Dr. J on Running

13 Air Force Marathon, Dayton, OH, 5:10:37

Saturday 17 September 2011

My training went like clockwork in the four weeks leading to the Air Force Marathon. I ran thrice a week: two runs of 4 miles each, and a long run of 10, 13.1 and 10 miles. I tapered off with a 2-mile run on Wednesday, and I ate a steak for my pre-race dinner. I slept tight, and ate my traditional breakfast of coffee, raisin bread and banana. I felt ready.

K-LOVE played Isaiah 40:31 as I drove from billeting to the Air Force Museum. I enjoyed my celebrity status, parked 50 meters from the finish line, mingled with honored guests under a tent that shielded us from the cold morning, sat on a comfortable chair while waiting for the start, and frequented a private port-a-potty outside the tent.

Thousands of runners gathered at the start line. The full marathon and the “10K marathon” started together. I saw the Chief of Staff and the Commander of Materiel Command at the start line. An under-powered public address system played the national anthem, and a canon got us on our way to the deafening roar of a B1-B Lancer flyover. I reached the start line 3 minutes later.

I alternated running 1.5 miles with walking 0.5 mile. I maintained 4-and-4 breathing, and settled in for the long journey. Many walked the first hill. The 10K runners kept us company the first 4 miles. I shuffled along – black-sock-left-foot in front of white-sock-right-foot, then vice versa.

The course was fairly non-descript. We started in Area B of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, went to Area A, then returned to Area B. Highways, bridges and flight-line combined hard surfaces for a very hard marathon. Although I ran on the grass whenever possible, the bottoms of my feet screamed murder.

Many bands along the course played patriotic or religious music. Spectators were few and far in between, considering that the race ran on a base. A runner from St Louis wore Phil 4:13 on his shirt. An airman ran in fatigues and a rucksack. An eagle shadowed a Wright flyer replica that flew overhead. A pair of F-15 Eagles flew overhead. A C-130 and a C-5 transport planes landed near us while we ran on the flight-line.

I passed many marathoners in the later miles. I saw two of my former students at miles 18 and 23 – both went on to finish ahead of me. I proceeded at a steady pace the entire way, breathing 4-and-4 through mile 23. I switched to opportunistic breathing around mile 24, as my legs announced their intent to cramp.

My Timex GPS concurred with each of the first 25 mile markers. Mile 26 measured 0.2 mile too long, as we ran between two rows of flags and vintage aircraft. My right calf cramped at exactly 26.2 miles on my watch, a whole 0.2 mile from the finish line. I stopped, squinted, rubbed my calf, declined medical assistance, and motored across the finish line in 5:13:04 for a chip time of 5:10:37. A post-race analysis of the GPS data revealed an average running pace of 10:44 and an average walking pace of 14:57. These numbers showed consistency across the past five marathons.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran 10 Marathons in the past 12 months, bringing his 50 states quest to 13: VA NY VT PA NH AL SC NC KS WA MT WI OH. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2011 Dr Kamal Jabbour