We set our alarm for 4 am Sunday morning. We needed to wake up in time to eat and digest our food before the race. As we stumbled around, slowly getting ready, I knew that I didn’t get the great rest that I’d hoped for. My back was a bit sore and I woke up repeatedly throughout the night, turns out that none of us slept well. Fortunately, we weren’t in a rush, so the morning was fairly relaxed, but there was some anticipation in the air. We eventually got in the car and drove into downtown Portland. As we came closer to the starting point of the race, Jess was noting the mile markers on the road with high excitement. I could tell she was nervous, but ready to do this. We pulled into a downtown parking garage. Portland was eerily quiet. We almost felt alone as we walked to the staging areas. We decided that we would come back to the car once more before the race, so we kept on our sweats and jackets. There was some concern as to how smoothly the race was going to happen as there had been a protest held in Portland, in the area where we both started and finished. Protesters were camped out and were unwilling to leave. I guess thats one thing I have to appreciate about living in Bozeman, there are only about three months in which a protest like this one could happen. The rest of the year, people would simply freeze to death, or at least be incredibly uncomfortable. As we walked past the park where the protesters gathered, we noticed that they took an interesting approach, they fenced them in! Rather than try to push them out, they were confined to the small park they gathered in.
We found our staging area. The various volunteers were walking about with signs directing people to their appropriate areas. We were in the 4:30 group, which turned out to be a fairly common ambition for the other marathoners. We utilized the opportunity to visit some restrooms before the pre-marathon rush filled the over 30 port-o-potties. We then headed back to the car to rid ourselves of our outer layers. The anticipation was building, the time was almost near! We walked back to our starting area and waited in high anticipation for the start of the race. As always in a race, we chatted with a fellow runner. A Portlander who was very excited and ready to run. She talked with us all the way to the start line. As it was nearing 7:00 am, the noise of people talking continued to swell until the faint sound of American Patriotism waved over us as the Star Spangled Banner played. People quieted, some shushed some never got the social cue. It was as quiet as it had been when we arrived, except this time my heartbeat was noticeable in my ear, not fast, but strong and steady. The quiet went on for a moment. Then through out of the cold morning air, a yip, a holler, and then shouts of joy and exclamation rose from the 30+ thousand participants, the race was about to begin.
This race, like many others, was started in waves. The faster runners started first and subsequent waves based on approximated finish time followed. As our wave began to move, I looked over to see my wife, full of energy, ready to go. They joy on her face was nearly indescribable. We approached the start line, I cleared my watch and had my hand on the start button. A drum line was playing at the start, it’s beats fueling the crowded hoard of runners. Then, after a moments pause, our wave was released to run on the course. It is always amazing to be in a pack of runners, all with their own strategy as to how to start a race. Some sprint off ahead, others go straight to their normal pace and some wait for the throng of people to thin before stretching their legs. At this point we said our goodbye’s and good luck to Krista and set off.
The first couple miles were probably the most entertaining, in a literal way. Bands were staggered every few blocks. There was great diversity from one act to the next. The drum ensembles were my favorite, but many others were good too. There were times when I wished I could have stopped to enjoy the music a little more, but that wasn’t the reason I was there. I was there to run. Early on, a rock group had their lead singer up in a telescoping forklift, singing and cheering us on from above the street. We weaved our way in and out of downtown Portland’s city streets.
Just a couple miles in, my body decided to send me a message, “Your bladder is full!” Being a marathon, I decided I should probably pull over at the next available port-o-potty and do business, and I did. Only on problem though, I was running with Jess, and I wasn’t about to run the race on my own, not for another 23 miles. I came out of the bathroom, and quickly got up to pace. I knew that I needed to push for a little while so I could catch back up with Jess. Shortly after leaving the bathrooms behind, I came upon Krista. I nearly scared her off her pace, as she was coincidentally thinking about how I had scared her during the Missoula Marathon last year. I chatted with her for just a few moments and sped on to catch up with Jess. I eventually caught up with her, ready to slow down and run a more marathon friendly pace. We started to loop back on the course that we had just been on and I noticed just how many spectators there were. It was great to have people cheering us on as we ran down Naito Parkway.
We eventually headed out of town, going through a fairly vast industrial area. At this point the miles passed with ease, and the pack thinned substantially as the half-marathoners split off to head back towards downtown. We ran through a little borough, people lining the intersections to cheer on the runners. As we neared Montgomery Park, a familiar urge hit me, bladder full! I utilized the next port-o-potty in sight, making quick use of the facility and get back to running as soon as possible. I caught up to Jess a lot faster this time around, but was starting to feel the miles. We approached the half-way mark, but I felt pretty good, at least better than I had on some other runs this year. We followed along Hwy. 30 for a few miles before we crossed over the Willamette River on the St. Johns bridge. I knew the basic course but didn’t really pay any attention to mile markers except for mile 17 on the bridge. Up to this point I was fairly consistent with hitting my watch every mile to see my pace. As we came closer to the bridge, I could feel my legs getting more and more tired. I have struggled with my IT band over the last couple years so I made the decision to not push it before we even started the race. Once we passed over the bridge, I told Jess to keep on going as I, once again, had to relieve some pressure. I couldn’t believe it, yet another delay! Even more, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to catch up with Jess this time.
After splitting off from Jess, the miles started to go by slower. Mile 18, 19 and 20 seemed to last a lifetime, but I knew that once I hit mile 21, it was only 5.2 miles. People had talked about hitting the “wall,” but it never came. Sure I was getting more tired with each passing mile and my legs were gradually tightening up, but I knew I could do it. The remaining miles went by, slowly, but they went by. The water and gummy bear stations provided great opportunities to slow down for a moment. I could see downtown off in the distance, a distance that never seemed to decrease, but eventually it came. The closer I came to the finish line, the more energy I had. It was almost over, I could taste it! The final corner came and I spotted Jess waiting for me at the finish line. I crossed and it was over, I had run a marathon! We waited for a while and greeted Krista across the finish line. We collected our medals, had some food and had our pictures taken. We received our finishers T-shirt and exited the finishers area to meet up with family and friends.
We made our way back to the car. We had just finished one of the biggest physical endeavors of our lives. It was a bit surreal, it was over. I was glad that it was over, but still, it was done, we did it! We were tired, sore but all in good spirits. We had completed our first marathon, and probably my last. I’m sure I’ll be cheering on Jess as she continues to run marathons. I can’t express how incredibly proud of her I am, she is the reason I could even do this. I hope that you have enjoyed this little rambling, but wait, theres more! Don’t worry, just pictures of the rest of our trip. Stay tuned!