There are 26 letters in the alphabet, and 26 miles in the marathon. So for each mile, I came up with something for which I am grateful, and/or something that motivates me.
Mile A - I am grateful for the medium Little Jogger and for the oldest and newest Little Jogger, both of whose names begin with A.
I started out with the 4:30 pace group. I thought I could do 4:30. At mile A, we were all feeling pretty good. There were piles of people around us, and most of them seemed pretty skeptical about my idea. Oh, well.
Mile B - I am grateful for the Friendly Photographer, whose name begins with B. She has promised to send me some photos, and I will post them.
Mile C - I am concerned about my cholesterol. Despite having been a vegetarian for about a year, my cholesterol has not gone down. It has gone up. So I need to get serious about my diet. Obviously, I am getting plenty of exercise.
Mile D - I dedicated this mile to my dad, whose name did start with D. Dad was not a runner. I don't know if I ever saw him run 100 yards. In fact, for the last 10 years of his life, he was in a wheelchair. He had had a leg amputated, from a complication of diabetes. Whatever else, I am in better shape at 44 that Dad was, and I hope that somewhere, he's proud of me.
Mile E - I am grateful for endurance. And energy.
At this point, our pace group was getting to be pretty good friends. We were running through a very nice neighborhood. Karen, from Boston, suggested that she might be able to sell her small condo and buy one of these big old houses. So when we passed one that was for sale, Sara, from Iowa City, grabbed one of the for sale flyers, and Karen decided, yes, she could. I suggested that the commuting costs would do her in.
Mile F - I am grateful for friends, and Sara (the only person who was playing with me at this point) is grateful for family. Actually, I'm grateful for both.
Mile G - I love the goody bags! At a marathon, they give you a whole bag full of samples, ads, coupons, and all kinds of stuff. I end up throwing out 3/4 of it. But I just love looking through it. It's like Christmas! Later on, it occurred to me that I am also grateful for Gatorade and GU.
Mile H - Hal Higdon is my running guru. I have followed his schedules in training. I said at the time that if I didn't finish, it would be Higdon's fault. I did finish, but it was not as beautiful as I would have hoped. It was Higdon's fault.
Mile I - Ice cream!
Mile J - I had a tough time with this one. I was starting to get tired. Sara said that she was grateful to have a job, which I guess I am, too. Or maybe it wasn't Sara. It seems to me that her husband's name is Jason. Maybe she did two.
Mile K - I am inspired by Dean Karnazes. That man can run. And it's not just that he can run. He loves to run. He runs, really, for its own sake. I won't ever run 200 miles straight, or run 50 marathons in 50 days. But sometimes, I just get out and run because that's what I like to do. That's something that Karno and I have in common.
Mile L - I am grateful by my mom, whose name starts with L. At 57, she had a heart attack, and almost died. She changed her life, lowered her cholesterol, and, at 74, is still going strong. She's not a runner, but she walks a lot. And she's an inspiration. Thanks, Mom.
Mile M - This is the midpoint. Isn't that a handy coincidence? Between L and M, we ran into and around Drake Stadium, the home of the Drake Relays. That was pretty fun. They were supposed to put our pictures on the Jumbotron, but apparently they were having technical difficulty.
Mile N - Of course, I am grateful for Mrs. Jogger, whose name starts with N. She has been great. She has put up with a lot for me to run this marathon.
This was when began to feel tired. I kept up with the pace group, but we were laughing and talking a lot less. Still almost half the alphabet to go!
Mile O - We were still On Pace. We could still make it, if we could just hang on.
Mile P - I am grateful for Mrs. Jogger's family, whose family name begins with P. Her mother turned 80 this year. She (and Mrs. J's father, when he was alive) has always been very accepting of me, even though they don't have much experience with pointy-headed college professors. Sara was grateful for our pace group.
Mile Q - I am grateful for the littlest Little Jogger, whose name begins with Q. He is seven, going on 21. Sara noticed the Quiet. At this point, we were running on a path through a park, and we were pretty much chatted out. All you could hear was the heavy breathing.
Mile R - I ran this one for my brother and sister, both of whose names begin with R. My brother had a lot of physical problems, and died at 41, of cancer. My sister has MS. Another pair of non-runners. But both great people, and I'm happy to have them in my family.
Mile S - I was going to mention the stadium, which was fun, but I decided to dedicate Mile S to Sara. She had really helped me to come this far. I'm glad that I got a chance to tell her that, because within a mile or two, I had lost her. We had both dropped back from the 4:30 group. She just kept right on running, but around Mile S, I started walking for big stretches. For a few miles, I'd walk, then run and catch up to her, then walk some more, then run and catch up. And then I walked too much, and I never caught her again.
Mile T - This was for the first Little Jogger. She is terrific. I'm glad to have her.
Mile U - Undiscovered country. Since my longest training run was 21 miles, after this, I'd be running farther than I had since the Quad Cities Marathon last fall. Or rather, walking. Because at this point, that's mostly what I was doing.
Mile V - At this point, I was Very tired. I had lost Sara for good, and there was no one to play with, so I just kept it to myself.
Around this point, I was passed by a young woman wearing a t-shirt that dissed my undergraduate school. Another woman, running near me, said something about it, and I asked if she had gone there. Yes, she had, and she recognized me. We both were student managers for the football team. She was a couple of years behind me. It's weird, because if it hadn't been for that girl's t-shirt, we never would have said a word to each other.
Mile W - Water. I was stopping and Walking at every water stop.
Mile X - I just needed a little eXtra energy, but I didn't have it. It wasn't my breath. It was my legs. They were too tired to carry me forward. I kept thinking, "Ok, I'm going to run the rest of the way." But I kept failing.
Mile Y - Yes, I will finish. Slowly. But I will finish.
As I approached Mile Z, only 0.2 miles to go, the 5:00 pace groups caught me. I never saw the 4:45 pace group. I have no idea how they got past me. I knew I was behind, but I was even further back than I thought. I did run the last 0.2, but it was too late to beat my Quad Cities time.
Mile Z - ZZZZZZ. I'm going to sleep well tonight.
So, I finished just seconds under 5 hours. I'm disappointed, but only slightly. It just wasn't my day. It was still a full marathon, which not many people can do.
The biggest disappointment is that I didn't see Sara at the end. She finished only about 10 minutes ahead of me, but I couldn't find her. Nor did I see Tom the Pacer, to thank him for the inspiration, and apologize for not being able to keep up with him. And I didn't see Tom and Amy, from the Runners' Lounge, either at the beginning or the end. I did see Bowulf at the beginning, because he was the 2:10 pacer for the half. So he was carrying a big sign, and was easy to spot.
I'll post pics when I get them. Thanks to everyone who helped and inspired me through the race. I hope I didn't disappoint you too much.