When our alarm went off at 2 a.m., I couldn't help but wonder, "Why the hell am I doing this?" I've been battling a persistent sinus infection all week, accompanied by an annoying itch in my chest that all the coughing in the world won't squelch. But we'd gone to sleep at 7 p.m. the night before, so I felt pretty well-rested, and after I'd eaten my multi-grain bread slathered with peanut butter, momentum started pulling me into Honolulu.
We left the condo at 2:40 a.m. and parked in our secret, but illegal parking spot in Waikiki by 3:30. Shortly thereafter we boarded a school bus that dropped us off at the starting point by 4 a.m. At this point Courtney and I still had an hour before the start of the race, so we used our time effectively, hanging out by the bathrooms to take care of those needs that can easily add a few minutes to your race time.
By 4:45 we'd lined up with the crowd, and by 5:20 we'd finally crossed the starting line, but I still hadn't quite gotten my mind around the fact that I had 26 miles ahead of me. This was my second marathon, but I still found it hard to grasp that I'd be running a distance that in Hawaii can easily take more than an hour to drive.
The Honolulu Marathon is the 3rd largest in the U.S. with 29,000 runners. We must've been pretty far back for it to take us 20 minutes to cross the line. We spent the first 12 miles or so running with the pack, which weighed down our mile times. Then at mile 15 my ambition got the best of me as I waved goodbye to Courtney in order to attempt to break the 4 hour barrier.
By mile 20 I really started to feel it. My lower back was killing me, my feet were bruised and Diamond Head, Honolulu's Heartbreak Hill was looming. I knew that by keeping a 9-minute pace, I could beat 4 hours, but I also knew that I could walk a bit to try to alleviate some of the fatigue. It was a really tough decision, but I decided to press on. Mile 24-25 was entirely uphill, and I ran a 9:40 - not good enough to get in sub-4. Mile 25-26, thankfully was downhill, and I ran it in 8 minutes, my fastest mile of the race. At this point, there was no quitting as I sprinted the last .2 miles to finish in 3:58:53. Courtney came in at 4:08:10.
At that final moment I remembered why I'd decided to run my second marathon. I was also reminded why 29,000 other crazy people were running beside me, and why millions run one every year. There's no feeling that compares to wanting, working and accomplishing something that on its face seems so daunting.