Photo by Jody Bailey

January 19th, 2020

Exhausted and stunned, I stumble forward reluctantly.

Two years earlier…

My mind raced to make sense of how life had just changed while my tired body rested in the seat of a plane rising gently up over a setting Northern California sun.

California International Marathon 2017
Dad introducing me to the track
Racing the 2004 NCAA DIII Cross Country Nationals

Spring 2018

Anxious, I began the final training run of my week at a shuffle. By the time I beeped my watch to finish, I’d stare at the 12-miler with pride for what it completed: my first 100-mile week.

Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Alex Lohr
Photo by Chris Yates

Fall 2018

“Marathon training is kind of a trust fall,” Patrick philosophized.

One Month till CIM 2018

The pressure of this endeavor was threatening to break me before the race even began.

Photo by Jody Bailey

The 1st attempt — The California International Marathon

Stepping to the line I was filled with a good fear. Though not quite at Patrick’s fitness level I would follow him until I faltered. There were simply too many unknowns to go on this journey alone.

Photo by Jason Suarez
Photo by Jason Walker

Spring 2019

Approaching the 123rd Boston Marathon I felt unexpectedly light and excited. While ordinarily racing in Boston demands pressure and sacrifice, this time I was doing so with my focus set elsewhere, on another attempt at the Trials qualifier that coming December. So now I was somehow able to run America’s oldest marathon without the usual burden of expectation.

Photo by Mario Fraioli
Photo by Michael Scott

Summer 2019

“It takes an amazing amount of confidence in your condition, and belief in yourself, to rest.”

Photo by Cortney White
Photo by Jared Carson

Fall 2019

The 12 weeks between Labor Day and December’s California International Marathon frame the fall as if the season was designed for runners to excel. If last year’s attempt was a half-court shot that could have banked in on a fluke, this year’s race was a 3-pointer. Like I was coming off a screen and sliding deliberately to a trusted spot behind the arc, I was waiting to receive an outlet pass that I knew I could hit, but was far from certain.

35 days before CIM

101 miles in 6 days. Two workouts faster than ever before.

21 days before CIM

“What does that mean?” I wondered. We’d just ran 16 miles at qualifying pace and it hardly felt hard.

One day till CIM

“I’ll go 14–16, then roll-off,” Patrick confirmed. He was there to pace several of us, and though his presence would be a comfort, he’d be gone by the time the real work started.

Photo by Luke Webster

The 2nd attempt — The California International Marathon 2019

The starter pistol cracked and we were off.

Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey

Dad

Minutes passed without a word.

Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey

A day later

You’ll know.” My dad advised, softly.

Photo by Jody Bailey

Two days after

You failed. Sorry man, but that’s the truth. You were over.” A friend reflected on the harsh reality.

Three days after

I still don’t know if I understand it.” I messaged a friend.

Four days later

I have something I need to tell you.” I offered Julia sheepishly.

One day before the Houston Marathon

There was no way to know how the next day would go. The weeks after CIM I had felt sapped, dejected, and sad. Emotionally somersaulting each day between disbelief at my near miss and hope for a final chance.

The 3rd attempt — The 2020 Houston Marathon

A morning of déjà vu preparations. And we were off.

Photo by Paul Nelson
Photo by Paul Nelson

Waking up

Opening my eyes to a day outside the dream of the 2020 Olympic Trials felt like an organ had been ripped out of my chest.

The Olympic Trials

As the start of the race I wasn’t running approached, my body began rattling with phantom nerves. Unsure of what was happening, I realized my mind was ringing an alarm that I had set long ago and forgotten to switch off.

Photo by Jody Bailey
Photo by Jody Bailey

2:19 Marathoner. Writer about running.

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