He did it! In ten minutes less than his goal time, Jeff finished the Harrisburg Marathon on Sunday. It was a tremendous celebration of months and months of hard work.
The last three miles were a killer, he tells me. I would never have known; I had seen him 10 times on the course, and each time he seemed to be holding together pretty well. After more than four hours of pounding the pavement in and around Harrisburg, the promise of the finish line at City Island was becoming more and more real for Jeff. He was looking tired (as were all the other runners) after emerging from the hilly run around Wildwood at miles 17-19, but he still seemed focused and determined. I saw him again shortly afterwards on Second Street and around mile 21 — no smile, but still pounding the pavement with good form and focus.
Jamie, whose husband Brad successfully ran the Steamtown Marathon in early October, warned me that the marathon could be more emotional than I was anticipating. So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I felt the prick of tears at the start of the race. And, I wasn’t surprised at the overwhelming urge to cry upon seeing Jeff come running across the Walnut Street bridge, just minutes away from his first marathon finish and more than 10 minutes ahead of his goal time! It was an incredible moment!
He trotted across the finish line, received his medal, and a thermal blanket (the aluminum foil-like cape you see him sporting in the picture). I met him with hugs and smiles. He groaned with aches and pains. We took a few minutes to bask in his accomplishment before heading towards food and hydration.
It was a day of celebrating.
Weather: It was in the mid-30s when the race started. Probably warmed up to about 50; a beautiful sunny day with little to no wind and not a cloud in the sky.
The other runners: About 800 runners participated in the marathon. I began to recognize some of the other runners — people like Steve (had his name taped on his jersey) who hammed it up with the crowd at every opportunity; the guy with the crazy floral shorts; and the man whose shirt advertised HIV prevention.
What Jeff ate post-race: He downed two bottles of water, a chocolate donut with sprinkles (that’s my boy!), half a bagel, my homemade Emeril’s soup and a glass of chocolate milk, a Detour bar, several glasses of water, a grande Toasted Marshmallow Mocha at Starbuck’s, a half rack of ribs at Memphis Blues, and a bowl of Skinny Minty ice cream.
Favorite marathon memory (for me): Spotting Jeff on the Walnut Street Bridge and knowing he was just minutes from the finish and faster than he had anticipated. I squealed. I jumped up and down. I cheered like a fool.
Uplifting moment of the day: After the race, watching a devoted wife help her husband take his socks off and then learning that he has run more than 100 marathons throughout his life. It was a real blessing to talk with this dear couple for a few minutes, and they were so genuinely happy for Jeff.
The question: Everybody wants to know — will he do another one? Well, he won’t answer yet, but my strong sense is that he will. He is the most determined, goal-oriented person that I know, and I can’t imagine that only a taste of marathon success will be enough to fully satisfy!