Five years ago I trained to attempt to break the Delaware men's 70-74 age group record in the marathon. I did downhill repeats and signed up for a marathon in Colorado. But the website misled me into thinking that running at altitude wouldn't matter much if I was running downhill. Wrong! in the first few miles, running at the pace I had determined I wanted to do, I was breathing like I was running an all-out 5K. When I hit an uphill stretch, I couldn't run at all and had to walk. There were other problems with that event, but needless to say I missed the opportunity to break the record at age 70. I know well that every year now, I slow a good bit, so it was at 70 or nothing.
Fast forward to yesterday. Having just turned 75, I attempted to break the 75-79 state record. I went to the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon, which ends in Albany, New York. I had run this race three other times and each time I had qualified for the Boston Marathon there. I knew from those three experiences, that my time at that race was anywhere from four to ten minutes faster than a marathon I had done the previous spring. I ran the Delaware Marathon this past spring. I was not in good shape because of an injury I had suffered in mid-summer of 2018. But I ran a 5:11:45. The current state record was 5:08:35. So I figured that if I could cut four minutes off at a minimum, I would break the record by 50 seconds.
While again not in good marathon shape, I figured I had done enough, between a very slow Erie Marathon (5:26) five weeks earlier and a 14 mile run three weeks earlier that I was in comparable shape to what I was when I ran Delaware. The slightly downhill course would take care of the rest. I started with the five hour pace group. But the pacer was running faster than that and then telling people to walk through the water stops for recovery. Even doing that, we were ahead of schedule. I don't walk water stops unless I am real tired near the end. Although "banking time" is needed recommended in a marathon, I know my body. I have always slowed down in the second half. So O decoded to go for it.
I went ahead at the first stop and put some distance on them. Later we yo-yo-ed back and forth. They would pass me at a faster pace than I planned to run and I would pass them at the water stops. I basically held my pace, which was faster than at Erie, for two miles more than at Erie - to 18 miles before the inevitable slowing. Even then, at 20 miles, I had 82 minutes to cover the last 10K.
It is a good thing I had the goal that I did because those last 10K was some of the toughest miles of my life. Various muscles, mostly in my right leg, took turns starting to cramp up. I just kept up whatever pace I could, which was basically a race walk at that point. A twelve minute mile, then a 12:30, then a 13, then a 13:30. Each slower mile kept me worried that I was not going to break the record, but it motivated me to push as hard as I could. Finally, the 26th mile went faster than the 25th. I knew I had it, only not by as much as I thought I might have done. I crossed the finish line in 5:05:52, 2:43 faster than the previous record.
I must say that running that sort of time is not a great feat. It is a half hour slower than the qualifying time I would have needed for Boston. That was a goal I had aspired to early in the year, but the heat and humidity together with the drastic fall-off in my overall conditioning in the last couple of years, made that an impossibility. Instead, my achievement is more about the fact that I am one of the few Delaware men who reached 75, who wanted to run a marathon and who was still healthy enough to do it. The two who held the record before me, John Schultz and Henry Gunther, were the same. In fact I do not know of another man in Delaware, who reached this age and ran a marathon. So it was persistence and my experience that got me to this point.