I did it.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't by much. But I did it.
To be honest, I was unprepared. I did not train nearly as hard as I did last time.
Sure, I ran smarter. I knew to bring food with me and to drink water and sports drinks as often as I could. I paced myself better. I ran expecting to hit my "wall" at around the 21 mile mark like I did last time.
But I also didn't run nearly as much or as often in training. While I was running around 30 miles a week 2 years ago, I ran closer to 20 in preparation for this one. I ate less McDonalds, drank less frequently, and was in better health for the last one.
This time was different. It felt different. I felt different.
At the quarter and halfway point, I was well on pace to beat my old time of 3 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds. But then at the 3/4 mark, my time noticeably slipped. I was going to cut it close.
And then I hit my wall. This time, much later in the run--closer to the 24th mile. It hit me harder. I really wanted to walk. Last time, I promised myself I wouldn't walk. It was a "bucket list" sort of thing. Run and complete a marathon. Time didn't matter as long as there was no walking.
This time? I was running to beat my old time. Except at this point of the race, I knew I was beat. I knew I wasn't going to make it. There was no way. I was too tired, too worn, and too... everything. I couldn't.
And yet, every time I took a few steps to walk, I couldn't bring myself to stop entirely. Nope, I thought. If I'm not going to make my time, there's nothing else I can do about it. I simply can't run any faster. I can't make up any more time.
I can't, however, give up. I can still run across the finish line. I did it once before. I can do it again. If I can't beat my time, I can at least say I gave it my all and ran until the end.
The last mile was the longest.
I turned the last corner to the finish line. I could see the time on the display. I couldn't believe it.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't by much.
3 hours, 48 minutes, and 14 seconds.
I did it.