This event is definitely growing year after year and it didn’t hurt that Runners World magazine named The Louisiana Marathon one of the Top 10 up and coming running events in the January 2014 issue. Buzz had been growing for weeks on Facebook, Twitter and even on the local news. This Boston Qualifier race was going to be the place to be the weekend of January 18-19, 2014 and it didn’t disappoint. To a packed expo at the Baton Rouge River Center to the stellar speakers at the Pastalaya dinner. Bill Rodgers and Matt Long were deeply engaging. They offered advice and jokes that quickly put everyone at ease for those looking forward to their race the following day. Bill Rodgers has run over 175k miles since 1973 he has seen running evolve into a family sport over the years. First with women entering the field now the younger generation has joined in. Bill introduced Matt Long and seemed just as interested in hearing his story as we were. How the NYC firefighter fought to live with only a 1% chance of survival. He had over 40 surgeries after being run over on his road bike with a 20 ton bus in December of 2005. He had just completed the Lake Placid Ironman that July and ran the NYC Marathon. He is the second oldest of 9 kids and from Brooklyn. His spirit and humor shined through in his speaking.
A few tidbits Matt Long shared:
“As an adult you set a goal. To make it happen you have to do 3 things:”
1) Make a plan
3) Make Sacrifices
“If you’re the person that says you can’t, until you believe in yourself, until you say “I Will”, you won’t achieve.”
Matt’s personal mantra for his comeback was “I Will”. Even after his recovery he completed a Marathon and an Ironman. Since then Matt doesn’t run much anymore. He went back to cycling since it’s better physically for his body. Does he wish that tragic accident hadn’t happened to him? No, he has been able to help so many realize that they are strong enough to survive. He knows his endurance through training for the Marathon and Ironman shortly before his accident is what helped him survive. Even on this same day as the dinner he got on a treadmill and jogged 2 miles for Meg’s miles. A young mother, runner that was tragically killed recently by a drunk driver. Matt shared personal stories and offered lots of great advice. He is truly an inspiration. For running he stressed to get a coach and make a journal. It helps to make you accountable and lastly “If you have a dream hold on to it”.
Mother Nature cooperated once again for this weekend running events. Saturday morning the Kids Marathon and Cypress 5k went off without a hitch and on Sunday the Half/Full Marathon race started at 7am with brisk temperatures of around 45 degrees but quickly warmed up for those running the Full to apprx 60 degrees. Hydration would be key since most had been training in lower winter temperatures. There was a pelican flyover right before the start of the national anthem and we were off. The Full and Half both started at the same time and didn’t split until around mile 11. This was supposed to be an easy taper Half for me since my first Full would be in two weeks but race day adrenalin was once again kicking in. Throughout the first 6-8 miles I was struggling to keep my pace down. My friends along the course noticed and reminded me to slack off. I took in the views along the race and really appreciated the fact that runners from all 50 states were here enjoying the beauty of our neighborhoods, LSU lake front and downtown area. Along the course people were cheering and made signs to welcome everyone on this Sunday morning.
I evaluated how I felt around the split of the Half/Full course and asked myself could I have run the Full today? Yes, had I not run at the average 9:45 pace I was running. I know my race in two weeks for my first Full at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans will be much more congested at 17k+ runners compared to today’s 6k apprx and the first mile or two will take much longer to get through than today which for me will be a good thing.
I started making my way back downtown towards the Finish and noticed I could pick up the pace for a stronger finish. Normally I would be running out of the steam at the 10-11 mile mark but my endurance had increased due to Full training. My coach Stephen said it would help me run stronger Half’s and he was right. My last three miles were actually faster than the first ten and that has never happened before. I turned off my music as I was heading into the last half mile so I could hear my name and the crowd cheering as I came in for my 2:07 finish time. I had not run that well in almost a year. It wasn’t a PR but it was a strong run and I felt good. I found my friend Francine who finished a minute before me and quickly got a Core Power Protein Drink that was being supplied at the finish along with water.
I went to get my bag so I could check my phone for the Runner Tracking text alerts that the race provided and it was working like a charm. I could see all my friends estimated finish times to know if I had time to stretch my legs and be back in time at the chute to see them finish.
Many of my friends chose this race for their first Full and I was getting very excited that I would be able to see them coming in soon. They had trained for months for this day. Some had stellar sub 4hour times and some fell just short of their personal goal but every single one of them Finished Strong. Their hard work and determination had paid off. They were proudly wiping the sweat away as they took in their breaths shortly after crossing the Finish line with their new Finisher bling worn proudly on their chest. They earned it with every step from the early morning training sessions to the struggle of the wall at Mile 17 or 22. They didn’t give up. I was so happy for them and it made me want my day even more. Afterwards I headed to the Finish Festival to listen to the local bands and grab some food. I even purchased a Sweet Greens Kale drink at The Big Squeezy booth I had been wanting to try.
Looking around I could see families and friends were equally enjoying the festivities. It was quite remarkable that an event like this can bring so many people together and provide so much inspiration. I am already looking forward to next years.
But first I want my day… My day to call myself a “Marathoner”….Stay tuned
Few pictures from the weekend events:
For more information on this race check out: http://www.thelouisianamarathon.com/ and on their Facebook page.
For more on Matt Long visit: http://www.iwillfoundation.com/#home