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Passing the ominous Citgo sign with 1 mile left till the finish

“Once lucky, twice good” my PE teacher used to say.

A student would hit a half court shot, or an improbable hook/bank combo and out my teacher would holler “Once lucky, twice good!”

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The 4th annual track half marathon hosted by the NAC running club in Portland, OR
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Striding out into my 40th mile of The Speed Project ultra relay from LA to Vegas
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Chasing Patrick Reaves around the Michael Johnson track at Nike. This will make you faster.

Monday 3 a.m.

A restless night, too warm to sleep, I was awake with too much fitness, too much rest and too much glycogen to drift off. “Only 6 more hours to endure till the gun” I sighed into the darkness.

6 a.m.

Sipping black coffee on the patio, it was already too hot. I nervously ate nothing and packed my things for the trip to Hopkinton.

8 a.m.

The good fortune of stepping off the bus in Hopkinton accompanied by my closest friends from college and from Portland, to run the Boston Marathon, did not escape me. But nearly. I couldn’t eat and my heart was thrashing.

9:50 a.m.

10 minutes to the start, “Let’s head to the line eh?” Nate, my close friend from college, suggested. “Yeah” I gulped, sighed and we strided toward the start.

10 a.m.

Another national anthem. Another military flyover. Another starters gun and we’re off. Without the fanfare, without the novelty and even with a bit of dread.

Mile 1 — 5:42

“Fine” I lamented, it’ll do.

Mile 25:27

“It’s downhill, whatever” I moaned to no one.

Miles 3, 4, 55:29, 5:28, 5:42

“Whatever. Okay. Gross” I pitied to myself.

Miles 6, 7, 85:34, 5:38, 5:38

I missed a mile split due to the hectic task of swerving for hydration. Gatorade and water every mile. Full bottles whenever possible. Running fully drenched from hat to socks. Even the novelty of grabbing the Elite water bottles felt expected this year. Having declared to thousands of my essay readers that Patrick and I had uncovered a secret, I was struggling to appreciate even this respite.

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Looking to my watch in hope of good news
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The Portland pack

Mile 95:34

“Help me guys, I’m in a dark place” Nick pleaded.

Miles 10, 115:38, 5:36

“So fast, so hot” I bemoaned.

Mile 125:32

“You know, we’ve got so much time in the bank, we can slow down and still have a shitload of time on the backside for a good time” I offered Nick. “Good idea” he replied and almost immediately dropped back.

“We’re going too fast, we’re wasting so much energy”

I whined to myself. I could feel the GBTC pack behind me. I knew that role well. A year ago I felt like a hunter, picking people off at my will. I was now running scared. Heart pounding, skin cooking, I felt like wounded prey.

“This isn’t inevitable!”

“This” being impending cramps and carnage. There is a certain sense of inevitability when you’re rolling with a pack, an obligation to hang tough and keep up. “I don’t even know these guys!” I screamed internally. “Who cares!”

Mile 135:38

1:13:23 — Half Marathon

Miles 14, 155:34, 5:50

There it was. A mile in the 5:50s. This was it. Every cord of imposter syndrome struck in unison. “Last year WAS a fluke” I spat at myself. Anymore of those and this day is done.

Mile 16 — a downhill. It’s a test.

If you can’t run mile 16 fast you’re toast.

Mile 175:41here come the hills

A year ago I came to the Newton firehouse turn as though it was my home, nearly leaping around the corner.

Mile 185:50

So many friends out to support me and I could barely escape my dark cave of sorrow.

“Yeah Bromka!”

I heard up ahead and spotted Jason Mann, Tufts ’02. Jason had put in 100 mile weeks in January only to be forced to withdraw from today’s race with a mysterious knee injury. A father of two, he knows full well that our time in this marathon game is wearing thin. I knew he would give nearly anything to trade places with me right now and even that only mustered slight inspiration. Having sworn off high fives for this race I dropped my left hand down low and gently slapped his hand.

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Paul Leak crossed the road to get right in my face, but then he spoke calmly and encouraged me to hang tough, exactly what I needed

Mile 19

A flat mile of internal anger and doubt, don’t back off now, this split is a judgment of your ability and desire: 5:34.

Still got it.

Miles 20 & 215:51, 6:02

When your calves have been spasming for 10 miles uphills almost feel good. It’s horrible, but you’re not fearful of full debilitating cramps. I was moving fine. The exertion was maximal, but the fear and self doubt were diminishing.

Top of Heartbreak, Top of the World.

I saw the Black Roses run crew and indulgently popped my jersey, for pride, for emotion, to fake what it would feel like if I was feeling good. And then I was off down through Boston College.

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Doing my best NBA jersey pop to represent the Stumprunners of Portland, OR
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When the crowd is too calm let them know you expect more and they will respond to the challenge

Mile 225:33 — The next 22 minutes will SUCK

Paula Radcliffe, the women’s marathon world record holder, used to turn to mental games in times of peril. She would count to 100 repeatedly.

Mile 235:38

Throwing myself stride by stride through Brookline I felt like a mess, but apparently it was working.

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Almost missed my friend Jenna as I suffered downhill through Brookline

Mile 24where Meb won Boston

I’d recently revisited Meb’s win from 2014 and noticed his second fastest mile was 24. Striving to escape the pursuing Kenyans, to win Boston and redeem Boston Strong, he’d hammered this mile, so I knew it was fast.

Mile 255:44

Nearing the overpass of the Mass Pike I spotted Julia and noticed how beautiful she appeared. Sun kissed, in a t-shirt and shorts, it was a perfect day for spectating: warm with a cross breeze. “Shit day for a marathon” I whined and barely cracked a smile.

5 laps around a track to go

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Almost done, when almost feels like forever

Mile 265:49

I couldn’t do the math, but having seen every split I reluctantly acknowledged that Boston 2017 hadn’t fallen apart on me.

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At this point every stride was a project, I’m proud this one came out well
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Sprint! Sprint! Sprint!
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Feels so good to cross that historic line

I’d sunk the shot.

2:28:44 | 52nd Place | 35th American

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It took a few minutes, but once it dawned on me what I’d done I was on top of the world
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3 friends, 3 very different races, each embodied in our facial expression
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So special to have Julia there with me at the finish

2:19 Marathoner. Writer about running.

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