morris. You can go back and read parts 1 and parts II. Several months ago we received Stan’s account of the 2016 Eugene Marathon via e-mail and were compelled to share his story with you. Stan’s account has been lightly edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minneapolis Running.
When we last left him, Stan was nearing the dreaded 20 mile mark and getting into the thick of the race. Here’s the final piece of his story:
After reaching the 20 mile mark, the next 2 miles weren’t noteworthy but then the atmosphere really changed. First of all, the trail straightened quite a bit and I could now see other runners. I no longer felt isolated. Secondly, paces were adjusting. Either I was speeding up (which I know wasn’t happening) or others were beginning to drag. I began steadily passing people. I couldn’t believe it! I was beginning to see runners hit the infamous “wall”, that point where bodily resources were depleted and people just could not continue. In the next couple of miles I saw downed runners being treated by EMTs three times. It amazed me. It also made me grateful for still being upright and even passing other runners. I felt like the tortoise that was steadily moving towards the finish line. By this point all the fast runners were done and basking in the glory of a race well run; I was just plodding towards the finish line.
Lest you think that I was on top of my game, I will set the record straight! Yes, my breathing was strong and comfortable. Yes, I still had a positive outlook and felt fully capable of continuing. But this was no cakewalk. I had worked hard for the first 3.5 hours and each of the final 6 miles became a little tougher. During this final stretch some negative stuff started happening. I lost any sense of nimbleness. I felt like I could maintain the inertia I’d developed during the race, but I felt powerless to sort of “pick it up” even for a short distance – heck, even for 2 or 3 steps! I kept running. That’s all I could do. I focused on a different thought during each of the last challenging miles. Four miles from the finish, I reminded myself that I was effectively certain of finishing. Three miles out, I relished the thought of 3 miles being a distance that no longer really challenged me. With two miles remaining I chuckled at the thought of 2 miles requiring the same effort as sitting in a chair at home. When I reached the final mile, I kept my mind occupied by looking for Hayward Field. Finally, at the entrance to the iconic track, the job was all but done. The satisfaction of completion was waiting and so was my wife.
Entering Hayward field, I would have LOVED to sprint the final stretch. I saw the finish banner ahead. I saw the clear track with no runners to obstruct me. I knew my family and friends were watching. The words, “And here comes Stan Morris from Albany” blared over the loudspeakers. I had every reason in the world to muster up more energy and sprint the final distance! I tried – I could feel my determination surge and I could feel my muscles strain – but I couldn’t sense one bit of increased speed. My desire and effort alone weren’t enough to bring better results.
Sprint or not, crossing the finish line was absolutely wonderful! I crossed with a sense of strength and composure. My son would have been elated! I didn’t collapse having just barely succeeded. Rather, it was a full and rewarding completion. I had run 26.2 miles at a 10:30 minute pace for 4.5 hours – a first in my 67 years of life! I felt on top of the world! Some of my first words to my wife were that the race really wasn’t that bad. Chuckle if you like (she did!) but I stand by my words. Granted, I worked pretty blasted hard and was especially challenged during the final 6 miles. But, still, the event wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d first feared back in January when I registered. I believe this was the result of having a good and consistently-executed training plan.
Reflecting back on the marathon, one of the many thoughts I enjoy is the satisfaction of completing such an amazing experience. And then there’s my son. Even though he wasn’t physically present, I feel as though I ran the race with him. The unfinished business is complete and that feeling can’t be topped! But, would I run a marathon again? Yes, in a heartbeat! Without a doubt, I’ll do it again.