National Marathon

Location: Washington, DC

Date: March 21, 2009

Time: 2:55:59

Pace: 6:43

Place: 39th Overall; 4th Master; 1st Male 45-50

Splits: 10K 41:40; Half 1:27:31; 20 mi. 2:14:31

Bib: 1774

Having raced the Mt. Mitchell Challenge just three weeks prior, even I was convinced that this marathon wasn’t going to go well. In many ways, I was correct… The completion of this race confirmed that I could run through much pain, but this was a lesson I had already learned. My goal was to run a sub-3:00, and I’m completely surprised that I was able to do.

I rode the Metro, along with numerous other runners, to the race start near the RFK Stadium and the Armory. The morning was much colder than forecasted, and the temperature was hovering just above 30. I stayed in the Armory until about 6:30, checked my bag, relieved myself one last time (or so I hoped), and went to the starting corral. I was assigned corral #2, and I assumed it was because there were so many half marathoners who had estimated that their pace would be sub 6:15 and had been assigned corral #1. There were very few people in either corral. I kept my throw-away sweatshirt on until about 6:50, and then just tried to stay warm until the start of the race. I was shivering uncontrollably. I did a few yoga stretches, and scoped out the competition. Just before the race began, the announcers had us all move toward the starting line. I was positioned about 10 deep when the gun went off.

I made many costly mistakes. First and foremost, I was not psychologically prepared for this race, and, unlike with most other races that I’ve run, I hadn’t visualized success, let alone splits, racing strategy, etc. In fact, I was almost dreading the race, and had begun to make excuses why I was going to do poorly and why it would be feasible to bow out.

I wore the 2009 Mizuno Ronin shoes (my absolute favorite racing shoe), Zensah calf and arm sleeves, a skull cap, Brooks shorts, and a Nike compression shirt. I also wore gloves within mittens kept hand warmers in the mittens. The mittens/gloves/hand warmers combination made it very difficult to hold cups and open Gu, so I ditched the mittens and hand warmers at mile 14 when I saw Jeff. My fingers then became numb and remained so for the remainder of the race, so it was still almost impossible to hold cups and open Gu. I didn’t carry a water bottle, and I should have. I once again forgot to wear my sunglasses, and I desperately needed them many times during the race. I also stopped to pee—twice! I lost valuable time. Ouch.

As soon as the race started, I began dreading the upcoming miles, and began to plot a graceful exit. Perhaps I could state an injury, since my calves hurt so badly. Perhaps I could slow down and run with my friend Landen, who was running with the 3:20 pace group. Perhaps I could stop at the half, and help Jeff and Pam (Landen’s wife) cheer Landen to the finish. I knew I was in trouble when I starting counting down the miles beginning not at mile 20, when I usually begin to do this, but at mile two! My first mile was a slow 6:50. By mile three, I was already attempting to disassociate from the pain, and I began sightseeing. Given all there was to see along the course, this was easy enough to do! Then I had to pee, so I stopped at a row of porta-potties to do so. I ran by them, and looked for the door but on the wrong side. I then ran back to the other side, and attempted to open the first two, but they were both locked—not because someone was inside either one, but because they still had plastic strips around them. Ugh! While mile two was 6:14, mile three was 6:57 pace. We ran past the Capitol. Mile four was 6:29, so I was at least somewhat on pace. We ran past the Washington monument. I didn’t see the marker for mile five, as we made our way up Connecticut Ave., but I did catch the marker at mile seven, as we made our way up Columbia Rd. toward Harvard St. I averaged 6:44. I was in pain. My splits between miles nine and 12 were all over the place: 6:29, 7:07, 6:14, and 6:50. I couldn’t get in a groove, and I didn’t find anyone to run with. I did pass many half marathoners who had gone out too fast.

When I saw the split where the half marathoners veered to the right while the marathoners veered to the left, it took every ounce of willpower NOT to turn right, meet Jeff, and call the race a DNF. Instead, I told myself I would instead just try to hold on and finish under 3 hours, even if it meant running 2:59:59. As soon as the half marathoners split from the group, a young man surged past me. I felt defeated.

I just kept running. Mile 15, 6:46; mile 16, 6:30; mile 17, 6:35. I ran solo for the majority of the time, occasionally passing other runners. Yet another runner passed me, but I caught him at mile 24. However, between miles 16 through about 18.5, a biker stayed with me. He never said a word. It was disconcerting, as I couldn’t tell if he was a race official, and, if he was a race official, I kept wondering why he was monitoring me so closely…

I then had to pee once again. Mile 19 was 7:19. Valuable time once again lost.

I crossed the Anacostia River at mile 19.5, and then ran about two miles NE. The headwind was strong, and I once again got very cold. Nonetheless, at mile 20 I finally starting racing. I was passed by one runner, and I passed upwards of a dozen runners. I gave all of them encouraging words. I finally headed West over the Potomac, and I could begin to hear the announcers and the crowds gathered at the finish at RFK. I picked up the pace: mile 25, 6:37; mile 26, 6:28. I took one last left turn and could see the finish. I sprinted. The announcers said something like, “And from Apex, North Carolina, Paul Patwatty! You can tell the marathoners from the half marathoners by their turnover rate. Look at his very fast turnover and his finishing kick! He’s looking at the clock and he’s probably disappointed that he didn’t finish in under 2:56. Not to worry, the clock is a minute fast, so he did indeed finish under 2:56!”

A volunteer removed the timing chip from my shoe, and Jeff met me at the exit. We grabbed some water and soft pretzels (yum!), and met Pam and the kids, who were waiting for Landen to finish. I had told Landen that I might run him in. I realized that I could not. My legs were dead. I positioned myself about 50 yards from the finish, and waited for him. He was easy to spot, and I shouted words of encouragement. Landen ran this as a training run for the upcoming Flying Pig, where his goal is to run a sub-3. He finished just under 3:20. A very respectable time indeed!

Again, by no means the best marathoner or race I’ve ever run. Again, I’m surprised I did as well as I did. I may even run the Flying Pig in May!

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