When I entered the Boston Marathon I knew my changes of winning were close to zero. Despite the propaganda perpetuated in fairy tales, we tortoises do not win races. Nike has no reptile sponsorship program. There is no Ferrari F50 Tortoise. Like most marathon runners, I wasnʼt in it to win. I just wanted to finish.
Well, finish I did. To my surprise, I shattered the world tortoise record by a full 14 minutes with an official time of 5 years, 7 months, 27 days, 9 minutes and 8.326 seconds!
I had carbo-loaded the night before but would those calories last the years I needed them to? I didnʼt know. Did I overtrain and inadvertently set myself up for injury? Again, I didnʼt know. All I knew, as I crossed over the starting line that brisk April morning, was that I now had a race to finish.
As night began to fall I looked back and, still able to see the starting line, got depressed. I was already exhausted and had at least another 5 years of running still ahead of me. For the first time I began to think that maybe I had bit off more than I could chew. But I didnʼt quit. I lowered my head to cut the wind resistance and forged ahead, determined to make it to the end of the block by dawn.
The toughest part of a marathon, as most runners will tell you, is the mental. Unlike team sports, a runner is alone with nothing but his thoughts. What was I thinking about as I ran? My family, mostly. How wonderful and supportive they had been with my decision to enter the race. It was a tough call, knowing Iʼd miss seeing my kids grow up. Some tortoises may live to be 100 but thatʼs pretty rare. Most of us live about 25 years so this was a major sacrifice.
My wife and I made plans for her and the kids to be at the 15 mile marker to cheer me on. When I reached that point, however, they were nowhere to be seen. A thousand thoughts raced through my head - Were they okay? Did she meet another guy? It was pretty disheartening and, again, I thought about quitting. But I had been running for 3 years at that point and had a pretty good rhythm going. If I stopped I knew Iʼd never get started again. So I kept going. I found out later that they were late leaving the house and ended up reaching the 15 mile mark 2 weeks after I had already passed.
Will I run again? I donʼt think so. Iʼm a world record holder now. Might as well quit while Iʼm on top, right? Iʼm gonna take some time off and get to know my family again. And, of course, wait for Nike to call.