I don’t think I was supposed to win this one. 14+ years older than the next 3 finishers. Legs didn’t have that “pop” all day. I just felt a bit off and tired from ~ mile 4.

Short version … I’m still learning a lot from this sport. Sure, we can learn *about* the sport and talk splits, training, shoes, race weather … but I’m learning *FROM* the sport. Eau Claire Marathon 2021 taught me to (1) look *UP* (2) never. ever. ever. give up. (3) pass it on to those running & watching around you.

Longer version (3min read) …

Last weeks of training were good – some nagging groin & hip tightness, but workouts were great and I was full of confidence. Although race day came and I felt a bit off & just didn’t have that desired “easy floating” feeling on any splits. I was running alone in 2nd place already down by 4-5 minutes at the half (1:16:45). Drawing on my only goal of the day to #run with #joy, I resorted to looking *around* … spectators cheering and the perfect beautiful sunny cool day to run through my lovely city. Oh what bliss, although I couldn’t stop thinking of the work and the runner ahead no longer in sight.

I started to look … *down*. Every time a negative or distracting thought entered my mind I found myself looking down at my shoes or the pavement. The real battle was now mental as my mind drifted into thoughts of “2nd ain’t bad” … “you feel worse than you should right now, you’ll probably slip back to about 5th place” … “you have another race soon, just save the legs” … “you could maybe just coast and manage pain for 2nd place”.

No. Head *UP*. Look *UP* Adam. Secluded on a quieter stretch of the course unsure of my next miles, I had a new mantra. This was the defining moment of the race. Not the last miles, not the finish line, not what would come next. I continued on holding onto hope I would see 1st place’s orange jersey. At worst, I could tell my kids I never gave up … at best, I’d actually see him come back to me. He wasn’t. I saw orange, but they ended up being traffic cones.

Until almost randomly … the orange singlet flashed beside me. Sitting down in the grass with an ECM volunteer a bit passed mile 21, early race leader Hayden Fredrickson was having trouble and hitting *the wall* hard. It shocked me. I think I was in first now … the next couple miles were full of adrenaline, regaining the lead bikes to me, and getting back to looking *around* drawing energy from my city once again. I had some new found adrenaline but I also had some new found cramping & trouble myself the last four miles. I only had to stop once with a seizing hamstring, but both legs and feet felt like they were “about to go” as I tried to hammer more electrolytes, nutrition, and water. The last miles I felt everything … the cramping, the pain, the slowing down, but also I felt the crazy crowds and was motivated by the half-marathon and 5k runners I was battling with to the finish. I was among friends again!

The last turn to the new finish line stretch … I’ll never forget this. A myTEAM TRIUMPH – Wisconsin Chapter wheelchair 5k participant and I locked eye contact as we shouted of victory and triumph together. It was his finish line too … it’s everybody’s finish line. We’re really all the same out there – people moving #forward. I walked to savor crossing the line with more shouts of joy. My 8 year old fresh off his 5k found me and put the medal around me. I lost it … an emotional finish. I looked *UP* and never gave up. By God’s grace His story for this race was better than what I would have authored. He can take our *off* days, our *off* years, our *off* relationships, and our *off* lives and turn them into glory. Beauty from ashes I’ve heard it said. (Isaiah 61)

Two folks I’m inspired by when looking back at the pics … Hayden. He’s young. He went for it. He’s new to the distance. He’s going to learn from this and absolutely crush his future marathons. He also didn’t give up. He regrouped and put in the last 5 miles to also make it to the finish line albeit much slower than he wanted. What inspiration! And of course Alicia. It takes a whole team to do this … she’s usually off camera, behind the scenes, and on the sidelines keeping this engine going. I’m so grateful for her cheering and love. I keep smiling the most at the last picture of her fist pumping … it’s so her. Cheering hard usually out of the spotlight (and in a down coat, haha).

📸: Leader Telegram

🎥: EC Marathon


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