I have a confession to make, I feel like I have lied, but maybe it is just that my thoughts have changed. It is time to clear the air and get this off my chest. Many times people ask me which marathon is my favorite and often times I am misleading in my answer, an example of this is included on my GU Athlete Profile. The truth of the matter is if a person was to simply look at my past racing history they would quickly find that I have attended the Pocono Marathon for the last 7 years, which is more than any other marathon I have ran. Would I continue to return to this event if it were not one of my favorite races? Of course not, that would be silly. If I do not like a marathon I do not return. It is pretty simple logic, I am a customer to these marathons and if not satisified I will take my business elsewhere. The Pocono Marathon has been doing all the right things to keep me wanting to return and run well at their event.
The Pocono Marathon began in 2006, which is when Melissa and started traveling around to run races. The past 7 years the race has grown and evolved into a better event while not losing its focus on its two main goals: keeping the runners happy and raising funds for the American Red Cross, this years event raised around 75,000 dollars. It has been an honor to grow my running career along side this marathon. Please buckle up because we are headed down memory lane...
The 2007 event has to be one of the races I talk about the most. It included me getting a speeding ticket, score 2 points on my license for that one! I was able to win the marathon and did a classic post race interview with Mark McKeehan the local television sports reporter. He asked how I felt about winning $2,000 dollars and I simply responded by deducting all my expenses, including the speeding ticket. Although it was fun to win the highlight of the weekend has to be one of the more impressive marathon stories ever. One of the workers at the host hotel was completely clueless to running, but seeing all the runners milling around the expo perked his interest. He asked the race director about the event and at that moment decided he was going to run the marathon. The only problem was he needed shoes, oh and has never ran in his life. He asked for a break from working, caught a cab, bought some shoes, and sure enough he was back in time to serve the pasta and finish up his working duties. The next day he ran the entire marathon with a respectable finish time. Truly an amazing story.
While looking over the elite entry list, which consisted of Solomon Too and Matt Aguero, I formulated a strategy with the intentions of setting a new personal best and winning the marathon. Right from the gun Solomon was pushing the pace. I tried my best to stay with him but he was already seperating from me by mile 4, which was how I envisioned the race playing out. I lagged behind in pursuit, but never wavered on my goals. I thought if I could keep Solomon within sight I could make a hard move late in the race to close the gap and take the lead. I ran the first 5 miles in 5:30 pace, followed by the next 5 miles in 5:12 pace, and hit the halfway point in 1:11:50. His lead was already 50 seconds by then.
Not long after the halfway point the press vehicle carrying Blue Ridge 13 television crew members drove by while getting footage for their live broadcast. I wonder if they were stating on air that the lead was too much for me to overcome? I kept pressing on, but so did Solomon. By mile 15 his lead was up to 90 seconds. It was time for me to start working harder. I channelled inner strength from my love for my son Miles. He looks up to and relies on his Daddy to provide for him. If I am going to do that by running marathons I needed to push forward and win this race. The gap started shrinking and by mile 18 it was less than 30 seconds.
Originally my goal was to take the lead prior to mile 23, but I could tell the time was now. Mile 19 I pushed really hard, closed the gap and was tracking just a few feet behind the leader. I made my move going into an aid station just prior to mile 20. From there to mile 23 I kept extending the lead and pushing for that personal best time. Unfortunately after cresting a hill at mile 23 my right calf decided to go on strike. It started cramping. I can only assume it was due to the heat coupled with aid stations only being every 2 miles. Nonetheless even if I could not set a personal best I still needed to finish off with a win. During the last couple of miles I kept thinking about my win in 2007 and how the sports reporter, Kim Bell, stated on air, "Justin doesn't look too good coming in." I did not want a repeat of that. When I hit the track for the last 385 yards I sprinted really hard knowing that she was doing the broadcast. Hopefully this year she was able to say I looked fast finishing. I broke the tape in 2:27:21.