Journal: Ed Boehmke\'s Mayor\'s Marathon Experience

Wednesday, June 14
The trip finally begins. Austin and I left Greenville-Spartanburg Airport at 2:15 p.m. and flew to Atlanta. After a two-hour wait, we boarded a Boeing-767 and headed to Anchorage. The flight was long. We saw two movies and had a meal. There were lots of clouds and farmland way below. Near the end of the second movie, Austin opened the window shade and saw snow-covered mountains almost touching the plane. We could see a few glaciers and spots in the ice were even blue. It was a beautiful start to the trip. We landed in Anchorage about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, got a taxi and checked in at the Mush-Inn, very close to downtown. The Mush Inn is not much of a hotel, but it is relatively clean and has a shower and beds. After getting settled, Austin and I walked to the corner and had dinner at a place called Peggy's. With a four-hour difference from Greenville, we are ready for bed 10:30 p.m. Alaska time – 2:30 a.m. in Greenville and the sun is still up!

Thursday, June 15
We walked about a mile and a half to the Hilton in downtown Anchorage. We met a van from Great Alaska Adventure Lodge at 7:30 a.m. and take a three-hour trip to a town called Sterling for a king salmon fishing trip on the Kenai River on the Kenai Peninsula. This peninsula is directly south of Anchorage but you have to travel east and go around the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. The driver explained that a bridge couldn't be built because the Arm has no real bottom to it. It is full of silt called till that washes down from the glaciers on the mainland of Alaska. The till is very soft and has quicksand like qualities.

The Kenai is a river formed from glacier run off from the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula. The lodge has a salmon lunch prepared for us. While we eat it began to rain; a good steady sprinkle. There are seven of us going out today in two boats. The fishing guide took the boat and us to the boat ramp. The color of the water is a blue-green and it flows very quickly. The guide baits the hooks with some kind of fish eggs. All we have to do is drop the lines in the water and the guide trolls the motor just enough to counter the current. It is 53 degrees and still raining and with very little to do, Austin and I are freezing in a very short time. It was beautiful out on the river, but it was just too cold to be any fun. We caught a few trout and I (no, the pole I was sitting beside) hooked a king salmon but the line got cut off by the prop, probably because I didn't know how to keep the fish from going that way! After four and a half cold hours of drifting down the river and racing back up again, we called it quits. With wet clothes we take the long trip back to Anchorage in a warm van.

Friday, June 16
I got up at 9 a.m. and went for a 3.5 mile run. After a shower, Austin and I walked down to the Eagan Convention Center. Team in Training Alaska had a complimentary luncheon with a guest speaker. The topic was titled "Cancer – A Different Kind of Marathon." The speaker was trying to relate the cancer patient's experience with his/her illness and the experience of the training and running in a marathon. After this person spoke, they opened the floor to anyone in the audience to tell why they are running the marathon. The stories they told were very moving and I was glad to have picked this organization to help raise money for.

We left Eagan and walked to the Sheraton, a few blocks away, for the marathon expo, where I picked up my number, chip, and t-shirt. We also checked out some of the exhibitors selling t-shirts, running clothes, jewelry and other stuff some runners may want to buy. After leaving the Sheraton, Austin and I visited some of the stores along 5th Avenue, the main street in downtown Anchorage. Of course, we bought some t-shirts and other things then headed back to Eagan Center for the TNT Pasta Party.

The pasta party began at 4 p.m. and included about half of the TNT participants (the other half had dinner at 7 p.m.). John Bingham, better known as "The Penguin", a columnist for Runner's World, spoke and inspired us to finish the race. His stories about runner were hilarious, but all of them very true.

Austin and I then walked down to a place called the Alaska Experience and watched two movies. The first was about the Alaska earthquake in 1964, the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America. The second film was about the beauty and history of Alaska. We then walked backed to the hotel so I could prepare for tomorrow's race.

Saturday, June 17
Well, this marathon is finally over. An idea to raise money for a worthy cause, run a marathon, and go to Alaska has happened. I sent out over 500 letters to friends and family and raised over $5600 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a member of Team in Training. I trained over 2000 miles since last June and raced in three half marathons, one 20K, one 15K and now I have finished my third marathon (one of which was THE Boston Marathon). I have run very well during all of this with limited injuries. And even though this endeavor has taken a lot of my time and money, I am very proud of what I have accomplished. It has been trying and tiring. I say all this, not as an excuse or to take any credit, but to tell you that this was a great experience. The marathon is a commitment – one that cannot be taken lightly. It takes a lot of your time and your energy. The smallest things can cause a big change in how you run it on race day. So there is no real failure, maybe disappointment and pain, but never failure. Just to finish a marathon is a success and to know that you helped others by doing one makes the journey even more satisfying.

The race began at 8 a.m. at Bartlett High School and I started out slow – my first mile was 8:38. By the end of the third mile I was running eight minute pace. That is the pace I would have liked to run, but the run was very comfortable so I went a little faster; just 39:29 at 5 miles and 47:19 at 6 miles. The course up to this point was on asphalt trails and roads, but at about 6.5 miles the course turned onto a gravel-paved road (they call these the tank trails) and stayed that way until just past mile 15. This part of the course was difficult to run. It was smooth at some points but at others it was rough running. You had to watch where you placed each step and often the gravel was thick and you would slip on it was as if you were running in sand. It wasn't like this all the way, but changed back and forth enough so that I could never get into a steady pace.

There were three or four good long up-hills on these trails and a few steep down hills. The down hills were like the one on the backside of Paris Mountain – so steep that you had to hold back and it hurt to do so. Even at 20 miles, when my last few splits were in the 9:00's, I still thought I could have a time under 3:45. But the old proverbial wall hit me hard. The 10-minute miles hit and each step was a struggle. I didn't feel like my heart rate was up or that my breathing was labored, I just had no energy left. I was determined to finish without walking. During the 25th mile I got a tremendous cramp in my left hamstring. I couldn't lift my leg, only swing it and I finally had to stop and stretch it out. In a couple of valuable minutes, I started walking and then walking as fast as I could. After a couple more minutes I started running (if that pace is really running, but it was faster than walking!). At 25.5 I ran into the steepest hill of the course and I struggled up. A little more and I entered the track stadium of West Anchorage High School. Around one curve and down the straightaway and the race was over – my watch showing 3:56.39.

I walked to turn in my chip, got my medal, and Austin went to get my bag so I could change. Except for my feet hurting and occasional cramps, I didn't feel too bad – a lot better than I did after Boston. Even Austin said I looked a lot better. I checked in at the TNT tent and they had some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and water. We returned to the hotel and after an hour nap, I took a shower and felt good. I was still tired, my calves hurt and I was still disappointed in my time. Austin and I walked downtown to the TNT victory party where they had plenty of good food and I got to talk with others from South Carolina about their experience. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and turned in early. I was ready for my vacation to start. It wasn't the kind of day that I had hoped for, but I'll take it.

More updates coming this week.