I was able to complete my second marathon this past Sunday in Pittsburgh. What an amazing experience! I grew up just south of Pittsburgh, so it felt really nice to go back "home" and run in an area of the country that I really enjoy.
I've been running fairly seriously for about 5 years now and one thing I've learned during that time is it's a whole lot easier to run with a positive attitude than with a negative one. So, during the entire race, my theme was "the joy of the Lord is my strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) I figured I was going to need a lot of strength to run this marathon, so, I really tried to focus on things that brought joy to my heart. I spent 4 hours and 24 minutes reflecting on how much God has blessed me in my life. He has given me so much more than I will ever deserve and has blessed me with so much. It was really fun to spend a lot of time reflecting on how much joy God has brought to my way. There were several times during the race that I was starting to get tired. My body was starting to hurt. There were several hills on the course and some were really steep. At times I felt my thoughts starting to drift towards thinking about those things ... the negative stuff ... and when that started to happen I snatched those thoughts up and just started reflecting on all God has done for me. While running up the hills, I thanked God for the ability to run up the hills. 6 years ago, there's no way I could have done it. When my legs started to hurt, I would think about my family and tell myself that I'm running to them. They're at the finish line waiting for me. I'm running to them. There were several thousand people along the course cheering for all of the runners. Well, while running and listening to them cheering, I would just pretend they were all cheering for me. I would run past waving at them, smiling at them, just soaking in all the cheers. Silly, yes. But, it definitely brought a smile to my face and helped me stay positive. It helped make the race fun, which was the last thing my wife told me to do ... "Have fun."
The picture below is right before I crossed the starting line. There were thousands of people running this race and the adrenaline rush at the start is, well, a really cool rush!
The above picture is me after the finish. I had set a goal of 4 hours and 20 minutes. I was planning to run with a pace team, but was never able to find the 4:20 pace team in my starting coral. So, I just ran the race and went with what my body was telling me was a good pace. Well, at mile 25, I looked up and finally saw the 4:20 pace team carrying their sign. They were a few hundred yards in front of me, so I knew I was pretty close to that pace. I started to cramp a little bit at the beginning of mile 25 so I had to stop for just a minute or so. I was able to finish in 4:24. I felt like that was the best possible race that I was able to run.
The picture below is how we celebrated. For dinner we went to a classic Pittsburgh place: Primanti Brothers. I loved taking my family there for the first time. The kids all had a blast and after burning about 3000 calories that day, I had no guilt when I ate one of their amazing sandwiches!
Having my family there was one of the best parts of the weekend. It's certainly not easy to take 4 kids under 6 on a trip. And, honestly, my wife is the one who makes this all happen. I don't know how she does it, but somehow she does. While I'm running, she's getting all the kids together, getting snacks together, getting drinks together, driving in a city she is not familiar with, finding a place to part and then walking a mile with our 10 month old in a baby bjourn, and our 3 other kids in the stroller (2 sitting and one standing). She walked a mile like this to get to the finish line and entertained the kids while waiting for me to finish. I honestly don't know what is harder ... doing all of that or running a marathon! She truly is amazing! She was who I thought of the most during my race.
This picture below is one my son drew the Friday before the race. It's him running a marathon. I love the opportunity to hopefully set a good example for my family. I love that all of my kids are watching me and look to me. I'm so incredibly humbled at the fact that God trusts me enough to give me the responsibility of raising them.