WMDP Struts Their Stuff

The Chicago Marathon

the western mass distance project struts their stuff in the midwest

“When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.” – Haile Gebrselassie

[Editor’s Note: This was submitted by an Anonymous Wolf about the WMDP team’s experience at the 2012 Chicago Marathon. Since we’re in the midst of fall marathon season and Chicago was just last weekend, we thought it was appropriate to re-share.]

WMDP in Chicago
Chicago, IL – The men of the WMDP Wolves toed the line of the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7th, 2012 with vague expectations. We expected it to be long. We expected it to be painful. We expected it to change us as runners. However, what we did not expect was the degree to which each of these expectations would be met.

The race was the reason for the formation of this rag tag group of Western Massachusetts runners. As with any training plan, this one began with a base and became more defined throughout…and so did the powder blue of the WMDP. What started off as a reason to send sarcastic emails and trash talk to each other progressed into serious training advice, Grand Prix wins, and a large group of teammates descending upon Chicago on October 7th.

The gun went off and we immediately grouped together like penguins in an Arctic storm. The feel was intimidat- ing, but much more bearable with the group. In an event requiring such mental strength the age old saying “two heads are better than one” holds true, and eleven heads are even better than two.

The first 8k passed by like we were standing still. It was more a game of consciously selecting our pace, constantly checking with each other if the group agreed. I am unsure if there was any passing going on, though there may have been hundreds of others still around us. All that’s clear to memory is turning to Dave, turning to Kevin, turning to Nico, looking for a quick nod at each mile marker. It was shortly after this point that Duncan let the group ahead drag him in their wake. We opted to hang back. It would later become clear that everyone involved made the right decision.

The next portion, 10k through 13.1, seemed to be a one mile transition from floating to tempoing. The pace remained perfect and the now group of four looked smooth. As a foursome we now rolled through Chi-town alone, feeding off the “Western Mass!” yells that occurred every 1200 meters or so, compliments of Sean Duncan’s warning ahead. We imagined floating off the back of Coach OB’s little green Tacoma, rolling through the country roads of Hadley listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Becoming aware of where we were in the race and the crew I was rolling with, I began to get a little giddy, maybe displaying more comfort than was warranted.

Entering the third quadrant of the race, the group was cut down again. This felt a lot like the end of a long summer at summer camp. We were approaching the infamous 20 mile mark and the cool, calm, and collective four had to dismantle. Enough piggy-backing. It was now a long and lonely battle we each had to bear…alone (and that’s not easy for a pack of wolves).

I’ve heard about the wall. I’ve also wussed out in races ranging from 1 mile to the Half Marathon, but I can say with 100% honesty: I did not bag this. This just happened. I found the wall.

Mile 23 felt like someone from the crowd ran out and gave me a bear hug, one which the spectator decided to hold tighter and tighter through each remaining mile and not let go. The difference in the end of the marathon and the end of a 10k is in the 26.2 you’ve earned so much more of what’s behind you. Fading in a 10k with 1200 meters to go results in a bad feeling, may be a bad time, but another opportunity next week and only 5.5 invested miles. A marathon, however, is your baby by mile 23. You’ll fight to the death to protect it.

As we congregated at the finish line, watching our teammates pour in and crowd the finish chute with blue jerseys, I must say I was living my best running experience to date.

“Four under 2:30!”… “Six under 2:34!”… “Peabody! You crazy bastard!”… “Eight under 3:00!”… “Get me an IV of beer… seriously…”

We shared a large portion of that race as a unit; we all had similar experiences (confirmed through conversations that followed), but we all came out with a different number. The number is more than a PR; it’s the title to an entire story.

I can’t tell the story of my teammate’s numbers. I imagine there were loud drums in the background of the story titled 2:24:59 (Sean Duncan) as it was told in a heroic war-like setting. The story of the 2:33:20 (Matthew Peabody) taught a message of dedication and self-belief, an inspirational story to say the least. The story of 2:25:43 (Kevin Johnson) was a comeback tale teaching lessons in maturity and control.

At the end of the day your marathon PR will by no means change the world, but it will change yours, and that seems a significant enough change to me. Many could RUN one, I recommend RACING it.

An anonymous WMDP Wolf wrote this article. This article originally appeared in Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

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